LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 17, 2015) – Will Power and Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud recorded lap times in the second Verizon IndyCar Series practice session for the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach that were quicker than the 2014 Verizon P1 Award-winning time of Ryan Hunter-Reay. Next up is Sebastien Bourdais’ nine-year-old track record.
Power, driving the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, led the 23-driver field with a lap of 1 minute, 7.5485 seconds. Pagenaud was 0.0370 of a second back in the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet. Eighteen drivers were within a second of Power’s quick lap on the 11-turn street circuit.
Sebastien Bourdais set the track lap record at the 1.968-mile configuration at 1:06.882 in 2006. He went on to win — the middle victory of three in a row at Long Beach. Hunter-Reay earned the Verizon P1 Award last year with a lap of 1:07.8219 in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport.
The two other Team Penske drivers, Helio Castroneves (1:07.9132) and Juan Pablo Montoya (1:08.0539), also were in the top five. Scott Dixon, who was quickest in the first session (1:08.6458) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, was fourth (1:07.9671) in the late-afternoon practice.
A 45-minute session at 1 p.m. (ET) April 18 precedes the three rounds of qualifications (live-streamed 5 p.m. ET on racecontrol.indycar.com and tape-delayed at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) for the 80-lap race April 19 (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:
INDYCAR announced today an update to the Verizon IndyCar Series car aerodynamic bodywork kits, effective for this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
• INDYCAR will continue to be proactive in its review of aero kit performance.
• This process will be ongoing as INDYCAR is committed to delivering an entertaining on-track product throughout the Verizon IndyCar Series season.
• The first step in this process began with last week’s mandate of structural upgrades to both Chevrolet’s and Honda’s aero kit components and will continue as the season progresses and opportunities for improvements are identified.
• As a result of the ongoing development of aero kits, INDYCAR has requested the following actions:
o Chevrolet to add a tether to the winglets, or remove the winglets, from its front wing assembly.
o Honda to implement additional reinforcements to its rear wheel guards.
• These upgrades must be implemented prior to Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Dale Coyne Racing announced that Rocky Moran Jr. will drive the No. 18 Honda this weekend. It will mark Moran’s debut in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The 35-year-old from Ladera Ranch, Calif., tested an Indy car last fall with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. His past experience includes stints in sports cars, Toyota Atlantics and Barber Dodge. Moran’s father, Rocky Sr., drove in 24 Indy car races from 1981-1990.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am about finally being able to drive an Indy car,” Moran Jr. said. “Dale is a dream maker and I have always dreamed of this opportunity. We just need to run a lot of miles, as I am aware of the hill I have to climb, but I love Long Beach and this truly is a dream come true for me.”
Moran will be the first American to race for Dale Coyne Racing since Geoff Boss in 2003.
To hear him tell it, Bobby Unser might never have become an Indy car legend were it not for one Rufus “Parnelli” Jones.
At least that’s the way the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner recalled it at Thursday night’s Road Racing Drivers Club Evening with Bobby Unser Presented by Firestone.
Hosted by RRDC president Bobby Rahal at the Long Beach Hilton near the track, the reception and dinner honored Unser, whose 35 career wins are tied for fifth on the all-time Indy car list with Scott Dixon, and included cars he once drove, including his 1968 Indy 500-winning Offenhauser that was also driven by Paul Newman in the 1969 feature film “Winning.”
Unser won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb at age of 22 in 1956. Then, his primary racing objective was to break his Uncle Louis’ record of nine overall victories in the “Race to the Clouds” – until he met Jones.
“I really didn’t have a desire to go to Indianapolis,” Unser admitted during one of the many stories he relayed to dinner attendees. “Then Parnelli, who was the boy wonder of all racing in the United States, came to Pikes Peak and we instantly became good friends. Then one day he said, ‘You really need to go run Indianapolis.’ I said that I didn’t think I was good enough to go there. I was having fun running sprint cars and midgets and anything to make a buck.”
Unser eventually broke his uncle’s record for Pikes Peak triumphs with 10. His first Indy 500 appearance came in 1963, with Jones’ help. “Good chance (that) without Rufus’ help at Indy that year,” he said, “you’d never have heard of Bobby Unser at the Speedway.
The RRDC evenings serve as an annual fundraiser for the organization’s young driver initiatives, including SAFEisFAST and the Team USA Scholarship.
Verizon IndyCar Series stars mixed with Hollywood celebrities for Thursday night’s premiere of “Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman” at the historic El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles. The documentary focuses on the passion Newman – the Oscar-winning actor who was also a longtime racer and co-owner of the successful Newman/Haas Racing Indy car team – had for the sport.
Among those attending the red-carpet premiere were: actor, comedian and car enthusiast Adam Carolla, who produced the documentary; film and television star Patrick Dempsey, himself an accomplished racer and former Indy car team co-owner; Jimmy Kimmel, whose “Jimmy Kimmel Live” studio sits across the street from the El Capitan; and “The Bachelor” couple Chris Soules and Whitney Bischoff.
Among those attending who once raced for Newman, who died in 2008 at age 83, were Michael Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais, Justin Wilson, Oriol Servia and Graham Rahal.
Another collection of stars is expected for a second premiere in Indianapolis on May 22, two days before the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500. It also opens in select theaters nationwide that day and in video-on-demand format.
For the second consecutive year, Pippa Mann will drive a pink car in the Indianapolis 500 as she races in support of Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer organization. The announcement came Thursday that Mann will rejoin Dale Coyne Racing for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” after finishing 24th last year with the team in her third Indy 500 start.
“It was an honor last year to be able to partner with Susan G. Komen,” said Mann, 31, of England. “By bringing Komen’s iconic images and colors to the Indy 500, we were able to promote its cause, while raising funds and awareness for Komen’s mission.”
Mann will participate in the May 3 Promoter Test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval with the new speedway aerodynamic bodywork package. In an effort to increase awareness and donations from last year’s Komen fundraising, 2015 will bring supporters an interactive campaign that will allow them to get involved.
“Pippa’s passion for our cause inspires us all,” said Komen president and CEO Judy Salerno. “Whether on the track or out in the community, her commitment to raising awareness and funds brings us one step closer to a world without breast cancer.”
This weekend marks the 20th time that Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is competing on the streets of Long Beach. Current Verizon IndyCar Series drivers who won Indy Lights races in Long Beach are Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Carlos Munoz and Gabby Chaves.
Chip Ganassi Racing Teams drivers Tony Kanaan and Sage Karam were in the “American Idol” audience Wednesday night in Los Angeles as guests of Big Machine Records founder Scott Borchetta.
Indy car driver Alex Tagliani and his wife Bronte welcomed their first child, Eva Rose, into the world Thursday. Mother and child are doing well. Father is smiling ear to ear.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation announced that Phil Casey, former INDYCAR senior technical director, and Mari Hulman George, Hulman & Company chairman of the board of directors, will be inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame in Indianapolis on May 21.
During a visit Wednesday with Telemundo at the famed Universal Studios in Hollywood, Andretti Autosport driver Carlos Munoz was thrilled for the chance to sit in a replica judge’s chair from the popular NBC talent show “The Voice,” which tapes in an adjacent studio. Munoz was thrilled for the chance to practice pushing the button that turns the chair, where judges Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams sit with their backs to contestants during blind auditions.
Actors Dax Shepard (“Parenthood”) and Josh Morrow (“The Young and the Restless”) were among the passengers early today in an Indy Racing Experience two-seater ride on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn Long Beach circuit.
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, fastest of the day): “It was pretty good. A lot of cars were running and laying rubber, but with the new aero kits and everything, the cars were just faster. It’s always super tight around here when it gets to qualifying. The top six are usually separated by about a tenth and a half (of a second) or something. … (How do the aero kits change the way you drive this track?) “The braking zones are a little shorter and you carry more speed through the fast stuff. It’s little gains on tracks like this. It’s high-speed tracks where you get the biggest gains. The faster you go, the more benefit you get from the (additional) downforce.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet, second fastest of the day): (Is INDYCAR’s proactive, ongoing review of aero kits a good thing?) “Frankly, it’s really not my decision, it’s INDYCAR’s. For the safety of the fans, it’s great, but you’ve got to make it fair for the manufacturers as well. As long as it doesn’t slow down one manufacturer or accelerate the other one, then it just has to be fair.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I was really happy with the No. 2 Verizon Chevy in the first practice. It had a lot of speed. We made a few changes for the second practice and it just didn’t respond like we hoped, but we have a pretty good car and we have something we can work with. Qualifying is going to be very important for us. We’ve made a lot of strides in that area this year and I’m confident that we can get a good starting spot tomorrow afternoon.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet): “Obviously all of the Chevrolet teams were thrown a little bit of a curveball this morning with the changes to the aero kits. We are all in the same boat on that and we will make the best of it. The four Team Penske Chevrolets are still very fast, at the top of the speed charts. We collected a lot of information in the first practice about how the downforce changed and we made some really good changes for the second session. We are still improving it and have another session tomorrow to make the No. 3 Automobile Club of Southern California Chevy better before qualifying.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Chevrolet): “Obviously I’m disappointed. We are not where we want to be or thought we would be. The Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing team has a lot of work to do. We have to sit down and review all the dates, keep our noses to the grindstone and keep working hard. The good news is we have another practice session tomorrow before qualifying and I am confident we will come up with something to make the car faster.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda) : “I thought the crowd today was great but with this weather, why wouldn’t it be? We had a mechanical issue this morning and only got to run a handful of laps. The second practice was more of what I expected. Our car was good this morning but we just didn’t get to see it through before we had the issue. We are the fastest Honda but we have a little work to do to catch the Penske’s. I was on a lap that was about a tenth (of a second) and a half quicker but I just screwed it up, ate too much curb off in Turn 8 and lost it. I feel like there is a lot of potential. But we’re pretty close and if you put Will, Simon and a few others aside, we’re kind of the best of the rest but we’ll keep fighting hard to improve the Steak ‘n Shake car tomorrow. We’re in the hunt.”
FRANCESCO DRACONE (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “After a very difficult weekend in New Orleans it has been pretty hard to be back with the team and get my head straight with the tricky circumstances. It is taking a bit longer than my expectations to get back up to speed and be consistent coming into the pits. I have to admit that I’m a bit over concerned after what happened. On top of that, this track is very tricky being here for the first time. It is very narrow compared to what I’m used to. It is very bumpy and pretty technical. There are a lot of places where you can make mistakes. It seems to be especially important to have a good setup and have the shocks set up perfectly because of the bumps. I’m going to give it my best tomorrow and see what happens.”
LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It was a tough day for us. We had a lot to learn. Myself- I had to learn the circuit. From the set up point of view, we’re still exploring this new aero kit and working towards the best drivability for me. We are not where we wanted to be in terms of lap times, but Josef (Newgarden) proved that our car can be fast. The pack is so tight, tomorrow is going to be very tough qualifying. It will be important to have a fast lap to be able start at the front.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “I think as a team we kind of attacked it a couple different ways. It’s interesting because we are within a hundredth of a second, so we’re not really sure which way to go. But I’m quite pleased with the car. Unfortunately there’s still a gap to the Chevys and that’s frustrating but we’re chipping away at it.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We had a pretty good day going. We didn’t get a lap on our last new set of tires so hopefully we’ll be saving that for tomorrow. We’re making some strides. This is the position we were in last year after day one of practice.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I think we’re finding our way. We started a little rough and were a little lost in the first session. We’re one of the best groups at recovering and I had a lot of faith in my guys. They’re very good at figuring it out and we recovered well in the second session. We’re a still a little on the back foot. When you roll off and you’re not great in session one you have a lot of catching up to do. We are still battling that right now and we’re much better, but we still need to find more.”