For the 36th consecutive year, IndyCars have invaded the streets of Long Beach, California. The NTT IndyCar Series is back in action on the west coast for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. A pair of champions and Indianapolis 500 winners shined the brightest on Friday, as Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon took turns at the top of the charts.
Dixon’s top spot in the second session was the fastest of the day at 1:07.7940 seconds. His Ganassi teammate Felix Rosenqvist was just behind Hunter-Reay for 3rd overall. Chevrolet drivers Josef Newgarden and Patricio O’Ward rounded out the top five on Friday, with defending race winner Alexander Rossi just behind them.
Friday Combined Practice Results
Graham Rahal had a solid afternoon after his disappointing mechanical failure last weekend at Barber. The second-generation driver has 12 starts at Long Beach, but still has never led a lap. Colton Herta was just behind Rahal on the practice sheet on Friday, and was one of three Rookies inside the top eight. Simon Pagenaud and James Hinchcliffe both showed good pace in the afternoon, and rounded out the top ten in Friday’s practice.
Both Dixon and Hunter-Reay have won this race once before, but Ryan’s last six finishes here are 24th, 20th, 13th, 18th, 17th, and 20th. Dixon surprisingly has just four Top 10 finishes in his 12 starts at Long Beach. The reigning series champion has a pair of runner-up finishes so far, but hasn’t won a race yet this season.
Hunter-Reay is aiming to bounce back from last year’s disappointing ending. “Last year, we had very competitive cars,” he said. “Again, this year we rolled off with a really good setup, I think. It was a good starting point. We’ve made some changes to it trying to find what to do, what not to do, as you regularly would on a street course. So, yeah, it was a good first day, definitely learned a lot. I know what to apply for tomorrow.”
Will Power (15th) and Sebastien Bourdais (19th) weren’t as strong as they typically are, but look for them to be back towards the front on Saturday. Qualifying well is always important at Long Beach. Of the 35 IndyCar races here, 28 of them have been won by a driver starting in the first two rows.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at Noon ET, followed by qualifying for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, which begins at 3 PM on NBC Sports Network.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “It was a good day. The car feels really good. The Hitachi Chevy boys have worked really well this weekend. We just need to stay on top of it. We found some stuff from the first session that will make us better, and now it’s a matter of putting all of those details together correctly for tomorrow. I think we’re going to have a great car tomorrow for qualifying and try to set ourselves up nicely for the race.”
MATHEUS LEIST: “We had a great Practice 1 here, but unfortunately in the second session, I think the higher temperatures and the setup that I had didn’t work well together. I had too much oversteer on turn-in, which doesn’t help you to go faster. We also had a couple issues during the session that didn’t help either, so we have some work to do for tomorrow, but I think we are closer to the guys in the front than we’ve been the whole year. Hopefully, we’ll have a good practice tomorrow to prepare us for qualifying to go to Q2.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “I think we learned a lot today. Ultimately, our pace wasn’t representative; the No. 20 decided to have no respect on track and sat right in front of us on our fast lap on reds (Firestone alternate tires) – you only get one lap. Bit annoying not knowing where you are pace-wise because we still have some work to do on the car. Once again, the Arrow car rolled off the truck pretty quick. The guys have done a lot of work in the offseason to improve our pace here; it wasn’t our strongest track last year. I think we’ve made strides and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do with it tomorrow after a night to sleep on it and make it a little better.”
MARCUS ERICSSON: “It was a fun first day here in Long Beach. It’s a great track to drive, and obviously, the first time for me, but I had a lot of fun. It’s quite technical, quite bumpy, so you need to sort of learn how to use the track and where to place the car over all of the bumps and curbs out there. It takes a bit of time to get into that – I’m still sort of trying to figure out the best way around this track, but I’m getting there. We did quite a few laps, as well, to learn the car and try different setups, so we’re definitely moving in the right direction. We just need to find a bit more in the Arrow car for tomorrow and Sunday.”
SCOTT DIXON: “I think it was only an average run. I think I missed the timing line when I went to get the fast lap out of it. We ran long and the grip felt high, but I made a pretty big mistake in the first two laps. But the PNC Bank car was strong and it was good this morning. We didn’t really get what we wanted out of it and I think we had the potential this morning. I think the Hondas look strong. As you can tell every weekend, it’s super tight and the mix is quite heavy, so we will have to see what we can do to try to create a bit of a gap there.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST: “It was a pretty good day in the beginning and it felt like I had some work to do on the driving in the first practice. This is kind of a technical circuit, for sure. Then in the second practice on blacks (Firestone primary tires), it felt not the best, but then on reds (Firestone alternate it seemed like we had a lot of pace. Scott (Dixon) in P1 and me in P3 and I think I had a kind of dodgy run and still, I was able to go to P3, and we didn’t really wait until the end when the track was the best. So I think that is promising for tomorrow. We still have something I want to get better in the car but overall, a really good first day in the NTT DATA car.”
WILL POWER: “Obviously, the second session was a bit messy for us. We had a couple of issues. We got some good data from our teammates and have some great stuff to look at. We look to improve the Verizon Chevy for tomorrow.”
TONY KANAAN: “Pretty solid day for us. We regrouped after Barber and actually came back to the basics that we knew in years past. This was a good track for us here last year, so I was confident that we were going to have a pretty good weekend so, so far so good. Gotta keep at it.”
GRAHAM RAHAL: “It was a decent day for the TOTAL team. I think in the end our pace is OK. I think we’ve got to find a couple of tenths (of a second) to be comfortable. We probably could match what the top guys did. We caught a little traffic on our first lap on reds (Firestone alternate tires) and just didn’t get it all. We had to bail out of the second lap, too, which hurt us, so we did our best time on our third lap and it wasn’t a pretty lap. I think we’re competitive, but like always, it’s going to be super, super tight. We finished seventh and were only a couple of tenths off. We’ve just got to keep digging and try to find a little more.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: “I’m missing something. I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but I’m really struggling to switch on the tires and get the No. 18 SealMaster Honda car going. I’m looking for the feel I usually have here at Long Beach and I’m not getting it. I’m not particularly worried. I just need to get where I have the confidence to challenge the car. We are just going to have to sit down, review all the data and see what we can come up with. Fortunately, we have one more practice before qualifying tomorrow.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI: “The Long Beach circuit is a little different than other street courses I’ve been to. It’s very flowing with a nice rhythm to it and the David Yurman car has been pretty decent. We’re just struggling with one thing and that’s where all of our lap time is. If we can fix that one item, then we’ll be good to go for tomorrow. We have a bit of work to do tonight, and hopefully, we’ll be set for qualifying tomorrow.”
ED JONES: “Today was a tough start to the weekend. However, we made a lot of progress in that second session. The field is so tight, even if you make up just a few tenths it really jumps you up a lot. If we continue making improvements like we did today, we could be looking at getting into the second round of qualifying tomorrow. That’s our goal.”
SPENCER PIGOT: “We definitely have some work to do tonight to get ourselves in a better spot for qualifying tomorrow. We’re going to go back and look at not everything we did today, but also from previous street course races. We’ll come up with a solid plan to find some more time.”
SIMON PAGENAUD: “Awesome day today. I’m really excited about the DXC Technology Chevy, it’s really competitive. I feel very good in the race car and am having a lot of fun here in Long Beach. We’re tuning the car, and I think the Firestone Fast Six is doable for us tomorrow. We’ll keep working on the car tonight and be ready to go tomorrow for qualifying.”
ZACH VEACH: “Overall, it was a pretty good day. We were P3 on the blacks (Firestone primary tires) in the second session and then we put the reds (Firestone alternate tires) on and I just didn’t put a clean run together. I think we ended up P14, but realistically, I think we’re pretty good. I’m happy with that. We need to make sure we have a clean day tomorrow and qualify towards that Firestone Fast Six.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI: “I think generally the car is good. We’ll be going through our normal checklist for Practice 3 tomorrow. I think we had a 1:07.7 run going and I made a mistake in Turn 8. I think the pace is there, so now we just need to put it all together.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “Really, we’re just getting back to finding our baseline. Last year, we had very competitive cars. Again, this year rolled off with a really good setup, I think. It was a good starting point. We’ve made some changes to it trying to find what to do, what not to do, as you regularly would on a street course. The tricky part of a street course is you have to keep up with the racetrack, you have to be proactive with keeping up with it. As you go through the race weekend, it’s constantly changing conditions. So it was a good first day, definitely learned a lot. I know what to apply for tomorrow.”
TAKUMA SATO: “The view from pit out is quite good. Being there should be a good advantage for the race. It was a tough day. We did try a couple of different directions. Graham (Rahal) and I split the workload, but it feels like we are a step behind at the moment and trying to catch up. We’re learning all the time how to do a proper back-to-back (race weekend). There is a lot of work to be done tonight.”
PATRICIO O’WARD: “This place is a blast. It’s quite hard to get those last three-tenths (of a second). Really, really hard to get everything right. You have to be precise because here you don’t have grass, you have a wall. It’s pretty tough to get around here with a perfect lap, but I’m enjoying so far. We’ve done some pretty good running. We’re struggling with the blacks (Firestone primary tires) for some reason, but look to be OK with reds (Firestone alternate tires). So, we’re going to be working on that for tomorrow. Looking forward to the event. All I hear is good things about this place.”
MAX CHILTON: “We made a big jump performance-wise from the first practice session to the second practice session today. We were struggling a little bit during that first session to put it all together, but once we got out there this afternoon it all started working for the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet. We were able to match our red (Firestone alternate) tire run on both the first and second run with the same tires, which is a really good sign, so I think we’re in good shape for a top-six qualifying performance tomorrow.”
JACK HARVEY: “Fridays just aren’t our day. We had a fuel leak, so that kind of threw the session off a bit for us, but there’s obviously nothing we can really do about that. On the bright side, I’m glad that we caught it today and the guys fixed it pretty quickly. So far this season we have done a good job at recovering on Saturday. Right now, we just need to focus on having a good day tomorrow.”
COLTON HERTA: “Alright day on track today. We struggled a bit in the second practice. The boys and I will put in the effort so we can have a great qualifying session. The No. 88 King Taco car is quick, so I know we can put it towards the top.”
MARCO ANDRETTI: “We are in the game, but still need to make a small change or two to be where we need to be on the reds (Firestone alternate tires) and the car is close to where we want it for the black (Firestone primary) tires. We need to make changes in the right direction overnight to make up the three-tenths (of a second) that separate us from the fastest six currently, but I definitely think we have a shot at the Firestone Fast Six tomorrow.”