11:13 AM (PT) – Hi, folks. Steph interjecting here to serve up a few notes provided by IndyCar as a preview to the weekend’s events. (Given that I’m doing this for Paul so that he can spend more time out in the California sun, you’d think he would be nicer to me! )
As has been widely reported, Dario Franchitti joined the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame yesterday:
Dario Franchitti joined Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster on the podium to accept a replica of the medallion that he would soon unveil as one of the newest members of the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame.
It’s the first of many induction ceremonies that Franchitti, who retired in November from motorsports competition with four Verizon IndyCar Series championships and three Indianapolis 500 victories, will likely be involved in through the decade.
Franchitti joined Grand Prix Association of Long Beach co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe in having medallions secured in the concrete sidewalk abutting the Long Beach Convention Center. The medallions include renditions of the racers’ cars and their major achievements in motorsports.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: “I’m going to put this in what we call in Scotland the ‘I love me room,’ It’s a real privilege to be inducted. It’s a place that I’ve enjoyed coming to and a track that I’ve really enjoyed racing on. I got my first (Indy car) podium here way back in in 1998 when I finished second to Alex Zanardi, which seemed to happen quite a lot. I won my first race here for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2009, so it’s a place with great memories.”
BOB FOSTER (Mayor of Long Beach): “Dario Franchitti, Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven have made legendary contributions to the field of motorsports, and they have truly earned their place on the Motorsports Walk of Fame. These three honorees have tremendous accomplishments, here in Long Beach and around the world. I personally want to thank (Kalkhoven) for all your investment of energy and time. Without you, this great event would not have happened.”
KEVIN KALKHOVEN (Co-owner, KV Racing Technology): “To be in the company of Jimmy and (2008 honoree) Parnelli (Jones) and Dario is an honor. It really irritated me that Jimmy got in first because we’re desperately competitive. I’m sure some places will be serving his wine during this event, and I can assure you that mine is still better. At least that’s my theory.”
An update was also provided on Oriol Servia’s future with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing:
Oriol Servia projects a four-race stint in a second Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car becoming a multi-year opportunity.Servia, 39, will make his 192nd Indy car start in the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in the No. 16 Honda-powered car as a teammate to the No. 15 National Guard entry driven by Graham Rahal. In 12 starts on the temporary street course dating to 2000, Servia has a best finish of second (2007) among five top 10s.
The Los Angeles resident competed in 12 races last season for Panther Racing, with Long Beach among his four top-10 finishes. Long Beach is the start of four consecutive races for Servia, who drove for the team in the 2009 Indianapolis 500. He aims for something long term.
“I’m looking at this opportunity as one I’ve never had – to build a program that I can take the profit off the build in Year 2 and 3,” said Servia, who will have Eddie Jones as his race engineer. “If we put the team together and we start getting successful as we should, there’s no reason why we cannot find proper sponsorship that will allow us to have two or three good seasons together. That’s what you need to challenge the top teams year after year. Like any other sport, you need continuity to beat the top teams. It takes time to get the best out of each other, so I hope we’re being stronger and longer.”
And a few more random tidbits. Kind of a cool thing that The King of the Beach will be in the Pro/Celebrity Race this year. That will definitely be worth checking out if you plan to be trackside.
Al Unser Jr., who will compete in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race on April 12, has won six Indy car races at Long Beach (including four in a row).
Paul Tracy, who will join NBCSN’s qualifying and race telecasts this weekend, and Mario Andretti have won four times. Andretti, the grand marshal for the 40th annual race, won the 1977 Formula One race on the city streets in addition to the 1984, ’85 and ’87 CART-sanctioned races. Andretti also is tied for the most poles (three) with Will Power, Michael Andretti and Gil de Ferran.
Sebastien Bourdais of KVSH Racing is the active leader with three wins (in a row) at Long Beach. Power has won twice.
“I had some success at Long Beach when I raced in Champ Cars. The last few years have been more difficult, but based on how good the KVSH Racing car was in St. Petersburg I am looking forward to debuting the Mistic machine this weekend in Long Beach,” Bourdais said.
And the times and notes from morning practice are now in our Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Event Summary.
That’s all for now. Back to your regularly scheduled live-from-trackside programming.
9:41 AM (PT) — It might shock most of our followers but sometimes my fellow Co-Editor Steph has a tendancy to be a bit bossy. Like this morning, when I was ready to push the Live Blog, she reminded me that I needed to grab a quick photo to use for the MFW front page. Being the good sport I am, I trekked out to go find a decent picture. One thing quickly became abundantly clear — the facilities here in Long Beach are big. Compared to other street course events I’ve been to at St. Petersburg and Toronto, everything seems bigger and more spread out here. I only had the chance to wander to the east end of the course, which is the hairpin/turn 11, but even that seemed like a long haul from the infield media center. I will make my way toward the west end of the track and the Fountain Complex a bit later today.
One of my aims for the rest of the weekend is to give you a sense of what it is actually like here at the track. I’ll try not to mention (too often) how perfect the weather is here because I’m sure nobody wants to read me wax poetic about the crystal clear skies and temps in the 60s. I do however hope to convey a sense of the buzz and activity here in downtown (and I do mean right downtown!) Long Beach. It is quite the event already, and I only expect it to grow through the weekend.
Before I go out and explore, I’ll just catch you up on the day’s events. Thus far this morning, the TUDOR United SportsCar Series has had the track to themselves with a two-hour practice session that runs until 9:40. The Verizon IndyCar Series finally gets going at 10:00 for their first 45-minute session. The second VICS practice session goes off at 2:00, and the Indy Lights squeezes in their practice between.
NEXT PAGE: More live coverage from the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach