Ryan Briscoe
Ryan Briscoe. Photo by Lynne Huntting
Team Penske drivers RYAN BRISCOE and WILL POWER were the fastest overall Izod IndyCar drivers Friday in the two practice sessions at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. There were two sessions, morning and afternoon. Power/No.3 Team Penske was quickest in the morning at 1:11.403/99.213 mph, and Briscoe/No.6 going faster in the afternoon – 1:10.7403/100.152 mph. Under the newly instituted IndyCar rules, Briscoe selects which Qualifying group he runs on Saturday – he chose Group Two.

Briscoe said that among those who had requested IndyCar to change the Qualifying process were his team owners, ROGER PENSKE, and CHIP GANASSI of his eponymous team, as well as most drivers in the new IndyCar Drivers Association which discussed the topic early on this year.

Briscoe said it wasn’t really an advantage to being in Group Two per se, but being the last group out on track makes for a track more rubbered-in and perhaps cleaner. The two Qualifying groups will be more equally balanced. He said last year he would have chosen Group One, as qualifying was more physical then. It’s not as physical now, and “we only use one set of tires.”

Some of the other series use a variety of tires, and so far this weekend, Briscoe said, the track is taking all the rubber. He said that by Sunday morning it would be noticeable to the IndyCar drivers that the ALMS race ran Saturday afternoon – a series which has open tires. Three tire manufacturers are represented among the five class pole winners.

Regarding the double file restart rule, Briscoe said “It’s a whole new procedure for us. We do need to give each other more room. We’ll get so good at it next year we’ll probably have standing starts.”

Will Power with Jim Michaelian, President Grand Prix of Long Beach Assn
Will Power with Jim Michaelian, President Grand Prix of Long Beach Assn. Photo by Lynne Huntting
Power will be in Group One, and said the disadvantage was the the track is a little dirtier in the first group.

He didn’t think there will be much change with the double file restarts – a topic of discussion since the new procedure began. “As the races come more and more, the crashes should be less and less.”

The top five in Practice One were Power, RYAN HUNTER-REAY/No.28 Andretti Autosport, SCOTT DIXON/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, JUSTIN WILSON/No.22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, and Briscoe.

The top five in Practice Two were Briscoe, Power, Hunter-Ray Dixon and ALEX TAGLIANI/No.77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

Group One will have 13 drivers including two Rookies, and Group Two has 14 with four Rookies.

Both top Rookies are in Group Two. CHARLIE KIMBALL/No.83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing was the top Rookie in the first run in P19, and JAMES HINCHCLIFFE/No.06 Newman/Haas Racing was fastest in the second session in P13. Hinch recovered nicely from his fire in the first session. By the time he got off track at an emergency station, there was a lot of car damage. But his crew beavered away and got him out for the afternoon session, with better results.

IndyCar continues to have a wide international driver representation in its ranks. There are 13 countries represented, including the United States which has six drivers. Canada has three, to make eight for North America. The other countries are Australia-2; Brazil-5; England-3; with Colombia, France, Japan, New Zealand, Scotland, Switzerland and Venezuela all having one each. All three of the female drivers are from different countries: ANA BEATRIZ/No.24 Dreyer & Reinbold – Brazil; SIMONA De SILVESTRO/No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy HVM Racing – Switzerland; and DANICA PATRICK/No.7 Andretti Autosport – US.

IndyCar has an hour practice session Saturday morning, with eighty minutes for Qualifying Saturday mid-afternoon, probably the warmest time of the day. Friday’s temperature reached the low eighties, and the breeze helped.