YOU'VE COME A LONG WAY BABY
Well, this is it. After 15 races, 1,750 laps, 3,460.3 miles, and 5,462.52 kilometres it all comes down to this. 85 meandering laps of the downtown of Long Beach, California. At the end of the day one man will be crowned winner of the race, and one man will be crowned the series champion. It may be the same guy. It may be a different guy. Frankly, we have no idea.
The state of play in the championship:
There are 3 drivers left with a mathematical chance of winning the championship this year. Leading the group is Alex Palou with 517 points, followed by Pato O'Ward with 482 points, and Joseph Newgarden with 469 points. Given the extreme generosity of the Indycar points system to lower-placed finishes, I believe Palou can take this title with a 12th-place finish, regardless of whatever Pato or Joseph do. But, this is Indycar, and chaos is the order of the day.
85 Laps for a total distance of 167.28 miles. While the layout has changed a few times over the years, and this current configuration is perhaps less chaos inducing than some previous versions, the key ingredients remain. A large passing zone in Turn 1, and a large accident zone in Turn 11. Other turns may join in as appropriate. This is now the oldest event on the calendar save for the Indy 500 itself, and I'll spare you all the tales of civic improvement spurred on by this hallowed sporting event. If you want a sense of the history of the place, here is the first Indycar event held at Long Beach, the 1984 CART Long Beach Grand Prix:
For those more interested in more recent history, the last event held here was in 2019:
The more aware among you may have noticed I've skipped just about all of the good races held at Long Beach, and you can pelt me with abuse in the replies. If someone doesn't wax nostalgic about 1998 I'll be annoyed. If someone doesn't mention the tradition of teammate on teammate violence at Long Beach, like in 1992, I'll be even more annoyed.
Like all street races, things have a habit of getting especially Indycar, but we never previously considered the championship implications as this race was always in April, so it was too early to care. Now however, Indycar is able to drape itself all over this urban chaise lounge and demand we paint it like one of those French ladies.
When will this madness happen?