O’Ward Takes Top Spot in Tight Opening Long Beach Practice

Pato O’Ward once again showed why he’s overdue for an NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory, leading practice Friday for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

O’Ward turned a top lap of 1 minute, 6.6874 seconds in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile temporary street circuit. O’Ward finished second in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding, as he seeks to earn his first series victory since July 2022 at Iowa Speedway, a dry spell of 24 races.

SEE: Practice Results

“The car is in the window, and we’ve been making small tweaks here and there,” O’Ward said. “Some things worked, some things didn’t work.”

Less than a second separated the top 15 drivers in the session Friday, setting up an exciting Saturday of practice and NTT P1 Award qualifying. Practice starts at 11:25 a.m. ET, followed by three rounds of qualifying starting at 2:25 p.m. Both sessions will be broadcast on Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Two-time series champion Will Power was the quickest of three Team Penske drivers in the top five Friday, ending up second at 1:06.7811 in the No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet. Power won this prestigious event in 2008 and 2012.

Scott McLaughlin helped Chevrolet-powered teams sweep the first three spots on the time sheet, as he was third at 1:06.8258 in the No. 3 Odyssey Batteries Team Penske Chevrolet.

McLaughlin and Power finished in the top three despite both brushing the concrete barriers lining the tricky street circuit in separate incidents during the 75-minute session, which was divided into an all-car session to start and finished with two separate groups.

Felix Rosenqvist continued his early-season strong form by ending up fourth at 1:06.8600 in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda fielded by Meyer Shank Racing. Rosenqvist moved to MSR this season after three years at Arrow McLaren, and he has responded by finishing seventh at St. Petersburg and third at the non-points The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge last month.

Series points leader Josef Newgarden rounded out the top five at 1:06.8976 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden earned a dominant victory in the season opener at St. Petersburg.

Two rookies also captured headlines Friday under sunny skies in Southern California.

2023 INDY NXT by Firestone champion Christian Rasmussen was ninth overall at 1:07.2773 in the No. 20 Guy Care Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing, the quickest of the six rookies in the field by more than a second.

Reigning FIA Formula 2 champion Théo Pourchaire was the second-quickest rookie in his first-ever laps in an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car, ending up 21st at 1:08.2857 in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Frenchman Pourchaire was summoned this week to drive for Arrow McLaren full-time driver David Malukas, who continues to recover from surgery to repair a wrist injury suffered in a preseason mountain biking accident.

Sunday’s 85-lap race will be at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

NTT IndyCar Series PR