Overheard in Long Beach – Saturday

Another beautiful day in Long Beach, California where we saw Indy Lights and IndyCar qualify and the Tudor Sports Car Series race with the Ganassi Ford duo of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas taking the win over the Taylor Corvette.

The Saturday crowd was what we have seen in recent years but it did appear there were more people in the General Admission areas this time around. There were a lot of people at the track and although no official numbers are released it appeared north of 60,000.

Word is that when Mario Andretti was left stranded on the grid in St. Pete in the 2-seater car it was because a half-shaft broke. Word is that perhaps that part needs to be beefed up given the car is carrying more weight than the half-shaft was designed for.

Spotted Chris Pook talking to Derek Daly and making the rounds and checking things out, likely studying what he will propose in his effort to try and win the bid for a race in 2018.

Roger Griffiths finally switched over to an Andretti Autosport shirt today. He left Honda HPD on good terms it appears and we saw him talking to all the Honda staff on a number of occasions and was dining in the Honda hospitality area. Andretti having Honda engines certainly does not hurt the relationship. Honda dominated qualifying here at Long Beach although times were close. We predicted Honda would be the engine to have this year and seeing where the Penske team qualified, it appears that prediction is coming true. Michael Andretti must be smiling.

Word is that IndyCar is going to beef up its PR staff by one or two people, possibly as early as the Barber race.

Did you know that Sam Posey has Parkinson's disease? First we heard of it was today. Best wishes to Sam in dealing with that.

Mario Andretti told a couple of good stories on Thursday night at the RRDC event where he was being honored. Did you know that one time, years ago, he had Bobby Unser paged and when he went to the telephone booth to make the call Mario wrapped the booth to the nearby pole and Bobby could not get out and missed qualifying.

Did you know that Eddie Cheever and Lesa Kennedy France have been seen together on a number of occasions? Business, or is it more?

Look for Houston to have a water park and misting tents to help keep the fans cool. Mike Lanigan and his team know the heat is going to be unbearable for the fans. We hear they are going to have Jumbotrons inside the convention center upstairs so the fans can get away from the heat. Might we see zero fans in the grandstands and IndyCar get another black eye? With Reliant Park being so booked with other events, there was no open slot except for June. We count the years until the fans say enough of this heat and stay home. Lanigan and his team need to move the race elsewhere in the City and get it out of the summer heat for the event to ever prosper and grow.

Did you know that MiJack appeared on Oriol Servia's car today in the afternoon? It's a one race sponsorship for now.

Former CART Champ Car team owners Morris Nunn and John Della Penna were hanging out in the pits taking in all the action. Nunn is still spending a lot of time on the golf course and working on his tan.

Did you know that Russian Rookie Mikhail Aleshin has backing from Russian Gazprom Bank that is helping young Russian drivers make it in racing?

Ran into ex-IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro. She told us she expects to do at least one test session in a year old Sauber F1 car this year with the goal to still move up to be a full-time F1 driver.

Word is that Pippa Mann still has a good shot to land an Indy 500 ride with Dale Coyne Racing. Did you know that Dale Coyne is the largest Sonny's Barbeque franchisee with 24 locations on the east coast of Florida? You do now.

Poor Simon Pagenaud continues to get ragged on about being a spitting image of the gay Frenchman in the NASCAR movie Talladega Nights. He sounds just like him. At today's press conference even the other drivers were teasing him. Everything happens in NASCAR for a reason. Was the movie done that way to put IndyCar down? Some people think so.

Poor Conor Daly has absolutely nothing lined up for this year. He's faced with the cancer that is killing open wheel racing – destroying it from the core. If you don't bring money, no ride, even if you are a talented American.

Look for a big surprise before the Fast Nine in Indy Qualifying. Expect to have your socks knocked off we are told.

We hear Andretti Autosport will announce the sponsor for Kurt Busch's car in the Indy 500 at the end of April.

Word has it that rock star Bret Michaels put a move on James Hinchcliffe's drop dead gorgeous girlfriend Kirsten in the pits at Indy last year. As the story goes, she told him I'm James Hinchcliffe's girlfriend and he said something like, but I'm Bret Michaels, as if to insinuate any woman I hit on wants to sleep with him. Needless to say she told him to take a hike, or so the story goes.

A lot of talk about Sunday's Standing Start in Long Beach. It's the first standing start of the Verizon IndyCar Series season — and the first on the Long Beach street circuit since 2008. Here is how it will work:

Formation laps – The safety car will start the two formation laps and drivers will follow single file in their starting order. The speed of the formation laps will be set by the safety car and no overtaking is allowed.

Grid – At the end of the formation laps, drivers will take their starting positions with the front wheels of the car remaining within its designated orange grid line. A 5-second signal will be given by illuminating one pair of red lights on the light towers. A countdown to the start will illuminate a pair of red lights every second. After a random delay of between 1.2 and 3 seconds, the race is started by all the red lights being extinguished. Mark C. reporting from Long Beach

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