Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Conway ready for return at Long Beach
2. Tracy, Fernandez honored on Walk of Fame
3. Grenier joins Team Moore Racing at Long Beach
4. Ganassi to use blue rims again at Long Beach
5. Of note
1. Conway ready for return at Long Beach: Mike Conway said that a day in a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car during the IZOD IndyCar Series Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park was a good start of preparation for the 39th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The race, which Conway won in 2011 with Andretti Autosport, will be his first in the IZOD IndyCar Series this season. Conway, 29, will drive the Honda-powered No. 17 Blue eCigs car as a teammate to Graham Rahal and James Jakes.
“There will obviously be people who are race ready having competed in the first two events, but I have been thinking about Long Beach since the start of the year,” said Conway, who competed last weekend in a World Endurance Championship race at Silverstone. “I don’t feel like I am rusty. I felt at home straight away in the car (at Barber) and that was the main thing. I felt comfortable.
“I have been doing laps of Long Beach in my head for the last few months so I feel like I am in tune that way.”
Conway will have two practice sessions on April 19 plus a third 45-minute session on April 20 to dial in the car on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit before the three rounds of qualifications.
“Long Beach has got its own unique corners to it so it’s not the same setup you would run at St. Pete,” added Conway, who will make his fifth start at Long Beach. “Even though it looks similar, the corners are quite different. You have different surfaces there as well. It’s quite a unique place but similar characteristics in terms of other street courses with big curbs, bumps and walls everywhere.
“Getting used to the new tires Firestone is using this year and getting myself up to speed as soon as possible shouldn’t take long. With all the little things you miss with setups here and there and key areas, I just have to quickly make changes to get up to speed as quick as possible. But l feel ready.”
2. Tracy, Fernandez honored on Walk of Fame: Paul Tracy’s induction into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame didn’t sink in until the Canadian driver took a walk along the street course where he made many of his Indy car memories.
“My first race in an Indy car was (at Long Beach) in 1991 with Dale Coyne and my first win was here,” Tracy said. “I was walking across the bridge and said to myself, ‘Man, where did all the time go?’ I still feel as young as ever. I want to thank all the great teams I’ve driven for, all the teammates, all the competitors that have spurred me on and the conflict that has spurred me on.
“I’m honored to be in this group in the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame.”
Tracy, whose four Long Beach victories is tied with Mario Andretti for second to Al Unser Jr. (six), was joined by Adrian Fernandez in being inducted into the Walk of Fame during the eighth annual ceremony.
Tracy won the 1990 Indy Lights race on the temporary street circuit and recorded CART victories in 1993, 2000, 2003 and ’04. The 2003 win was among the seven during the season on his way to the series title. He is tied with Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti for seventh on the all-time victory list with 31.
“You can’t have a great race without having a great city to host it,” Tracy said. “I want to thank Long Beach for everything that it does; it’s one of the marquee races in the world and a place that I’ve been very lucky to have won here four times.”
Fernandez, one of the most popular athletes ever from Mexico, made his open-wheel debut at Long Beach in 1993 and in 11 appearances had a career best-finish of second (2003). He posted 11 victories in Champ Car and the IZOD IndyCar Series, including the three in the 2004 season.
“I’m humbled to accept this special gift,” said Fernandez, who has been a driver, team owner and manager/agent. “As a driver, you put forth all this effort for more than three decades and it’s been a fantastic ride. Long Beach has always been a fantastic race and a ‘home’ track. I remember coming here and seeing so many Mexican fans.
“It’s always been the jewel of Indy car street races.”
Previous inductees include Jimmy Vasser, Scott Pruett, Galles Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Mario Andretti, Al Unser Jr. Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Brian Redman, New Haas Racing, Chris Pook, Parnelli Jones, and Gary Gabelich.
3. Grenier joins Team Moore Racing at Long Beach: Mikael Grenier will race the No. 22 car for Team Moore Racing at the Long Beach 100, team co-owner Mark Moore announced.
Grenier’s effort will be backed by Xtreme Drilling & Coil and NAPA.
“Mikael Grenier has done the bulk work of all the winter testing with the team,” Moore said. “He is the best person to put us in a position for an excellent result in Long Beach. He has worked with his engineer and crew and is ready to go. So, at this time, we would like to give Mikael the opportunity to get back out there. He is a very deserving young man.
Grenier made five Firestone Indy Lights starts in 2011 – including a race with Team Moore Racing — posting a best finish of fifth at Barber Motorsports Park. He finished seventh in his only start on the streets of Long Beach.
“I would like to thank TMR/Xtreme Coil Drilling and all of my personal sponsors for this opportunity,” the Canadian said. “I have to say it was really hard to be home watching the first two races on my computer rather than being in the car, especially after putting a lot of effort this winter in testing and developing the car together.
“Missing the first two races is not ideal, but I believe we are going to be very strong this weekend in Long Beach. I know the team and the people I will be working with very well and we just have to do our jobs like we always do and the result will come to us.”
4. Ganassi to use blue rims again at Long Beach: Chip Ganassi Racing Teams and Novo Nordisk are supporting driver Charlie Kimball in their Race With Insulin Unites campaign again in Long Beach to promote diabetes awareness.
The cars of Kimball, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon will compete with blue wheels to simulate the blue circle that is the global symbol for the International Diabetes Federation.
5. Of note: E.J. Viso attended high school at Rolling Hills Prep in San Pedro, Calif. – about a 15-minute drive from the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach circuit…Klipsch, a leading global speaker manufacturer, will serve as the Official Audio & Headphone Partner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and be an associate sponsor of the No. 15 car driven by Graham Rahal.
The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 21 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. The race will be televised live at 4 p.m. (ET) by the NBC Sports Network (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, including on Sirius and XM Channels 211 and www.indycar.com. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Long Beach 100 on Sunday, April 21 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. The race will be broadcast by NBC Sports Network at 3 p.m. (ET) on April 21, immediately preceding the IZOD IndyCar Series race broadcast.