It’s race number three of a 16-race schedule this weekend on the historic street course of Long Beach, CA. After a couple of races (St Pete’s and Barber) to kick off the 2012 season, the teams and drivers are gradually getting used to the new car, new chassis, new body and new engine. This process has not been without its hitches as perhaps evidenced by the fact that all eleven Chevy engines were replaced prior to the first practice; thanks, in part, to an issue discovered with James Hinchcliffe’s engine at a test at Infineon earlier this week. The resultant 10 position penalty levied for each of the Chevy drivers should give the starting grid a different look this weekend. “We are still learning the limitations of the new engine controls calibration,” said Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing’s IZOD IndyCar Series program manager. “Through our testing in Sonoma, as indicated by an engine issue, we uncovered a problem that we believe could affect all engines. So, as a result, we feel it is prudent to change all engines prior to the start of the on-track activities this weekend.”
*Track Preview: Long Beach*
The temporary street circuit at Long Beach is an 11-turn, 1.968-mile course and is the site of the longest running major “street” race held in North America. This will be the 38th year engines have started on the Streets of Long Beach – a course which also held eight Formula One races between 1976 and 1983. 2012 marks the fifth year that the IZOD IndyCar Series has raced here with Will Power winning the inaugural event in 2008, four-time champion Dario Franchitti took the checkers the following year. In 2010 Ryan Hunter-Reay picked up the victory; whilst last year Mike Conway won his, to date, only IndyCar Series race.
*What’s the Points (Driver Standings):*
Helio Castroneves, who won the first race at St Pete’s, sits two points ahead of Scott Dixon, who has for the first time in a couple of years gotten off to a solid start. Will Power (more on him below) sits just nine points back with James Hinchcliffe 26 points back in fourth. Champion Dario Franchitti is already 49 points in arrears having started the season in sluggish fashion.
*What’s the Points (Engine Manufacturers):*
It’s two races and two wins for Chevy so far but the small edge they had over Honda might just evaporate this weekend with the raft of engine changes. Lotus sit a distant third, some ways behind the two powerhouse engine manufacturers of Chevy and Honda.
*Featured Driver — Will Power:*
In the last couple of seasons Will Power has won 11 races and finished second twice in the championship race. In each year, but for that little piece of proverbial racing luck, Will could have been the champion. 2012, then, is the year that many expect him to finally capture his first IndyCar championship. So far, so not so bad then for Will who came from 9th place to win last week at Barber after a hard fought 7th place in the season opener. Expect Will to be in the mix all season long and for this observer, at least, he should finish up with the big prize he’s so craved these last couple of years.
*Any Other News:*
Be sure to check out the new IndyCar TV show, INDYCAR 36, which airs prior to the races. It’s a half-hour magazine style show that follows one driver each week over a 36-hour period. Tony Kanaan was the feature driver in the first edition with Graham Rahal taking up the reins for this weekend. If you’re a fan (which given you’re reading this column you probably are) definitely check it out.
Next up is a week’s break before the teams head down to South America and Sao Paolo – the world’s sixth largest city (by population) and the biggest city in the Southern hemisphere. This will be the third year the Series has raced on the Streets of Sao Paolo. Both previous races have been won by this week’s featured driver Will Power. After Brazil, it’s the month of May and all the hoopla that surrounds the greatest spectacle in motor racing: The Indy 500.
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