LONG BEACH, California – The Verizon IndyCar Series returned to one of its favorite locations, and former winners headed the opening practice for Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Scott Dixon, the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion who won on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile temporary street course in 2015 – the last year he earned the season title – paced the 45-minute session this morning with a lap of 1 minute, 8.4112 seconds (103.562 mph) in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
“The PNC car was fast right out of the box. We had a short first run and then went out and improved in the second run.
“(The track) definitely drives different just because you don’t have the downforce (with the new universal aero kit). The braking zones are a little bigger, power down – especially out of the hairpin – is quite tough. … These cars are so much fun to drive, man, it’s really cool with such a historic place here at Long Beach. It’s nice to be pounding around the streets.”
TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH: Practice 1 results
Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2010 Long Beach winner, was second fastest in the No. 28 DHL Honda (1:08.4285, 103.536 mph), just ahead of Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi on the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda (1:08.6077, 103.265 mph). Rossi was the only driver among the top seven in the practice who is not a previous Long Beach winner.
“The NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda was good,” said Rossi, whose third-place finishes in the first two races this season have him solidly second in points. “It was really good here last year so we knew that we had a package to roll off pretty strong, I think. But there’s always a question mark with the new aero kit, so we’ve got a little work to do to dial it in. But I think it’s a good place to start from.
“Obviously, Ryan was within hundredths (of a second) of being P1, so I think all the Andretti cars should be pretty strong this weekend.”
Following Rossi on the time sheet were: Simon Pagenaud in the No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet (1:08.7790, 103.008 mph), the 2016 Long Beach victor; James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda (1:08.9133, 102.807 mph), the defending race winner; Takuma Sato in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1:08.9295, 102.783 mph), the 2013 Long Beach winner; and Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (1:08.9481, 102.756 mph), a two-time Long Beach winner in 2008 and ’12.
Josef Newgarden, the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2018 points leader after two of 17 races, was eighth fastest with a lap of 1:08.9600 (102.738 mph) in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
A second practice begins at 5 p.m. ET today, with a third 45-minute session set for 1:45 p.m. Saturday. Both stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Three rounds of knockout qualifying to determine the pole winner begin at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and air live on NBCSN.
Sunday’s race, the 35th straight for Indy cars at Long Beach, airs live at 4 p.m. on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.