The weather was a warming 63 degrees with bright sunshine and blue skies for the first NTT IndyCar Series practice on the streets of Long Beach, in the shadows of the massive Wyland dophin & whale mural on the side of the Long Beach Convention Center. This is the 45th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. The schedule calls for IndyCars, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Pirelli GT4 America Series, Historic IMSA GTO, SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks, and Super Drift Challenge. A full plate.
The morning 45-minute IndyCar practice session started four minutes late due to track cleanup from the previous BUBBA burger 90-minute session, and IndyCars ran green – IMSA had several session stoppages to retrieve cars. All 23 IndyCars were on track, and Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda the fastest, at 1:07.9335/104.290 mph – which he turned on his last lap. He was the only driver to get down to a 1:07. He said “It’s a good place for us to start. It will continue to change.”
Several drivers took their turn at the top including Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. The top seven cars were Honda. The top Chevrolet was Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske, and the top ten was rounded out by his two teammates, Joseph Newgarden/No.2 Hitachi Team Penske and Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske.
This weekend there are five Rookies, with Rosenqvist the fastest, in seventh position. The others are former F1 driver, Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda; Santino Ferrucci/No.19 David Yurman Dale Coyne Racing Honda; Patricio O’Ward/No.31 GESS Carlin Chevrolet; and St. Pete winner Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda.
Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda had a short day, with five laps before he pitted with a cutting tire problem. Rather than risk any more tires, he parked after five laps, while running third. He said later that they worked with Firestone Tires, and the issue is now resolved.
Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda is having a busy weekend. Thursday he and Will Power were inducted into the Long Beach Walk of Fame on Pine Avenue, and he started out at 7:40 am Friday practicing in No. for the 90-minute practice session. He is filling in for an ailing Joey Hand.
Bourdais and Power were on hand for the Walk Of Fame Ceremonies in bright sunshine. It’s not often that current drivers are honored by the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. According to GPALB President, Jim Michaelian, he promises that when – years away down the road – these drivers retire, he will dig up the bronze medallions and update them.
The schedule continues with all groups having another session – IndyCars will have a second practice early afternoon and the IMSA series having a late afternoon qualifying session for Saturday afternoon’s sprint race.