The Grand Prix of Long Beach is one of the biggest spectacles in racing. I’ve had the luxury of seeing the race multiple times and having lived in the area, well, it’s quite the happening. Unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to describe the pageantry, size and scope of the event. It truly is one of the grand stages of motorsports and quite a prestigious open wheel accomplishment to earn a victory on the streets of Long Beach, California.
Last year had a somewhat surprising winner in Takuma Sato driving for A. J. Foyt Enterprises. Might 2014 have another surprise or will one of the favorites grab the prize at the famed circuit? This is only the second stop on the Verizon IndyCar schedule so there are still questions remaining as to who will do what. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the events four favorites and also four longshots – who may not actually be that long of a shot. Both groups are listed alphabetically.
Helio Castroneves – One thing you can usually say about Castroneves is he’s consistent. As flamboyant and flashy a character he is off the track, Helio is as steady as there is on the track. He was a strong third at St. Petersburg to start the season and should be a podium finisher again at Long Beach.
Scott Dixon – The defending IndyCar champ is competitive no matter where he goes. No, Dixon hasn’t had the best of finishes at Long Beach, but that shouldn’t matter. Last year at Long Beach, Scott started 26th and drove all the way to 11th. Don’t be surprised if he’s battling for the victory in 2014.
Ryan Hunter-Reay – There were questions heading into this season for Ryan and his team. Hunter-Reay slipped back to seventh overall in the final standings after winning the championship the year before, plus Andretti Autosport moved over to Honda this year. However, Hunter-Reay started third and finished second in St. Pete, probably removing any doubts as to whether Ryan could get back to the top. A winner at Long Beach in 2010, expect Hunter-Reay to be at or near the front again this year.
Will Power – Arguably the best street racer in IndyCar now or maybe ever, Power started off the year with a dominant win at St. Pete. He has two career wins at Long Beach along with three poles and two more podiums in just six IndyCar appearances. Combine all these impressive stats with his current three-race win streak – well, let’s just say he’s the definite favorite heading into the big event in Southern California.
Sebastien Bourdais – Seabass is one very talented driver who hasn’t had a chance in IndyCar to win … until this year. Now driving for KVS Racing, once he gets accustomed to his new surroundings, Bourdais could be a contender for wins. When Sebastien drove for Newman Haas back in ChampCar, no one could beat him at Long Beach – or anywhere else for that matter. Seabass should be near the front and if his setup is right, a win wouldn’t be a big surprise.
Juan Pablo Montoya – Maybe a bit similar story to Bourdais, JP, who has been away from open wheel for seven seasons, just needs time before he can reclaim his glory from years past. However, maybe you’re asking why expect him to be at the front in only his second race back? Montoya’s first visit to Long Beach back in the days of CART, saw him win. Maybe that’s asking too much this time around considering how long he’s been away from the sport, but remember you saw it here first should he be battling for the victory.
Simon Pagenaud – Somewhat like Castroneves, Pagenaud is steady and although he isn’t in top-notch equipment, he still gets it done. He started 14th at St. Pete and still managed a top five. He was second in 2012 and though he started 17th, was able to move up to eighth at races end last year. Simon is quite capable of being near the front when it matters.
Justin Wilson – Like Pagenaud, Wilson isn’t in the best of equipment, yet he perseveres. Again, like Pagenaud, Wilson started in the back half of the field (16th) at St. Pete and worked his way up to an eighth place finish. Justin had three top fours in his last three ChampCar appearances at Long Beach and was on the podium last season. Wilson is more than proficient enough to do it again … and maybe even win.
Sources: IndyCar, Yahoo Sports, Racing Reference