Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental was the latest Team Penske driver to top the charts, Saturday morning in the third/final practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series at the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Frenchman’s fastest lap was 1:07.0304. Six drivers best the fastest Friday time of 1:07.5485, set by Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske.
Second and third were also Penske drivers – Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet; and Power. Fourth and fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; and new this season and with Ganassi, Sebastian Saavedra/No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
Again, Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak n’ Shake Honda was the top Honda in sixth place, up one position from Friday.
Gabby Chaves/No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda was the fastest Rookie, in fourteenth position.
All of the 23 IndyCar drivers were faster Saturday than Friday. Fifteen drivers were in the 1:07’s, and all the remaining drivers, save Francesco Dracone/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing, were in the 1:08’s.
The big news Saturday morning was young open wheeler Conor Daly replacing Rocky Moran, Jr in the No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. It couldn’t have been better scripted. Daly was tapped literally 45 minutes before the 10am PDT session, when it was learned that Moran’s sore left hand was actually a fractured thumb, in a cast, leaving Moran unable to drive.
Moran had a brush with Carlos Munoz/No.26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda Friday afternoon in Turn One, and Moran hit the wall. He held onto the steering wheel and the left hand was sore all night. Saturday morning it wasn’t any better. Moran had another x-ray, which showed a crack. Moran will now be in a cast for six weeks.
For Moran to race would require gripping the steering wheel, which could pull out the joint and the hand would never be the same.
Daly left his hotel Saturday morning for the track to drive the IndyCar two-seater car as he has done this weekend. It was there in the IndyCar compound he was asked to drive the No.18 Honda. Daly is wearing his GP2 driver’s suit and the helmet he wore for Schmidt Peterson Racing.
Team Owner, Dale Coyne, said it was close to time for IndyCar practice when he had to find a new driver. It was an easy choice for him, with Daly available and track knowledgable – this weekend and in the past.
Daly’s father, Derek Daly, said he didn’t know about it until after his son got in the car.
IndyCar qualifying starts Saturday at 2pm PDT and will be televised live on NBCSN.