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Reigning series champion Scott Dixon leads Long Beach practice

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Friday, April 12th, 2019

Courtesy of the NTT IndyCar Series

LONG BEACH, California – Previous Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach winners Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay continued their assault on the iconic street course by leading Friday practices, swapping the first and second positions between the morning and afternoon sessions.

INDYCAR Acura GP of Long Beach/Scott Dixon. Photo by Stephen King

ACURA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH: Practice 1 results I Practice 2 results I Combined practice results

Dixon, the 2015 race winner and reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion, topped the timesheet in the second practice with a lap of 1 minute, 7.7940 seconds (104.505 mph) on the temporary street course hosting Indy cars for the 36th straight year. The driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was second fastest to Hunter-Reay in the opening practice, but admitted he even left time on the table on the lap that won him the day in the sunny Southern California afternoon session.

“It was an average run,” Dixon, the five-time series champion, said. “I think I missed the timing on when to get the fast lap out of (the run on Firestone alternate tires). We ran long, the grip felt high, but I made some pretty big mistakes on the first two laps. But the PNC Bank car rolled off strong, it was good this morning.

“As you can tell, every weekend, man, it’s super tight and the mix is quite heavy, so we’ll have to see what we can do and try to create a bit of a gap there.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by John Cote

Hunter-Reay, who won at Long Beach in 2010, ran second to Dixon in Friday’s afternoon practice with a lap of 1:07.8434 (104.429 mph) in the No. 28 DHL Honda. That came after the 2012 series champion led the first practice with a lap just a tenth of a second slower.

“Last year, we had very competitive cars,” said Hunter-Reay, who qualified seventh at Long Beach in 2018 but finished 20th in the race as Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi became the seventh straight different driver to win at Long Beach. 

“Again, this year (we) rolled off with a really good setup, I think,” Hunter-Reay continued. “It was a good starting point. We’ve made some changes to it trying to find what to do, what not to do, as you regularly would on a street course.

“So, yeah, it was a good first day, definitely learned a lot. I know what to apply for tomorrow.”

While the two practices were mostly clean – with but a single red-flag stoppage when AJ Foyt Racing’s Matheus Leist stopped on course in the afternoon – there were plenty of near misses and wall brushes as the 23 entered drivers squeezed every ounce out of their cars and the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course.

Felix Rosenqvist. Photo by John Cote

Felix Rosenqvist, rookie teammate to Dixon, ran third in the afternoon and for the day with a lap of 1:07.8867 (104.362 mph) in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Josef Newgarden, the NTT IndyCar Series championship leader after three races, was fourth in Friday practice at 1:07.9648 (104.242 mph) in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden takes a 27-point lead over Dixon into the race weekend.

Patricio O’Ward was second among rookies on the leaderboard, carving out a second-practice lap of 1:08.0303 (104.142 mph) in the No. 31 GESS Carlin Chevrolet. The 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion was giddy after experiencing the legendary Long Beach circuit for the first time in his career.

“This place is a blast!” O’Ward said. “It’s quite hard to get those last three-tenths (of a second). It’s really, really hard to get everything right. You have to be precise because here you don’t have grass (runoff areas as on permanent road course); you have a wall. It’s pretty tough to get around here with a perfect lap, but I’m enjoying so far.”

Rossi, last year’s Long Beach winner, was sixth on the combined speed chart at 1:08.0810 (104.064 mph) in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda.

A third practice begins at noon ET Saturday and streams live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. NTT P1 Award qualifying to determine the pole winner and starting grid airs live at 2:45 p.m. on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass.

Coverage of the 85-lap race begins at 4 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Claro video to stream races to 12 Latin American nations, including Mexico

On the day that rookie sensation Patricio O’Ward impressed again by posting the fifth-best practice lap for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, online streaming video service Claro was named by INDYCAR to take over livestreams of NTT IndyCar Series races in O’Ward’s native Mexico and 11 other Latin American nations beginning with Sunday’s race.

Claro will stream the final 14 races of the 2019 season in the first of a multiyear deal and offer on-demand race replays of each event. In Mexico, a season-long subscription to the video channel is available for 779 pesos (approximately $42 USD) and may be billed through Telmex, Telnor or Telcel invoices, by credit card or iTunes.

“I’m really excited this deal is ready and my friends and family will be able to follow each one of my steps in every track on my new career path with INDYCAR,” said O’Ward, a native of Monterrey, Mexico. “The most important thing is that I will feel more connected with all my fans in Latin America, including people from my lovely Mexico. I will keep working with my Carlin team very hard, so they can watch great results and feel proud of me.” 

In addition to Mexico, Claro will livestream NTT IndyCar Series races in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.

“The NTT IndyCar Series adds to our content offer, complementing the wide range of entertainment offered by Claro video to its users in Mexico and LATAM (Latin American) countries,” said Alberto Islas, Claro video general director. “Entering the exciting world of motor racing gives us the opportunity to reach millions of consumers interested in this area with a new and interesting product.”

Another Andretti to drive at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Third-generation driver Jarett Andretti will make his Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires debut next month as he joins Andretti Autosport for the Freedom 100 on May 24 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Andretti, the 26-year-old son of Indy car race winner John Andretti, will attempt to become the seventh member from one of racing’s most famous families to compete at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, joining the list that includes his father, great uncle Mario, uncle Adam and cousins Michael, Jeff and Marco. 

“To say I’m excited to run the Freedom 100 this year would be an understatement,” Jarett Andretti said. “Anytime you get a chance to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s special. Obviously, Andretti Autosport has a great track record there and I’ve known all the mechanics on the cars for years. I can’t wait to get the month of May started.” 

Team owner Michael Andretti, Jarett’s godfather, was happy to help his first cousin once removed achieve his goal of racing at IMS and add to the family legacy. Jarett has competed for Andretti Autosport in USAC sprint cars and the Pirelli GT4 America sports-car series.

“I’m really happy to field a car at IMS for Jarett,” Michael Andretti said. “Running in an Indy Lights car will be a new experience for him, and I know he’s up for the challenge. Our Indy Lights team has shown strong pace this season, and we have a Freedom 100 title to defend. 

“Jarett is already a team driver on the GT4 side, and I’m confident he is going to fit into the Indy Lights team well. He will be a contender and an instant crowd favorite.” 

‘What They’re Saying’ from Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach practice

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a good day. The car feels really good. The Hitachi Chevy boys have worked really well this weekend. We just need to stay on top of it. We found some stuff from the first session that will make us better, and now it’s a matter of putting all of those details together correctly for tomorrow. I think we’re going to have a great car tomorrow for qualifying and try to set ourselves up nicely for the race.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “We had a great Practice 1 here, but unfortunately in the second session, I think the higher temperatures and the setup that I had didn’t work well together. I had too much oversteer on turn-in, which doesn’t help you to go faster. We also had a couple issues during the session that didn’t help either, so we have some work to do for tomorrow, but I think we are closer to the guys in the front than we’ve been the whole year. Hopefully, we’ll have a good practice tomorrow to prepare us for qualifying to go to Q2.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “I think we learned a lot today. Ultimately, our pace wasn’t representative; the No. 20 decided to have no respect on track and sat right in front of us on our fast lap on reds (Firestone alternate tires) – you only get one lap. Bit annoying not knowing where you are pace-wise because we still have some work to do on the car. Once again, the Arrow car rolled off the truck pretty quick. The guys have done a lot of work in the offseason to improve our pace here; it wasn’t our strongest track last year. I think we’ve made strides and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do with it tomorrow after a night to sleep on it and make it a little better.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): 
“It was a fun first day here in Long Beach. It’s a great track to drive, and obviously, the first time for me, but I had a lot of fun. It’s quite technical, quite bumpy, so you need to sort of learn how to use the track and where to place the car over all of the bumps and curbs out there. It takes a bit of time to get into that – I’m still sort of trying to figure out the best way around this track, but I’m getting there. We did quite a few laps, as well, to learn the car and try different setups, so we’re definitely moving in the right direction. We just need to find a bit more in the Arrow car for tomorrow and Sunday.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think it was only an average run. I think I missed the timing line when I went to get the fast lap out of it. We ran long and the grip felt high, but I made a pretty big mistake in the first two laps. But the PNC Bank car was strong and it was good this morning. We didn’t really get what we wanted out of it and I think we had the potential this morning. I think the Hondas look strong. As you can tell every weekend, it’s super tight and the mix is quite heavy, so we will have to see what we can do to try to create a bit of a gap there.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a pretty good day in the beginning and it felt like I had some work to do on the driving in the first practice. This is kind of a technical circuit, for sure. Then in the second practice on blacks (Firestone primary tires), it felt not the best, but then on reds (Firestone alternate it seemed like we had a lot of pace. Scott (Dixon) in P1 and me in P3 and I think I had a kind of dodgy run and still, I was able to go to P3, and we didn’t really wait until the end when the track was the best. So I think that is promising for tomorrow. We still have something I want to get better in the car but overall, a really good first day in the NTT DATA car.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Obviously, the second session was a bit messy for us. We had a couple of issues. We got some good data from our teammates and have some great stuff to look at. We look to improve the Verizon Chevy for tomorrow.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Pretty solid day for us. We regrouped after Barber and actually came back to the basics that we knew in years past. This was a good track for us here last year, so I was confident that we were going to have a pretty good weekend so, so far so good. Gotta keep at it.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 TOTAL Honda): 
“It was a decent day for the TOTAL team. I think in the end our pace is OK. I think we’ve got to find a couple of tenths (of a second) to be comfortable. We probably could match what the top guys did. We caught a little traffic on our first lap on reds (Firestone alternate tires) and just didn’t get it all. We had to bail out of the second lap, too, which hurt us, so we did our best time on our third lap and it wasn’t a pretty lap. I think we’re competitive, but like always, it’s going to be super, super tight. We finished seventh and were only a couple of tenths off. We’ve just got to keep digging and try to find a little more.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “I’m missing something. I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but I’m really struggling to switch on the tires and get the No. 18 SealMaster Honda car going. I’m looking for the feel I usually have here at Long Beach and I’m not getting it. I’m not particularly worried. I just need to get where I have the confidence to challenge the car. We are just going to have to sit down, review all the data and see what we can come up with. Fortunately, we have one more practice before qualifying tomorrow.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 David Yurman Honda): “The Long Beach circuit is a little different than other street courses I’ve been to. It’s very flowing with a nice rhythm to it and the David Yurman car has been pretty decent. We’re just struggling with one thing and that’s where all of our lap time is. If we can fix that one item, then we’ll be good to go for tomorrow. We have a bit of work to do tonight, and hopefully, we’ll be set for qualifying tomorrow.”

ED JONES (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet): “Today was a tough start to the weekend. However, we made a lot of progress in that second session. The field is so tight, even if you make up just a few tenths it really jumps you up a lot. If we continue making improvements like we did today, we could be looking at getting into the second round of qualifying tomorrow. That’s our goal.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “We definitely have some work to do tonight to get ourselves in a better spot for qualifying tomorrow. We’re going to go back and look at not everything we did today, but also from previous street course races. We’ll come up with a solid plan to find some more time.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “Awesome day today. I’m really excited about the DXC Technology Chevy, it’s really competitive. I feel very good in the race car and am having a lot of fun here in Long Beach. We’re tuning the car, and I think the Firestone Fast Six is doable for us tomorrow. We’ll keep working on the car tonight and be ready to go tomorrow for qualifying.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “Overall, it was a pretty good day. We were P3 on the blacks (Firestone primary tires) in the second session and then we put the reds (Firestone alternate tires) on and I just didn’t put a clean run together. I think we ended up P14, but realistically, I think we’re pretty good. I’m happy with that. We need to make sure we have a clean day tomorrow and qualify towards that Firestone Fast Six.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “I think generally the car is good. We’ll be going through our normal checklist for Practice 3 tomorrow. I think we had a 1:07.7 run going and I made a mistake in Turn 8. I think the pace is there, so now we just need to put it all together.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): 
“Really, we’re just getting back to finding our baseline. Last year, we had very competitive cars. Again, this year rolled off with a really good setup, I think. It was a good starting point. We’ve made some changes to it trying to find what to do, what not to do, as you regularly would on a street course. The tricky part of a street course is you have to keep up with the racetrack, you have to be proactive with keeping up with it. As you go through the race weekend, it’s constantly changing conditions. So it was a good first day, definitely learned a lot. I know what to apply for tomorrow.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda): 
“The view from pit out is quite good. Being there should be a good advantage for the race. It was a tough day. We did try a couple of different directions. Graham (Rahal) and I split the workload, but it feels like we are a step behind at the moment and trying to catch up. We’re learning all the time how to do a proper back-to-back (race weekend). There is a lot of work to be done tonight.”

PATRICIO O’WARD (No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet): 
“This place is a blast. It’s quite hard to get those last three-tenths (of a second). Really, really hard to get everything right. You have to be precise because here you don’t have grass, you have a wall. It’s pretty tough to get around here with a perfect lap, but I’m enjoying so far. We’ve done some pretty good running. We’re struggling with the blacks (Firestone primary tires) for some reason, but look to be OK with reds (Firestone alternate tires). So, we’re going to be working on that for tomorrow. Looking forward to the event. All I hear is good things about this place.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “We made a big jump performance-wise from the first practice session to the second practice session today. We were struggling a little bit during that first session to put it all together, but once we got out there this afternoon it all started working for the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet. We were able to match our red (Firestone alternate) tire run on both the first and second run with the same tires, which is a really good sign, so I think we’re in good shape for a top-six qualifying performance tomorrow.” 

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda): “Fridays just aren’t our day. We had a fuel leak, so that kind of threw the session off a bit for us, but there’s obviously nothing we can really do about that. On the bright side, I’m glad that we caught it today and the guys fixed it pretty quickly. So far this season we have done a good job at recovering on Saturday. Right now, we just need to focus on having a good day tomorrow.”

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda): 
“Alright day on track today. We struggled a bit in the second practice. The boys and I will put in the effort so we can have a great qualifying session. The No. 88 King Taco car is quick, so I know we can put it towards the top.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda):
 “We are in the game, but still need to make a small change or two to be where we need to be on the reds (Firestone alternate tires) and the car is close to where we want it for the black (Firestone primary) tires. We need to make changes in the right direction overnight to make up the three-tenths (of a second) that separate us from the fastest six currently, but I definitely think we have a shot at the Firestone Fast Six tomorrow.”

 

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