It’s about 450 miles south from Auburn, California to Long Beach, but Alexander Rossi hopes to feel right at home in his first career appearance in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Even though he’s a California native, this will be the first time Rossi has raced an Indy car in his home state.
“Long Beach is one of those races that you always hear about as an unbelievable venue and event, so I am very excited to be a part of it this year,” said Rossi, driver of the No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda. “This will be the first time in my professional career that I have raced at home in California and I will certainly be looking to put on a strong show for the local crowd.”
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While it will be Rossi’s first time racing at Long Beach, Max Chilton will be making his second start on the nearly two-mile Verizon IndyCar Series street course on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, having raced there last season in the Indy Lights event.
“I think we should be optimistic for Long Beach this weekend,” said Chilton, driver of the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. “I raced in Indy Lights here last year so I have some knowledge of the circuit.
“We have one street race under our belts in St. Petersburg this year, so there were a lot of lessons learned that can be applied here.”
But perhaps the biggest lesson Chilton will learn will come from teammate, defending Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach winner and 2015 series champion Scott Dixon.
Scott is the defending winner and really knows how to get around this place as well,” Chilton said. “So I’ll be looking to him for pointers before we get started on track Friday.”
In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.
Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.
Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.
The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.
“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”
Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.
SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.
When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.
SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.
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