WILL POWER/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was fastest in the second practice session for the Verizon IndyCar Series Friday afternoon at the 42nd annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. His lap of 104.806 mph/107.5992 seconds was faster than the morning’s fastest time. All 21 drivers were faster in the warm sunny Long Beach sunshine as the track heated up.
Power said “Got a good setup. This morning, learned some stuff off one, we’re progressing well. So this is a track where I’ve struggled the last couple years in qualifying, kind of starting way back there. I really want to start up the front and give myself a better chance at winning the race.”
James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was second, and was so/stayed so once Power took over the running order from early leader, Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Hinch was quite proud of the fact that he beat Power to the post-practice press conference. Fist bump!
The Mayor of Hinchtown had nothing but praise for the Long Beach event. “It’s great. This event in general is so awesome. You don’t successfully pull something off for 42 years unless you’re doing something right. They do a lot right here. The circuit itself as far as street courses go is one of the most unique. You have some of the coolest corners in street course racing with the hairpin and the fountain.
“Even corners like turn six, an increasing radius, a bunch of elevation, things you don’t see in street courses. I think it’s what makes the track pretty special and unique and a good challenge for the drivers.”
Third through fifth Graham Rahal/No.15 PennGrade Motor Oil Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, and early leader Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – who was fastest overall in the morning session.
Montoya said at the Media Lunch that he was “excited to be here and thought he had a good chance of winning here. He won in 1999. It was a long time ago but now it’s good memories. The track has improved a lot.”
Conor Daly was the fastest Rookie, driving No.18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Dale Coyne Racing Honda, in fifteenth place. He ran as high as fourteenth. Daly, an American, is good friends with the other American Rookie, Alexander Rossi/No.98 Castrol Edge/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda. The two are bringing more awareness on young American drivers.
Rossi was out in Practice Two in his repaired car, after the morning’s crash. He ran 19 laps, as high as sixteenth before placing twentieth. He said at the Media Lunch that he’s enjoying himself in IndyCar and learning a lot. “Every day I’m learning. They are amazing guys (his Andretti teammates.)”
IndyCar has a third practice session Saturday morning, followed by mid-afternoon qualifying for Sunday afternoon’s 80-lap race.
KVSH IndyCar team co-owner, Jimmy Vasser, was again the fastest driver Toyota ProCelebrity driver, in the half-hour qualifying session Friday afternoon. It was announced that his fastest lap was a 1:41.301. No official results were released, and the three drivers brought to the Media Conference were surprised to learn that the grid for Saturday afternoon’s race will be inverted. According to the conference moderator, the last three drivers in the 20-car field will be Vasser, Al Unser Jr, and Max Papis. Unser said “Jimmy found my shortcut here at Long Beach.”
The ‘pole’ position goes to Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. At first he was quite thrilled, and then held his head in mock horror to think that he had all those other fast drivers behind him. He said he just might as well paint a Sitting Duck on his car. Especially after listening to the long litany of adjectives used by Unser to describe the sheer carnage of the ten exciting-lap race. “The fun of racing in a Toyota Scion which will never again be a race car.”
Before all the levity, Vasser said it was great to (again) be part of the Pro/Celebrity Race and see all the greatness done by the charity aspect of “this great event.” When asked, Vasser said he wouldn’t have qualified any differently had he known the grid was going to be inverted.
Vasser, native of Northern California, said “My first time here was not driving. I was just trying to get a ride. I watched Al here (Unser) race. It was great as a California kid coming here all these years. I hope a sponsor comes forward and Toyota offers up some car for destroying.”