Past Long Beach winners dominate first day of practice

LONG BEACH, California (Friday, April 7, 2017) – Experience paid off on opening day at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, with all seven past race winners entered this year finishing in the top eight on the combined speed chart.

Will Power, a two-time Long Beach race winner, posted the best lap in the second of the two 45-minute practice sessions. Driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Power navigated the 11-turn, 1.968-temporary street course in 1 minute, 7.0800 seconds (105.617 mph). The quick lap is within a half-second of the track record set by Helio Castroneves in 2015 (1:06.6294).

“Sometimes you get it right, like the setup,” said Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar champion and Long Beach winner in 2008 and 2012. “You know, it’s only practice. (By being fastest,) you can show everybody where they’re lacking, they’ll go back and study it. I was hoping (other drivers) would go quicker, but they didn’t.

“But, yeah, it’s a cool track. Enjoy it, street course, just try to put the pieces together.”

Marco Andretti, who ran second today with a lap of 1:07.3576 (105.182 mph) in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda, was the only driver in the top eight who hasn’t won at Long Beach. The Andretti Autosport driver’s best finish in eight previous starts was sixth in 2009.

“The UFD car is on edge, but I think that’s where we need to be to be quick,” Andretti said. “I like the predictability of the car. I felt like I could drive it to the limit, which is important to be able to wring it out in qualifying. I’m pleased with the pace and the pace we had all through testing, so it’s good to keep the pace here and back it up. We really need to convert this pace into results, and I really think we can.”

Following Andretti on the speed chart combining both practices were the six other past Long Beach winners: Simon Pagenaud (2016), Takuma Sato (2013), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2010), Castroneves (2001), Sebastien Bourdais (2005-07) and Scott Dixon (2015). All but Dixon logged their fast lap in the second practice, when most drivers opted to use the additional set of Firestone red-sidewall alternate tires provided this season on road- and street-course weekends.

“The (additional set of) reds, that’s a new thing this year,” Andretti explained. “I’m a fan of it because it takes the guessing out of it for (qualifying) tomorrow. Being able to try the reds today, I’m a big fan of. I think that way everybody is absolutely rung out and you’re not sort of guessing at the balance.”

A third practice session is set for 1:45 p.m. ET Saturday, ahead of three rounds of knockout qualifying at 6:30 p.m. to decide the Verizon P1 Award pole winner. Both sessions will stream live on, with a qualifying telecast airing on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Sunday’s race, the second of 17 on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, airs live at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Veach named to third AJ Foyt Racing entry for Indianapolis 500

He may be only 22, but Zach Veach said he’s had a dream for 18 years to race in the Indianapolis 500. The Ohioan will get his chance this May and as part of legend A.J. Foyt’s team to boot.

AJ Foyt Racing announced today that Veach will drive the No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim Chevrolet in this year’s 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. Indy Women in Tech is also title sponsor of the LPGA golf tournament scheduled for September at Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, with four of its holes located inside the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.

The race will mark the Verizon IndyCar Series debut for Veach, who has been working to move up from Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, the top level of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires development ladder, where he won six races over three seasons.

“I think any young American driver thinks about running at Indianapolis and, of course, you always relate the name of A.J. Foyt with Indy,” said Veach. “That’s something you strive to be like. To say I’m going to run my first Indianapolis 500 with a team like this is very exciting for me.”

Veach will be the third entry for AJ Foyt Racing at the Indianapolis 500, joining full-season Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz in their ABC Supply-sponsored entries. It gives the team three eager drivers – none older than 25.

“We really wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t think it was going to help both ABC cars as well,” team president Larry Foyt said about adding the third car. “At the end of the day, when my dad and I were talking about it and we decided to pull the trigger, because of the people that were coming on board, we thought it would really help out the group as a whole – especially as we try to learn the new body kit from Chevrolet.”

The Foyt team switched to Chevrolet from Honda this season and the Indy 500 will present its first superspeedway race with the manufacturer’s engine and aero kits. Veach’s car number at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will pay tribute to A.J. Foyt’s fourth Indianapolis 500 win 40 years ago. This will also be the 60th straight year that A.J. Foyt will be a participant in the Indy 500 as either a driver or car owner.

Foyt, Gurney, Fittipaldi honored at RRDC annual dinner

A.J. Foyt has been honored with numerous awards for the accomplishments from his legendary racing career. He received another Thursday night. The four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and current Verizon IndyCar Series team owner was presented with the Spirit of Ford Award in a ceremony at the Road Racing Drivers Club dinner held in conjunction with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The Spirit of Ford Award is Ford Motor Company’s highest honor in auto racing, recognizing lifetime achievement and contribution to the industry both on and off the racetrack. Foyt becomes the 26th recipient, joining an international list of honorees from all forms of racing and racing media.

“It’s a great honor and Ford has always been good to me,” said Foyt, who was on hand for the dinner along with Dan Gurney as part of an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the duo’s victory at the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, the first and only Le Mans victory by an all-American team featuring all-American drivers.

“After 50 years, who would have thought that Gurney and I would be around to be honored?” said Foyt, 82. “It means an awful lot. It’s a big honor for Ford to do this for us.”

Foyt, the only driver in history to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours of Daytona, was presented the award during the RRDC dinner by Edsel B. Ford II, great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford and a member of the company’s board of directors. He and Gurney were also given a lifetime membership into The ACO’s Club de Pilotes for legends of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“A.J. was one of my heroes in racing when I first followed the sport,” said Ford. “When looking back at his magnificent career, the question isn’t what did A.J. drive, but more what didn’t he drive and win in? His passion for driving and his commitment to the sport since his retirement have made him more than worthy for all the halls of fames he is part of.”

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi was the featured honoree at the RRDC event that drew luminaries from around the racing world. As Gurney said, all the notables “were here to see Emmo.” The Brazilian legend told stories about how his love of racing was evident throughout his career. He included stories of his 1989 Indy 500 win, his Indy car debut in a pink car and racing suit and stories from his championship-winning career as a Formula 1 driver.

Earlier Thursday, Fittipaldi was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame. The Brazilian raced at Long Beach 13 times from 1984-96 with a best of finish of second twice (1985, 1990). He also raced on the streets of Long Beach five times in F1 from 1976-80. He and Mario Andretti are the only Indy car and F1 season champions to race at Long Beach in both series.

Fittipaldi won the 1972 F1 and 1989 Indy car season championships. His 22 career Indy car wins include the two at the Indianapolis 500 (1989, ’93) and tie him for 20th on the all-time list with Tony Bettenhausen.

Sato unveils wine to commemorate 2013 Long Beach win

Takuma Sato wanted to commemorate his memorable win on the streets of Long Beach in 2013. What better way to do it than with a cabernet sauvignon made from a bumper crop of grapes from the same year?

Sato unveiled TS Wine on Thursday at the Hyatt Regency hotel located inside the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit. Only 600 bottles of the wine were made and will be available at the Foyt Wine Vault in Speedway, Indiana, beginning in May, with plans for wider U.S. and Japanese distribution to come.

Sato drove to victory at Long Beach for AJ Foyt Racing four years ago. He left the team this season to join Andretti Autosport, but commended the Foyt organization for helping him put the plan in motion to develop the wine. TS Wine used the same vintner, Meadowcroft Wines, and the Mt. Veeder line of varietal wines from Sonoma, California, that the Foyt Wine Vault relies on for its wines.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to introduce this wine here,” Sato said. “I was very close with the Foyt wine and I had the opportunity to look at how they are making special wines. And A.J. had a lot of special stories about wine, so I thought why not?

“I’m very pleased and this is almost like a collector level, the high end of the wine,” Sato added. “I wanted to produce the best out of the best. It is really, truly unique.”