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/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/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.