Cooler temperatures led to hot times during practice for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on Saturday morning, as the track record should be in jeopardy during NTT P1 Award qualifying this afternoon after a quick lap from Romain Grosjean.
Grosjean led the session with a top lap of 1 minute, 5.6520 seconds in the No. 28 DHL Honda. His top time was more than three seconds quicker than his best lap of 1:08.8407 during Friday practice, as setup changes and air temperatures in the mid-60s – 30 degrees cooler than Friday --- helped Grosjean find more pace.
SEE: Saturday Practice Times
Frenchman Grosjean stamped himself as the favorite for the pole during NTT P1 Award qualifying starting 3:05 p.m. (ET) today, broadcast live on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network. His time was quicker than the track record of 1:06.2254 set by Helio Castroneves in April 2017.
“We want to win races, and it’s easier from pole, right?” Grosjean said. “It’s better than yesterday. Very happy with the morning session. We made some steps in the right direction. It was tough for everyone to get a good lap out there, but we managed to get one on the blacks (Firestone primary tires) and one on the reds (Firestone alternate tires), so pretty happy with where the car is.
“The track temp is going to change, so we need to make sure we stay on top of that for this afternoon.”
Reigning Long Beach winner Colton Herta was second at 1:05.6971 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda despite nudging the barrier earlier in the session. Will Power was third at 1:05.9383 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Two-time Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi ended up fourth at 1:05.9424 as he tries to overcome a disappointing start to the season in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. Simon Pagenaud, who led Friday’s practice in 97-degree heat, rounded out the top five at 1:05.9989 in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda.
The top nine drivers in practice Saturday all were quicker than Castroneves’ qualifying track record.
Much like the 45-minute practice Friday, today’s session was eventful under the Southern California sunshine.
Herta nudged his rear wing against the concrete barrier 15 minutes into the session after spinning while exiting Turn 6. Herta was able to drive to the pits for repairs.
Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon also escaped a big crash with his sublime skill 25 minutes into the session. The rear of Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda slid sideways in the quick Turn 4, but Dixon managed to only nudge the front wing and right front suspension after light contact with the concrete barrier.
Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda nosed into the Turn 1 tire barrier with 13 minutes left in the session. Johnson suffered a fracture in his right hand during a crash in practice Friday but participated Saturday morning with a carbon fiber splint after clearance from the INDYCAR medical team. He was cleared to continue participation this weekend by the INDYCAR medical team after his second incident.
Rookie David Malukas’s No. 18 HMD Honda nosed into the tire barrier in the tight fountain section of the circuit three minutes after the track went green following Johnson’s accident. A few minutes later, Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Quartz Engine Oil Honda speared the barriers nose-first in the same spot as Malukas’ incident.