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Sunday, April 18, 2010

IndyCar Race Preview: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is one of the most prestigious events in all of North American open wheel racing. Having hosted Formula 1, CART, and Champ Cars in the past, it is now under its second year of IZOD IndyCar Series sanctioning. Last year's running was won by Dario Franchitti, for his victory after a year in stock car racing.

Franchitti will have some work to do to repeat, however, as he starts a dismal 12th, nearly a second off the pole pace.

Instead, the front of the pack will look much like it did in the first two races of the season, with Will Power leading Ryan Hunter-Reay and Justin Wilson to the green flag. All three competed at Long Beach in Champ Car's history, and Power won the final Champ Car-sanctioned event in 2008.

Power's Team Penske looks to continue its three race winning streak regardless of who takes the checkers, however, as teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe qualified fourth and fifth, respectively. Castroneves won last weekend at Barber, while Briscoe challenged for the win at Brazil.

Andretti Autosport also has a formidable trio of cars in the top 10, with Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan in sixth, and Marco Andretti ninth. Andretti cars have led laps in each of the first three races this season, with Andretti having paced the field in the past two. The offseason restructuring has paid early dividends, as three of the team's cars are now in the top 10 and are steadily moving up.

In Firestone Indy Lights, James Hinchcliffe earned his second pole in three races, beating J.K. Vernay, who has been the class of the field in the season's first two races. Vernay's best lap was quicker than Hinchcliffe's, but due to a caution on the track that lap was disallowed.

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