After last weekend’s monsoon at NOLA Motorsports Park, the Verizon IndyCar Series returned to the famed streets of Long Beach today, which were full of sunshine. Often referred to as the “Indianapolis 500 of street courses”, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is arguably the most scenic and majestic racing venues on the IndyCar schedule.
The day began with a bit of surprising news, as Dale Coyne Racing’s Carlos Huertas was replaced in the No. 18 car by Rocky Moran Jr. The 35 year old Souther California native competed in the American Le Mans Series in 2011, and the Indy Lights race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2005. Between that Lights race and today, the only other time he had been in an open wheel car was when he tested at Homstead-Miami Speedway last September for SPM.
The team did not give a reason for Huertas not being able to race this weekend, but speculation is that his funding did not make it through. Coyne told Curt Cavin that he still intends on running three cars in next month’s Indianapolis 500, but the only driver that is confirmed for that race is Pippa Mann. The two full-time cars are TBD at this point, according to the team.
The other bit of news that came out in the middle of the day, was that IndyCar had required changes to the Honda and Chevrolet aero kits, effective immediately. In short, they mandated that Chevy tether the front vertical wings (or “rabbit ears” as Will Power calls them), or simply remove them. During the next practice session, none of the Chevrolet cars had them on. IndyCar also mandated that Honda provide some sort of reinforcement to their rear wheel guards.
Aside from all of that, there was some actual on track racing today. Chip Ganassi’s duo of Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan led the first practice session, which was virtually incident free. Not to be outdone, Power turned the fastest lap of the day (1:07.5485) in the second practice session. The top six cars were all powered by Chevy, with Graham Rahal the fastest Honda, 0.5809 seconds behind Power.
The second session did have some more action, as Moran Jr and Carlos Munoz made contact in Turn 1. It appeared as though Rocky simply didn’t see Munoz to his inside, and he spun rear-end first into the wall. There was significant damage done to the car, and he mentioned he jammed his thumb, but everything seems to be fine for qualifying tomorrow.
Take a lap around the Long Beach circuit with Ryan Hunter-Reay:
Qualifications for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begin at 5 PM ET tomorrow, and will air on NBC Sports Network at 6 PM. Before that, there will be one final 45-minute practice session on Saturday at 1 PM.
Practice Photos via IndyCar