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IndyCar drivers will try to slow down Will Power in Long Beach

SportsAuto RacingOpen-Wheel RacingPenske RacingIndyCar SeriesMario Andretti

The 40th running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is Sunday with one overarching question: Who can put the brakes on Will Power?

The 33-year-old Australian has won the last three Verizon IndyCar Series races, and four of the last six, going back to last season.

Power's latest victory in his No. 12 Team Penske car was a dominant one at IndyCar's season opener March 30 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Course Map

Power also knows his way around the seaside streets that make up the 11-turn, 1.97-mile Long Beach course. He's a two-time winner, in 2008 and 2012.

"It's an enjoyable track, a cool track [that also has] some of the toughest corners to get right," Power said.

Also, IndyCar this year will use a standing start for the Long Beach race — the same format that's used in Formula One racing — as opposed to the conventional method of having the cars roll past the green flag as they get up to speed.

That means "you definitely want to qualify up at the front," Power said. That's partly in hopes of avoiding a collision in Turn 1, a sharp left-hander where the drivers often get bottled up because they have to brake hard after reaching high speeds on Shoreline Drive.

Other notable contenders Sunday include former Long Beach winners Takuma Sato (won last year), Power teammate Helio Castroneves, Mike Conway, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sebastien Bourdais, who won the Long Beach race three consecutive years in 2005-2007.

Legendary racer Mario Andretti, a four-time winner at Long Beach, is the race's grand marshal and will give the command for drivers to start their engines.

As always, there are several other races held on the Long Beach circuit during the weekend.

Saturday's lineup includes a pro/celebrity race with drivers in identical Toyota Scions and a Tudor United SportsCar Championship series race, and IndyCar's second-tier Indy Lights series has a race Sunday morning.

All the various series also will hold practice and qualifying sessions starting Friday. Qualifying for the IndyCar race is Saturday.

Power's winning streak has come in tandem with a change in attitude for the driver, who finished second in the IndyCar title standings for three consecutive years in 2010 through 2012.

When he went winless through the first 14 races of last year, and realized he was all but out of the championship hunt, Power said he stopped worrying about accumulating points and simply focused on winning.

"Last year, not being in the points chase, really opened my eyes that I was being way too conservative," he said. "I had spent three years being very conservative, feeling the pressure of leading the points."

He won the last two races of the year, at Houston and then Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, and finished fourth in last year's title standings.

"It was a big change in my approach going into this year compared to the previous four years," Power said. "I'm a lot more aggressive in every situation. I can race hard all the time; it doesn't matter where I am in the points."

james.peltz@latimes.com

Twitter: @PeltzLATimes

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SportsAuto RacingOpen-Wheel RacingPenske RacingIndyCar SeriesMario Andretti
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