When we woke up on Long Beach, California on the morning of April 19th, it was obvious that we were in for a fantastic weekend. With the weather forecast at the hotel reminding us that the high-60s morning temperature would quickly rise to a comfortable 85 degrees, we couldn’t eat breakfast fast enough.
There are always elements of a job that feel like, well, a job. But, when you get to cover Toyota’s Long Beach Grand Prix, it certainly doesn’t feel like work. This was the 39th annual running of the Indy Series event, and anyone in attendance (and believe me, there were quite a few) can attest to the fact that the track’s location makes you feel like you’re watching an event in Italy.
As we walked down Pine Avenue, on our way from the hotel to the venue, we could already hear the sound of the early practice runs. With Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti in attendance, there was little doubt that there would be plenty of entertainment. The causeway that leads to the front gates passes right over one of the final turns of the course, so the stage is set from the moment you hand the counter your ticket.
The 11-turn course runs along Shoreline Drive, which mirrors the coastline, is absolutely gorgeous. With the marinas lining the coastal side of the track, a seat in the grandstands can provide quite a view. And, because
The first practice runs were the Le Mans series races, and take it from me, if you haven’t seen Porches and Corvettes blasting through a street course up close, you haven’t lived! Again, these were just practice runs, but when you can hear the air ratchets in the pits and smell the burning motor oil, there’s nothing like it.
After strolling around the facility, and getting some great look-ins at the Le Mans pits, it was time to fire up the Indy Cars. These open-wheel beauties have always given me pause: How on Earth is this sport not more popular? I mean, is it a marketing thing? The cars are a lot of fun, and the courses, in my humble opinion, are more entertaining than the standard ovals seen in other events.
As expected, the drivers took these Friday practice runs with caution. Although, it is worth noting that everyone seemed to get a kick out of seeing them “open it up” after the final turn (by the “Dolphin” – if you don’t know what that is, definitely look it up!), as they headed down the straightaway.
Passes were few and far between, obviously, but the morning runs were plenty fun. After a short break, the second round of practice runs began, and we elected to wander around a bit more, taking in the scene.
Shoreline Village, which is an on-the-water complex, is inside the event’s gates, so heading over to grab some lunch (and a beer, if you’re into that sort of thing) was a snap. Food trucks were aplenty, as well, giving visitors a bevy of options. The backdrop of water, boats in the marina, and of course, loud engines in perfect weather, really helped to set the stage for what would be an incredible weekend.
For those that are interested, here’s a video of HelioCastroneves discussing the 2013 Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix: