LONG BEACH, California – After leading this morning’s practice at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is poised to contend for the first pole position of his illustrious career on the temporary street course.
Driving the No. 9 NTT Data Honda, Dixon led the final session before Verizon P1 Award qualifying with a fast lap of 1 minute, 7.1348 seconds (105.531 mph). Knockout qualifying begins at 6:30 p.m. ET and will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. A delayed NBCSN qualifying broadcast airs at 7:30 p.m.
“All Ganassi cars have rolled off really well,” said Dixon, who won at Long Beach in 2015. “We struggled a little bit yesterday with timing and caught the red flag at the wrong time on the soft tires, but hopefully later today we can still be at the pointy end.”
TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH: Practice 3; Combined results; Qualifying groups
Dixon, the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion with 40 career wins, eclipsed Ryan Hunter-Reay by just two ten-thousandths of a second for session honors. Hunter-Reay, the 2010 Long Beach winner (No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda), ran a best lap of 1:07.1350 that equated to an identical lap speed to Dixon of 105.531 mph.
Simon Pagenaud, the defending race winner and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, was third quick at 1:07.1713 (105.474 mph) in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.
Dixon was pleased with his team’s effort, but was quick to point out the close competition throughout the 21-car field
“As you look at the results, man, it’s super tight,” he said, noting that the top six cars in the session were within less than a tenth of a second. “The competition is through the roof. Between the teams, the caliber of the drivers at the pointy end of the field is just insane.”
Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) led Friday’s practices with a lap of 1:07.0800 while on Firestone’s softer alternate tires, a lap that still stands as the fastest of the weekend heading into qualifying. Helio Castroneves holds the track record of 1:06.6294 set in 2015 qualifying.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe appeared set to lead today’s practice on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit, but wound up fourth in the No. 5 Arrow Honda (1:07.1746) and finished the session parked in a track runoff with apparent gearbox problems.
The day got off to a less than ideal start for Sebastien Bourdais, winner of the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix and current points leader. The Dale Coyne Racing driver found the Turn 3 tire barrier with the No. 18 Trench Shoring Honda just moments into the session, bringing out a red flag. The car sustained light damage to the front wing and Bourdais recovered to post the ninth quickest lap of the session at 1:07.3428.
Tony Kanaan’s No. 10 NTT Data Honda spent most of the session in the paddock area with the Chip Ganassi Racing crew feverishly attending to electrical issues. The 2004 series champion got on track with just five minutes remaining, logging a fastest lap of 1:07.9815, 15th best overall.
Kanaan was still upbeat after the session. “We went quicker than we did yesterday with only four laps (today), so actually it was pretty good,” he said.
Sunday's race – the second of 17 on the 2017 schedule – airs live at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.