Track record falters as Grosjean leads at Long Beach

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Cooler temperatures led to hot weather during practice at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on Saturday morning, as the track record is set to be compromised during NTT P1 Award qualifying this afternoon after a fast lap from Romain Grosjean .

Grosjean led the session with a fastest lap of 1 minute, 5.6520 seconds at the wheel of DHL’s #28 Honda. His best time was more than three seconds faster than his best lap of 1:08.8407 in practice on Friday, as configuration changes and air temperatures in the mid-60s – 30 degrees cooler than Friday – — helped Grosjean find more rhythm.

TO SEE: Saturday training times

Frenchman Grosjean emerged as the favorite for pole in NTT P1 Award qualifying from 3:05pm (ET) today, broadcast live on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network. His time was faster than the record of 1:06.2254 set by Helio Castroneves in April 2017.

“We want to win races, and it’s easier from pole, right?” said Grosjean. “It’s better than yesterday. Very satisfied with the morning session. We have taken a few steps in the right direction. It was tough for everyone to get a good lap there but we managed to get one on the blacks (Firestone main tyres) and one on the reds (Firestone alternate tyres) so pretty happy with the position of the car.

“The track temperature will change, so we have to make sure we stay on top this afternoon.”

Defending Long Beach winner Colton Herta finished second at 1:05.6971 in the #26 Gainbridge Honda despite pushing the barrier earlier in the session. Will Power was third at 1:05.9383 in the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Two-time Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi finished fourth in 1:05.9424 as he tried to overcome a disappointing start to the season in the #27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. Simon Pagenaud, who led Friday’s practice in 97-degree heat, completed the top five in 1:05.9989 in the #60 Honda AutoNation/Sirius XM.

The top nine drivers in Saturday practice were all faster than Castroneves’ qualifying record.

Much like Friday’s 45-minute workout, today’s session was eventful in sunny Southern California.

Herta shoved his rear wing against the concrete barrier 15 minutes into the session after spinning out of Turn 6. Herta was able to pit for repairs.

Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon also escaped a big crash thanks to his sublime skill after 25 minutes of the session. The rear of Dixon’s #9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda slid sideways in the fast Turn 4, but Dixon only managed to push the front fender and right front suspension after light contact with the barrier in concrete.

The #48 Ganassi Racing Honda Carvana Chip of Jimmie Johnson brushed the tire barrier at Turn 1 with 13 minutes left in the session. Johnson suffered a broken right hand in a crash during Friday practice but competed Saturday morning with a carbon fiber brace after clearance from the INDYCAR medical team. He was cleared to continue his participation this weekend by the INDYCAR medical team after his second incident.

Rookie David Malukas’ no18 Honda HMD hit the tire barrier in the narrow fountain section of the circuit three minutes after the track turned green following Johnson’s crash. A few minutes later, Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Honda Quartz Engine Oil broke barriers nose-first at the same location as the Malukas incident.

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