The weather was wildly windy Wednesday in Long Beach, leading up to the 35th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The forecast is for sunny and increasing warmth all weekend, upholding the tradition of it never raining on race day. However, the ferocity of the winds was unexpected.

Wednesday was the date for the annual media lunch featuring drivers from the race series involved in the weekend – Indy Racing League IndyCars and Indy Lights, American Le Mans Series, SPEED GT World Challenge and Team Drifting. The theme this year is More Stars More Cars.

This weekend marks a year anniversary of unification between competing open wheel series, Champ Car World Series and IRL. Last year the Sunday Long Beach race was the swan song for CCWS which ran its first and last 2008 race, while IRL raced it’s already-scheduled race at Motegi in Japan the night before.

This year, despite the current economy, the IndyCar field numbers 22, Indy Lights has 28 cars, ALMS will run 20 cars in four classes, 26 cars for SPEED GT, and a group of highly skilled Drifters. The Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race has 18 drivers – ten celebs, three Pros and three amateurs who bid or earned their rides.

The IndyCar field could increase by one should IRL driver, HELIO CASTRONEVES/Team Penske, be acquitted of federal tax evasion charges. His lengthy trial is going into its fifth day of jury deliberations in Miami FL. Reportedly he has a flight booked to get him to Long Beach in case he’s free to go. Team Owner, ROGER PENSKE, has said if Castroneves is released, he will have a ride. Aussie driver, WILL POWER, has been filling in during Castroneves’ absence. He acknowledges he was hired to substitute for the ebullient Brazilian and is uncomfortable when asked to discuss his options should Castroneves return. Power said that was up to Roger,

This weekend is the last ever ALMS race for the successful factory  Corvette GT1 team. The C6.R will run the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and then retire. Corvette Racing will debut its new GT2 Corvette in ALMS this summer. A special ceremony will be held post-qualifying Friday afternoon. The team’s stats are staggering – eight consecutive GT1 team and manufacturer championships, 69 ALMS wins, 75 class wins worldwide, and 13 ALMS class championships in eight years. Corvette Racing is the most successful sports car team in ALMS history.

The ALMS race is Saturday afternoon at 4:15 PDT.