Round 2 of the 2017 IndyCar Series from Long Beach Day .
Friday April 7th Long Beach. Experience paid off on opening day at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, with all seven past race winners entered this year finishing in the top eight on the combined speed chart.
Will Power, a two-time Long Beach race winner, posted the best lap in the second of the two 45-minute practice sessions. Driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Power navigated the 11-turn, 1.968-temporary street course in 1 minute, 7.0800 seconds (105.617 mph). The quick lap is within a half-second of the track record set by Helio Castroneves in 2015 (1:06.6294). Kiwi Scott Dixon topping the time sheets in the first practice of the day.
“Sometimes you get it right, like the setup,” said Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar champion and Long Beach winner in 2008 and 2012. “You know, it's only practice. (By being fastest,) you can show everybody where they're lacking, they'll go back and study it. I was hoping (other drivers) would go quicker, but they didn't.
“But, yeah, it's a cool track. Enjoy it, street course, just try to put the pieces together.”
Marco Andretti, who ran second today with a lap of 1:07.3576 (105.182 mph) in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda, was the only driver in the top eight who hasn’t won at Long Beach. The Andretti Autosport driver’s best finish in eight previous starts was sixth in 2009.
“The UFD car is on edge, but I think that’s where we need to be to be quick,” Andretti said. “I like the predictability of the car. I felt like I could drive it to the limit, which is important to be able to wring it out in qualifying. I’m pleased with the pace and the pace we had all through testing, so it’s good to keep the pace here and back it up. We really need to convert this pace into results, and I really think we can.”
Following Andretti on the speed chart combining both practices were the six other past Long Beach winners: Simon Pagenaud (2016), Takuma Sato (2013), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2010), Castroneves (2001), Sebastien Bourdais (2005-07) and Scott Dixon (2015). All but Dixon logged their fast lap in the second practice, when most drivers opted to use the additional set of Firestone red-sidewall alternate tires provided this season on road- and street-course weekends.
“The (additional set of) reds, that's a new thing this year,” Andretti explained. “I'm a fan of it because it takes the guessing out of it for (qualifying) tomorrow. Being able to try the reds today, I'm a big fan of. I think that way everybody is absolutely rung out and you're not sort of guessing at the balance.”
'What They're Saying' from the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Practice Day .
CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet): "We had a really big improvement in the second session which was nice. Sadly we had an overboost (penalty) and traffic on our fastest lap, so we lost a great deal of time which puts us down the order more than we should have been, but at least we have that in our back pocket, but it was a good improvement. This car still doesn't suit my driving style that well we just have to make a few adjustments or fine tune it for how I like to drive it and hopefully it'll be okay."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "Solid first day for the Arrow Electronics crew. This afternoon wasn't exactly what I was hoping for; the track conditions changed, I think more than we were expecting, which caught us off-guard a little bit. With these really short sessions, it's tough to learn much out there. So we'll regroup and hopefully tap back into the speed that we saw this morning and be in a good position for tomorrow."
MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "I think that today we had a really interesting day. I mean, the first time on the track was pretty legendary. It's a street course, and what we're testing is so specific. We were pretty competitive today. At the end of the day I was on the Firestone reds, and we had quite a few red flags, so we couldn't reach our full potential; I think we'll be able to show it tomorrow."
MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): "I think we are all kind of scratching our heads a bit about the practice times today. We're working hard on the balance of the Gallagher car, just like our three teammates. We will go back to look at the data tonight and have a game plan to move forward up the grid tomorrow for qualifying."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): "I was obviously happy with the car this morning, but like I always say, practice doesn't pay anything for winning. In the second session we had a fast NTT Data car as well, but an untimely red flag caught us out on our fast lap which left us down the timing sheets."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): "Today was definitely a busy day for the No. 10 NTT Data Honda. We made some pretty big changes that didn't play out the way we wanted them to but the practice days are the days where you can take those bigger swings. We definitely have some work to do tonight to get the car ready for qualifying tomorrow but I'm confident the NTT Data guys will have us ready to go."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Yeah, you only get a set of reds for this one session. It's really important for qualifying. It's such a different tire, a lot softer. The car feels comfortable. We'll work on it. It kind of sucks if you're quickest because you don't get details, you know. Wish I was fifth or something, it would have been much better. You don't want to show people what you got too soon."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "We started pretty good in Practice 1, but we had a few little issues then we made some changes for Practice 2 and it didn't really work. So we have to re-think for tomorrow. Like always the Verizon IndyCar Series is really tight, the times are really close so tomorrow you have to have the perfect lap time."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 PennGrade Motor Oil Honda): "Today was what we will refer to as a character builder. In the first session, I didn't think that we were that bad. We just didn't get a run on the second set of tires. We are definitely challenged for lateral grip, challenged to get the car to bite into the road surface. In the Verizon IndyCar Series right now, it's so competitive. If you are three-tenths (of a second) off, that could be the difference between being first and 15th place. We have to be on top of our game each and every time we go out on track and on Friday I'm not sure that we accomplished that goal. We will work hard tonight and come back stronger tomorrow."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Trench Shoring Honda): "I was really surprised and very happy about the way we unloaded this morning. The No. 18 Trench Shoring Honda was hard to drive but it was quick, and then it just felt like the track was starting to get away from us a little bit. We started losing track of balance and the way things evolved. We've slipped back a little this afternoon and we don't seem to be as strong out there on the reds (Firestone alternate tires) so we are going to have to work on that a bit. Long Beach is a tough place because it evolves very rapidly and you can only get a few changes in, so we're going to have to think long and hard about it tonight and see what we're going to do."
ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "It's good to be back in Long Beach. It's a great track and event. We've made some progress from St. Pete and this morning went quite well. This afternoon with the temperatures changing so much, the track changed and I struggled a huge amount. (Sebastien Bourdais) was still all right, so we can look at that after the session and fix the issues."
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "It was fun to be back out on track here at Long Beach. I really enjoy the circuit, but we had a difficult day. We have some areas we need to improve so we'll be working hard tonight to make sure we get going in the right direction for tomorrow."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet): "I feel like we have made a lot of progress since the first race. We looked back at St. Pete and saw some things we needed to focus on to make our weekend a bit better. We have also had some tests since then, including a pretty good test at Sebring a couple of weeks ago. Coming here, I felt good about what we had planned and our ability to make the car better. At the end of the first practice today, we knew what we need to improve on. For me, this is still just about making progress over the course of the race weekends. We ended the second practice in the top 10 and our aim is certainly to qualify there tomorrow. We are slowly but surely making our way forward."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "It was a good day. It's always good to be back in Long Beach. This is a special event and it's always fun. We had a busy Practice 1 but we got it sorted out, and in the second session, it felt much better. We tried various setups across the car and it was quite a productive day. Today was actually the first time that I tried the red (alternate) tires in practice because I missed the opportunity in St. Pete. It was a good feeling and I feel prepared for tomorrow."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): "The UFD car is on edge, but I think that's where we need to be to be quick. I like the predictability of the car. I felt like I could drive it to the limit, which is important to be able to wring it out in qualifying. I'm pleased with the pace and the pace we had all through testing, so it's good to keep the pace here and back it up. We really need to convert this pace into results, and I really think we can."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We seemed to overstep it a little that session, just got a little bit too aggressive with the car. I was starting to protect the entry too much where I'm trying to turn in and the rears always threatening and on a street circuit you just can't drive that way. It's something that we need to pay attention to, make the right decisions and try to guess right for tomorrow. Make it so that I can really hustle the car. I almost felt like in that session it was starting to drive me, I just couldn't attack it. We just need to make some changes and I have faith that if we make the right ones, we can get the No. 28 DHL car in the front row."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "Well, it's not the result we wanted for today. I know the No. 83 team is going to work hard tonight to figure out what's going on and be ready for tomorrow. We found a little bit of speed at the end there, but we weren't on fresh tires so we'll look at it. I've got a little bit to learn overnight and it's nice to have fast teammates with Scott (Dixon) and Tony (Kanaan) being a little quicker. We'll look at their data and learn from that. I'm a little frustrated because I want to come out and start Friday off right but as Dario (Franchitti) says, it's all about recovery."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda): "It was a mostly positive day. On black (primary) tires, I think, we're in the top-three cars. I missed the balance there a bit on the red (alternate) Firestones, but that's the positive of using the red tires this year in practice - you can have an understanding of what they have to do before you go in to qualifying. If we just adjust that overnight, then the NAPA Auto Parts car will be looking good."
Quotes from IndyCar Media Services and Photo from the David Turner Collection.