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What to watch for: IndyCar at Long Beach (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)

Apr 13, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT

STANDING STARTS RETURN

As mentioned over the off-season, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach had been interested in a standing start when they were introduced to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2013. A year later, they’ll have one – hopefully.

Standing starts were hit or miss last year, with successful ones coming at Toronto Race 2 and Houston Race 1. If it goes off properly today, it’ll be a Oklahoma land rush down into Turn 1, one of the prime passing zones on this 1.9-mile Long Beach circuit.

And it’ll likely be awesome, like Will Power’s rocket start from fourth to first in the 2008 Champ Car finale (skip to 5:40 for the fireworks).

HAIR(PIN)-RAISING EXPERIENCE

Turns 1, 6, and 9 are good places to gain positions, but the right-hand hairpin at Turn 11 remains Long Beach’s signature corner.

Bottlenecks with cars going askew across the entire track are not uncommon here, and as it leads to the long, curving front-stretch on Shoreline Drive, it’s oh-so-important to get this corner right. Poor acceleration out of it leaves you open to a drafting attack if a pursuer is anywhere near your rear wing.

UPSET ALERT: JOSEF NEWGARDEN

We’ve seen the third-year driver for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing shine before on street circuits (remember his late-race fight with Takuma Sato in Sao Paulo last year?). And it appears Newgarden could do it again today. Steady throughout practice save for a Practice 1 run-in with the tire barriers, he made the Firestone Fast Six in yesterday’s qualifying and will start fourth today.

He’s become a fan favorite with his social media savvy and easy-going personality, but is today the day he becomes a Verizon IndyCar Series race winner?

MAKING HISTORY

Today marks the 40th anniversary running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which began as a Formula 5000 race in 1975. Then came Formula One from 1976-1983, CART/Champ Car from 1984 to 2008, and the current Verizon IndyCar Series from 2009 to the present.

Through it all, a galaxy of motorsports stars have been able to win at the Beach. It is the most important race of its kind in North America, and whoever wins this 40th anniversary event is going to make a special kind of history.

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