Previous Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach winners Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay continued their assault on the iconic street course by leading Friday practices, swapping the first and second positions between the morning and afternoon sessions.
Dixon, the 2015 race winner and reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion, topped the timesheet in the second practice with a lap of 1 minute, 7.7940 seconds (104.505 mph) on the temporary street course hosting Indy cars for the 36th straight year. The driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was second fastest to Hunter-Reay in the opening practice, but admitted he even left time on the table on the lap that won him the day in the sunny Southern California afternoon session.
"It was an average run," Dixon, the five-time series champion, said. "I think I missed the timing on when to get the fast lap out of (the run on Firestone alternate tires). We ran long, the grip felt high, but I made some pretty big mistakes on the first two laps. But the PNC Bank car rolled off strong, it was good this morning.
"As you can tell, every weekend, man, it's super tight and the mix is quite heavy, so we'll have to see what we can do and try to create a bit of a gap there."
Hunter-Reay, who won at Long Beach in 2010, ran second to Dixon in Friday's afternoon practice with a lap of 1:07.8434 (104.429 mph) in the No. 28 DHL Honda. That came after the 2012 series champion led the first practice with a lap just a tenth of a second slower.
"Last year, we had very competitive cars," said Hunter-Reay, who qualified seventh at Long Beach in 2018 but finished 20th in the race as Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi became the seventh straight different driver to win at Long Beach.
"Again, this year (we) rolled off with a really good setup, I think," Hunter-Reay continued. "It was a good starting point. We've made some changes to it trying to find what to do, what not to do, as you regularly would on a street course.
"So, yeah, it was a good first day, definitely learned a lot. I know what to apply for tomorrow."
While the two practices were mostly clean - with but a single red-flag stoppage when AJ Foyt Racing's Matheus Leist stopped on course in the afternoon - there were plenty of near misses and wall brushes as the 23 entered drivers squeezed every ounce out of their cars and the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course.
Felix Rosenqvist, rookie teammate to Dixon, ran third in the afternoon and for the day with a lap of 1:07.8867 (104.362 mph) in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Josef Newgarden, the NTT IndyCar Series championship leader after three races, was fourth in Friday practice at 1:07.9648 (104.242 mph) in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden takes a 27-point lead over Dixon into the race weekend.
Patricio O'Ward was second among rookies on the leaderboard, carving out a second-practice lap of 1:08.0303 (104.142 mph) in the No. 31 GESS Carlin Chevrolet. The 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion was giddy after experiencing the legendary Long Beach circuit for the first time in his career.
"This place is a blast!" O'Ward said. "It's quite hard to get those last three-tenths (of a second). It's really, really hard to get everything right. You have to be precise because here you don't have grass (runoff areas as on permanent road course); you have a wall. It's pretty tough to get around here with a perfect lap, but I'm enjoying so far."
Rossi, last year's Long Beach winner, was sixth on the combined speed chart at 1:08.0810 (104.064 mph) in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda.
A third practice begins at noon ET Saturday and streams live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. NTT P1 Award qualifying to determine the pole winner and starting grid airs live at 2:45 p.m. on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass.
Coverage of the 85-lap race begins at 4 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
Claro video to stream races to 12 Latin American nations, including Mexico
On the day that rookie sensation Patricio O'Ward impressed again by posting the fifth-best practice lap for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, online streaming video service Claro was named by INDYCAR to take over livestreams of NTT IndyCar Series races in O'Ward's native Mexico and 11 other Latin American nations beginning with Sunday's race.
Claro will stream the final 14 races of the 2019 season in the first of a multiyear deal and offer on-demand race replays of each event. In Mexico, a season-long subscription to the video channel is available for 779 pesos (approximately $42 USD) and may be billed through Telmex, Telnor or Telcel invoices, by credit card or iTunes.
"I'm really excited this deal is ready and my friends and family will be able to follow each one of my steps in every track on my new career path with INDYCAR," said O'Ward, a native of Monterrey, Mexico. "The most important thing is that I will feel more connected with all my fans in Latin America, including people from my lovely Mexico. I will keep working with my Carlin team very hard, so they can watch great results and feel proud of me."
In addition to Mexico, Claro will livestream NTT IndyCar Series races in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.
"The NTT IndyCar Series adds to our content offer, complementing the wide range of entertainment offered by Claro video to its users in Mexico and LATAM (Latin American) countries," said Alberto Islas, Claro video general director. "Entering the exciting world of motor racing gives us the opportunity to reach millions of consumers interested in this area with a new and interesting product."
Another Andretti to drive at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Third-generation driver Jarett Andretti will make his Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires debut next month as he joins Andretti Autosport for the Freedom 100 on May 24 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Andretti, the 26-year-old son of Indy car race winner John Andretti, will attempt to become the seventh member from one of racing's most famous families to compete at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, joining the list that includes his father, great uncle Mario, uncle Adam and cousins Michael, Jeff and Marco.
"To say I'm excited to run the Freedom 100 this year would be an understatement," Jarett Andretti said. "Anytime you get a chance to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it's special. Obviously, Andretti Autosport has a great track record there and I've known all the mechanics on the cars for years. I can't wait to get the month of May started."
Team owner Michael Andretti, Jarett's godfather, was happy to help his first cousin once removed achieve his goal of racing at IMS and add to the family legacy. Jarett has competed for Andretti Autosport in USAC sprint cars and the Pirelli GT4 America sports-car series.
"I'm really happy to field a car at IMS for Jarett," Michael Andretti said. "Running in an Indy Lights car will be a new experience for him, and I know he's up for the challenge. Our Indy Lights team has shown strong pace this season, and we have a Freedom 100 title to defend.
"Jarett is already a team driver on the GT4 side, and I'm confident he is going to fit into the Indy Lights team well. He will be a contender and an instant crowd favorite."