Hinch wears Andretti Quartet in qualifying
In what has been a tough year for fan favorite rider, James Hinchcliffe is looking to end the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season on a high note.
Hinchcliffe, the 2017 winner at Long Beach, produced high speed all weekend and qualified seventh for the Long Beach Acura Grand Prix on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN and INDYCAR Radio Network), missing out narrowly his first Firestone Fast Six appearance of the season with a fastest lap of 1 minute, 8.7143 seconds.
Either way, the starting position in the top 10 is the best of the season for Hinchcliffe behind the wheel of Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport. His previous record was ninth at Mid-Ohio.
Hinchcliffe attributes the speed to the team’s work in the workshop.
“The Andretti Steinbrenner guys did a great job,” Hinchcliffe said. “The car got off the truck pretty quickly, and we didn’t have to make a lot of changes to it, which is good in these shorter sessions and shorter weekends.”
The Canadian is the first driver of Andretti Autosport’s four-car team, beating his teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay (11th), Colton Herta (14th) and Alexander Rossi (15th).
Hinchcliffe’s Strong Weekend mirrors his performance on the newest street circuit, the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville in August. Hinchcliffe qualified 10th and finished third, benefiting from the strong performance of the four-car organization on the urban courses.
Ahead of qualifying, Hinchcliffe turned out to have one of the strongest cars this weekend in the # 29 #ShiftToGreen Honda. He was eighth in Friday’s solo practice session with a best time of 1: 09.6276.
On Saturday, Hinchcliffe was the third fastest driver in morning practice with a fastest lap of 1: 08.2250, making him the second Andretti Autosport driver of the session behind Herta.
All in all, Hinchcliffe is sinking confidently with a well-rounded weekend, and he believes minor adjustments can make him and his team a contender on Sunday.
“I think we have a decent pace on the blacks (main tire) and the reds (alternate tire),” he said. “It’s going to be about finding that little extra and putting it all together. For now, I am cautiously optimistic. All of our cars seem to be pretty fast.
Like a handful of drivers in the paddock, speculation swirls about Hinchcliffe’s racing destination in 2022. He reminded team owners this weekend that he still has speed.
Dixon and Castroneves fight to complete the top three
Two longtime INDYCAR SERIES veterans found themselves battling for a track position during the Firestone Fast Six, with one driver feeling his potential pole was hampered while another was on cloud nine.
Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon qualified second with a fastest lap of 1 minute, 8.4422 seconds, and the quadruple Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Helio Castroneves finished third in 1:08 , 4827.
However, Dixon ended the day frustrated with Castroneves, who he said interfered with his flying turn and prevented a chance to win the NTT P1 Award.
“They dumped him right in front of us, which for the first round wasn’t that bad, but we definitely passed him on the last,” Dixon said. “In scenarios like this you definitely lose three, four, five tenths, and we only needed a few. We were definitely on our feet until we hit it, especially on the last half of the trail.
“It’s a disappointment. I really think we had pole there. The car is fantastic.
Still, the second-place start is Dixon’s best start since placing second in early August in Nashville. This is the fourth time Dixon has competed in the Firestone Fast Six in the second half of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, with other appearances in Mid-Ohio, Nashville and Portland.
Castroneves, on the other hand, said he didn’t believe he was on Dixon’s path. Instead, he wondered aloud if Dixon hadn’t understood the distance between Castroneves’ # 06 Honda Meyer Shank Racing and Dixon’s # 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.
“I guess he’s so used to starting in front of me that when he sees someone miles away he can say, ‘Oh my God he’s in front of me,’” Castroneves said. “There was no way. I had hot tires; I was at full power. I think he misjudged the perception of what it was. I had total control. There was no way we were in front of anyone.
2001 Long Beach winner Castroneves produced his best qualifying effort of the season, making his first appearance at the Firestone Fast Six in 2021. His previous best start of the season was eighth in the Indy 500 in May.
Castroneves was thrilled for his Meyer Shank Racing team, with whom he has raced part-time this season and will embark on a full-time tour with in 2022.
The group have spent their 2021 six-race season experimenting with setups and fine-tuning details for next season, and Castroneves said Long Beach’s qualifying effort is proof that hard work is paying off.
“It’s part of the process,” Castroneves said. “A lot of people sometimes don’t see it that way. We are in a luxury position where we can spend those six races preparing, and that is exactly what is happening. You try to understand. It has changed so much from what I used to do.
“I also like this place. When you combine a lot of things together it helps. No doubt, today has been an incredible day. We just keep increasing and improving. I thought I had it, to be honest.
Johnson Living Childhood Dream in Long Beach
The end of Jimmie Johnson’s first season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES arrives on a circuit he has dreamed of racing all his life: Long Beach.
Johnson, from El Cajon, Calif., Grew up coming to the Acura Grand Prix in Long Beach and imagined himself running through the iconic streets of Southern California. But Johnson’s all-terrain truck racing route took him to NASCAR, not the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Johnson said he was grateful for everything his NASCAR career has brought him in the form of 83 career wins and seven NASCAR Cup Series championships. But something was still missing.
This weekend, Johnson found this thing in the place he hasn’t turned two in over two decades, the place where he used to cheer Al Unser Jr. to victory.
“To walk around here, I literally haven’t been here since 1995,” Johnson said. “It’s been a long time. But for some of those memories to come back walking on the pedestrian bridge, walking in the paddock.
“There were some really cool times looking around and shaking my head that I finally found myself here. I wasn’t sure this was going to happen, so I’m very grateful. And I’m just delighted that it was able to come to fruition. “
Johnson has just had a career best weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, where he finished 17th in the # 48 Honda Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing. At Long Beach, he had mixed success, but he was more in line with the leaders than he was earlier this season.
Johnson was 27th fastest on the first down after two laps and was 28th on the second down. Johnson qualified 27th with a fastest lap of 1 minute, 10.5127 seconds.
The box score might not compare to Johnson’s stellar performances in Northern California last weekend, which was a permanent road course, but Johnson said he was starting to feel comfortable on the circuits. urban. And believe it or not, he thinks it’s thanks to Nashville, where he admits to struggling.
“Everything is being built, although a lot is different here compared to what we had last weekend,” Johnson said. “If I think back to the last street run and that tire, even though Nashville statistically looked like a train wreck to me, it was really the start of a lot of self-confidence.
“Just a little bit of aggression at the wrong time surprised me and I had a poor performance. I am delighted to be taking a street class and wrestling with this car.”
- The stars were out today in Long Beach, just down the road from Hollywood. Celebrities spotted on the runway today included Sheri Easterling and Monty Lopez, social influencers and the parents of singer and social media personality Addison Rae.
- X-Games gold medalist and Olympic snowboarder Leticia Bufoni also took part in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES action, which circled the circuit in the INDYCAR SERIES two-seater car.
- Ed Jones continued his fine end to the 2021 season by qualifying ninth for the Acura Grand Prix at Long Beach. He bolstered the eighth and 14th qualifying efforts respectively over the past two weeks at the wheel of the # 18 Honda SealMaster.
- Callum Ilott, who will embark on a full-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES season with Juncos Hollinger Racing in 2022, qualified 18th in the No.77 Chevrolet. This is his best start of his three 2021 races with the team, on a track where he expected to struggle as he has never raced on concrete.
- The battle for the Rookie of the Year award will take an interesting turn when the green flag is waved on Sunday. Leader Scott McLaughlin will start 13th in the No. 3 Chevrolet Penske Team PPG, while Romain Grosjean, who is 20 points behind, will start sixth in the No. 51 Honda Nurtec ODT.
- The Streets of Long Beach circuit is proving difficult for NTT INDYCAR SERIES athletes. Drivers who spun, got off the track, made contact with the wall or had big moments in Saturday’s practice session included Romain Grosjean, Scott McLaughlin, Colton Herta, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter- Reay, Sébastien Bourdais, Helio Castroneves, Rinus VeeKay, Scott Dixon, Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou.
- Qualifying was also difficult for the drivers as they went out of their way for the best possible starting position. Jack Harvey lost control of his car and hit the tire barrier, and Will Power slipped on top of him. Colton Herta hit the wall several times to ruin his chances of winning his fourth pole of the season, while Romain Grosjean made light contact with the wall.