POWER TO THE POLE … AGAIN

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by 

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet earned his third IndyCar Grand Prix pole position Friday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with a lap of 1:09.8182/125.761 mph. The two previous times Power went on to win the race – in 2015 and last year. This is his 51st Verizon P1 pole position, breaking the tie he had with teammate Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet for third place in all-time poles. It’s only 16 to go to catch all-tie leader Mario Andretti at 67 poles. AJ Foyt has 53. Today marked the 258th pole position for Team Penske.

Power said he did have to dig deep on the last lap. “That was everything I had. We made a downforce adjustment after the first round when we saw how fast the other guys were, and kind of got close to them. Then, on used tires the car was really good. I’m stoked, really stoked.Good stuff.” Power only ran two laps in the Fast Six session – one on each set of tires. “That was the plan. I felt like that would give me the best chance because I think if you went two laps on one set, you’d probably lose out on the second lap, but yeah, the tire hung on really well. It felt as good as a new.”

During the Firestone Fast Six Qualifying Session, Power led at first, before Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda pipped him. Then just as quickly, Rookie Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda took over the lead. Power grabbed it back at the end as the clocked ticked off.

Wickens and Bourdais finished second and third, respectively, with Wickens as the top Rookie. Fourth through sixth were James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda, Rookie Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing/Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, and Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

The entire field of 24 cars was covered by 0.9212 seconds.The fastest car went 125.761 mph, while the slowest one was 124.123 mph. That’s only a difference of 1.638 mph. Pretty competitive bunch! Power said “I’m not surprised at all. You look at the competition, the guys that are up here, it’s totally expected. Young guys are coming in, rookies are really fast, and obviously guys that have been around a long time and won championships. I mean, it’s just the tightest field there’s ever been in IndyCar, and the level of the teams is the best it’s ever been, so it’s no surprise the way it is right now.”

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

For the first time in three years, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda failed to advance out of the first qualifying round. He will start 18th. “The PNC Bank car actually wasn’t too bad earlier this morning in cooler conditions. We took a pretty hefty swing at it for qualifying, but the car didn’t feel like it had speed – it was just sort of on top of the track. That condition got worse as it got hotter and hotter, unfortunately. We’ll get back to a setup we know and then try and take it from there. Today, it just seemed like the heat made everything worse for us.”

IndyCar GP Fast Six

In the Fast Six conference, it was difficult getting them to take themselves seriously – at least the five veterans-which included Wickens in this instance as he’s been around racetracks and for awhile. Rookie King was more serious, while the others were about as jolly as anyone has seen all of them together in a long time.(Except when someone tried to photograph them laughing.)

Sebastien Bourdais

Bourdais said he was “I had a really good run and was P1 for a portion. That was about as good of a lap as I was going to get. … It was a good run and just made a small mistake in the last run. The car was okay but just kind of average, and then we put the Firestone red tires on, and it definitely came to life. The car was perfect to begin with. I made a mistake in Q2; and in Q3 I made a little mistake. We’re a very limited-resource team, so good results means a lot. Hats off to the team, they did a great job. I’m looking forward to a trouble-free race.”

Robert Wickens/ Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Robert Wickens/ Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Wickens, explaining how he and teammate Hinchcliffe get anything done when they joke around so much: “We normally get kicked out of the engineering office. Yeah, I think that they’re calling us the productivity sponge, kind of what’s going on when we joined the room. But I think there’s times to joke around and there’s times to work. I mean, we’re both professionals, even though we clown around a lot. We do okay. We get it done. It takes longer, but we get it done.” He added, “Great job by the SPM guys – we got both cars in the Firestone Fast Six. I’m a bit gutted with P2… We’re obviously in the front row, but when you lead the whole qualifying, you want to finish like that. It was close. I ended up losing a few hundredths (of a second) in the end, but I can see why – it wasn’t the tidiest lap. You have to do the perfect job to get the pole here, but I’m happy to be back in the Fast Six.”

King has made the Fast Six twice in his first four races, but was’t surprised. “I wouldn’t say I’ve surprised myself. I’m more just focusing on doing my own job and doing it at my own speed, and it’s proven to work. It’s not so much that I’m constantly looking at the timing and scoring and seeing where I am, I’m just getting on with it, and where I end up is where I end up.” He waited until (almost) the last minute to go out. “I was quite confident.”

James Hinchfliffe.Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

James Hinchfliffe. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Hinchcliffe defended his agricultural maneuvers in the first session, saying “That was the plan. We were just practicing for if you get spun out in the race. I was just spinning out a lot to make sure my style was working.” But seriously folks … “It was a bad day to have a bad day with the compressed schedule, and we had a really bad Practice 2. We had some braking problems… we couldn’t develop the car at all. Luckily, we have a solid teammate in Robbie (Wickens), and he was quick in that second session. We were really able to lean on him and it shows.”

Joseph Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Joseph Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Newgarden said ” I think the big thing was getting in the Fast Six for us. Unfortunately that was kind of my goal. We’d been in the top 10, just kind of hovering in it. We haven’t been super strong this weekend, been kind of tentative throughout. So he put in a good lap, so congrats to him. That was a good lap he did at the end. I think we would have been okay.We ran out the one lap, had a huge lockup in Turn 1 with the rear, and then just didn’t really get to finish it. Not ultimately where we would have landed, but I think we were in that third or fourth range, so happy to be in the Fast Six.”

Sunday’s 85-lap race will be telecast live on ABC at 3:30pm ET/12;30pm PT.

Garage Sign

Photo by Nico Matamoros

OFFICIAL INDYCAR GP QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:09.8182 (125.761 mph)
2. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 1:09.9052 (125.604)
3. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 1:09.9449 (125.533)
4. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:10.0858 (125.281)
5. (20) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 1:10.1326 (125.197)
6. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:10.7276 (124.144)
7. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:10.0382 (125.366)
8. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:10.1062 (125.244)
9. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 1:10.1601 (125.148)
10. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 1:10.1847 (125.104)
11. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:10.1979 (125.081)
12. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 1:10.3592 (124.794)
13. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:10.0985 (125.258)
14. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1:10.1044 (125.247)
15. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 1:10.2859 (124.924)
16. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1:10.2113 (125.057)
17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:10.3605 (124.792)
18. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:10.3221 (124.860)
19. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 1:10.5064 (124.533)
20. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 1:10.3371 (124.833)
21. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 1:10.6425 (124.293)
22. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 1:10.5066 (124.533)
23. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 1:10.7784 (124.055)
24. (32) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 1:10.7394 (124.123)

WILL-INGLY

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet continued his powerful performance in the second Verizon IndyCar Series practice session Friday noon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His time of 1:09.8759/125.657 mph was faster than his morning time. All but four of the 24 VICS drivers were faster in the midday session.

Robert Wickens. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Robert Wickens. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Rookie Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing/Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet was second, making him top Rookie again. Third through fifth were Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, Rookie Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.

The 45-minute session on the 14-turn road course was quite lively, with at least ten lead changes. It was all Green Flag racing with no drama. Among those who topped the charts were Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Alexander Rossi, and Wickens. Several leaders led more than once. Power led four times, and Rossi led twice, as did Wickens.

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 Honda

Zachary Clamon De Melo No.19 Honda

Ed Jones/No.20 Honda

LEFT TO RIGHT: Ryan Hunter Reay/No.28 Honda, Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 Honda, and Ed Jones/No.10 Honda. Photos by Nico Matamoros.

Turning the most laps in the second session was again Ed Jones/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing with 21 laps, which was also the number run by reigning champion, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The fewest laps were turned by Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 PaySafe Dale Coyne Racing Honda with ten laps. Overall, Jones has the most laps at 42, with De Melo the fewest at 26.

More sponsorship announcements were made.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced an expansion of its current sponsorship with United Rentals and the team program – Turns For Troops. In the past United Rentals – the official equipment rental supplier to the Verizon IndyCar Series – donated $50 for each lap completed by RLL driver, Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda. The donations went to SoldierStrong, an organization utilizing advanced technologies for helping the rehabilitation of wounded veterans. For the month of May United Rentals will be the primary sponsor for Rahal’s racecar. And in May, the donations will
include Rahal’s teammate, Takuma Sato in both May races, and Oriol Servia in the Indy 500.

RLL Group Photo

LEFT TO RIGHT: Mike Lanigan, RLL owner; Stephanie Turzanski, SoldierStrong executive director; Chris Hummel, chief marketing officer, United Rentals; Graham Rahal, driver; David Letterman, owner; and Bobby Rahal, owner.

IndyCar announced it’s very first official charity partnership – with SeriousFun Children’s Networks, which started out as The Hole In The Wall Gang camp network founded by the late Paul Newman. It has now expanded worldwide to include 30 camps. The partnership is all about raising awareness about the camps and raising funding to continue its good works. Included in raising awareness will be PSA’s which are already running at the Speedway: texting KIDS to 900900. Josef Newgarden is an ambassador to SeriousFun Children’s Network and hosted some children at the Long Beach IndyCar Race. Graham Rahal grew up knowing Paul Newman and raced for his IndyCar team.

SeriousFun Children's Networks group

LEFT TO RIGHT: Josef Newgarden, ambassador; Clea Newman, ambassador; Graham Rahal, driver; Blake Maher, CEO SeriousFun Children’s Network; and CJ O’Donnell, chief marketing officer for IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Adam Carolla has ten of Paul Newman’s race cars, including his 1987 SCCA C Production Datsun, which he loaned to the Network to display at the Speedway. Clea Newman said she rode in the car on one of her Dad’s victory laps, but she’s never raced as her mother would never let her.

PLN 1987 SCCA CP Datsun

WILLFUL POWER

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet grabbed the top spot from Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda at the last minute of the first open practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Saturday’s IndyCar Grand Prix. Power’s time was 1.10.0866/125.279 mph, ahead of Rossi’s 1:10.1198/125.220 mph. Rossi led twice.

Third fastest was Rookie Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing/Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. King also had led during the session, being the top rookie during the session.

Alexander Rossi

Jordan King

Sebastien Bourdais

LEFT TO RIGHT: Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda, Jordan King/No.20 Chevrolet; and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Honda. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Fourth fastest was Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda, who was the last driver to take to the 2.439-mile course. Fifth overall was last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Takuma Sato

castroneves5760

The other driver to lead the pack during the 45-minute session was Helio Castroneves/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Rossi led twice during the session.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Takuma Sato/No.30 Honda; and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Chevrolet. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

The weather was hazy sunshine, 70 degrees F with a 10 mph breeze. There were no interruptions or cautions in the session, with just a couple of drivers testing the track limits. No harm. No foul.

Conor Daly will be racing in the Indianapolis 500 this year, driving No.17 Honda with Dale Coyne Racing in partnership with Thomas Burns. Friday he also announced another racing opportunity – his debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Road America. He will be teammates with Ryan Reed and Ty Majeski in Roush Fenway Racing Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustangs. Both Reed and Daly have Type 1 Diabetes and have learned to manage their disease and race. Majeski’s grandfather has Type 2 diabetes. Conor will be the first and only person with type 1 diabetes to race in both NASCAR and IndyCar in the same year.

IndyCar with Conor Daly & Ryan Reed

Ryan Reed and Conor Daly

Xfinity No.6 Ford

In the small but very competitive field of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, the battle was down to the wire for pole position. It went back and forth between Colton Herta/No.98 Andretti Steinbrenner Racing and Rookie Pato O’Ward. In the end, O’Ward prevailed for the Friday afternoon race with a lap of 1:15.4255. The qualifying track record of 1:14.6743/117.583 mph was set in 2016 by Ed Jones. There are seven drivers this weekend.

Rookie Oliver Askew/No.3 Cape Motorsports has the pole for the Pro Mazda Series presented by Cooper Tires. His lap was 1:20.1683. The existing qualifying track record off 1:22.8800/105.41 mph was set in 2016 by Pato O’Ward. There are 14 drivers.

Rookie Kyle Kirkwood/No.8 Cape Motorsports is on pole for the Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda race, with a lap of 1:25.0252. The existing track record of 1:24.6831/103.685 mph was set last year by Oliver Askew. There are 26 drivers.

Between their first and second practice sessions, the VICS drivers spent an hour signing autographs in The Fan Village. The place was packed.

IndyCar Autograph Session

THIS IS INDY! THIS IS MAY!

This is May!

This is May! The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is ensuring that folks for miles around are aware that the Brickyard is the Racing Capital of the World. Signage is everywhere, in town and at the track. The month officially opened Thursday at the track with all the Mazda Road To Indy support series practicing, while the Verizon IndyCar series was in setup mode.

Jordan King Garage Sign

Danica Patrick Garage Sig

Spencer Pigot Garage Sign

The garage signage wasn’t all up, but it was a work-in-progress. The Ed Carpenter three-car team had three-dimensional signs.

Pietro Fittipaldi Grandstand Sign

Zachary Claman De Melo car name

Over in the Dale Coyne Racing garages the signage was not up yet, but the name of the replacement driver for No.19 PaySafe Honda was already on the car. Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo was tapped Wednesday to drive for the injured Pietro Fittipaldi, who suffered severe fractures after a crash during WEC qualifying at Spa last weekend. De Melo has already run three races with DCR, and Fittipaldo ran the Phoenix race.

SPM garage

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is again decking their halls with garage art. They have large photo-quality art murals plastered over every available wall space in their garages. The theme this year is honoring garage mechanics, and it is a fortunate coincidence that a new sponsor was just signed – Gear Wrench – to provide tools for the team. The opportune timing allowed the sponsor to be incorporated into the wall art. It took about two weeks to completely install the decals, and a time-lapse video showing the installation will be released this weekend. This is the third year for the art, and the third year for the teams displaying their cars horizontally in the garages – the only team to do so. So when onlookers are viewing from outside the garage in Gasoline Alley, they see the side view of the race car, not the rear end as with the other teams. The SPM mechanics tell me they easily got used to working in the new configuration and it’s no more difficult than the previous position. The SPM cars are noticeable for their colorful and shiny chrome-like decal livery which glistens in sunlight.

Robert Wickens & James Hinchcliffe

v=Will Power & Derrick Walker

Simon Pagenaud & Will Power

Thursday was a casual day for most of the VICS drivers, with some at the track for media appearances and/or just hanging out with friends.

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda was asked if it was difficult to concentrate on the IndyCar Grand Prix when he knows he’s got the big race coming up in a couple of weeks. “Yes and no. I mean, at the end of the day, we don’t need 10 days to concentrate for the 500. You know, the Grand Prix is a two-day event Friday and Saturday. It’s just hard for the teams more than for us really, just turning the equipment around. Obviously the car configuration is very different. For the smaller guys, it’s always a big challenge to get a 500 car set aside, especially this year with the new kit and all the parts that you have to get. It’s been a bit of a challenge. But for sure it’s much harder for the teams than for us, I think.”

The VICS teams were prepping their cars and getting them through Scrutineering.

Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda

Takuma Sato No.30 Honda

Zach Veach/No.26 Honda

Out in Pit Lane, all the VICS teams had set up their Pit Lane equipment, and the MRTI series were utilizing the area without encroaching.

Friday the 24 IndyCar drivers practice and qualify for Saturday’s road course race, while the MRTI series qualify and race.

Pit Lane

ROSSI WINS LONG BEACH

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Verizon IndyCar Series driver/Pole Sitter Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Honda won the 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. His Margin of Victory was 1.2413 seconds ahead of Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Finishing third was Ed Jones/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. It was in front of what appeared to be a massive crowd, perhaps exceeding last year’s crowd of 183,000. GPALB President Jim Michealian had predicted on Thursday that the event was on target for exceeding last year’s numbers. And the crowd was so big even the drivers were commenting on the turnout.

Will Power, Alexander Rossi & Ed Jones in Victory Circle

Will Power, Alexander Rossi & Ed Jones in Victory Circle. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Alexander Rossi celebrating in Victory Circle

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi in Victory Circle

Photos by Nico and Pablo Matamoros.

Zach Veach

Zach Veach

Zach Veach/No.26 Honda

Josef Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Fourth was Top Rookie Zach Veach/No.26 Group One Thousand One Andretti Autosport Honda – who started sixteenth. He said “(Fourth) feels like a win, to be honest. The crew was pushing me pretty hard at the end to try to get on the podium but… after St. Pete, after Phoenix, we’ve just been chipping away on it and we took a big swing at it today.”

Finishing fifth was Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Josef Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet

Josef Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Reigning IndyCar Champion, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet finished seventh overall, and set a new race lap record of 104.881 mph/1:07.5511 on Lap 30 of the 85-lap race.

The weather became cloudy an hour before the start. It was 70 F with 8 mph breeze.

Rossi was the third different winner in three races, and it is his third victory. This win makes 58 indycar wins for Andretti Autosport. He is the first pole winner since 2007, and the fifth pole winner in the Long Beach history. Rossi continues to lead the standings with 126 points. Second is reigning series champion, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet with 104 points. He finished seventh.

Alexander Ross. Photo by Nico Matamorosi

Alexander Ross. Photo by Nico Matamorosi

Rossi said “It’s Hard to put into words what the victory means. Such a welcoming, special race. Turn Eleven is the most important corner in the track, so we put emphasis on that. I was happy with the gap (between himself and Power,) but I had enough PTP if needed. Having friends and family here doesn’t change my way of driving, but it’s nice. It doesn’t cross my mind when I’m in the race car. The new aero kit car you can really play with the limits on it. It’s a lotta fun. From a physicality level, it’s down, but you’re holding your breath a lot. We all had a smile on our face at Phoenix. Indycar came as close to perfection as they could with this car. I certainly hope I haven’t peaked too early. I hit a lot on the wish list with WGI, Indy and LB for victories. Global CEO was on the podium with Rossi. It was fantastic for all of us. For sure the competition level is high, the most competitive championship in which I’ve competed. And these Rookies are making an impression.

There were six lead changes among five race leaders. Rossi led three times for 71 laps in the 85-lap race, the most he’s ever led in a race. Other leaders were: Power-six laps; Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda-one lap; Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sealmaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan-four laps; and Newgarden-three laps.

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Power said “it’s like qualifying every lap for both of us there at the end. Rossi was just too fast all day. The cloud cover helped track temperature go down, so that certainly helped. There wasn’t that much tire degradation. Looking at the crowd today was pretty impressive. Good momentum going into Indy. It’s a cool, historic race, and you would say it’s second to Indianapolis as far as wanting to win. If you look at the series and everything as a whole, it’s at a great level as far as teams and drivers go, and it’s on the upward slope. Yes, I would say right now is the most competitive, talented group of drivers that the series has seen. When you look at how Rossi has come on and the rookies that are here this year, guys like Wickens and so on, it just gets harder. It gets harder and harder, and the common body kit I think was a really, really good idea. Yeah, great, great, honestly. To win and be on pole these days, you’ve just got to get it so right. The new car definitely needs more driver input. It’s not so physically hard, but there’s a lot more sliding. I’m just enjoying the car. Reminds me of Champ Car. Alex had a perfect weekend. I had one going for a Barber weekend last year. It’s pretty great when you can dominate the weekend. He’s going to be tough to beat in the championship. He’s definitely a road course standout, and you saw him at Phoenix oval as well.”

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Jones said it was good today after the disappointment of Phoenix. Jones agreed with Power on tire wear.Degradation wasn’t really much of a factor for us. I think getting up to speed was a bit more difficult because of the cooler conditions, and for us anyway, the balance usually when it was hotter was quite different to the cooler conditions, and I think that helped us in our position quite a bit. The yellow at the beginning of the race helped. After that it was reasonable easy the way the yellows fell. The style of driving now in the new car is more like Lights. I think now the jump won’t be as difficult a transition. Being loose is the only way to be quick, similar to the Lights car.”

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet and Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet

Photo Sequence by Pablo Matamoros

The race got off to a rocky start with a Full Course Caution on the first lap for a car in the wall in Turn One. Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda hit Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet. The incident went under Steward’s Review, with the outcome being Rahal was assessed a Drive-Thru Penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” As Pagenaud’s car wasn’t towed from the corner, he was unable to make repairs. Pagenaud was not a happy camper. He said he felt like Rahal “never broke. It’s a real shame and the shame is that the car is totally repairable. We just need to change the front wing and some suspension parts and we can go back out.” Rahal said “I’m sorry about what happened to Simon (Pagenaud). That’s not how I like to do things. It’s just like St. Pete, the rears (tires) locked up and I barely made the corner.

Cars pitted during the caution, including Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet, who was assessed a Drive-Thru Penalty for “Improper Exit.”

Gaby Chaves/No.98 Chevrolet & Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 Honda

Jack Harvey/No.60 Honda, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 Honda, Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Cevrolet & Charlie Kimball/No.23 Chevrolet

Gaby Chaces/No.98 Chevrolet, Spencer Pigot/No.21 Chevrolet, Charlie Kimball/No.23 Chevrolet & Josef Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet

Photos by Pablo Matamoros

Early on, the speeds kept increasing. Rossi set a couple of fast laps, followed by Rahal and Newgarden. Other fast laps were set by Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Rossi again, and Newgarden then set a new race record.

There were four Full Course Cautions. The first involved Pageaud being retrieved from Turn One. The second was for Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing, who was rear-ended and drove into the Turn One runoff. The third was for Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 The Paysafe Car Dale Coyne Racing Honda who hit the wall. The fourth caution was for fourth was for a pile-up in Turn Eleven, with Rookie Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, and Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. the Steward’s reviewed and assessed King a Drive’Thru Penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” That capped off the day for Wickens, who had gearbox trouble early on, sticking him in fifth gear.

Bourdais had an up and down day. Early in the race, he made a couple of smooth but gutsy passes, weaving in and out of a tight pack. It moved him into P2. However, the Stewards ruled that he must give back his position to Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, as Bourdais had used the exit of Pit Lane to make that pass. Once he relinquished his position to Dixon, he didn’t waste time in taking it back. Later he was involved with Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, for which King was assessed a Drive-Thru Penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” Up to that point, King had been the highest running Rookie, but he faded after that. Later, Bourdais had a run-in with Rookie Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Bourdais and Leist finished P14 and P13, but the Stewards reversed that order after the race, ruling that Leist blocked Bourdais.

More Steward’s actions: Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet and RHR had contact. No action taken. Dixon was assessed a Drive-Thru Penalty for taking a service in a Closed Pit. He was running second at the time. Sato had too many crew over the wall, which will be dealt with after the race. Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet had to restart at the back of the next restart for fueling in closed pit; and he he also had an improper restart position which he had to give back. Hunter-Reay received a 15-second hold for an entering the pits by back door.

There are now thirty-five confirmed entries for the 2018 entries in the Indianapolis 500. Of those, 19 are Honda, and they are solid. Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development, said Saturday that they have been approached to take on other groups, other teams. “Honda is already over it’s max capacity of 18 and one reason we can do it is because they’re all affiliated with our existing teams, so it helps us from an overall support standpoint.” Honda won’t be adding any new teams to its roster for the race.

Matthew Brabham

Cole Potts

Gavin Harlien

Left to Right: Matthew Brabham, Cole Potts and Gavin Harlien.

Matthew Brabham/No.83 put on a show on the way to taking the Checkered Flag for his win in Sunday’s Stadium Truck Series win. He came around much of the course on the two right wheels. Second was Cole Potts/No.60 and Gavin Harlien/No.55 was third. Fourth and fifth were Robby Gordon/No.7 and Paul Morris/1. It was an exciting race with lots of action, some wall-bashing and ending with stunt driving. Brabham said he’s been practicing and taking tips from Gordon on how to do it. Going into the Sunday race Brabham and Gordon were tied for the lead with 29 points, and Harlien a close second with 28.

Aerialist landing

Airplane

Pace Lap Flag

Max Chilton's Shoe

Scott Dixon/No.9 Honda

Shoreline Drive

Gallery Photos by Pablo Mataoros

ROSSI’S ON A ROLL

Toyota Bridge

PHOTO BY PABLO MATAMOROS

Sunday’s weather in Long Beach for the 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was just right – sunny and warm with no wind. Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Honda was again fastest in the morning warm-up for the Verizon IndyCar Series. His time of 1:07.5366/104.903 mph wasn’t meant to break records, but for shake down and race settings. So it’s no surprise that the fastest time all weekend for all drivers was Saturday morning in Practice Three. Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was second, and had led for much of the half-hour session. Third through fifth were Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and and his Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Chevrolet.

No.9 Honda in Tech

No.6 Honda

No.12 Chevrolet

The drivers took full advantage of the session, all turning double-digit laps, ranging from 12 to 21. It was drama-free. At the end of the very narrow one-lane Pit Lane pedestrian walkway, the camerman deftly maneuvered the boom camera showing the cars entering and exiting the pits.

Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The top Rookie was Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 The Paysafe Car Dale Coyne Racing Honda, in twelfth place.

Firestone Tires

Nine of the drivers will start the race on the Primary Tire, including the top Rookie, Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda; while the majority of the 24 drivers will use the Alternates including the Fast Six starters. The Firestone tires are the same as used in St. Petersburg. Each team will have seven sets of Primary tires and four sets of Alternates. The seven Rookies will receive an extra set. In all, Firestone brought more than 1,500 tires to Long Beach.

Zach Veach

Chris Linkhous Pit Fireman

Matheus Leist

Pit Stop 1

Pit Stop 2

Pit Stop 3

IndyCar Two-seater

The IndyCar two-seater cars this weekend are being driven by Mario Andretti, Arie Luyendyk, Jr; Davey Hamilton, Jr. and Indy Lights driver, Juan Piedrahita. Luyendyk and Hamilton are also racing in the Stadium Truck Series.

Arie Luyendyk, Jr. & Gavin Harlien

Arie Luyendyk, Jr. & Gavin Harlien

Luyendyk finished second in Saturday afternoon’s USAC-sanctioned Stadium truck race, which was checkered early after a truck rolled over.No one was hurt. It appeared that the aborted finish half-way through the 20-minute race was not a popular decision with the fans or competitors, based on the boos from the grandstands and comments post-race. The winner was Gavin Harlein. Matthew Brabham is still the points leader, and he also wasn’t happy about the shortened race. They’re all looking forward to Sunday’s race after the IndyCar race.

Oliver Gavin & Tommy Milner

Oliver Gavin & Tommy Milner

In Saturday’s BUBBA burger Sportscar Grand Prix at Long Beach, it was a General Motors sweep, winning both classes. The overall and Prototype winners were Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque in No.5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi. In the GTLM class, Oliver Gavin took his fiftieth Corvette victory with co-driver Tommy Milner in No.4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.

Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel, Filipe Albuquerque, & Joao Barbosa

Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel, Filipe Albuquerque, & Joao Barbosa

Albuquerque’s overall/Prototype Margin of Victory ahead of Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel/No.2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DP was 4.766 seconds. Third finishers in Prototypes and overall were Jordan Taylor and Renger Van Der Zande in No.10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. The Pole Sitters Juan Montoya and Dane Cameron/No.6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi finished fifth overall. Felipe Nasr/No.31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi turned the fastest Prototype and overall race lap of 1:13.492/96.402 mph.

Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Oliver Gavin & Tommy Milner

Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Oliver Gavin & Tommy Milner

In the GTLM Class, second and third finishers were Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe in No.67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT; and GTLM Pole Sitters Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller in the sister No.66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. Hand turned the fastest GTLM race lap of 1:17.640/91.251 mph.

Pit Lane Boom Photog

ROSSI POLES IT!

Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Verizon IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Honda pulled yet another fast lap out of his pocket on the last lap of the Firestone Fast Six Qualifying Saturday afternoon at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.He turned a 1:06.5528/106.454 mph. This was his second career pole, the first one being at Watkins Glen last year. He said every pole is precious. They’re hard to come by. It is the Andretti team’s 35th pole position. Last year Rossi started fifth, and he’s looking for redemption after last year’s 19th place finish.

He waited in the pits until late in the session. “We had been pretty good on the first laps on tires, so I just didn’t want to carry around the fuel, and we just thought that we could get it done. The team put me in a gap, and it was just about finding the space on track and making sure the tires were up, and just kind of going for it.”yy

Alexander Rossi

Verizon P1 Award

Rossi's helmet

PHOTOS BY PABLO MATAMOROS.

The current qualifying track record of 1:066.2254/106.980 mph was set last year by Helio Castroneves … and still holds.

During Qualifying, it was 80 degrees F, with 11 mph winds and zero humidity.

Rossi pipped Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet at the end of the ten-minute Firestone Fast Six qualifying session. Qualifying third was another Penske driver, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet. Fourth and fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. The 2017 IndyCar Champion, Joseph Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske was a disappointing sixth after he brushed the concrete wall on the front straight.

Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda

Will Power/No.12 Chevrolet

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet

Scott Dixon/No.9 Honda

Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda

Joseph Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet

Left to Right: Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda; Will Power/No.12 Chevrolet; Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet; Scott Dixon/No.9 Honda; Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda; and Joseph Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet. All photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Robert Wickins/No.6 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Robert Wickins/No.6 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Robert Wickins/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda was the top Rookie, qualifying tenth.

There are seven Rookies in this weekend’s race: Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet will start twelth; Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet starts fourteenth; Zach Veach/No.26 Group One Thousand One Andretti Autosport Honda starts sixteenth; Jack Harvey/No.60 Auto Nation/SiriusXM MSR w/SPM Honda starts seventeenth; Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 The Paysafe Car Dale Coyne Racing Honda starts twenty-first, and Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet starts last with no time after hitting the wall.

In the second group of Round One Qualifying, qualifying penalties were assessed. Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet hit the wall, causing following cars to slow, assessing him the loss of his two fastest qualifying laps. Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda spun, causing a local yellow and subsequent slowing for following cars, assessing him the loss of his fastest qualifying lap. Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda received a drive-thru penalty for “improper pit exit.”

Two reviews saw Stewards take no action against Rossi or Wickins.

ALEXANDER ROSSI – Starting on pole. “Hoping for some redemption here. So to get it (pole) here was good, good start for tomorrow, but this sport has a way of humbling you pretty quick, so we have to execute against tomorrow, and hopefully we can get that redemption we’re talking about.” And for about $500, he emailed his setup sheet to Will Power. Regarding tire wear, “Definitely, I think they’ll definitely go off.That’s going to be something that we have to think about, no doubt about it. It’s just kind of — you can have an aggressive car that’s fast and uses tires, or you can kind of go the other way, so it’s finding that line because obviously you don’t want to protect them too much that you don’t get the performance out of them. It’s something that we’ll all have to figure out overnight and kind of try a few things in the warmup and then see what works and what doesn’t. The fans will be on for an amazing show.

WILL POWER – Starting second. Won three times at Long Beach. “I felt like we had a really good car. Got to the Fast Six like we needed to, and yeah, just were not fast enough basically to be on pole, but very happy to be on the front row. You know, we’ve kind of crept up all weekend and definitely made the car better and in a good window now. Yeah, that was a lot of fun.”

SIMON PAGENAUD – Starting third. Won here in 2016 and matches his best start here. “It’s a really good result, all three of us (Penske drivers) in the Fast Six. It’s not easy these days. I have to say, I just want to pull my hat off to Team Penske for obviously understanding the street course setup. It’s been difficult just because of the success we’ve had with the previous aero kits. We’ve had to rethink a little bit, and three races we’ve been able to do it. Quite impressive I have to say. I’m quite excited to see that we could get the car in such a good place, and myself, I just have to extract a little bit more out of it, but obviously it was a fun and great qualifying.”

SCOTT DIXON – Starting fourth. Won Long Beach in 2015. We had a lot of traffic. We made some pretty big fundamental changes for qualifying. Almost spun going in to (Turn) Eight, lost all that time, and that was it. Pole sitter hasn’t won here since the mid 2000’s or something crazy.Yeah, if you can start near the front, that’s going to give you the best opportunity, best opportunity to have clear pit stops, clear start, stay out of trouble, et cetera. But I think ideally the car has got some good speed. I think we can shoot on it. I think we’re in a good starting spot there with fourth, and hopefully we can make up three spots.”

GRAHAM RAHAL – Starting fifth, matching his best start here. “I didn’t have speed to be anywhere near Alex.But you know, overall, that first session I was just happy to advance. It was unbelievably slippery and pretty ugly in Group One. It’s a fine line out there. Yeah, I think you’re using — I mean, as you see, particularly in the back section, Turn 9, 10, you get off line three inches, you’re going to hit the fence, but you know, trust me, in Q3 there was several times I thought I was going to hit the fence. There’s no doubt. As Will said, you’re giving it absolutely everything you have. You’re hanging on for dear life, and obviously around here there’s not a whole lot of space, right. But risk versus reward, you give it all you’ve got, and you hope that it sticks, and tomorrow you just pull it back just a little bit.”

JOSEPH NEWGARDEN – Starting sixth. I certainly messed it up for us, on our best tires. I probably got too greedy, hit the wall in Turn Eight and bent the toe, so I had to come in. I was trying to stay out of Rossi’s way, actually, so I didn’t interfere. It’s insane, though, when it happens, you’re going down the straightaway like this, so you know that’s the end of your qualifying session. The bent toe is a simple fix. We’ll change it most likely, get our setting back and be good to go. Nothing to be concerned about. The Track temp was dropping. It was slick, especially in the first session.”

INDYCAR QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:06.5528 (106.454)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:06.9054 (105.893)
3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:06.9107 (105.884)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:07.0483 (105.667)
5. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:07.1275 (105.542)
6. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:07.1922 (105.441)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:07.1415 (105.520)
8. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:07.1899 (105.444)
9. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 1:07.1943 (105.438)
10. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 1:07.2289 (105.383)
11. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 1:07.3478 (105.197)
12. (20) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 1:07.6427 (104.739)
13. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 1:08.3844 (103.603)
14. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 1:08.1622 (103.940)
15. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1:08.7167 (103.102)
16. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 1:08.1763 (103.919)
17. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 1:08.8207 (102.946)
18. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 1:08.2739 (103.770)
19. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 1:08.8623 (102.884)
20. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1:08.5294 (103.383)
21. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 1:09.1429 (102.466)
22. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:08.6340 (103.226)
23. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 1:09.7481 (101.577)
24. (32) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)

Ed Carpenter

IndyCar Official

Max Chilton

PHOTOS BY PABLO MATAMOROS

EVEN FASTER SATURDAY

Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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.

Joseph Newgarden/No. 20 Chevrolet

Will Power/No.12 Chevrolet

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 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.

Jordan Kind/No.20 Chevrolet. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Jordan Kind/No.20 Chevrolet. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Joey Hand

Juan Pablo Montoya and Joey Hand.

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, Chad Raynal, & Bill Ockerland.

Jimmy Hague, Chad Raynal, & Bill Ockerland.

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.

No.16 1970 Ford Boss 302 Mustang

No.25 1968 Ford Boss Mustang

No.64 1969 Chevrolet Camaro

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.

Autograph queues

NOT QUITE FASTER FRIDAY

Scott Dixon No.9 Honda

Scott Dixon No.9 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

The weather warmed up nicely Friday afternoon, to nearly 80 F for the afternoon practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series, with wind ramping up to 6mph. Nothing like the gales and gusts experienced yesterday.

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi/No.26 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Honda was fastest overall at 103.342 mph/1:08.5567. This wasn’t faster than the morning’s top time of 1:08.41122. In the combined overall times for the day, Rossi and one other driver were the only ones who were faster in the afternoon. Rossi said “It was good to be P1 in Practice 2, it’s where you want to end the day on Friday. To have two team cars 1-2 is pretty awesome. We have a lot of motivation after last year to come back and really be strong here this year. We have a lot of work ahead of us still, and hopefully we can continue that over the next two days. Our main focus right now is trying to win Long Beach and get redemption on last year.”

Second through fifth were Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Joseph Newgarde/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda and Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Zach Veach. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Zach Veach. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The top Rookie was again Zach Veach/No.26 One Thousand And One Andretti Autosport Honda, in thirteenth position. “Overall, I think it was a good first day here. Phoenix went better than St. Pete and so far, this weekend has been going better than Phoenix. So just one step at a time. I think we definitely have the speed to transfer tomorrow to the fast 12, and maybe even a chance to get to our first Firestone Fast 6. I have a little bit of learning to do tonight, but I’m excited to show what we can do tomorrow.”

Other leaders in the afternoon session were Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet-twice, Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet, Gaby Chaves/No.88 Harding Group Chevrolet, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, James Hinchcliffe/No.4 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda, Power, Newgarden, and Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. RHR held the time much of the session, before Rossi topped him.

Power said “With the sessions being so short at 45 minutes, it’s important to use the time well. Long Beach is a real driver’s track. Accuracy is needed. The walls are right there. It is a cool track.”

Dixon and RHR were the fastest two drivers for the day. Overall, the top five were Dixon, RHR, Rossi, Pagenaud and Hinchcliffe.

Dixon said “The cars are so fun to drive though. The track is really awesome without the added downforce too. The braking zones are a bit bigger and the power down is impressive especially out of the hairpin corner. I think come around Lap 20, drivers are going to be screaming for new tires around here. It’s great to be back here overall, though. Great cars, great atmosphere and being out there pounding around the Long Beach city streets.”

Regarding qualifying on a track rubbered up after the two-hour IMSA race on different tires, Dixon said “It’s always tough, but it will be the same for everyone. So it’s always tough to figure out. I think the ambient conditions probably play a little bit more havoc, but you’re right, it could be totally different, especially after a two-hour race. That’s a lot of Continental and Michelin rubber that’s going on. I know even driving the Ford GT, the Continental tire, the rubber messes a lot with the Michelin.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Hunter-Reay said, regarding being bolder with less downforce, “Bold, probably not. You’re not able to get away with quite as much. The car is more on top of the racetrack, moving around. You’re constantly catching it. You can feel it’s lighter in the brake zones, especially when you’re coming off modulating out of the brake pedal coming into the corner, you can feel you just have a little bit less of an elbow to lean on through the corner. It’s just a bit more lively. It’s fun, we love it. It just takes a bit of an offset kind of in your approach, and like Scott mentioned, it’s the same for everybody, so it’s a good thing.”

Declining to give away his tire strategy going forward, Dixon said his Preferred Tires were all blacks.” RHR agreed.

RHR said “I think everybody was a bit surprised the red wasn’t faster today, so there’s some questions, I think, hanging over everyone’s heads now about what the potential there is and where the long-term life is with that tire.”

Watching the on-board video from Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda, one gains a whole new appreciation for how bumpy is the ride.

There were several stalls and stumble, for the most part no harm-no foul, including but not limited to: Pagenaud, Dixon, Rookie Zachery Clamon de Melo/No.19 The Paysafe Car Dale Coyne Racing Honda, Kaiser, and a couple of cars so fast to recover they weren’t identified.

Someone in a blue car grazed the concrete wall but kept on going. Charlie Kimble/No.23 Tresibe Carlin Chevrolet kissed the front straight concrete wall and continued. It was more like a hen peck.

Takuma Sato - before crash. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Takuma Sato – before crash. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda was the first to really hit the wall. He brought out the Red and Checkered Flag with 12 seconds to go when he hit in Turn One. He came in too hot and slid rear first into the wall, bounced around and hit the front on the same wall. He said “We made good progress today. It was a productive day until the end of the session.”

Newgarden was eating lunch and was late to the mandatory weigh-in after the first IndyCar practice. His punishment was to be parked for the last ten minutes of the second practice.

IndyCar Weigh-in

All 24 drivers were weighed after the first practice session – that session chosen as it’s the least busy for the IndyCar tech team. The weights are averaged, and when the average weight is determined, each driver either is allowed to find ways to delete weight from the car to compensate, or add weight to the car to compensate up to the average weight. Last year Graham Rahal was the ‘heaviest’ of the full-time drivers. This year at this weekend, the specific details are not yet known. But, no matter what is the magic number, Rookie Zach Veach will have to add weight to his car.

Thirty-two HMSA Historic Trans-Am cars are entered for their Challenge race. One of the drivers is John Hildebrand, father of IndyCar driver, JR Hildebrand, and JR is here crewing for his Dad. The Hildebrand 1964 Pontiac GTO is Number 66 – same as JR’s 2018 Indy 500 car. Historic Trans Am cars are required to have a documented history, be prepared to the period specifications, liveried in the manner they raced, and have actually raced in the Trans-Am Series 1966-1972. That is the cutoff date, according to Series Director, Chris van de Griff, as SCCA changed the rules after that and the current Trans Am Series is nothing like the original.

In the Friday afternoon Trans Am session, Chad Raynal/No.64 1969 Chevrolet Camaro was fastest. Second fastest was Karman Cusak/No.22 1968 Ford Mustang. Jimmy Hague/No.16 1970 Ford Boss 302 Mustang was third fastest. Twenty-seven cars were on course.

Robbie Gordon/No.7 was fastest in the midday practice session for his Super Stadium Truck Series. His fastest time was 1:45.6727 including the ramps and jumps. He was followed by Series points leader, Matthew Brabham/No.83, Jeff Hoffman/No.47, Gavin Harlien/No.55 and Blade Hildebrand/No.68. There are 14 Trucks in all.

James Davison

Another IndyCar driver was announced Friday for this year’s Indianapolis 500 race – James Davison of Australia. He will drive No.33 Chevrolet for Foyt Racing-Byrd’s Racing, Hollinger Motorsport and Belardi Auto Racing. Try saying that fast, even once. Last year Davison filled in for the injured Sebastien Bourdais – on short notice. This year Davison is tickled that he will be having his first full two-week program. It was seeing Davison fill in for Bourdais that first brought Davison to the attention of the Byrd Brothers. Hollinger Motorsport supported Davison in last year’s Indy 500. Davison was running fifth when involved in a multi-car pileup.

Conor Daly

For the first time in awhile, there will be more than 33 entries for the 2018 Indy 500. Also running the race is Conor Daly, who will run the No.17 Air Force Honda for Dale Coyne Racing and Thom Burns, who partnered with Buddy Lazier last year. Daly acknowledged that it is a low-budget program so there will be no SIM testing. He is re-viewing his previous race videos and has kept up with his race workout training.

A refresher Indy 500 session will be held on 30 April 2018 at the Brickyard.

Saturday’s IndyCar schedule calls for a morning practice and mid-afternoon qualifying.

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

DIXON & NASR FASTEST FRIDAY MORNING

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Sunny blue skies, nary a breeze, and lots of noisy race cars filling the streets down by the harbor. What more could one ask! The Verizon IndyCar Series is the headliner, with five other series adding to the very full bill of fare for the 44th running of the country’s oldest street race. Last year’s attendance was 183,000, and GPALB President, Jim Michaelian, said Thursday that ticket sales are strong and everything is on track for as good or better attendance this year.

Filling the dance card, besides IndyCars this weekend, are the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Pirelli World Challenge, Historic Trans-Am, Stadium Super Trucks, and Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge. There also will be two-seater IndyCar rides, two concerts, a Go-Kart track, and lots of other fun activities including the Lifestyle Expo. Something for everyone … and warm weather.
Scott Dixon's No.9 Honda

Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, who led twice, was the fastest of the 24 IndyCar drivers on track. His best time was 103.562 MPH/ 1:08.4112. He turned it on Lap Nine of the 14 he ran.

Second through fifth were Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Honda, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet,and James Hinchfliffe/No.5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda. All but Hinch led once during the session. Also leading early one was Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher Chevrolet.

Zach Veach's No.26 Honda

Zach Veach/No.26 Group One Thousand One Andretti Autosport Honda was the fastest Rookie, in thirteenth place. There are seven Rookies this weekend, nearly a third of the field.

There was a Red Flag lasting 5.07 minutes of the 45-minute session, to retrieve Gabby Chaves/No.88 Harding Chevrolet who stalled in the Queen’s Hairpin. He got back out and was twenty-first for the session. Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet went off course, stalled and had to be push started. He was last for the session.Charlie Kimball/No.23 Tresibe Chevrolet drove off and stalled, near the end. There wasn’t time to push him. He finished twenty-second.

There will be another 45-minute IndyCar practice Friday afternoon, followed by an Autograph Session in the paddock.

The Indianapolis 500 Roster is filling up. Thursday Dreyer & Reinbold announced JR Hildebrand will drive No.66 Chevrolet, a number special to JR. Sponsorship will be from Salesforce. JR will be teammates with Sage Karam, making this D&R’s first time for a two-car team at the Indy 500. Both cars are new and the team has requested shakedown time in the car. So far the answer has been no, but they’re still hoping.

The Weathertech IMSA Series was first on track Friday morning, and Felipe Nasir/No.31 Cadillac ended up fastest at 1:13.582. Teammate Felipe Albuquerque in No.5 was second, followed by Helio Castroneves/No.7 Acura. For much of the session Ricky Taylor was fastest in No.7 Acura.

Ryan Briscoe was the fastest GTLM car in No.67 Ford GT Chip Ganassi Racing at 1:17.898, followed by Dirk Mueller in the sister car, No.66. Earl Bamber was third in No.912 Porsche GT Team. The next session for IMSA is qualifying late afternoon.