CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach GP Friday Practice Session Report

They Finally Get to Turn Right In Friday's practice session, Kanaan is quickest in the streets. LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The cars roared out of the pits for the Friday morning practice like lions out of the cage. Long Beach is the ...

They Finally Get to Turn Right In Friday's practice session, Kanaan is quickest in the streets. LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The cars roared out of the pits for the Friday morning practice like lions out of the cage. Long Beach is the first street race after the long winter and the first time the drivers get to go right as well as left.

Qualifying isn't everything at the Beach, but it comes close. Like virtually every other street course from Monaco to this pair of drag strips held together with hairpins by the Pacific, it's so darn hard to pass. If you start at the back of the pack, it takes a few miracles and a couple of catastrophes ahead to move up.

We can see more than a few of those red flags. Cars are turning left this year at the end of the straight rather than right. The new section, which arcs around the aquarium is narrow, bumpy and has an extra little single-file hairpin to include the new fountain that Long Beach, Calif., is so proud of.

"Well, it's a street race," Gil de Ferran pointed out. "You get stuff like that in the middle of it."

De Ferran is one of the last to wave the Goodyear flag. He ran a heavy test schedule for Goodyear at Sebring and felt it had made tremendous progress with its street tire, "even more than their speedway tires." After his pole last week in Motegi, he feels he's got a great advantage.

After the drivers feel their way around the tricky, twisty, off-camber new section at the top of the front straight, Patrick Carpentier is quickest out of the box with a 64.628 followed by Bryan Herta, Mark Blundell, Christian Fittipaldi and Robby Gordon.

Long Beach is close enough to Gordon's hometown, and Toyota would dearly love to have him win the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Gordon stands on it hard enough to enjoy a few minutes of glory as second fastest behind Carpentier.

But not for long. Dario Franchitti gets seriously fast with a 63.8 for first, followed by Herta, Blundell, Fittipaldi, Hearn and Gordon.

Franchitti pulls in for a long pit stop while the crew changes his shocks. They're feeling good, because the car is working and they have a handle on this track. Down the pit lane, Alex Barron, probably the most under-rated driver in the series, has a long pit stop. His team changes the pop-off valve in the hope that that is the problem.

By the time the dust settles, Tony Kaanan is fastest in the session, with a grin lighting up a face that could be the next big thing after Teletubbies. Herta -- focused, intense, still looking for the recognition his talent deserves -- is a tick behind. Juan Montoya, who was battling with Adrian Fernandez at the end of the race last week, before his car ran out of gas, is third. He's followed by Michael Andretti, Fernandez and Carpentier. De Ferran, down in 15, is a whole second behind Kaanan. And it looks like it could be a long, long race for Goodyear.

But this is just the first practice session, and the cars will get faster and faster and faster.

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Dario Franchitti , Bryan Herta , Mark Blundell , Alex Barron