The streets of Long Beach play host to the third round of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, a 100-minute sprint race that will see teams pare down to two drivers per car from the three or more that competed in Daytona and Sebring. This year, only the Daytona Prototype and GT Le Mans teams will compete this weekend, with 22 cars in total on Saturday’s grid.
With such a small amount of race time, tied with Detroit for the shortest round of the season, the Long Beach round always has a unique character. As we prepare for the green flag shortly after 4PM ET/1PM PT, here are some of the questions we’ll be looking to answer during today’s race:
Which Taylor brother is more likely to defend their victory from last year?
Neither Jordan nor Ricky Taylor have been able to return to the top step of the Daytona Prototype podium since splitting up this offseason, with Jordan’s runner-up finish at the 12 Hours of Sebring the best result among them so far. Long Beach was their third victory together in a five-race win streak last season, and it’d be a welcome victory for whoever can take it. Ricky’s Acura Team Penske ride rolls off fourth, while Jordan’s Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac starts in sixth.
Will we see the first repeat winner of the season in either class?
Unlike last year, no teams in any class went back-to-back in the first two rounds of the season. That means that Filipe Albuquerque and Joao Barbosa (Daytona) or Pipo Derani and Johannes van Overbeek (Sebring) could be the first repeat DP winners of the season, while Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook (Daytona) or Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy (Sebring) could be the first to repeat in GTLM. Unfortunately, they’ll all have to do it from less than ideal starting spots: Barbosa qualified fifth and van Overbeek qualified 10th overall, while Pilet qualified third in class and Westbrook starts sixth in GTLM.
Could this be the breakthrough weekend for Acura Team Penske?
Qualifying first and fourth overall, both of Roger Penske’s DP entries look to be fast this weekend. Juan Montoya, the 1999 CART Long Beach winner, qualified on pole, and will split time with Dane Cameron in today’s action. The aforementioned Ricky Taylor will join Helio Castroneves in the second car, and both drivers impressed here last year—Taylor as an IMSA race winner, and Castroneves in IndyCar after both taking the pole and posting the fastest lap of the race. We could see the first of many Penske 1-2s today.