Five IndyCar things to watch for at Long Beach

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The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach marks the fourth race on the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series calendar. So far, three different drivers have found Victory Lane, including rookie Colton Herta after his incredible run at Austin, and Barber winner Takuma Sato, who finished 12th in points last year.

Watch Sunday’s race at 4:30 pm ET on NBCSN or the NBC Sports app

There is a strong likelihood that Sunday will crown a fourth new winner. With his two runner-up finishes so far this season (St Petersburg and Barber), Scott Dixon has a great opportunity to narrow Josef Newgarden’s lead. Dixon won this race in 2015 and could become only the third driver to win two Long Beach Grand Prixs since IndyCar took over the sanction.

  1. Since 2008, when the IndyCar Series began sanctioning this race, no one has ever been able to back up one Long Beach win with another. (Sebastien Bourdais scored three consecutive from 2005 through 2007 when the race was sanctioned by the Champ Car World Series.) Alexander Rossi has the potential to double down after a strong start to the season that includes two top-fives and a sweep of the top 10.
  2. Until last year, the pole was not the place to start at Long Beach; Rossi was the first driver to ever win from the pole. And while pole sitters scored four podium finishes in the 10 races previous, they also finished 15th or worse three times (Ryan Hunter-Reay – 20th in 2014, Dario Franchitti – 15th in 2012, and Justin Wilson – 19th in 2008).
  3. Josef Newgarden is the only driver so far this season to sweep the top five with his St. Petersburg victory, second-place finish at Circuit of the Americas and fourth at Barber. Keeping that mark will be a challenge because he has only one top-five at Long Beach (third in 2017) and has trended downward in three starts.
  4. The pole may not be the place to start at Long Beach, but a driver needs to at least have a glimpse of clean air. Nine of 11 races have been won from the first two rows. Qualification is critical.
  5. Are the 2019 rookies finally running out of steam? At St. Petersburg, three freshmen finished in the top 10 (Felix Rosenqvist in fourth, Colton Herta in eighth and Santino Ferruci ninth). Circuit of the Americas had two in the top 10 (Herta’s victory and Patricio O’Ward’s eighth). Last week, Marcus Ericsson’s seventh was the only rookie top 10.

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Kyle Busch happy with first stint: ‘Put me in the car, there’s excitement!’

AP Photo/Terry Renna
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Rolex 24 at Daytona debut of the “KB Show” was cut short by a strategy maneuver but still delivered drama and a positive result.

Kyle Busch got the No. 14 RCF GT3 Lexus back on the lead lap and back in contention for a GTD victory at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was good,” Kyle Busch said with a broad smile after a 42-minute stint. “Just, uh, shit, put me in the car, and there’s excitement around! Drove all my way back to the lead lap and everything.

“Overall, we’ve had a good experience and hell I only got one stint in, so I’m ready for more. Sign me up, coach!”

The two-time Cup champion was expected to drive for at least 90 minutes, but the first full-course caution of the race (with 19 hours and 16 minutes remaining) caused AIM Vasser Sullivan to change up its drive plan. Busch was called to the pits in favor of Parker Chase.

“With all the strategy and the way the wave-bys work here, it’s quite different than what we’re accustomed to (in NASCAR),” said Busch, who likely will drive longer now later in the race. “That wasn’t bad. To get ourselves back on the lead lap and back to a position where we can start scrapping again hopefully is what we needed.

“So I got one stint in, but I’m trying to save myself and (teammate) Jack (Hawksworth) for a little later.”

Busch climbed into the car shortly after 6 p.m. as the last of the No. 14’s four drivers. He complained a few times on his radio about traffic, which he said was his biggest challenge.

“There were a couple of instances we ran down a smaller car, and (it was) just mirror driving in front of us,” he said. “That was pretty bad. We lost probably 2 seconds on that. Overall, I guess that’s road racing.

The yellow flag was exactly what Busch’s team needed after being forced to start from the rear of the field when it missed qualifying because of an engine change. Hawksworth, who started the race, said the car was “quick in the wrong places and slow in the right places” after struggling with handling and speed in the first stint.

“I don’t feel we’re out of it,” Hawksworth said. “It’s a very long race. Still early days. We need to work on having speed for the end of the race. The position right now doesn’t really make any difference. We’ll need to find some performance at the end of the race to fight for the win.”