Hope for Honda as Penske paces first Long Beach practice

By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer

For the 42nd consecutive year, the streets of Long Beach have come alive with the sounds of high-powered race cars screaming through the city streets, as the drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series held their first practice for Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

At the end of the session, we saw a familiar sight: Penske-Chevrolet cars taking the top two spots.

Juan Pablo Montoya, who took his first career CART race win at Long Beach some seventeen years ago, led the session with a lap at 103.991 mph. The Colombian driver bested his teammate, Will Power, by 0.2424 of a second. However, at least in the early going, the Honda teams were not too far off of the mark.

Honda powered cars took five of the top ten spots, led by A.J. Foyt Racing’s Jack Hawksworth. His lap at 1:08.484 put him third on the session. The Briton had spun early on in the going with his brake fluid boiling over, but came back strong.

Behind him was Josef Newgarden, in the Ed Carpenter Chevrolet, followed by the Honda cars of Takuma Sato, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Penske Racing’s Helio Castroneves was eighth, as Andretti Autosport driver, Carlos Munoz, and defending race-winner, Scott Dixon, completed the top ten.

The first red flag of the session was caused by Andretti AutoSport rookie driver, Alexander Rossi, who stuffed it into the tire barrier after attempting some aerodynamic changes that didn’t agree with his car.

Rossi finished the session in 21st, at the bottom of the time charts, in a session that saw all of the Rookie of the Year contenders struggle.

Conor Daly, in the Dale Coyne car, led the rookie contingent with the 17th fastest time, while Chip Ganassi’s young driver, Max Chilton, found himself 19th quick.

The session was ended on a second red flag when Charlie Kimball cooked his brakes on the circuit. The Ganassi driver slid down the escape road, unable to stop his car, as both of his front brakes burst into flames.

Drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series will have two more practice sessions before hitting the track for qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Practice Two will commence later today, at 5 PM EST with final practice commencing Saturday at 1 PM EST.

Qualifying will be broadcast on NBC-SN at 6 PM EST, with race day coverage being shown Sunday at 4 PM EST.

Image: Chris Jones/INDYCAR

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A life-long racing enthusiast, Santoroski attended his first live race in 1978, the Formula One Grand Prix of the United States at Watkins Glen. Following graduation from Averett College, Santoroski covered the CART series through the 1990s and 2000s for CART Pages and Race Family Motorsports in addition to freelance writing for various print and web sources. He produces a variety of current and historical content for Motorsports Tribune and serves as the host for the weekly radio broadcast,Drafting the Circuits,

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