IndyCar Series

Hunter-Reay takes winning momentum to Long Beach

Long Beach, CA (Sports Network) - The IZOD IndyCar Series heads out west for the first time this season to Southern California.

James Hinchcliffe kicked off the season on March 24 by winning his first career IndyCar race on the streets of St. Petersburg, FL. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending series champion, started on the pole and took the checkered flag for the April 7 event at Barber Motorsports Park.

With podium finishes in the first two races this year -- second at St. Pete and third at Barber -- Helio Castroneves holds a nine-point lead over Scott Dixon, who has a pair of top-five finishes. At this point of the season last year, Castroneves held a two-point advantage over Dixon.

Hunter-Reay started off the season with a disappointing 18th-place finish at St. Pete but moved up to third in points after his victory at Barber. He is presently 13 points behind Castroneves.

"In IndyCar, the momentum can swing at any point, because the competition is so close and the drivers are so talented," Hunter-Reay said. "You could be going to your best racetrack, have a little bit of a mistake in qualifying, be 10th or 11th. Your weekend is changed at that point."

The series will run its third race of the season this weekend on the 1.968- mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit in Long Beach. Hunter-Reay won this event three years ago, leading 64 of 85 laps.

"I'm really happy to have some much needed momentum going into one of my favorite race events of the year," he said. "We'll be looking to follow up a huge win at Barber with another big weekend in Long Beach. As past winners of this race, we know what we need to do to get the job done."

This year's race at Long Beach has been trimmed from 85 laps to 80. It is one of four events on the schedule this year that IndyCar is attempting to improve the competition. The sanctioning body wants to discourage teams from fuel- mileage racing, which would better match traditional fuel windows for each one of those races.

Will Power won here last year. Power qualified second but received a 10-grid position penalty for an engine change. The Team Penske driver conserved enough fuel in the late stages, driving the final 21 laps without pitting. He beat then rookie Simon Pagenaud to the finish line by just under a second.

Power has won the pole in three of the last four races at Long Beach. His first victory at this street circuit came in 2008 when Champ Car ran its final event ever before unification with IndyCar.

"Long Beach has a lot of history, and it's a great location," Power said. "Everyone loves going there. It's a very cool street circuit. I've won it twice now. The cool thing about winning that race is you get your face on the plaque (trophy) there in victory lane."

Power won three of the first four road/street course races during the 2012 season. He has finished 16th and fifth in the first two events this year. Power is currently eighth in points (-32).

Twenty-seven teams are on the entry list for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Mike Conway is scheduled to compete in his first race this season, driving the No. 17 car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Conway scored his first career IndyCar win two years ago at Long Beach.

Series: IZOD IndyCar. Date: Sunday, April 21. Race: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Site: Streets of Long Beach. Track: 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit. Start Time: 4:30 p.m. (ET). Laps: 80. Miles: 157.4. 2012 Winner: Will Power. Television: NBC Sports Network. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS XM Satellite.

04/18 16:54:49 ET

Powered by The Sports Network.