Juan Pablo Montoya's car

Juan Pablo Montoya

Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was the fastest Verizon IndyCar Series driver Friday morning in practice at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with a lap of 103.991 mph/1:08.1290 seconds. The 11-turn temporary street course measures 1.968 miles in its current configuration. JPM won the race in 1999.

Second fastest was teammate Will Power/No.12. Third and top Honda was Jack Hawksworth/No.41 ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing. Hawksworth Foyt teammate, Takuma Sato/No.14 was fifth at the finish, behind Josef Newgarden/No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Sato was one several drivers who went fastest during the session. After the session Hawksworth crew went straight to work on the car before second practice.

Jack Hawksworth's crew working on racecar

Josef Newgarden's Car

Tony Kanaan's Car

Also fastest, at first, was Tony Kanaan/No.10NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolet.

Last year’s race winner, Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet finished tenth.

Conor Daly/No.18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Dale Coyne Racing Honda was the top Rookie in seventeenth place.

Alexander Rossi observing car repair

During the session, Rookie Alexander Rossi/No.98 Castrol/Edge Andretti Auto Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda clipped the exit tire wall in Turn Eight on Pine Avenue and buried his nose. Rossi was alright – was seen by IndyCar medical officials on the spot and cleared to drive. There was lengthy cleanup during the red flag, and the affected tire pallet was removed and replaced. The session was extended five minutes. The race car was repaired, with Rossi all suited up and watching.

Ten minutes after the Green Flag, Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolet pulled off at Turn 9. He was smoking and where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire. Brake Fire. All was handled and the session was Red Flagged and Checkered.

After the IndyCar practice, the Toyota Pro/Celebrities had their practice. And they lived to tell the tale. All but one of them are former winners – in one of three classes – Pro, Celebrity or a category I didn’t know existed – Charity Winner. These are the drivers who bought their way into the race by winning auctions for the right to drive. Literally paying drivers. The lone non winner in this race is Ron Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Rank Has Privilege! Thanks to Carter and Toyota, this race has run for 40 years. Toyota has donated more than $2.3 million to the “Racing for Kids” organization on behalf of this race and its participants.

IndyCar Team Owner, Jimmy Vasser, was the fastest driver in that session, followed by Mike Skinner and Max Papis. It was a relatively incident-free session. Guess all those drivers listened up in the Drivers’ Meeting when Vasser explained that concrete walls were boundaries.

Bit of backstory on those drivers: Vasser won the Pro/Overall category in 2010. He has chops – 1996 IndyCar World Series Champion, after successful career in open wheel series including SCCA, Toyota Atlantic and CART. Mike Skinner was the Pro/Overall winner in 2007 and 2008. He came from NASCAR where he was the 1995 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion, and 1997 Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the year. Skinner raced in more than 550 NASCAR top tier races. Max Papis was the Pro/Overall Champion in 2004. His career includes Le Mans 24 Hours, Daytona 24 Hours, Formula One, NASCAR, and Champ Car with three victories.

The Celebrities qualify Friday afternoon. Watch out Walls!