A beautiful Southern California day is in store for the 45th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, and here are my thoughts:

Simon Pagenaud will have a breakthrough day. As I wrote in this space yesterday, Simon is feeling confident and has taken an aggressive approach all weekend. He raced really hard last week at Barber, and from his P5 starting position should be in position for at least his first podium of the year.

Midfield speed. As always, qualifying was so tight yesterday that there are some drivers that missed the Firestone Fast Six that are still almost as quick as the leaders. Colton Herta starts P10 but was fastest in morning warmup, and Felix Rosenqvist posted the fastest lap in the Fast 12 round before hitting the tires and losing his fast laps. Rosenqvist will start in P12.

Parity rules. Three different drivers have won this year and seven different drivers have appeared the podium. All of the above start in the first five rows, will we see a two-time winner or will someone take the next step up the podium to P1? Someone will roll the dice on strategy, will we see a surprise from the back?

Predictions

To quote Long Beach’s most favorite son, Snoop Dogg, there’s gonna be drama in the LBC. The competition is so intense this weekend and passing is so hard at Long Beach that I see some elbows coming out and maybe even a chrome horn or two. Alexander Rossi said he wants a trophy this weekend, Will Power has a laser-focused vibe to him today, and guys like Graham Rahal and Pagenaud need a good result.

Here’s how I see it:

Winner: Rossi. When he’s on the pole he usually wins, and is one of the best front runners in the business.

2nd: Pagenaud. Simon has been very fiery this weekend and he has to be feeling the pressure at Team Penske having gone 20 races without a win.

3rd: Ryan Hunter-Reay. RHR has been fast all season, and other than his podium at Circuit of the Americas has seen some misfortune. He gets a ray of sunshine today.

Photo credit: John Cote/IndyCar Media