LONG BEACH, California – Picking up where he left off in last month's season opener in St. Petersburg, Scott Dixon led the opening practice session today for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach as the Verizon IndyCar Series returned to action in southern California.
After leading all but one practice session, starting on the front row, and scoring a podium finish at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 12, Dixon’s lap of 1 minute, 7.6357 seconds (104.749 mph) in the No. 9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was the quickest around the 1.968-mile street circuit as all 21 drivers got their first taste of race weekend action in nearly a month.
TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH: Practice 1 results
The 45-minute session featured a few missteps where drivers explored corner runoffs or scraped the concrete retaining walls, but no drivers sustained significant damage and no red flags flew during the 45-minute session. Dixon, the 2015 Long Beach winner, led 2016 Long Beach pole sitter Helio Castroneves (No .3 Auto Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet, 1:07.7609, 104.556 mph), St. Petersburg race winner Sebastien Bourdais (No. 18 Trench Shoring Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1:07.8187, 1:04.467 mph), Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Honda, 1:07.8195, 104.466 mph) and Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, 1:07.9058, 104.333 ,ph).
Defending race and series champion Simon Pagenaud (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) clocked in at ninth fastest in the session, with a fast lap of 1:08.1668 (103.933 mph). Castroneves (in 2001), Bourdais (2005-07), Power (2008, '12), Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2010) are all previous Long Beach race winners who finished in the top nine in today's first practice.
After the session, Pagenaud noted some of the track changes that occurred on the circuit over the winter, particularly a repave of the back straightaway.
“They repaved the back stretch and Turn 8,” Pagenaud said, “so it definitely changed the exit of the corner. It used to be bumpy, now its super smooth, really grippy, so the approach to Turn 8 is very different.”
Practice 2 for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach commences at 5 p.m. ET. NBCSN will have a live telecast of the session. Timing and scoring will be available at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.