Track position key to winning IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach

USA TODAY Sports

Maintaining track position and clean air after green flag pit stops will be the key to winning the IndyCar Series Grand Prix at Long Beach.

I almost feel as though the Grand Prix of Long Beach is over and that Dario Franchitti has already taken the checkered flag. After all, qualifying is that important at any street course - particularly at the overtake-thrifty streets of Long Beach.

But that's not the case and the actual race will not be held until later today. And once the green flag drops, track position will become the most-important factor in determining who wins the race.

The track is narrow and lined with concrete barriers and there are just two real opportunities for cars to pass one another. Turns one and nine are the central overtaking zones but the drivers must be cautious as the changing conditions track from concrete to asphalt makes the surface incredibly slippery.

Thus starting up front or on the inside row will be the key to establishing early track position.

In fact, Team Penske's Will Power is satisfied starting third as opposed to second because of the preferred inside lane. He knows all too well the pitfalls of starting on the outside as he wasn't able to get going from the second starting spot two weeks ago at Barber Motorsports Park, finishing in the top-five purely on attrition and strategy.

"I'd much rather start third than second," Power said. "With the starts in these races you never know what's going to happen. You are better off on the inside."

From a strategy point of view, Long Beach is especially tricky since running in slower traffic is inevitable and there are several instances of a full-course caution turning logical race strategies completely upside down.

In a perfect world, strategists call their drivers in when they have an opportunity to get them back out in clean air. But that's almost impossible at a circuit like Long Beach and in a race with a season-high 27 starters. So today's race is going to come down to pure speed and whichever teams back their way into having the most clean air over the course of 80 laps (157.440 mi).

Thus it helps having an open track as soon as the race begins, which is exactly what Dario Franchitti earned by capturing the pole on Saturday afternoon. So if race trends persist, Franchitti may have won the race before it even began.

A starting lineup can be found below:

  1. Dario Franchitti
  2. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  3. Will Power
  4. Takuma Sato
  5. Mike Conway
  6. Helio Castroneves
  7. James Hinchcliffe
  8. Tony Kanaan
  9. Charlie Kimball
  10. EJ Viso
  11. Graham Rahal
  12. JR Hildebrand
  13. James Jakes
  14. AJ Allmendinger
  15. Sebastien Bourdais
  16. Josef Newgarden
  17. Simon Pagenaud
  18. Oriol Servia
  19. Tristan Vautier
  20. Simona De Silvestro
  21. Sebastian Saavedra (Moves to back due to engine change)
  22. Alex Tagliani
  23. Ana Beatriz
  24. Ed Carpenter
  25. Justin Wilson
  26. Marco Andretti
  27. Scott Dixon
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