Herta heads Long Beach practice, McLaughlin seventh

Colton Herta paced practice in Long Beach. Picture: Chris Jones

Colton Herta topped Practice 1 at the Grand Prix of Long Beach in what was a 45-minute outing punctuated by a handful of red flag interruptions.

The Andretti Autosport pilot clocked a 1:09.2680s on his 11th lap of the beachside circuit, edging out Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud by 0.1654s.

The session wasn’t without a scare for Herta, who had a big slide out of Turn 8 and nearly put his car in the wall.

“It was one of those things where the car kind of saves itself,” said Herta.

“I was just along for the ride. I took a little too much kerb, the car bottomed, and after that, I don’t know what happened.”

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden caused the first red flag after he spun at Turn 9 and stalled a little over 15 minutes into the session.

“We rolled off with a couple of gremlins and didn’t make much work in the first session,” said Newgarden.

“But I’ve got a good feel for the car, and it feels like we have something to work with. I feel confident going into (qualifying), just need some time to digest everything.”

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Oliver Askew drew the red flag when he clipped the outside wall at Turn 1. He would wind up 26th after just eight laps of the street circuit.

His team-mates were relatively lacklustre too, Graham Rahal only 19th and Takuma Sato 21st.

As Askew hit the wall, Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Jimmie Johnson also spun after a lock up.

Only five minutes later, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series winner spun again, followed by his team-mate Scott Dixon who brought out the red flag with a few minutes remaining.

They would end the session 27th and 13th respectively.

The session was littered with incidents; Romain Grosjean (Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing), Dalton Kellett (A. J. Foyt Enterprises), and Pagenaud all taking to the escape road at some point during the session.

IndyCar Series title favourite Alex Palou wasn’t far off the pace for Chip Ganassi Racing, his 1:09.4554s putting him a mere 0.1874s away from Herta to end up third.

Felix Rosenqvist led the way for McLaren SP in fourth while Ryan Hunter-Reay, who will depart Andretti Autosport at the end of 2021, was fifth.

IndyCar Series veteran Helio Castroneves was sixth for Meyer Shank Racing while Team Penske’s rookie Scott McLaughlin wound up seventh, 0.3532s off Herta.

James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Steinbrenner Racing), Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport), and Newgarden completed the top 10.

Palou’s title adversary Pato O’Ward of McLaren SP was only 16th and 0.9771s away from the top of the timesheets.

The 22-year-old was downbeat having only set his best lap of the session on his last flier.

“That’s where we’re at, we need to work,” said O’Ward.

“I don’t know. It’s just everywhere. It’s just everywhere, like we were last weekend, so we just need to sort something out and find time.”

Asked what the team needed to do to get back in contention, O’Ward replied, “I guess we yard sale the car and see where we go.”

Practice 2 gets underway tomorrow at 02:00 (AEST) before qualifying at 05:05 (AEST).

The 85-lap Grand Prix of Long Beach takes place on Monday at 05:30 (AEST).

Results: IndyCar Series Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Practice 1

Pos Num Name Time Diff Gap Engine Team
1 26 Colton Herta 1:09.2680 Honda Andretti Autosport
2 22 Simon Pagenaud 1:09.4334 0.1654 0.1654 Chevy Team Penske
3 10 Alex Palou 1:09.4554 0.1874 0.022 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
4 7 Felix Rosenqvist 1:09.4870 0.2190 0.0316 Chevy Arrow McLaren SP
5 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1:09.5154 0.2474 0.0284 Honda Andretti Autosport
6 6 Helio Castroneves 1:09.5703 0.3023 0.0549 Honda Meyer Shank Racing
7 3 Scott McLaughlin 1:09.6212 0.3532 0.0509 Chevy Team Penske
8 29 James Hinchcliffe 1:09.6276 0.3596 0.0064 Honda Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport
9 27 Alexander Rossi 1:09.7940 0.5260 0.1664 Honda Andretti Autosport
10 2 Josef Newgarden 1:09.8557 0.5877 0.0617 Chevy Team Penske
11 51 Romain Grosjean 1:09.8807 0.6127 0.0250 Honda Dale Coyne Racing w/RWR
12 12 Will Power 1:09.9916 0.7236 0.1109 Chevy Team Penske
13 9 Scott Dixon 1:10.0535 0.7855 0.0619 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
14 18 Ed Jones 1:10.1145 0.8465 0.0610 Honda Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan
15 60 Jack Harvey 1:10.1758 0.9078 0.0613 Honda Meyer Shank Racing
16 5 Pato O’Ward 1:10.2451 0.9771 0.0693 Chevy Arrow McLaren SP
17 8 Marcus Ericsson 1:10.3153 1.0473 0.0702 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
18 14 Sebastien Bourdais 1:10.3788 1.1108 0.0635 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
19 15 Graham Rahal 1:10.5113 1.2433 0.1325 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
20 21 Rinus VeeKay 1:10.7374 1.4694 0.2261 Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
21 30 Takuma Sato 1:10.7675 1.4995 0.0301 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
22 59 Max Chilton 1:10.7844 1.5164 0.0169 Chevy Carlin
23 20 Conor Daly 1:10.9036 1.6356 0.1192 Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
24 11 Charlie Kimball 1:11.0619 1.7939 0.1583 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
25 77 Callum Ilott 1:11.1181 1.8501 0.0562 Chevy Juncos Hollinger Racing
26 45 Oliver Askew 1:11.2253 1.9573 0.1072 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
27 48 Jimmie Johnson 1:11.4371 2.1691 0.2118 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
28 4 Dalton Kellett 1:11.7969 2.5289 0.3598 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises

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