Long Beach: Series news and notes 2009-04-13

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. No clear favorites at Long Beach 2. Unser Jr. to be honored at Long Beach 3. Barrett honors charitable efforts 4. Doornbos wins A1GP sprint race 1. No clear favorites at Long ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. No clear favorites at Long Beach
2. Unser Jr. to be honored at Long Beach
3. Barrett honors charitable efforts
4. Doornbos wins A1GP sprint race

1. No clear favorites at Long Beach: When the checkered flag fell on the IndyCar Series' season-opening race at St. Petersburg, Fla., April 5, the top 10 finishers came from nine teams. Picking a favorite to win the series' first visit to Long Beach, Calif., is no easy task.

"I think it just proves the competitiveness of this championship," said Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe, the winner at St. Petersburg and points leader heading into Long Beach. "You don't have to be with the biggest team or the team with the most experience to win races (in the IndyCar Series)."

The 11-turn, 1.968-mile temporary street circuit is no stranger to the drivers and teams of the IndyCar Series. Twelve drivers and eight teams have participated at the circuit previously.

"I raced there in the ALMS a couple years ago," Briscoe said. "It's a fun track. It's very challenging; it's fast. It's probably somewhere in between Surfers Paradise and St. Petersburg. You've got that crown in the road. It's got some fast corners, long straight down the front. It's going to be tough."

Drivers who have competed at Long Beach previously are: Scott Dixon (2 starts), Robert Doornbos (1), Dario Franchitti (6), Ryan Hunter-Reay (3), Tony Kanaan (5), Darren Manning (1), Mario Moraes (1), Will Power (3), Graham Rahal (2), Alex Tagliani (9), E.J. Viso (1) and Justin Wilson (5).

"I just can't wait to get back to Long Beach," said Vision Racing's Hunter-Reay, who finished second at St. Petersburg.

Hunter-Reay has made three starts at Long Beach, recording seventh-place finishes in 2003 and 2004.

"That's one of my favorite races," he said. "It's such a cool event. It's just great to be going back there again. We're going in there with a bit of momentum at a track that I know and I love racing at."

Among the teams that have competed at Long Beach in the past, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing has six victories and 11 poles, while Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske each have four victories.

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2. Unser Jr. to be honored at Long Beach: For almost 20 years, Al Unser Jr. has been known as the "King of the Beach." This year, when the IndyCar Series makes its debut in on the streets of the seaside city, Unser will add at least one more title.

Unser, who won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach a record six times between 1988 and 1995 while competing in CART, will be the grand marshal for the 35th running April 19. In addition, Unser will lead the professional contingent in the popular Toyota Pro/Celebrity race, and he and longtime rival (and former teammate) Bobby Rahal will be inducted into the Motorsports Walk of Fame.

"Southern California is always beautiful at this time of year, and the fans make Long Beach more than just a race," said Unser, driver coach with the sanctioning Indy Racing League. "They love the single-seat open-wheel cars, and what I'm really excited about it is now it's back to where they can see the Indy cars that will run the Indy 500 on the streets of Long Beach again, like it used to be back in the 1980s and '90s. That's what made it special."

Unser believes one reason he always performed well on the tricky street course was despite the fact that it was such a different kind of track compared to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he treated the event as a warm-up for Indy and the month of May.

"For me in particular, it was the race before the Indy 500," said Unser, a two-time winner of the 500-Mile Race. "You really want to do well the race before the Indy 500 so you can take that momentum into the month of May. I really, really worked hard on that race in particular because it generally fell before the month of May. If you could win that race, the whole team would take that momentum into the month of May and think, ‘We can win against these guys.'

"When you take that momentum into the month of May, it's great for the entire team so we really worked hard at it. It just makes for an exciting event."

During his eight-year Long Beach run, Unser won six times (1988, '89, '90, '91, '94 and ‘95) and added a fourth-place finish in 1992. He looked set to win that year, too, only to be bumped out of the lead late in the race by his Galles Racing teammate Danny Sullivan. In that span, Unser led laps at Long Beach every year except 1993, totaling a record 545.

"He was very good there and he proved it more and more," said three-time Long Beach race winner Mario Andretti. "He certainly won his share there and had that place down pat."

Unser, who will celebrate his 47th birthday on April 19, recorded 31 race wins and two championships (1990 and '94) in the CART/PPG IndyCar World Series, and he added three more victories under Indy Racing League sanction.

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3. Barrett honors charitable efforts: Stanton Barrett and the No. 98 Interush.net/Team 3G entry will honor two Southern California businesses that recently helped make a difference in the community with decals on the car at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach April 17-19.

Studley, a commercial real estate services firm specializing in tenant representation based in Los Angeles, and Fremont College of Cerritos, Calif., will be featured for their support of Hearts with Hope and Faces of our American Heroes, respectively.

"I think it's special when you see any company give back to their community," said Barrett, a rookie in the IndyCar Series. "Studley and Fremont College of Cerritos have done something good for two great causes. We have the opportunity to reward them and continue to raise awareness for Hearts with Hope and Faces of our America Heroes. That's important, and I hope they will enjoy their race experience."

Hearts with Hope provides medical and humanitarian assistance to children in Latin America with congenital heart disease. Faces of our American Heroes was an event held in March that raised funds to purchase IBOT wheelchairs for wounded veterans.

Barrett will host a dinner for representatives of the two charities and provide pit passes for the weekend's events.

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4. Doornbos wins A1GP sprint race: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver Robert Doornbos, driving for Team Netherlands, won the sprint race during the A1GP weekend at the Algarve circuit in Portugal.

Doornbos was the pole sitter for the feature race, but an electrical fire on the formation lap ended his day.

Marco Andretti, driving for A1 team USA, finished 12th in the sprint race. In the feature, the Andretti Green Racing-prepared car was spun on Lap 19 and wasn't able to continue.

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The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues April 19 with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the streets of Long Beach, Calif.. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 126. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be telecast at 6 p.m. (EDT) on April 6 by VERSUS. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues April 19 at Long Beach. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on April 20 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Darren Manning , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Graham Rahal , Mario Andretti , Danny Sullivan , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Robert Doornbos , Ryan Briscoe , Stanton Barrett , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Will Power , Mario Moraes , Al Unser
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing