Long Beach Preview

It's the 10th consecutive time that the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship has served as the primary support race to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Hattori, an Orange-county resident, and da Matta, who finished second at Long ...

It's the 10th consecutive time that the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship has served as the primary support race to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Hattori, an Orange-county resident, and da Matta, who finished second at Long Beach last year and at 1998's season-opening race, are among the favorites for this weekend's race. The American driver line up at Long Beach will feature eight drivers and one noticeable absence. Clint Mears (Penske Auto Center/Mobil 1/ARE Lola), last year's winner on the ovals at Milwaukee and California Speedway, will miss his second race of the season due to a left shoulder injury suffered in an accident at Miami. Mears, the son of three-time PPG Cup champion Rick Mears, had qualified third for the race but was sidelined after crashing in the morning warm-up. His separated left shoulder has closed, but Mears is in too much pain to handle the rigors of the Long Beach circuit. His cousin Casey Mears (Penske Auto Center/Mobil 1/ARE Lola) will carry the Team Mears banner solo at Long Beach. Other American drivers heading to Long Beach include series veteran Chris Simmons and his rookie teammate Tony Renna. Each drives identical Alco Capital/Nassi Group Lolas from first-year team Mattco Raceworks. Simmons finished fourth at Long Beach last year. Also running under the United States banner are rookie Mike Borkowski (Textron Automotive Lola), Brian Cunningham (LCI/Exide Lola), debuting rookie Tim Moser (Worldwide Pants Lola) and brothers Geoff Boss (LCI/Exide Lola) and rookie Andy Boss (Cross Pens/Boarder Patrol/MI-JACK Lola). Borkowski drives for Bobby Rahal and Team Rahal, the latest CART Champ Car team to branch out to the Indy Lights development series. In addition to Rahal and Tasman, other teams that field entries in both CART Champ Car and Indy Lights competition include Team KOOL Green and the PacWest Racing Group. The KOOL team is focusing on one race car this year after running three entries in 1997. Returning is Japanese talent Naoki Hattori (KOOL Lola) - no relation to Miami winner Shigeaki Hattori - who made his North American debut with Team KOOL Green last season. PacWest has signed second-year Frenchman Didier Andre (Motorola/Mack Trucks Lola) and Australian rookie Paul Morris (PacWest Indy Lights Lola) who finished a strong sixth place in his oval racing debut at Miami. Two rookies with strong road racing resumes come to Long Beach after incredible oval track debuts in Miami. Britain's Guy Smith (NTS Dream Writer/Swift Caravans Lola) finished third at Miami and ran up front all day. He was followed to the finish by Spaniard Oriol Servia (Catalonia/Heritage Bank Lola) who came home fourth in his oval track de but. Both have European Formula 3 experience. Mexico's Quaker State Team GO is another new Indy Lights team this year with rookies Jorge Goeters, of Mexico City, and Irishman Derek Higgins driving. Goeters and GO combined for a fourth-place finish in the 1997 Mexican Formula 3000 championship while Higgins won the Mexican Formula 3 title. Higgins also captured the Mexican Formula 3 crown in 1995. Third-year driver Rodolfo Lavin (Corona/Modelo Lola) also hails from Mexico and comes to Long Beach having scored a career-best eighth place finish at the Miami opener, one spot behind Higgins. Two more European rookies join Smith and Servia on the Long Beach entry. Mattias Andersson (IFS/SEGA/STP Lola), a teammate to Paese at Brian Stewart Racing, is a top Swedish go-kart and formula car veteran. He is scheduled for his first full Indy Lights season after running the opening two races of the 1996 season. Austrian Philipp Peter (Remus/Red Bull Lola) drove Audi Touring Cars the last few seasons and finished 11th in his oval debut at Miami. Peter and Servia are teammates at Dorricott Racing. A late entry at Long Beach may be Canadian driver Eric Jensen who is expected to join forces with Genoa Racing. Jensen, who has sponsorship from Allied Van Lines of Canada, made his Indy Lights debut last year at Toronto. Source: PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship http://www.indylights.com

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Guy Smith , Casey Mears , Shigeaki Hattori , Didier André , Bobby Rahal , Oriol Servia , Rodolfo Lavin , Tony Renna , Eric Jensen , Brian Cunningham , Naoki Hattori , Mike Borkowski , Paul Morris , Geoff Boss , Mattias Andersson , Jorge Goeters