WHISTLIN’ DIXIE & HAVING FUN

Scott Dixon

NTT IndyCar Series driver, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda topped the chart in the second practice Friday afternoon at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, with a time of 1:07.7940. The weather was sunny and warm, nearly 70 degrees F. “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.”

Dixon was one of four drivers who broke into the 1:07 area in the final five minutes of the 45-minute session. They were: Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and Joseph Newgarden/No.2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet were the other drivers. Of those four, all but Felix, the top Rookie in the session, were at the top once during the session.

Rounding out the top ten were: Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No 31 GESS Carlin Chevrolet; Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda; Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; Simon Pagenaud/No.DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet; James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda; and Marco Andretti/No.98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda. Say that fast five times.

Patricio O'Ward

O’Ward practically ran into the post-session media conference. RHR was asked if he was smirking at it. He said “He’s enjoying himself. You got to love it. He’s got that talent. He’s got the fire to do it. That’s what it’s about. It’s cool to see, for sure. Yeah, the more you go to press conferences, the slower the entrance becomes, I’m not sure how that goes.” O’Ward was then asked if he was actually having fun out there. “You have to be having fun doing this. I mean, I feel like if you’re not having fun, then why are you doing it, right? You have to enjoy it. You have to have fun where you’re at.

But I think it’s just a place that everybody likes to come to because of the energy around this place. I’ve never been here, but today is a Friday, man, and the paddock is full. The stands are, like, packed. I’ve never seen a Friday so full in my life.

It’s cool. It’s really cool. I wonder what it’s going to be like Sunday. So, I mean, I think Ryan knows better than I do, but I’m super excited.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay

Hunter-Reay responded” Yeah, it’s excellent. Don’t mistake what he’s saying. He’s not out there giggling while he’s on the track. He’s enjoying it because it ticks every box off for a driver that you want. You have the passion; you have the energy from the fans. The track is challenging you as a driver. It has that aspect to it that you really enjoy, you can’t wait to get back in the car.”

Mathew Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet was one of those drivers who found the 1.968-11-turn street course challenging. He drove into the Turn 9 runoffs area early on in the session, bringing out a Red Flag, for which he received a five-minute penalty – for causing the Red Flag. “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.” That was the only drama in the session, although Dixon admitted he probably hit the wall three-four times ‘just lightly’ during the session. He said “The course is very difficult. It’s quite a technical circuit, hard to piece it together. I think any street course, it’s very easy to get caught out. You’re constantly just rubbing the walls or getting close.”

Leist and two other Rookies – Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda and Santino Ferrucci/No.19 David Yurman Dale Coyne Racing were the only drivers who were faster in the morning session. Everyone else went faster in the warmer afternoon.

Sebastien Bourdais, who races No.18 Sealmaster Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan in IndyCars is also racing the No.66 factory Ford GT for Chip Gannassi Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this weekend. He is filling in for Joey Hand, who is ill. Dixon was asked in the post-session conference if he would have taken the opportunity if Ganassi called him. Dixon paused, and said “Chip did call.” Big stunned silence. “You said no?” Dixon – “I said, Call me back if you get stuck.”

In the Historic IMSA GTO qualifying session, Craig Bennett of Wixom MI got the pole in No.3 1990 Chevrolet Beretta. Second was Joel Miller of Oakbro IL in No. 62 1991 Mazda RX7 and Pieter Baljet in his 1990 Chevrolet Beretta. These cars are required to have run five races at five different tracks in a single year, and be outfitted with the original livery as it was period run. They have a 20-minute race Saturday at 5 pm.

IMSA GTO Podium Qualifiers

Left to Right: Keith Freiser, Craig Bennett and Joel Miller.

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