Long Beach: MFW weekend preview

IndyCar — By on April 12, 2012 1:43 pm

I am beyond excited to be here in Greater Los Angeles as More Front Wing prepares to (finally!) kick off our first live weekend coverage of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

(I say “finally!” because Paul was meant to kick off our season in St. Petersburg but was forced to cancel his trip due to his wife’s emergency surgery. We’re happy to report that she’s recovering very well. Paul, on the other hand, is suffering from debilitating withdrawal symptoms. There’s concern over whether he’ll make it to May.)

We’re going to have a bunch of different ways for you to follow the action this weekend. For my part, I’ll be making a bit of a return to my blogger roots — my toddler daughter is here with me this week visiting family, and since I haven’t got anyone to watch her for me at the track as of now I won’t be able to spend as much time in the media center or on pit lane as I normally would. I’ll be doing my best to observe and report, although I’m not sure how much attention I’ll be able to spare. But if learning so much about the atmosphere and the vibe behind an event that you feel like you’re there is your thing, I’m your girl. I’ll be posting daily reports here, and I’ll also be live tweeting from @MoreFrontWing.

If your sole interest is nitty-gritty session details and media center happenings, fear not — our intrepid correspondent Bash will be on-site as well picking up those points behind the scenes. Bash will also be posting daily reports here at MoreFrontWing.com and can be found on Twitter at @SpeedFreakBash.

Paul, on the other hand, is stuck at home in Illinois keeping our Long Beach Event Summary up to date and taking care of press releases. (Please excuse him if he takes too long to post things or if he makes mistakes — I did mention the withdrawal shaking, didn’t I?)

As for what we can expect to see this weekend, here are some thoughts:

A very shaken-up starting grid. As is being reported on Twitter this morning, Chevrolet will be replacing all 11 of its engines for this weekend, meaning every Chevy entry will incur a 10-spot grid penalty. That means nearly half the starting grid will not start the race in the positions qualified for. (That should make things fun to follow for the casual fans watching at the track.)

My pick for this year’s win has long been James Hinchcliffe. He’s always performed well at this track, including matching his best IICS finish of fourth here last year and notching a W in 2010 in Firestone Indy Lights. He’ll face a setback as a Chevy driver — in fact, he was due to serve a grid penalty anyway. But as he quipped on Twitter yesterday, “Why can’t I win from 11th?” Gotta love that confidence. With the caveat that I never like changing my picks after I’ve made them regardless, I think I’ll stick with James for this one. In other words, I’ll still be picking up one of these at the track to wear on Sunday.

–  Sebastien Bourdais driving like a beast. The man has a nearly superhuman record here that would have Will Power et al. shaking in their boots if Seabass wasn’t a) driving a Lotus and b) also facing a 10-spot penalty on the grid for an unapproved engine change. Since he’s likely to be stuck at the  very back of the grid after all the cards fall, anything inside about the top 15 will be a pretty successful day for him. But we can certainly count on it being a lot of fun watching him get there.

More attrition than at St. Petersburg. For one thing, it’s become evident that these cars can take a bit of banging around, and a lot of fast drivers will be willing to test that as they push forward through the field on Sunday. For another thing, the engines are still a huge wild card all around — half the grid has engines with a lot more miles than at St. Petersburg, and the other half has brand new and untested ones. For yet another thing, the drivers aren’t being told where they’re allowed to pass anymore, and there is that hairpin that’s likely to favor the twin turbos of the Chevys on exit — again, a group of cars that will be starting at the back. Fun times.

Whatever happens, we here at More Front Wing are all hands on deck to bring you the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach from every possible angle. To get a grip on INDYCAR news and views, be sure to stay tuned to MoreFrontWing.com all weekend long.