April 21, 2015
Long Beach Grand Prix
Kirsten & James
Michael & Courtney Force
Of all the races on the Indy Car schedule, there is only one
that I had not been to that I really, really wanted to attend and that was the Long
Beach Grand Prix. This year marks the 41st running of the annual street
race through the streets of downtown Long Beach and because of its history,
popularity and excitement, I have always wanted to see it live.
This year it just so happened to be scheduled on the Sunday
I was already in California for Coachella, and it was only a mere two hour
drive, so I decided to take advantage of the fact that I have an Indy Car Hard
Card pass and drive up to see the race. It was so cool to be able to drive up
and back in the same day and attend my first Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The Grand Prix has an illustrious history beginning as a
Formula One race back in 1975 and running as a F1 race until CART/Indy Car and
then Champ Car took over until 2008 when the Indy Racing League started
sanctioning the races. The list of winners is like a who’s who of great drivers
that includes, Clay Regazzoni, Mario Andretti, Gilles Villeneuve, Nelson
Piquet, Nikki Lauda, Michael Andretti, Al Unser Jr., Paul Tracy, Alex Zanardi,
Sebastian Bourdais, Dario Franchitti and Will Power.
Not only does the race have an amazing history, it is hugely
popular with upwards of 200,000 people attending over the course of the weekend
making it the largest sporting event in the city each year. It is much more
than just the race, it is a huge event with a motorsports expo, a classic car
show, rides and games and all manner of food and drink vendors as well as a
plethora of support races including the wildly popular Toyota Celebrity race
which features celebrities in identically prepared cars racing.
Even though I did not have a ticket, my hard card got me in
free and I was able to stay in the pits throughout the race, which was pretty
cool. I watched the warm up final practice, the stadium truck race and the Indy
Car race from the comfort of the pits and enjoyed walking around through the expo,
classic car show and Indy Car Paddock. I got to meet the beautiful and talented
Courtney Force, drag-racing star and daughter of the legendary John Force as
well as Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil who were each hanging around the
The race itself was excellent, Scott Dixon, who had been off
to his worst start in Indy Car ever after two races, started third and passed
Juan Pablo Montoya for second on lap two. On lap twenty during pit stops, Dixon
passed leader and pole sitter Helio Castroneves to grab the lead when Helio was
held up just briefly in the pits. From there it was clear sailing as Dixon
cruised to his first ever win at Long Beach.
Robin Miller & Derek Daly
Castroneves and Montoya finished second and third, followed
by Simon Pagenaud and Tony Kanaan. It was a very clean race, with only one
brief caution period and pretty exciting as well. Dixon was obviously thrilled
to have won. I was thrilled to have been there and can now cross Long Beach off
my list of races to see.