What to watch for: IndyCar at Long Beach (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)

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STANDING STARTS RETURN

As mentioned over the off-season, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach had been interested in a standing start when they were introduced to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2013. A year later, they’ll have one – hopefully.

Standing starts were hit or miss last year, with successful ones coming at Toronto Race 2 and Houston Race 1. If it goes off properly today, it’ll be a Oklahoma land rush down into Turn 1, one of the prime passing zones on this 1.9-mile Long Beach circuit.

And it’ll likely be awesome, like Will Power’s rocket start from fourth to first in the 2008 Champ Car finale (skip to 5:40 for the fireworks).

HAIR(PIN)-RAISING EXPERIENCE

Turns 1, 6, and 9 are good places to gain positions, but the right-hand hairpin at Turn 11 remains Long Beach’s signature corner.

Bottlenecks with cars going askew across the entire track are not uncommon here, and as it leads to the long, curving front-stretch on Shoreline Drive, it’s oh-so-important to get this corner right. Poor acceleration out of it leaves you open to a drafting attack if a pursuer is anywhere near your rear wing.

UPSET ALERT: JOSEF NEWGARDEN

We’ve seen the third-year driver for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing shine before on street circuits (remember his late-race fight with Takuma Sato in Sao Paulo last year?). And it appears Newgarden could do it again today. Steady throughout practice save for a Practice 1 run-in with the tire barriers, he made the Firestone Fast Six in yesterday’s qualifying and will start fourth today.

He’s become a fan favorite with his social media savvy and easy-going personality, but is today the day he becomes a Verizon IndyCar Series race winner?

MAKING HISTORY

Today marks the 40th anniversary running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which began as a Formula 5000 race in 1975. Then came Formula One from 1976-1983, CART/Champ Car from 1984 to 2008, and the current Verizon IndyCar Series from 2009 to the present.

Through it all, a galaxy of motorsports stars have been able to win at the Beach. It is the most important race of its kind in North America, and whoever wins this 40th anniversary event is going to make a special kind of history.

Racing world reacts to Danica Patrick’s Daytona, Indy double news

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Here’s a sampling of quotes and social media reaction to Danica Patrick’s news announced earlier Friday that this would be her last full-time season as a driver, and that she’ll race in the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 only in 2018.

This ends a full-time stretch in the top flights of NASCAR and IndyCar. She was in NASCAR from 2012 through 2017, and IndyCar from 2005 through 2011.

Her’s her own post on Twitter and Instagram.

Well…. 2018 Daytona 500 and Indy 500 here I come. 🙌🏼

A post shared by Danica Patrick (@danicapatrick) on

IMS President J. Douglas Boles

“We’re glad Danica plans to return to the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil next May,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “Her final career start will make what’s already shaping up to be a terrific Month of May even more interesting for our fans.

“It’s also fitting that Danica is wrapping up her career at the place and in the race where she became a household name and captured the world’s attention in 2005 – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500. We’re looking forward to seeing her back in an Indy car next May alongside all of the tremendous drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

NASCAR

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