Great cars from IndyCar’s past prepare to take to the streets of Long Beach

Great cars from IndyCar’s past prepare to take to the streets of Long Beach


The oldest is an Eagle from 1966. It was built 30 minutes down the road in Santa Ana, one of the first race cars made by Dan Gurney’s All American Racers, who also co-founded the Long Beach Grand Prix. It’s owned by Rob Dyson and will be driven by Formula 1 and IndyCar legend Stefan Johansson.

The newest is a Panoz DP01 from 2007, made in Georgia, which was driven by Oriol Servia and also took part in the farewell to the Champ Car series in 2008 before the championship was bought by and merged with the IndyCar Series. The throaty sounds of the naturally-aspirated Ford V8 in the Eagle and the singing Cosworth V8 turbo in the Panoz will be a delight to hear as they fire down Shoreline Drive and rattle the fences throughout the 1.9-mile circuit.

Altogether, the best part of next week’s Long Beach event featuring IndyCar and IMSA just might be the Historic Motor Sports Association paddock and the fleet of 17 amazing IndyCars from yesteryear that are on the event schedule to practice and race twice for our retro amusement.

“Clearly you can’t competitively race that car against cars that are 20 or 30 years newer, but it will be really cool to drive an iconic car at an iconic event like Long Beach,” Johansson told RACER. “Doing something like this is about enjoying the event and the people around it.”

The HMSA field also includes another Southern Californian product in the 1972 Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing VPJ-1 with its wild dihedral wings and the 1985 Newman/Haas Racing March 85C that Mario Andretti drove to victory at Long Beach, which is owned and piloted by Nashville IndyCar event promoter Scott Borchetta.

Ex-Newman/Haas mechanic Don Hoevel, whose IndyCar restoration business is always overflowing with projects, will be bringing a few cars, including the 2005 Lola B05/00 Sebastien Bourdais raced into victory lane at Long Beach in 2006 while capturing his third of four consecutive Champ Car titles. It will de driven by its new owner, Jordan Roddy, and will be crewed by a number of former Newman/Haas mechanics.

Bourdais, who will be in Long Beach to compete for Cadillac Racing in IMSA’s Saturday feature, is planning to stop by and see the car at some point during the event. Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 winner, will be pulling double duty as the Arrow McLaren team’s sporting director and driver of the McLaren M16 Johnny Rutherford used to win the Indy 500 in 1974.

Dennis Firestone, the 1980 CART IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, will be reunited with the 1981 AAR Eagle he raced at the Indy 500 in 1982, and Michael McKinney who, like Hoevel, is always buried in great IndyCar restoration projects, will be driving the 1977 Coyote he and his team just finished.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown’s ex-Mario Andretti 1987 Lola is a late scratching from the entry list, but Brown will be in attendance and will get to watch Kanaan and the McLaren Heritage team run the M16 with the turbocharged four-cylinder Offenhauser motor that made more than 1000 horsepower back when it was driven by Rutherford.

Although he won’t get a chance to test the car before Long Beach, and his first outing will be on an unforgiving street course, Kanaan has no plans to take it easy.

“Here’s the thing: I wouldn’t do justice to the car if I don’t push it to the limit,” Kanaan said. “What’s the limit? I don’t know, because I’ve never driven it, but one thing I like about it is it’s old school. So there is no anticipation as far as we get to look at the data. You just do it like the way I always love to do it; you jump in and you figure it out. So obviously, I am not going to try to do anything silly.”

Friday will see the HMSA field venture out for a practice session between 10:15-10:35 am PT, and things get busier on Saturday with an early 7:40-8am run before the 10:40-11am race. The vintage portion of the weekend closes shortly before the 12:45pm start for the NTT IndyCar Series race as the HMSA drivers complete their second race from 10:45-11:05am.

“We have a few sessions so I can build that up until we get to the 90 percent, but honestly, we’re going to take my time trying to understand how the beast works,” Kanaan said. “I don’t want anybody to spoil it. I want to figure it out myself while I’m driving. So I think it’d be pretty fun. I think it’ll be interesting to see how I can extract the most out of the car, trying to understand how the car behaves.”

Kanaan shares more about what’s ahead at Long Beach, and how he’s settling in as Arrow McLaren’s sporting director, in the podcast below:


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