12:08 PM (PT) – The only Verizon IndyCar Series practice for the day is in the books, and it looks like qualifying is going to be an interesting affair. Josef Newgarden (whom you can listen to on this week’s More Front Wing podcast at http://morefrontwing.com/podcasts/episode103.mp3) and his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing crew are on the wheel this weekend after turning in another solid performance. Newgy wound up P2 in the session only a scant 0.0022 seconds behind Will Power.
The other feel good story through the weekend thus far has been the continued strong showing of Jack Hawksworth. Anyone who says they thought Hawksworth and BHA would be running consistently strong this early in the season it flat out lying. That team had a great run going at St. Petersburg, and it looks like they’re putting in another solid effort here.
At the other end of the timesheet, Graham Rahal and teammate Oriol Servia continue to struggle, finding themselves 19th and 20th on the sheets. Walking by that pit area after practice, I couldn’t help but notice many long and frustrated faces. Hopefully they’ll find the missing piece and figure out exactly why they are a second off the pace of the leaders.
Off the track, I finally figured out how to get to the outside the track and over to the fountain complex. The area over there is quite isolated from the rest of the track and really has a totally different feel. Where the eastern end of the track near the hairpin houses the paddock and a majority of the vendors, the western end has no grandstands, no vendors, and significantly fewer people. What it does have going for it is a stunning view of the marina and a much more relaxed atmosphere. It is the perfect place for the race fan that doesn’t want to be accosted by vendors or rub elbow-to-elbow with other patrons. With several restaurants lining the marina and more room to roam, this location is perfect for grabbing a bite to eat, enjoying some quieter family time, and then watching the cars when they are on track. If you’re looking to get away from the party atmosphere of the track, the fountain area of the facility is the place for you.
Quick note before I check out again, IndyCar veteran E.J. Viso is on site this weekend pounding the pavement to get back into the Verizon IndyCar Series. Viso is also participating in the Stadium Super Truck Series event. Always the jokester, Viso said about his ride this weekend, “I’ve never driven anything in the air except for the curbs in Baltimore.” Viso also says he’s hopeful to find funding to allow him to participate in next month’s Indianapolis 500.
IndyCar qualifying is coming up at 1:15 following the Toyota Pro Celebrity race. I’ll be back with more later.
9:22 AM (PT) – It’s day two at the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and once again, we have been blessed with Chamber of Commerce weather today. The morning started off a bit cloudy, but those clouds have burned away and temps are expected in the lower 60s.
This morning has already seen the Indy Lights on track for their last half-hour session before qualifying later this afternoon. The Verizon IndyCar Series will take to the track at 10:00 for their final practice session with many guys trying to get back on track after a frustrating day yesterday.
Last evening shortly after I closed down the Live Blog for the day, IndyCar announced that founding member and lead singer of The Who, Roger Daltry, will be in attendance today to bring awareness to Teen Cancer America. IndyCar drivers Justin Wilson, Scott Dixon, and Ryan Hunter-Reay will be serving as ambassadors for the organization.
One final note from this morning that you can put into the “you probably won’t find this anywhere else” file… The very most observant of races might notice on the fence outside of Turn 10 (driver’s right before the hairpin) a stuffed monkey hanging there. A quick chat with the corner marshalls informed me that the monkey is there in support of a British organization called Mission Motorsport. This charity uses motorsport to help in the recovery and rehabilitation process for those affected in military operations. More information about their organization can be found at http://www.missionmotorsport.org.
Back with more later.
NEXT PAGE: Archived coverage from opening day of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach