The Frogs ruled Long Beach Friday afternoon. Frenchmen Simon Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais were 1-2 on the time sheet in the afternoon practice session for the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Pagenaud, of Montmorillon, France, was quickest on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn circuit with a lap of 1 minute, 9.1488 seconds in the 45-minute session. Bourdais, a three-time winner of the race from Le Mans, France, was just 0.0120 of a second back in the No. 11 Mistic KVSH Racing car.
Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Jack Hawksworth was an impressive third quick (1:09.4409) in the No. 98 Charter/Castrol Edge entry for BHA/BBM with Curb Agajanian, while 2013 race winner Takuma Sato was fourth (1:09.4524) in the No. 14 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing. Will Power, a two-time winner and three-time pole sitter here, was fifth (1:09.4980) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.
Five different teams were represented in the top five, with Honda having a 3-2 edge in the afternoon session. The 23 drivers recorded 765 laps combined.
Drivers also were practicing for the standing start — the first of the season and the first at Long Beach since 2008 — for the 80-lap race April 13.
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Charter Communications/SPHM Honda): “It’s been good. The track is – as usual – one of the funnest to drive on. Everything is fine, the sun is shining and it’s pretty nice so far. The car’s been wonderful, I think the team’s done a great job over the winter at helping the car on the curbs and on the bumps. I feel pretty confident this weekend, we’ve got a pretty good package. (About track conditions): “Obviously with different series running there will be different rubber on the track, especially from the [IMSA] series. You have to adapt to that. That rubber, the Continental rubber, we don’t know how it’s going to behave with our Firestone tires, so you always have to adjust. I think obviously as the track rubbers up, the softness of the car needs to go up or needs to go down, and that’s what we’ll have to adjust for the red Firestone tires that are going to give us more grip. It’s quite exciting, I’m actually really excited about tomorrow already."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Bit disappointed with eighth in that session. There was a yellow so I slowed up, but a lot of people still did a lap. It’s not the end of the world. That last change we did went the wrong way and made the car a little loose, so I’m not sure. Could have gone a couple tenths of a second quicker, but we weren’t quick enough for P1 whereas earlier in the day we were. I think it’s positive, we just got to make sure we learn the right lessons and put it all together tomorrow afternoon."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “We tried a direction this morning in the No. 10 Target car that didn’t work out that great. We made a lot of changes to the car and the good news is that it’s only Friday. Today is the day you try a lot of this stuff because you have time tomorrow and Sunday before the race. We’ll be working on the setup tonight and looking forward to going back at it tomorrow."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 8 TNT Energy Drink Chevrolet): “I’m really happy to be here in Long Beach. It’s definitely one of my favorite street courses of the year and the weather has just been perfect. It’s been nice to start to get a feel for the balance in the No. 8 TNT Chevrolet, but we definitely still have some work to do for qualifying tomorrow. I think we made a lot of progress today though. It was good for us in St. Pete with the top 10 start, but I think we’ll be even quicker here."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “I think it was a good starting point for our first day in Long Beach and we just continue to make the car better each day. We didn’t end up putting a new set of tires on the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet, where most of the field did. We’re really looking forward to having a new set of tires ready to go start out the day tomorrow and then we’ll hopefully be able to gain quite a few spots in qualifying by saving our tires for the right time. I think we’ve already made the car quite a bit better than it was this morning, so we’ll just come out tomorrow ready to go."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 National Guard Honda): “It was a frustrating day. The National Guard team worked really hard. We’re struggling so much with grip. I feel like I just cannot attack the car; I’m struggling to hang on. We have been working on a lot of stuff. I thought this would be a really good weekend for us, I still feel like it can be but we’re coming from the back now. There is a lot to catch up on."
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “The day was difficult to define. We are working on the car. We’re still not really comfortable yet. Both Graham and I have had exactly the same comments from both sessions so that will definitely help our engineers go in one direction that we both feel we need to go. The other good thing is that although we aren’t happy, we’re still not that far off on the lap time, especially on old tires. We put new tires on at the end of the session but didn’t get a lap in. We’re one-half of a second off (the fastest time) which I think it pretty good because I felt I was more than that. I think we have gains to come our way if we can find a couple of good things with the car setup. I’m happy to knock the rust off. It’s good to come to Long Beach, a place I have driven on many times. At least I know the track."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “I just love coming back to Long Beach. It has special meaning for me since I won here in 2011. It’s a sensational event. I’m very proud to have my photo and name in Victory Lane here. Today we tried several settings with car to gain better grip. It was getting better with each run. We attempted some things late in the afternoon session and I didn’t gain the speed I was hoping for. We’ll sit down and go over the data this evening and be ready for Saturday. The standing start here at Long Beach will be interesting too. I think it will be exciting for the fans at Long Beach. It will have them on their feet."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s not a bad day for Verizon Team Penske, but we need to find a bit more. It’s ridiculously tight, but there’s a bit of a gap to (Simon) Pagenaud and (Sebastien) Bourdais. I don’t know what they’re doing, but it seems to be working for them. It’s hard work, and it was an unbelievable day. Tomorrow when we put on red tires for the first time, we know we’ll be faster, but it’s always a bit of an unknown because it changes the car."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “We definitely picked up at the end. The No. 2 Verizon Chevy had a bit of an understeer after we put new tires on it. We worked through that. I’m doing a better job myself. I feel like I’m pushing myself harder here than at St. Pete. At St. Pete it was all about being cautious. Here I’m trying to get a little more performance out of the car early on. We’re making progress. We aren’t there yet but we aren’t that bad."
CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “The afternoon session was better than the first practice session. The car was a little bit better but we still have things to work on. I got up to speed pretty quickly on the circuit I think. I can obviously be a bit faster but in general it was okay. Before running here the team made me a report of all of the corners and data and stuff like that and I also watched a lot of inboards because obviously you cannot test here so that is the maximum you can do [to prepare]."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Honda): “I think the second practice went really well. I improved a lot from the first practice, but I think I can do a little bit better. I think the Cinsay car was really good; I’m happy with the performance today. We have one more session tomorrow so we have to work hard tonight to make tomorrow even better."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Southern California Chevrolet): “The last practice was a little bit of a struggle. The AAA Chevy felt comfortable in the first session but we definitely lacked there at the end. We will all just go to work and come up with a game plan for the rest of the weekend. I love this racetrack but we will need to qualify well."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “We weren’t where we needed to be at the start of practice today, so it was a lot of work for the Target team in practice. We did make some good gains in the middle of the last session, but I think we may have overstepped that when we went to new tires. I think we’re better than the time sheets showed and will be ready for tomorrow."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "Today in Long Beach was an interesting day for us. We had a moment in the first practice that set us back a bit, but not a huge upset. I got into the wall, but we were able to recover. The guys did a great job and rebuilt the car for practice 2, where we were really solid. We are pretty comfortably in the top 10, but it's easy to slip outside of the top 10 if you don’t watch carefully. If we can qualify inside the top 10 I think we will have a good day on Sunday."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 Snapple Honda): “This is on my wish list. This is a big race for me, probably second to Indianapolis that I want to win. My dad and I were talking about it on the way here how cool it would be to have three generations win at one track. Definitely not pleased with my Long Beach record so far. I had a fun race last year from the back, but like Ryan said, qualifying is important, and we caught an unfortunate penalty last year, so I had to start 25th and I think ended up 6th or 7th. But I think hopefully we can advance to the Firestone Fast Six and try to get the job done from there."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It's great to be back at Long Beach, though. This is one of my favorite events of the season. Like any street circuit, though, you need to qualify well to have a good shot at it, so it's really it really just falls into the street circuit template that way. We're all trying to get up front, and especially with the standing start, I think it'll be important."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): "the biggest thing about these street circuits is trying to stay ahead of the track. It's one thing to be quick in the first practice, but the track evolves, you need to evolve the setup and kind of stay one step ahead of it, and that's something we haven't been awesome at in years past. We just missed the Fast Six last year, but the United Fiber & Data car was quick this morning, and hopefully we can stay ahead of things and put ourselves in position to be there for qualifying tomorrow."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Honda): (Does experience of racing here in Indy Light help?) "Yeah, of course it helps me knowing that I could compete here in the past. It's totally different from the Indy Lights, this car. It's different. The car has different brakings and how the cars react compared to Indy Lights, but Indy Lights helped me a lot, especially I know the track, so it gives me a little more confidence.
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