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First F1, then CART/Champ Car, and finally IndyCar all have played a cheap trick upon the hospitable “I Want You To Want Me” Southern California destination. Fact is, fairly few edge of your seat races have unfolded at Long Beach during its long history, though you’d never know it. Almost inconceivably, this trickery’s been going on for four decades now.
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Appropriately for SoCal, the Grand Prix of Long Beach always has been upside down, like a wave riding a surfer. The ancient – at least by IndyCar standards – event is known more for its pre-race festivities and “atmosphere” than the race itself. This year’s hoopla will be highlighted by Rockford, Illinois’ own Cheap Trick in concert, a rock band from the ’70s and recent Rock ‘N Roll HOF inductee among whose best songs is, fittingly enough, “California Man.”
Included in the fanfare too will be an “ePrix,” a drift race and, perhaps most cryptic of all, a “Lifestyle Expo,” whatever the hell any of those are. One thing IRR‘s sure of, however. Prior to the race a must see Miss GPLB pageant will be held – not to be confused with an LGBT pageant, of course. Strictly for illustrative purposes, here’s a look at last year’s gorgeous finalists. Wonder how many “Southern Girls” are among them? Or cheap tricks?
Adding a crescendo to the bawdy buildup is the 40th anniversary Pro/Celebrity race, an always popular event, or at least it was. This year’s charity race will be the last for some strange reason, apparently having lost “The Flame.” It’s scheduled to include former GPLB winners Al Unser, Jr. and Jimmy Vasser, along with minor television celebrity Ricky Schroder. We only hope for safety’s sake all California wine is kept well clear of this group before strapping into their cars. The Pro/Celebrity finale definitely doesn’t need to see anyone “Surrender” to the “Dream Police.”
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The GPLB started as an f-ing F1 event way back in 1976, when being online meant something entirely different. The legendary Mario “I have no racing grandson” Andretti won it the next year, besting both Niki Lauda and Jody Scheckter. Champ Car took up the torch when Billionaire Bernie‘s bunch left, carrying on with the event during the darkest days of the split. That is, until the “Champs” went defunct after the 2008 race. Long Beach has been IndyCar’s turf ever since, shared of course with the Crips, Bloods and MS-13.
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Interestingly, the race circuit is currently in its ninth different configuration through the streets of The Beach. Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais won a tedious three GPs in a row from 2006-2008 during his Louis XIV style reign over Champ Car, while the uncannily outspoken Canuck and IndyCar commentator Paul Tracy‘s a four time winner. Think that’ll come up on NBCSN’s air this weekend?
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Speaking of cheap tricks, there are only twenty two entries for the big league race, reflecting 2016’s shrunken field. Scott Dixon – “IndyCar’s Tom Hanks” – won last year’s largely uneventful fuel saving affair in what was surprisingly his first win in SoCal. The Penskes swept positions two through four in another fairly hum drum contest.
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Following “what’s wrong with Juan” Montoya’s win at St. Pete and Dixie’s triumph at Phoenix already this season, IndyCar could use a different winner from one of the less monopolistic teams. It’s theoretically possible, as the now retired Englishman Mike “Kentish” Conway won in both 2011 and 2014 – for two different owners, no less. Even torrid Takuma Sato managed a win at Long Beach back in 2013. When it comes to AJ Foyt‘s accident prone Japanese driver we have to remind ourselves, “Don’t Be Cruel.”
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Somewhat surprisingly, there are only two Californians in the series full time. In yet another IndyCar cheap trick, one is AA rookie Alexander “lost” Rossi, who frankly isn’t terribly likely to break through in his home state. That leaves Charlie Kimball – who races with diabetes – as the (former) Golden State’s only hope on Sunday. As Robin Zander – who really isn’t dead, despite the internet’s premature pronouncements – sings, “Ain’t That A Shame.”