The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to the west coast this weekend, for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. It’s the 33rd straight year that IndyCar will hold a race on the famous 1.968-mile street circuit. Will Power lead all drivers in practice on Friday, with a fastest lap of 1:07.5992 seconds, which was more than two tenths of a second faster than anyone. It was a fabulous Friday for all the Team Penske drivers, who took four of the top six spots overall.
Breaking up the Penske party were a pair of Honda drivers; James Hinchcliffe and Graham Rahal, who were second and third fastest overall on Friday. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver talked about the start to their Long Beach weekend. “It’s a track I really like coming to, an event I love coming to. The car was great off the truck. Made very few changes over lunch, which is always a nice thing when you’re not thrashing. The pace was still relatively decent this afternoon. It doesn’t matter till it matters, but it’s definitely a good starting point for us.”
Friday Combined Practice Results
Juan Montoya paced the morning practice on Friday, which saw two red flags during the session. One of the stoppages was due to Charlie Kimball’s brakes catching both front wheels on fire. Before that, it was rookie Alexander Rossi getting into the tire barrier in Turn 8 that caused a delay.
It was the start to a busy weekend for Ryan Hunter-Reay. In addition to the IndyCar weekend here at Long Beach, the Indy 500 and series champion will compete in the IMSA event tomorrow afternoon. Ryan was 17th overall fastest on Friday, but he certainly knows his way around the Long Beach circuit, having won here in 2010.
Qualifying for this race is extremely important, and every team and driver knows that. In 16 of the 32 races at Long Beach, the winner of the race has started on the front row. Even more impressive, 25 of the 32 race winners started in the top four.
Rahal has just one top-ten finish in his last eight starts at Long Beach, and has never led a lap in nine career starts. Tony Kanaan has not led a lap at Long Beach since the 2009 race, and has only one podium finish in 12 career starts. Both drivers will look to turn things around this weekend, just as Scott Dixon did last year when he won the race for the very first time.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at 1 PM ET, followed by qualifying for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which begins at 5 PM.
Practice Photos via IndyCar
Juan Montoya: “Our first practice was good in the Verizon Chevy. The second practice we made a couple of mistakes. I think we actually learned a lot more during the second practice because we found some things we shouldn’t have done. With what we learned I think we’ll be better for the race. For qualifying set up we may have gone back a little bit but we will continue to work on it in the practice tomorrow.”
Helio Castroneves: “The Auto Club of Southern California Chevy was running good today. We were able to make some changes from the first practice to the second and it seemed to improve the car. We need to continue working together with the entire team for tomorrow- it really starts to count then. Hopefully we can come back strong like last year, be in the top six and put it on the pole.”
James Hinchcliffe: “Everything is relative. We’ve had a difficult start to the season, but not like the end of my last one. It’s easy to still sleep well at night knowing things could be worse. We had a strong car in St. Pete, qualified decently, inside the top 10 there. The race didn’t play out. Phoenix was its own deal. We’re looking to try to turn that around this weekend, start getting some points on the board. It’s a track I really like coming to, an event I love coming to. The car was great off the truck. Made very few changes over lunch, which is always a nice thing when you’re not thrashing. The pace was still relatively decent this afternoon. It doesn’t matter till it matters, but it’s definitely a good starting point for us.”
Max Chilton: “It was a bit of a struggle for us today with the Gallagher team. I think overall we could have done a bit better but we really need to sit down tonight and get a plan together for tomorrow. You really have to qualify well at a place like this because passing is at such a premium. I’m still learning the track layout as well. We’ll spend time tonight assessing where we are overall and have a plan to come back stronger in final practice tomorrow morning.”
Scott Dixon: “We didn’t really get to do much running in the first session this morning with all the downtime from the red flags and traffic. It just seemed like you could never really get a clear lap with all the cars out there. We missed a little bit on the setup and tried some new things that we didn’t do last year. P8 is not where we want to be of course with Team Target but we still have another session tomorrow morning to work on it before qualifying. Qualifying is of course so crucial on street circuits so hopefully we make the right changes and get a good starting spot tomorrow for the race.”
Tony Kanaan: “It felt really good to be back on-track today in Long Beach. We tried a few things in both practices in terms of our qualifying setup that didn’t work as well as we’d hoped. We aren’t quite there yet with a setup that works for everyone, but I think we’re close. We had a strong qualifying in Phoenix and I’m confident that we’ll be able to work through the data and put together a strong qualifying effort for the No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet tomorrow.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “Not a great day for the California Baptist University – KVSH Racing team. We struggled a little, then at the end I made a small mistake. However the field is very close. It doesn’t take much to move up the grid. Just a couple small adjustments… little steps. We will sit down, take a look at all the data and see what we can come up with for tomorrow.”
Will Power: “It’s been a good start. This morning I learned some stuff with Juan (Pablo Montoya), and we’re progressing well. This is a track where I’ve struggled the last couple of years in qualifying starting way back there, so I want to start up front and give ourselves a better chance to win the race.”
Takuma Sato: “The session went well. We had a couple of experimental test items that we wanted to try and we collected very valuable data. Of course it’s very nice to be back in Long Beach. It’s typical California, where the fans are very enthusiastic, and we have a lot of fans flying in from Japan so that’s great. Now that we have the data, tomorrow we will be stronger.”
Graham Rahal: “I couldn’t get a good lap in on the new tires; it took me way too long. I guess today is a good day to do that but it’s just disappointing because I knew that the car had the lap time in it. Finally we got a decent one in though. The PennGrade car seems to be good. The balance isn’t bad. We have a couple of things to work on but we’re in a good position right now. And we have one less set of tires than some, so we didn’t run on new tires as much as some, but I feel good about where we are right now. I feel good about what the car is giving me. We have a little more work to do, but in terms of competitiveness, we seem to be very close.”
Josef Newgarden: “It was a good day, a clean day for us which is always good. No major drama! We worked through a lot of good stuff, we were able to get a good read on what we need to do for tomorrow. We didn’t quite put it all together like we needed to do at the end of the day on the last set of tires, but we know where we’re at. The Fuzzy’s car looks good and we’re excited to qualify tomorrow.”
Simon Pagenaud: The PPG Automotive Refinish team did a great job in making a great recovery for second practice. We had a couple of issues earlier this morning. The real issue was the first set of tires, but we recovered to put ourselves in the top four. So, we can relax a little bit, knowing we’re up there and it’s a real testament to our crew to get that car ready so quickly. The track is tricky out there. The cars are so fast and we brake so deep, so you really have to try hard because there’s a lot going on. However, we did a great job to bounce back so quickly before qualifying tomorrow.”
Carlos Munoz: “I finished both practices top ten. We have to get a little bit of work done. In the car everyone is really close to each other, one-tenth would have put me top five. It’s just practice though, qualifying is another thing and the race is another thing. We’re looking a little bit better than last year. We’re making good progress as a team. Let’s see how it goes tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.”
Marco Andretti: “It seems like it’s taking a lot of laps for the tires to come in and we weren’t really able to put a run together with enough laps without a yellow or traffic. I was on a lap good enough for maybe eighth, but we need to improve it from there before we go out on track again tomorrow.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “The day started out okay. I was P3 in the morning IMSA outing and then P7 in the morning IndyCar session. We made some big changes for the afternoon run and went the wrong way. We lost the car – I was just doing everything I could not to crash. We need to reinvent the wheel for tomorrow, but we’ll work at it and we’ll get there for the DHL car.”
Jack Hawksworth: “In the first session we didn’t really get to try anything because there were a lot of red flags and we had a small issue with brakes at the beginning. In the second session, we did get through the things we needed to and learned a couple things which were positives. I’m really happy with the car, it feels really connected around here and I feel I understand what it’s doing. The pace is very good. We’re not as fast as we were in the first practice but the pace in the first practice isn’t a fair reflection. I think tomorrow we’ll be at the front and we’ll be in good shape.”
Charlie Kimball: “In Practice 2 we worked on some balance stuff trying to find a better combination for the car. I feel pretty good about the No. 83 Tresiba® Chevrolet – I think we’re in a good window. We need a little bit of lap time, but it’s just been so competitive today. I think I ended the second session 12th, but a tenth would’ve put me in seventh. We’re looking for a little more than that and we have a pretty good idea on how to make that happen heading into tomorrow morning. I’m confident that we’ll be strong coming out of tomorrow’s morning practice and heading into qualifying tomorrow afternoon.”
Alexander Rossi: “First of all its amazing to be in California and race in Long Beach. I love the track. It’s a really really great track, it’s probably in my top-3 street circuits I’ve ever been to. This morning was unfortunate, we had the session which ended in the tire barrier. I think the team did a great job getting the car prepared for this afternoon’s practice. Were in an okay position, it’s not great. We seem to be missing a little bit of pace, we’ll have to go back and understand why that is. I feel much more comfortable here than I did in St. Pete, so that’s a positive sign for the weekend ahead.”