Chevrolet, Honda take engine battle to Long Beach

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After the first two rounds of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2015 season, the engine battle between Chevrolet and Honda is more like a skirmish going into Long Beach, depending on how you look at it.

Chevrolet engine teams have clearly dominated the opening two races, specifically Team Penske with its 1-2-4-5 finish at St. Petersburg and leading the opening laps at NOLA before rain shook things up. That led to Honda claiming a 1-3-4 finish leaving Helio Castroneves in second and Juan Pablo Montoya fifth.

While the driver’s points standings reflect on-track results, the manufacture’s standings has Chevy looking at a wide chasm at Honda, as it trails by 179 points.

Chevrolet received a 220-point penalty after St. Petersburg when 11 of 12 Chevy teams conducted “non-minor engine repair” to account for faulty valve springs.

Now IndyCar heads for the West Coast and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The third event of the season, Long Beach isn’t a track that’s been tipped heavily in either manufacturer’s favor in recent years.

Beginning with Mike Conway’s win in 2011 with a Honda engine, every other year has alternated, with Will Power in 2012 (Chevy), Takuma Sato in 2013 (Honda) and then Conway again in 2014 with Chevrolet.

“Street courses present unique challenges and for this circuit in particular the solid execution of the hairpin leading to the curved front straight is a critical element for a fast lap,” said Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing Program Manager in a release. “With the introduction of the 2015 Chevrolet Aero Kit and integrated Chevrolet Indy V6 engine, the excitement for each venue on the schedule feels new again.”

In the field for Sunday’s race are 12 Chevy drivers, but only four have past wins at the track: Sebastien Bourdais, Power,  Castroneves and Montoya.

Honda has had plenty of success at the 12-turn street course, winning 11 of the 15 races it has competed in at the track, meaning its won 73 percent of the races entered.

Honda won at the track seven straight years, from 1996-2002, and with engine manufacturer competition in all those years.

With Penske being the class of the field when not impeded by rain, Chevy has a strong chance of ending the swapping of wins in Long Beach and giving the manufacturer consecutive wins.

A win would do wonders in helping Chevy bounce back from the point deficit. Before the penalty, Chevy earned 128 points at St. Petersburg.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).