This year’s IndyCar race features some real star power, with seven former Long Beach champions in the field of 26 for Sunday’s race at the 47th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Two-time winner Will Power is joined by Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, and last year’s winner, Colton Herta for the noon race on Sunday.
A native of France, Pagenuad said that the entire international field feels right at home in the International City.
“It’s my favorite race,” he said. It’s the first place I raced in the US and I’ve had great success here.
“I love the track. To me it’s like music, there’s a rhythm to each racetrack. And this track to me has a rhythm that flows for me as a person, and I enjoy it very much. It’s always fast—it feels effortless to me, that’s how it feels to drive around this place.”
Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President and CEO Jim Michaelian was as happy as he’s been in the nearly half-century history of the race at media day on Thursday. For one thing, Sunday’s race will feature major stars of the racing world; for another, it will be televised live on NBC, the first time it’s been on broadcast network television since 2007.
Some of the support races will also be broadcast on cable this year, including Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship race on USA Network Saturday at 2 p.m.
“This event has always been a party, something you can bring your whole family to in the spring,” said Michaelian. “We loved having everyone here in September but we love April more. We want people reorienting themselves back to coming to Long Beach for spring break for music, expos, kid zones, and the races. This is a destination race, someplace people want to come to.”
Michaelian said that presale indicators show that the race will be back to pre-pandemic attendance totals, with sales mirroring 2018 and 2019.
He also said that the recent removal of vaccine mandates for large events in California was critical for the Grand Prix, as perhaps the only event in the state that was both an indoor and an outdoor large event.
“We’re a hybrid, and I don’t think anybody thought about that because we’re the only one around,” the CEO said. “So we were trying to figure out how to have a vaccine requirement for inside the Convention Center, but not for outside at the race, and we just couldn’t do it, physically. So we were going to have to test everybody or require cards from everybody, that was going to be really difficult for us. So when the city and the state removed the mandate, I had a big smile on my face. Now you can invite people and say, ‘Don’t worry about it—come have fun.’”
Fans coming out or tuning in Sunday will have more than just the seven former winners to look forward to. It’s also traditionally been a kingmaker for talented young drivers—Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mike Conway, and Sato all won their first IndyCar races of their careers in Long Beach; Ryan Hunter-Reay also kicked off a great run with Andretti Autosport with his Long Beach win in 2010.
Race fans who want to follow every turn can check out today’s qualifying race at 12:05 p.m. Saturday (practice and qualifying will also be streamed on Peacock Premium, NBC Sports’ streaming service).
On Sunday, the 47th Grand Prix of Long Beach will start its warmup at 9 a.m., with the green flag scheduled to start the 85-lap race at noon.
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