Another beautiful day in Southern California for the 44th running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Verizon IndyCar Series had its morning practice, in preparation for the mid-afternoon qualifying session.
Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Honda was the fastest IndyCar driver, at 1:06.6105/106.632 mph – faster than the fastest time of 1:08.4112/103.562 mph set Friday morning by Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. He set it on Lap 12 of the 15 he ran.
Every driver went faster Saturday morning.
Second through fifth were Joseph Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – who led twice and much of the session, Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda-who led once, and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet.
Left to right – Team Penske drivers, Joseph Newgarden, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud. Photos by Nico Matamoros.
Also leading early on was Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.
Yesterday morning’s fastest driver, Dixon, and Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet turned the most laps – 20.
Despite his bringing out the Red and Checkered Flag, Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet was the top Rookie. He missed the apex and drove straight into the tire wall. It was the second Red Flag. Earlier, there was another Red Flag to retrieve Zachary Claman De Mello/No.19 The Paysafe Car Dale Coyne Racing Honda. That took 10.19 out of the 45-minute session.He turned the fewest laps – 11.
James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda was late going out. He finished twenty-first. All 24 drivers were on course.
Other fumbles including Veach driving into a runoff area and in need of a restart.
The minimum car weight for an IndyCar is 1620 pounds. The average weight for an IndyCar driver has been determined (by IndyCar) to be 185 pounds. So if a driver, such as Zach Veach or Takuma Sato weighs less, he must make up that difference in ballast, and conversly, if a driver (and there is at least one) weighs more, he can reduce weight in the car. Confidentiality precludes IndyCar indicating which driver is the heaviest.
Friday afternoon the IndyCar paddock was filled with queues of fans lined up for autographs from their favorite drivers. When I came in to watch, I was asked if I was allergic to bees. Evidently a hive had occupied a now cordoned-off corner and was being relocated. Only in California.
In the BUBBA burgers Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, only two IMSA classes are competing: Prototypes and GTLM.
Juan Montoya/No.6 Acura Team Penske Prototype is on pole for Saturday afternoon’s 100-minute race. He broke last year’s record set by Ricky Taylor, with a time of 1:12.922. JPM’s co-driver is Dane Cameron. This is the first pole for Honda in its third race since entering the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship this season.
Joey Hand/No.66 Ford GT Chip Ganassi Racing has the GTLM pole, and set a new track record of 1:16.869. He admitted he lost his second mirror on the wall. His co-driver is Dirk Mueller.
The top four Prototype drivers broke the existing track record. Montoya said “I just really love this car. This car reminds of a Formula One car, so balanced, so nice to drive.”
Montoya and fellow Penske IMSA driver, Helio Castroneves, were inducted Thursday into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame and had their name plaques installed, commemorating their LBGP winning history. Montoya said that was such a great honor.”“It’s unbelievable. I came here two years ago to see Roger get inducted. It was huge, huge names here. You don’t realize when you race and you win races, you never do it to be here. To get recognized for everything that you’ve done, it’s amazing.” Montoya won his first of 15 IndyCar races at the 1998 LBGP, and ran five races in Long Beach.
Castroneves raced 13 times since 1998, with one victory, three poles and currently holds the IndyCar qualifying track record of 1.06.2254 seconds/ 106.980 mph, set last year.
During the IMSA sessions there had been a lot of track limit violations, going over the new blend lines. No one seemed to know why.
Jimmy Hague/No.16 won the 11-lap HMSA Historic Trans Am Series Challenge in his 1970 Ford Boss 302 Mustang, after starting third. The Margin of Victory was a close 0.628 seconds, ahead of runner-up Bill Ockerland/No.25 1968 Ford Boss Mustang, who started fourth. Ockerland turned the fastest race lap – 1:40.396/70.569 mph. Early on, Hague had set the race’s fastest lap of 1:42.148.
Finishing third was Pole Sitter Chad Raynal/No.64 1969 Chevrolet Camaro.
Tomy Drisi/No.1 1970 Chevrolet Camaro finished third on the track, but was Disqualified.
Twenty-seven started the race, and several failed to finish all the laps. John Hildebrand/No.49 1964 Pontiac GTO had a failed transponder, so didn’t show on the results. He had to pit early for overheating.