Ryan Hunter-Reay on track Long Beach

LONG BEACH, California – Two past Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach winners and a homegrown rookie paced the opening practice session Friday for the iconic NTT IndyCar Series street-course race.


Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport, the winner at Long Beach in 2010, led the 45-minute session on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary circuit with a best lap of 1 minute, 7.9335 seconds (104.290 mph) in the No. 28 DHL Honda. While he’s led races seven times at Long Beach, the 2012 NTT IndyCar Series champion has never finished inside the top five in the race in 13 previous tries aside from the win nine years ago.

“I think we started here with a pretty good baseline (setup),” Hunter-Reay said after the practice. “It’s good fun getting out there, getting the first session in the books. It’s a good place for us to start.

“It’s going to change every session (after) more and more of the Indy car Firestone rubber goes down. It’ll continue to change and everybody will continue to progress.”

Scott Dixon, the reigning series champion and 2015 Long Beach winner, was second fastest in the session at 1:08.1039 (104.029 mph) in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Rookie sensation Colton Herta, who hails from Valencia, California, some 50 miles north of Long Beach, was third at 1:08.1844 (103.906 mph) in the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda.

Three weeks ago, Herta became the youngest Indy car race winner in history with his triumph in the INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of The Americas.

Drivers using Honda engines locked up the first seven spots in the practice, with Graham Rahal fourth, followed by Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist. Team Penske led the Chevrolet charge, with Simon Pagenaud eighth, points leader Josef Newgarden ninth and Will Power 10th. Takuma Sato, fresh off a win Sunday in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst, was 14th.

Another practice at 5 p.m. ET Friday and streams live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. The third practice begins at noon Saturday, also streaming on INDYCAR Pass. NTT P1 Award qualifying airs live at 2:45 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass.

Sunday’s 85-lap race will be the 36th for Indy cars at Long Beach, dating to Mario Andretti’s win in 1984. Live coverage begins at 4 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network that includes network affiliates, Sirius 113 and XM 209.

“It’s always great being back on track here at Long Beach. I love this place. Good start to the weekend, I think so far, but as you know with street circuits it’s going to change a lot. Session to session, more rubber goes down. But all in all, a good start; we’re in the window. I think we can work from there.”

“Under the sunny skies of Southern California, it’s a great place to have an Indy car race.”