Power sets pace in Grand Prix of Long Beach practice

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Power sets pace in Grand Prix of Long Beach practice

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 15, 2016) – It’s no shock to see a Team Penske entry atop the practice leaderboard for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Will Power, a three-time Verizon IndyCar Series pole winner on the 1.968-mile temporary street course in Southern California, set the pace with a best lap of 1 minute, 7.5992 seconds (104.806 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. In five of the last seven years, drivers from Team Penske have captured pole position for the race, including three straight by Power (2009-11).

“It’s been a good start,” Power said. “This morning I learned some stuff with (teammate) Juan (Pablo Montoya) and we’re progressing well. This is a track where I’ve struggled the last couple of years in qualifying, starting way back there, so I want to start up front and give ourselves a better chance to win the race.”

Second on the speed chart was James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, at 1:07.8223 (104.461 mph), followed by Graham Rahal in the No. 15 PennGrade Motor Oil Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1:07.8853, 104.364 mph).

“The car was great off the truck,” Hinchcliffe said. “Made very few changes over lunch, which is always a nice thing when you’re not thrashing. The pace was still relatively decent this afternoon. It doesn’t matter till it matters, but it’s definitely a good starting point for us.”

Rahal felt good about his car’s showing as well.

“We have one less set of tires than some so we didn’t run on new tires as much as some, but I feel good about where we are right now,” Rahal said. “I feel good about what the car is giving me. We have a little more work to do but in terms of competitiveness but we seem to be very close.”

Power’s three teammates from Team Penske rounded out the top six in practice. Simon Pagenaud was fourth overall in the No. 22 PPG Automotive Finish Chevrolet (1:07.9015, 104.339 mph), Montoya fifth in the No. 2 Verizon Chevy (1:07.9443, 104.274 mph) and Helio Castroneves sixth in the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevy (1:08.0431, 104.122 mph).

Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award begins at 5 p.m. ET April 16 (streamed live on IndyCar.com, tape-delay broadcast at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Indy cars will race for a 33rd consecutive year in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 17 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

Pro Bowler Owens enjoys thrill ride with Mario Andretti

NFL Pro Bowler Terrell Owens stepped out of the INDYCAR Experience two-seater today, calling his thrill ride around the Long Beach circuit with Mario Andretti at the wheel “a roller-coaster ride.”

Back when he was playing for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010, Owens took a similar ride around the Kentucky Speedway 1.5-mile oval. But the experience on the street circuit at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was different … much different.

“I don’t remember it being this awesome,” Owens said. “Maybe it was because I was riding with Mario Andretti, the legend, but this was like the equivalent of a roller-coaster ride. This is much more fun.”

During the high-speed ride, Owens even considered all the waivers he had signed in advance of the ride.

“I got in and I was like, ‘So this is probably why I was signing all this stuff.’ I think I signed my life away,” he said.  “It’s unfathomable how fast we were going. It was an awesome ride. You talk about an adrenaline rush, that was it.”

Owens spent the day at the track, reporting from the grand prix for the Rich Eisen Show. He taped a segment to air at 10 a.m. PT April 18 (on DirecTV) and spent time with Chip Ganassi Racing driver and Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan.

Grand Prix of Boston signs key agreements with city and state

The Grand Prix of Boston powered by LogMeIn announced Thursday it has signed and executed license agreements and a memorandum of understanding with the appropriate city of Boston and state of Massachusetts agencies, completing another major step for establishing the Verizon IndyCar Series race to run in the South Boston Waterfront neighborhood this Labor Day weekend.

The agreements signed by the city, Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, and the memo of understanding signed by the Massachusetts Port Authority, include many conditions and protections with guarantees that:

• The Grand Prix of Boston assumes all costs associated with the race with no burden to taxpayers;
• Ensure that city and state roadways be returned to the same or better condition after the race;
• Establishes irrevocable letters of credit protecting the agencies from any unforeseen costs should the race not occur or if the Grand Prix of Boston fails to restore the roadways to the agencies’ satisfaction.

“Today’s result is the culmination of a lot of hard work, coordination and leadership from all of the agencies involved and we would like to thank Gov. (Charlie) Baker’s office, Mayor (Marty) Walsh’s office and all of the city and state agencies and people who worked hard to get this done, with a high level of collaboration,” said John Casey, president of the Grand Prix of Boston. “We have gotten tremendous feedback from major sponsors, from race fans and soon-to-be race fans. There’s a lot of excitement and anticipation of seeing the elite drivers race through the streets of Boston. We are confident that this race will add to our city’s entertainment and tourism offerings.”

The Grand Prix of Boston will continue to work closely with city and state agencies on other aspects of the race, including the road improvement and traffic management plan, a transportation plan and the safety and security plan. The organization will also continue to hold public monthly forums, community meetings and coordinated outreach in the coming months leading up the race.

For more information on the event, the penultimate race of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season scheduled Sept. 2-4, visit indycarboston.com.

Rahal gets early win to start Long Beach race weekend

Rahal’s weekend at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach got off to a victorious start when his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing crew won the pit stop competition April 14 in the annual Thunder on Pine fan event in downtown Long Beach.

The fan activity included performances by the Monster Energy freestyle MX team and the Firestone Firehawk tossing T-shirts and hats to the crowd numbering in the thousands.

Rahal and his No. 15 Honda squared off in the pit stop competition against the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet crew. Normally driven by Josef Newgarden, team owner/driver Ed Carpenter substituted in the cockpit while Newgarden attended a sponsor event.

Each car had two opportunities to clock its best time changing four tires. Rahal’s crew logged a lightning-quick stop in 5.83 seconds, compared to 7.29 for the Carpenter crew. Rahal was quick to compliment his crew for the victory.

“Give this crew a round of applause,” he said to the appreciative crowd after the win. “They’re the ones who make it happen. I want to thank all of the fans here for coming out tonight. What makes this event so much fun for us is the fans.”

Second CK Crew member named for TAG Heuer Pit Stop Challenge

Taya Kyle called her ride today with Mario Andretti in the INDYCAR Experience two-seater on the 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit “the experience of a lifetime.”

The widow of Chris Kyle, the military hero whose life was depicted in the feature film “American Sniper,” helped make for another’s lifetime experience when it was announced in Long Beach that Sonny Saghera, a captain for Heartland Fire & Rescue in Le Mesa, Calif., will be a member of the CK Crew participating in the TAG Heuer Pit Stop Challenge during Miller Lite Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27.

The CK Crew is the team of military veterans and first responders being assembled by PIRTEK Team Murray to compete in the pit stop challenge on the weekend of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. The honorary CK Crew will go up against the regular full-time pit crews of other Verizon IndyCar Series teams, but Saghera is not concerned.

“I am looking forward to it,” Saghera, 43, said. “The pressure is not going to get to me. I work under pressure all the time; it’s nothing new to me. We train for situations to expect the unexpected. I am just looking forward to the overall experience of doing this.

“I’ll be ready,” he added. “It’s a physically demanding job that we will do, but my job’s physically demanding, too, and we stay in shape. We have to. Just getting down the technicalities of what we have to do, that’s all we need to learn.”

PIRTEK Team Murray is entering rookie Matthew Brabham in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indy 500. Brabham hopes to become the third third-generation driver to race in the “500,” following his grandfather Sir Jack and father Geoff.

The team has partnered with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation to bring a group of military veterans and their families to Indianapolis for race weekend and to compile the CK Crew. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is also backing the project as it releases a commemorative Blu-ray disc edition of “American Sniper” in May.

Saghera is honored to be part of the initiative.

“It really didn’t sink in until I got here today,” he said. “I did some research, I did some reading, but to actually now be here and be part of this and see what is going to be expected of me, it’s an unbelievable feeling.

“To be at the Indy 500 alone, but now to be on the 100th Indy 500, it’s an incredible feeling. I cannot describe it.”

Taya Kyle is also serving as honorary starter for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. She will wave the green flag to start the 80-lap race April 17.

RRDC honors Follmer, Indy car winner at Phoenix in 1969

Road racing great George Follmer was honored by the Road Racing Drivers Club at its eighth annual dinner Thursday night at the Long Beach Hilton.

Follmer, who won championships in Trans Am and Can Am racing and scored a podium as a rookie in Formula One, was a three-time Indianapolis 500 starter, who claimed his only Indy car win at Phoenix in March 1969.

“They didn’t know how I did it,” Follmer said. “People thought it was a fluke, but I was on the front row next to a guy named (Al) Unser, who drove for (Parnelli) Jones. The stock-block V-8 ran like a clock and we worked with the chassis the whole time. It was a major thing (to win) but I didn’t have the opportunity to continue in Indy car (with a bigger team). I won an Indy car race and it’s the only one with a stock-block V-8 and showed I could run ovals.”