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Power Rules Practice At Long Beach

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, April 8 2017

Will Power was fastest on the streets of Long Beach on Friday. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

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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 around the famed street circuit. Driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Power navigated the 11-turn, 1.968-mile temporary 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 at 1:06.6294.

“Sometimes you get it right, like the setup,” said Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series 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 with a lap of 1:07.3576-seconds/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 noted. “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. (EDT) 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 RaceControl.IndyCar.com, with a qualifying telecast airing on NBC Sports Network at 7:30 p.m.

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

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

AJ Foyt Racing announced Friday 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 also is 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,” Veach said. “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 in the third entry for A.J. Foyt Racing at Indy, 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 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 twin-turbocharged V-6 engine and aero kits. Veach’s car number at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will pay tribute to A.J.’s fourth Indianapolis 500 win 40 years ago. This also will be the 60th straight year that Foyt will be a participant in the Indy 500 as either a driver or car-owner.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, April 8 2017
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