Long Beach Grand Prix Weekend: What to Watch

A guide to the race action April 7-9 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Races that cover a broad range of motorsports are on the schedule for Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend, starting April 7. It's a high-horsepower street party on a tightly packed street track that promises wheel-to-wheel competition.

Drivers will carve their way through the 1.9-mile, 11-turn track where a mistake often means contact with the unforgiving walls lining the course and dramatic changes in position. Several different types of race cars will be on track before Sunday's main event.

The event's history dates to the mid-1970s, when the powerful and lightweight open-wheel Formula 5000 cars stormed the track in the first Long Beach Grand Prix. Long Beach soon attracted the world's most prestigious series, Formula 1, and its internationally famed drivers and teams.

The final F1 race in Long Beach was in 1983, but other forms of open-wheel racing continued to attract crowds to Shoreline Drive for years to come.

Here's what to watch at the 2017 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Click here for a full schedule of events during race weekend.

Friday, April 8

The event in downtown Long Beach opens to the public on Friday with several practice sessions and qualifying events for the Pro-Celebrity and IMSA sports car races. Paddock areas will be open, offering fans an opportunity to view the cars up close before the weekend crowds arrive. New this year, the Can-Am Challenge, a nod to the historic racing series of the 1960s and 70s, when excess was barely enough.  

The Tecate Light Fiesta Friday Concert, featuring "Moderatto," takes the stage outside the track before practice and qualifying sessions for the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge. The streets will be filled with tire smoke as they navigate parts of the course in controlled power-slides.


Vroom. The start of the Can-Am race at #roadamerica. #canam #vintageracing #greenflag

A post shared by Jonathan Lloyd (@jlloydla) on Jul 19, 2015 at 11:41am PDT

What to Watch: Anyone fortunate enough to have Friday off can avoid the weekend crowds and take time to browse the paddock area, where mechanics and other race team members will get the cars ready for practice, qualifying and race sessions.

Saturday, April 9

The Can-Am Challenge drivers will take the green flag for the first race of the day at noon. Bring your ear plugs -- these monsters will produce an unearthly sound that will shake the ground. The World Challenge sports car, production-based cars like McLarens, Porsches, Ferraris and Cadillacs, will be on track earlier for practice and qualifying.


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The feature race at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday is one of the world's premiere sports car series. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar series features prototype and production-based racers competing in different classes on track at the same time. It also has some of the most skilled and competitive drivers around. 

IndyCar qualifying begins at 3:30 p.m. and concludes with the Firestone Fast 6, a final round shootout involving the fastest six drivers to determine the starting grid for Sunday's race.

Saturday wraps up with the drifters back on track and the Rock-N-Roar concert with "Kings of Chaos," starring Billy Idol, Billy Gibbons and Chester Bennington.

What to Watch: The IMSA WeatherTech series race is a 100-minute shootout. Watch the illuminated numbers on the sides of the cars to follow each class. This year will feature a larger field with 10 Prototypes, nine GT Le Mans entries and 16 cars in the GT Daytona class.

Sunday, April 9

Alarm clocks won't be necessary near downtown Long Beach Sunday morning. There's an IndyCar series warm-up at 9 a.m. before the Pirelli World Challenge race at 10 a.m.

The weekend's feature event, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Verizon IndyCar Series Race, begins at 1:30 p.m. Drivers will compete for valuable series points in an 85-lap race that requires speed, strategy and some good fortune to win. The race will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.

Stick around for the final event, the wild Stadium Super Trucks race.

What to Watch: There are great places to watch all over the track, but Shoreline Drive offers the spectacle of racing at its best -- before and during the race. From the main grand stands, you'll see the drivers and crews get ready for the race and react to the pressure of pit stops. Plus, there are plenty of big screens to see the action on other parts of the course.

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