Long Beach NTT IndyCar Series Race Season

Reigning series champion Dixon leads Long Beach practice

Story Credit: INDYCAR PR
Photo Credit: INDYCAR Photo

LONG BEACH, California (Friday, April 12, 2019) – Previous Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach winners Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay continued their assault on the iconic street course by leading Friday practices, swapping the first and second positions between the morning and afternoon sessions.

Dixon, the 2015 race winner and reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion, topped the timesheet in the second practice with a lap of 1 minute, 7.7940 seconds (104.505 mph) on the temporary street course hosting Indy cars for the 36th straight year. The driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was second fastest to Hunter-Reay in the opening practice, but admitted he even left time on the table on the lap that won him the day in the sunny Southern California afternoon session.

“It was an average run,” Dixon, the five-time series champion, said. “I think I missed the timing on when to get the fast lap out of (the run on Firestone alternate tires). We ran long, the grip felt high, but I made some pretty big mistakes on the first two laps. But the PNC Bank car rolled off strong, it was good this morning.

“As you can tell, every weekend, man, it’s super tight and the mix is quite heavy, so we’ll have to see what we can do and try to create a bit of a gap there.”

Hunter-Reay, who won at Long Beach in 2010, ran second to Dixon in Friday’s afternoon practice with a lap of 1:07.8434 (104.429 mph) in the No. 28 DHL Honda. That came after the 2012 series champion led the first practice with a lap just a tenth of a second slower.

“Last year, we had very competitive cars,” said Hunter-Reay, who qualified seventh at Long Beach in 2018 but finished 20th in the race as Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi became the seventh straight different driver to win at Long Beach. 

“Again, this year (we) rolled off with a really good setup, I think,” Hunter-Reay continued. “It was a good starting point. We’ve made some changes to it trying to find what to do, what not to do, as you regularly would on a street course.

“So, yeah, it was a good first day, definitely learned a lot. I know what to apply for tomorrow.”

While the two practices were mostly clean – with but a single red-flag stoppage when AJ Foyt Racing’s Matheus Leist stopped on course in the afternoon – there were plenty of near misses and wall brushes as the 23 entered drivers squeezed every ounce out of their cars and the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course.

Felix Rosenqvist, rookie teammate to Dixon, ran third in the afternoon and for the day with a lap of 1:07.8867 (104.362 mph) in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Josef Newgarden, the NTT IndyCar Series championship leader after three races, was fourth in Friday practice at 1:07.9648 (104.242 mph) in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden takes a 27-point lead over Dixon into the race weekend.

Patricio O’Ward was second among rookies on the leaderboard, carving out a second-practice lap of 1:08.0303 (104.142 mph) in the No. 31 GESS Carlin Chevrolet. The 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion was giddy after experiencing the legendary Long Beach circuit for the first time in his career.

“This place is a blast!” O’Ward said. “It’s quite hard to get those last three-tenths (of a second). It’s really, really hard to get everything right. You have to be precise because here you don’t have grass (runoff areas as on permanent road course); you have a wall. It’s pretty tough to get around here with a perfect lap, but I’m enjoying so far.”

Rossi, last year’s Long Beach winner, was sixth on the combined speed chart at 1:08.0810 (104.064 mph) in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda.

A third practice begins at noon ET Saturday and streams live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. NTT P1 Award qualifying to determine the pole winner and starting grid airs live at 2:45 p.m. on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass.

Coverage of the 85-lap race begins at 4 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Jared DePouw
Jared is the founder of RealOpenWheel.com but works as a small business accountant. He also officiates high school football and lacrosse in his free time.