Long Beach: Series' Friday practice report

HUNTER-REAY LEADS OPENING DAY OF PRACTICE AT LONG BEACH LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 16, 2010) - Ryan Hunter-Reay, driving the No. 37 IZOD car for Andretti Autosport, was quickest in practice April 16 with a lap of 1 minute, 10.6346 seconds on the...

HUNTER-REAY LEADS OPENING DAY OF PRACTICE AT LONG BEACH

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 16, 2010) - Ryan Hunter-Reay, driving the No. 37 IZOD car for Andretti Autosport, was quickest in practice April 16 with a lap of 1 minute, 10.6346 seconds on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit on the first day of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Just one second separated the top 15 cars as drivers and teams prepared for the three rounds of qualifications Saturday and the race Sunday. VERSUS will televise qualifying live at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday and the race at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday.

Three teams were represented in the top five in practice under sunny Southern California skies Friday.

Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe (1:10.6980) was second, and Tony Kanaan finished third through the two practices (1:10.7334) in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car fielded by Andretti Autosport. FAZZT Race Team driver Alex Tagliani (1:10.7996) was fourth quick, and Will Power, who won the first two races of the season in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, was fifth (1:10.8641).

Defending race winner and IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti was seventh at 1:10.9285.

In Firestone Indy Lights practice, Sebastian Saavedra, driving the No. 29 William Rast/Bryan Herta Autosport car, topped the time chart for the Grand Prix of Long Beach at 1:15.1732.

James Hinchcliffe in the No. 2 TMR-X treme Coil Drilling entry was second (1:15.4583), and Martin Plowman was third in the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers/KEP Printing car for AFS Racing Andretti Autosport.

Charlie Kimball, who posted a career-best second on the Barber Motorsports Park road course, was fourth quick (1:15.8785) in the No. 26 Levemir FlexPen car for AFS Racing Andretti Autsport. J.K. Vernay, who has won the first two races of the season, was fifth on the chart (1:15.9426) in the No. 7 Lucas Oil/CJ/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car.

A 45-minute practice session precedes 3:55 p.m. (ET) qualifications. Watch on www.indycar.com.

TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH NOTEBOOK:

Ryan Hunter-Reay will receive plenty of track time this weekend. He'll drive the No. 37 IZOD car for Andretti Autosport in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and compete in the LMP class in the American Le Mans Series race the day before.

Hunter-Reay, who also competed with Level 5 in an LMP last month in the 12 Hours of Sebring, will have driven the temporary Long Beach street circuit in Formula Atlantics, Champ Car, the IZOD IndyCar Series and ALMS.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: "This year I've been driving with Level 5 quite a bit. It's a great team and the opportunity really presented itself where I could do both races. Both teams are pretty cooperative letting me drive in both series. It shows that they have a lot of faith in my abilities. I've been used to jumping in and out of race cars pretty quick. So I think I can adjust to thing s pretty well. The lines will be the same. The braking and shifting points will be different, though."

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Drivers will have the availability of the Honda overtake assist 20 times during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, for 18 seconds each. There is a 10-second recovery period between pushes.

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On Monday, Apri l 19, IZOD IndyCar Series drivers will tour Honda Performance Development in Santa Clarita, Calif., and American Honda in Torrance, Calif. The day includes autograph sessions at both facilities plus lunch with senior executives. During the season, the drivers make several appearances for Honda, the official engine supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series.

1985 Indianapolis 500 winner Danny Sullivan and Indianapolis 500 veteran and Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti received "stars" on the Motorsports Walk of Fame on Thursday in Long Beach.

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Dale Coyne Racing driver Milka Duno spoke to students at Hollenbeck Middle School in East Los Angeles and at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona on Wednesday, April 14. Duno, through her "Milka Way" program, strives to inspire students of all ages to "Aim for the Stars" and achieve academic excellence.

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California-based King Taco Restaurants joins Bryan Herta Autosport for the second consecutive year at Long Beach and will be primary sponsor of Stefan Wilson's No. 28 Firestone Indy Lights entry. William Rast, primary sponsor of the No. 29 car driver by Sebastian Saavedra, is also headquartered in Los Angeles.

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Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach enthusiasts will get a glimpse of the past this weekend when KV Racing Technology's Takuma Sato drives the No. 5 Lotus car on the street circuit.

The Lotus brand has been victorious at Long Beach with Mario Andretti driving the Formula One version in 1977 with a great late-race pass. The following season, Andretti drove the No. 5 John Player Lotus to the World Championship with six race wins. Andretti finished second at Long Beach in his 1978 title run.

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The "Race to the Party" on April 15 was an IZOD IndyCar Series event Hollywood style, bringing out celebrities and the stars of the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Hollywood Boulevard was closed between Highland and Orange -- right in front of the Kodak Theater, Mann's Chinese Theater and the El Capitan Theater -- creating a pedestrian mall for spectators to get an up-close look at the cars, get an autograph from IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights drivers and capture a video slice of the event. There also was a red-carpet walk, a pit stop challenge, fan giveaways, a vintage car and more.

Celebrities who attended the event included rapper/actor/fashion designer P Diddy, producer/actor Mark Wahlberg, musician Courtney Love, the all-star cover band Camp Freddy, Guillermo Martinez from "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and more.

The event was streamed live at www.indycar.com and www.racetotheparty.com.

"Race to the Party" is a sweepstakes in which one entrant will receive a VIP trip to the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 30 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Enter at www.racetotheparty.com.

MARK WAHLBERG: "It's the fans, the people who make it special. It is one of the most exciting sports in the world. I love it. "

DAVE NAVARRO (Rock musician, front man for Camp Freddy): "There's nothing like fast cars and rock 'n' roll."

DANICA PATRICK: "It's not every day you can be walking to dinner and see an IndyCar do burnouts and pit stops."

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Academy Award- and Emmy Award-nominated producer/actor Mark Wahlberg is the grand marshal of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones, the first driver to break the 150-mph bar rier at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was the 2010 Road Racing Drivers Club honoree at an annual event Thursday night at the Long Beach Hilton.

1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal played host to the event, which raises funds for Team USA driver development.

Among those in attendance were 2009 honoree Dan Gurney, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears, 1985 Indy winner Danny Sullivan, 2007 Indy winner Dario Franchitti and IZOD IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500-winner team owner Chip Ganassi.

Following dinner, Rahal "interviewed" Jones, much like his team co-owner David Letterman from behind a desk, with Jones in the hot seat. Jones told a variety of stories - racing and non-racing - including that he rode a donkey down the hall as a high school senior and adopted the name "Parnelli" from his middle name Parnell when a schoolmate made fun of him looking like a girl named Nellie.

The night ended in a champagne toast led by Rahal: "To a true gentleman and one hell of a driver that we all respect and admire for his actions on and off the track."

PARNELLI JONES: ( About his name): "Then when they painted it on the side of my first car, I became Italian, dropping the 'E,' making it P-A-R-N-E-L-L-I."

(About driving the turbine-engine car in 1967 at Indianapolis): "I swear I never sandbagged in the turbine in 1967. Gurney would pile sandbags outside my room at the Speedway Motel. I swear I drove that car as hard as I could every lap I was out there."

(About an offer to drive a Formula One by Colin Chapman): "It would have been great to driver for Lotus and have Jimmy Clark as a teammate, but I wasn't going to play by the Formula One team rules and be second to anyone - even Jimmy Clark."

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Firestone Racing is bringing proven street-course tire specifications to Long Beach, as the identical primary and alternate specs were used last month in St. Petersburg. It marks the only time in 2010 that Firestone will repeat its tire specs for a road or street event.

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Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing is competing in its 27th consecutive Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (CART, Champ Car, IZOD IndyCar Series). The team, founded in 1982 by Paul Newman and Carl Haas, has six victories and 11 pole starts on the temporary street course.

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The No. 06 Newman/Haas /Lanigan Racing car driven by Hideki Mutoh will carry the slogan "Be a Donor, Save a Life" on the sidepod as part of its partnership with the David Foster Foundation. It provides financial support to families with children in need of life-saving organ transplants. The foundation was started more than 20 years ago by 15-time Grammy award-winning producer and songwriter David Foster.

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The first round of IZOD IndyCar Series qualifications will return to 15 minutes for each group. The session was 20 minutes at Barber Motorsports Park last week because there wasn't a morning practice.

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Mark and Anita Plowman, the parents of Firestone Indy Lights driver Martin Plowman, are fixtures at every race to support their son despite commuting to each race from their home in Tamworth, England.

But the Plowmans almost missed the Long Beach Grand Prix due to the volcanic ash that canceled flights across Europe this week.

ANITA PLOWMAN: "We got the last flight out of England. We changed our flight and had to go to New York, then Salt Lake City before arriving here. It was 25 hours on a plane, but we made it."

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It will be easy to spot the biggest fans of Firestone Indy Lights driver Charlie Kimball this weekend at the Long Beach Grand Prix. Kimball's family has made cardinal red T-shirts with Kimball's name and his car number 26. Kimball is from Camarillo, Calif.

CHARLIE KIMBALL: "Last year, they wore aqua blue shirts, so I guess they wanted to be more visible this year."

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TW Steel, the Dutch brand specializing in oversized watches, announced Friday that two-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion and 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti is to become a Global Brand Ambassador.

Franchitti also will be involved in the design and subsequent promotion of the 'TW Steel Dario Franchitti' edition - the first watch to sport his name and official logo.

Details of the 'TW Steel Dario Franchitti' execution will be announced next month along with an exclusive launch party Saturday, May 22 in Indianapolis.

TW Steel, celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2010, continues to develop and lead the oversized watch market. A family-owned company headed by 27-year-old chief executive officer and co-owner Jordy Cobelens, 'The Watch in Steel' has emerged as an innovative, bold lifestyle brand - now available in over 50 countries worldwide, including the United States.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: "Anyone who knows me will tell you that if I had a passion away from racing, other than my love of cars, it would be for watches. I've always appreciated a fine timepiece, and when I was first introduced to TW Steel, I was certainly impressed with their commitment to designing something unique but very appealing. As I compete all over the world, I'm delighted to be working with them as a brand ambassador here in North America and internationally, as well. The opportunity to work with TW Steel to come up with a 'Dario Franchitti' edition was particularly exciting to me. If something's going to bear your name, you have to have complete faith that it's a true representation of what you stand for. In TW Steel, I've found the perfect partner. We're both driven by a pursuit of excellence and a true passion for watch design. I have a newfound appreciation for what goes into producing these watches, and I'm excited to be unveiling my own edition later next month!"

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KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser won the pole today for the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, which takes place at 11:40 a.m . Saturday.

***

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD, first): In the first session, we knew the track was pretty bad, so we didn't get out of our mindset of sticking to our guns. We knew what worked. In the second session, we just worked on the balance of the car. We found what did work and what didn't work. I think there's still a little more time in the car, so we're pretty happy with it. It's going to get quicker tomorrow, and these guys are all going to go quicker. So we'll have to keep changing, keep on top of the developing racetrack. It's good, though. The guys did a good job. The good thing is we only used two sets of tires today."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, second): (About closing the gap to teammate Will Power): "It's the first step toward beating him. He's doing an amazing job. He's definitely going to be the one to beat in qualifying tomorrow. He's been fast here in the past. I think as a team, we're extremely strong at the moment. We're really pushing each other a lot. There's a really good vibe within. And I really feel like coming into this part of the season, I really need to step it up in qualifying. For sure, to get the race wins, my first step is going to be stepping it up in qualifying."

WILL POWER (No.12 Verizon Team Penske, fifth): "We are reasonably happy with the No. 1 2 Verizon Team Penske car. We need to find a bit more speed. It is really close out there, really competitive. We will work on it tonight, and we should be in great shape tomorrow for qualifying."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, ninth): "We are learning a lot of good information for qualifying and the race. The No. 3 car has been solid, and we will continue working on it tonight. It has been a beautiful day here in Long Beach, and it is great to see all the fans out at the track."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic, 14th): "We made a lot of progress in the morning session; we found two things that improved the Formula Dream/Panasonic car. Then we made a change between sessions, and it changed the balance of the car, so we need to work to get the balance right. We saved a set of tires for tomorrow while many drivers put a new set of tires on during the afternoon session, so I don't mind being 14th in the session. Overall, it was a good day."

RAFAEL MATOS (No. 2 HP Luczo Dragon, 11th): We had an encouraging start. We have quite a good baseline from last year. I had a lot of traffic on my new tire run, so I was unable to extract everything out of the car that I wanted. But we're heading in the right direction, and the car is much closer than last week."

MARIO MORAES (No. 32 KV Racing Technology, eighth): "Overall, it was a good day for the No. 32 KV Racing Technology team. My engineer, Iain Watt, and I have been spending a lot of time together getting to know each other, and we have worked very hard to make the car faster. It is great to be back in Long Beach. Unfortunately, last year we did not have the result that we wanted, so I am looking forward to this weekend and having a good finish."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No . 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing, 19th): "I think it's again been another frustrating day for me. I really thought that we would start off on a better foot and be a little more competitive than we are. We seem to be really struggling. I thought we were getting closer there halfway through that last session and we put new tires on, but the grip just wasn't there like it is for everyone else. It's a little bit confusing and a little bit frustrating, but I know everyone is working hard and we're going to keep at it."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, fourth): "I am very, very happy. The LaCapsule Sportive/Adonis Products/Honda Indy Edmonton team did a fantastic job today. Obviously finishing the first day in position four is a great achievement for us. We kind of knew that Long Beach was going to be a more suitable track for our car. We are still in the learning process, and I think today we learned a lot and made very good changes to the car. We recovered well from our incident this morning, and the guys did a fantastic job of getting the car ready to go for the last practice. The car is very close, but we're still trying to get a little bit more out of the car and the track continues to grip up. There's been like a second of improvement from this morning's times to this afternoon. I feel that the team is where it needs to be and with this particular track and what is happening and how competitive we are the team is right where it needs to be. We are still learning more information, and now we are gathering a good group of data from the most recent tracks, so we are starting to come full circle on our information. If we can build on the information, I think we'll continue to be more consistent and have the car where we want it which is quick out of the box."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 Lotus-KV Racing Technology, 13th): "Long Beach is a special event, but, for me, it is one of the new circuits. So I have to learn the circuit. We struggled with the balance of the car a bit today. So we have a lot of work to do tomorrow."

E.J. VISO (No. 8 PDVSA-Jet Aviation-KVRT, 17th): "The changes we made from practice one to practice two, we didn't find all of the speed we wanted. But we had problems with traffic with our second set of tires, so we weren't able to put a lap together. Normally, with your second set of tires, you can improve up to a second a lap. That was a progression I think we were going to achieve. But because of the traffic, we couldn't. We still need to improve the car and find more speed for qualifying."

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: "Still a lot of grip to come. For sure, tomorrow is going to get a lot better, a lot faster. This is a place where you feel you're going to crash, and it's a little bit fast. It's very fun."

(Where can you pick up speed on the track?): "Everywhere. The slow corners, the sector from (Turns) 1 to 5. I feel everywhere there's some time that will add up."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: "For sure, it's a solid start. But I know we can definitely improve. We put on a good time there at the end on the new tires. A bunch of guys tried stickers at the end there. We managed to get a pretty good lap out of it. But I think on old tires, our balance is still a little off. We'll keep cracking at it. The Team Moore guys are doing a great job on street circuits so far this year. We'll have a big think about it and try and do a little bit better tomorrow."

-source: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Milka Duno , Takuma Sato , Sarah Fisher , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bobby Rahal , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Sam Schmidt , Dan Gurney , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Parnelli Jones , Danny Sullivan , Paul Newman , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Charlie Kimball , Carl Haas , Chip Ganassi , Will Power , James Hinchcliffe , Sebastian Saavedra , Martin Plowman , Hideki Mutoh , Dale Coyne , Stefan Wilson , Colin Chapman
Teams Andretti Autosport , Team Penske , Bryan Herta Autosport , KV Racing Technology , FAZZT Race Team , Dale Coyne Racing