We’ve arrived at the third race weekend of the IZOD IndyCar Series season, and with every thrill the campaign has offered, there seems to be a question to match. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is our next chance to get answers to some of those questions. Right now the season seems wide open, but we’ll see how landscape shifts as one of IndyCar’s historic street course unfolds.
Can Dario Franchitti overcome his early season woes?
It’s been a season start to forget for Franchitti. He’ll start his 250th IndyCar race in a very unfamiliar position—last in the point standings. Still, all is not lost for the four-time champ. He won Long Beach in 2009, and started in front last season as well. Franchitti’s early results have been disappointing, but there’s no reason to think he can’t turn it around on Sunday. If he wants to be in the title discussion this year, he’d better do just that.
Can Andretti keep the streak going?
2013 so far has seen two races and two Andretti Autosport victors. The Andretti crew has looked confident and in fine form the last two weeks, with all four of their drivers having at least one good result to point to. Ryan Hunter-Reay has always considered Long Beach a race with a lot of meaning for him, and he’s always up for this race. James Hinchcliffe has finished P3 and P4 in his two previous Long Beach outings, and has already won once this season. EJ Viso has been up and down at Long Beach, but has looked very comfortable overall through the first two weekends. Perhaps the most interesting driver to watch will be Marco Andretti, who seemed happy with his podium in the first race, but disappointed with his Top 10 at Barber. We’ll see how Marco’s push to improve his craft translates this week.
Which KV Racing will we see Sunday?
Simona de Silvestro and Tony Kanaan had very good results in the season opener, but they looked to have loose cars at times and were never able to separate from the pack at Barber. Happily, Long Beach represents a chance for both drivers to get back on track. Kanaan has been very strong here, with three of his four races since 2009 being Top 5 finishes, and all of them being in the Top 10. Simona was still the midst of Lotus woes during her 2012 Long Beach visit, but has generally qualified more mid-pack here. Long Beach may well be more of a gauge in terms of where de Silvestro is—if she can grab another quality finish, that’s a happy sign for where she is with this program.
What can we expect from Mike Conway?
The last time we heard from Mike Conway during an IndyCar race weekend was last year’s finale, where he decided he was no longer comfortable driving on ovals. He’s back this weekend in a one-off for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and Long Beach is where Conway recorded his lone series victory back in 2011. If there’s a race for him to be in this year, it’s this one. Conway has been an aggressive driver at this track, and could easily have another good result this week. If things go well, we’ll have to see if Mike makes any other appearances on the twisties this season.
What’s in store for Josef Newgarden and SFHR?
Just two weeks removed from Newgarden’s first-ever Top 10 result in IndyCar, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s crew comes to a course where Newgarden started on the outside of Row 1 last season. An aggressive move early on in that race ended in heartbreak, but Newgy has to feel good about his potential to do well here. All signs through the first two races point to Josef learning some of the patience that’s needed to succeed regularly in IndyCar, so we’ll see if that can be translated into big results for the fan favorite team and driver this weekend.
Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-updated INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate, or drop him a line at mail.rpgblog(at)gmail.com.