LONG BEACH, California – The final practice before Verizon P1 Award qualifying for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach may have cemented the favorites to win the pole position this afternoon, but it also presented a couple dark horses.
Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport continued his assault on the 1.968-mile temporary street course, leading this morning’s 45-minute practice with a lap of 1 minute, 6.6105 seconds (106.362 mph) that stands as the fastest of the race weekend thus far and within four-tenths of a second of the track record. All 24 cars turned their fastest lap of the weekend in the session.
Rossi, driving the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, has been no worse than third in any of the Verizon IndyCar Series practices this weekend.
TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH: Practice 3 results; Combined practice results; Qualifying groups
Josef Newgarden, the 2017 series champion and current points leader fresh off a win April 7 at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix, was second in today’s practice. The driver of the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet clocked a lap of 1:06.6523 (106.295 mph). Teammate Will Power was third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, at 1:06.8279 (106.016 mph), with Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay fourth in the No.28 DHL Honda (1:06.8767, 105.938 mph).
“We didn’t get everything we wanted out of it this session,” said Hunter-Reay, the 2010 Long Beach race winner. “The red came out when we were on a new tire run. We’d like to have seen where we stood, but it’s only practice, I guess.”
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot, who didn’t crack the top 10 in either of Friday’s practices, finished seventh this morning in the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet (1:07.2565, 105.340 mph).
“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” said Pigot, who finished an impressive eighth in his Long Beach debut last season. “The car is the best that it felt so far this weekend, so that’s encouraging. It’s tough out there. Obviously, everyone’s so close and you’ve got to fight for every little bit.
“We’d have liked to get that second run on tires there at the end, but nevertheless I think we made good improvements and hopefully we can have the Preferred Freezer car up towards the front.”
Today’s practice was halted by a pair of red flags. The first came to retrieve the No. 19 The Paysafe Car Honda of Zachary Claman De Melo, when the Dale Coyne Racing driver’s car stopped on course. The second came at the conclusion of the session when Jordan King, Pigot’s teammate in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, slid into the tire barrier at Turn 8. King was uninjured and the car sustained slight damage.
Qualifying to determine the 24-car starting grid begins at 6:30 p.m. ET today and airs live on NBCSN. Sunday’s race the 35th consecutive Indy car event on the streets of Long Beach, airs live at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.