Power has good day at the beach, leading Long Beach practice

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – No day at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is a day at the beach, but two-time race winner Will Power made it seem so as he topped the leaderboard in today's Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions on the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit.

The Australian quite literally "powered" his No. 12 Team Penske Verizon Chevrolet to second quick in the morning session, then laid down a lap of 1 minute, 7.5992 seconds (104.806 mph) in the afternoon to beat the rest of the 21-car field on the combined sessions time sheet by two-tenths of a second. 

CLICK HERE: Practice 2 resultsCombined practice resultsVisor cam lap with Marco Andretti

"It’s been a good start,” said Power, whose best lap in Practice 1 (1:08.3714) was bettered only by teammate Juan Pablo Montoya (1:08.1290). “This morning I learned some stuff with Juan, and we’re progressing really well. This is a track where I’ve struggled the last couple of years in qualifying, starting (the race) way back there, so I want to start up front and give ourselves a better chance to win the race.”

James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was also strong on the day, piloting his No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda to P6 in the opening session and bettering that by going second quick in the afternoon (and for the day) with a best time of 1:07.8223 (104.461 mph). 

“The No. 5 Arrow Electronics car was great off the truck," Hinchcliffe said. "We made very few changes over lunch, which is always a nice thing when you’re not thrashing, and the pace was still relatively decent this afternoon. It doesn’t matter until it matters (in qualifying), but it’s definitely a good starting point for us.”

Hinchcliffe was also quick to praise the Long Beach event, celebrating its 42nd running and 33rd straight with Indy cars this weekend, second in longevity on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule only to the Indianapolis 500. 

“It’s a track that I really like coming to. It’s an event that I love coming to. … You don’t successfully pull something off for 42 years unless you’re doing something right, and they do a lot right here,” said Hinchcliffe. “The circuit itself, as far as street courses go, is one of the most unique. You’ve got some of the coolest corners in street-course racing. I think that’s what makes the track pretty special and pretty unique, and a good challenge for us drivers, too.”

After running 12th in the morning session, Graham Rahal jumped to third in the afternoon in the No. 15 PennGrade Motor Oil Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1:07.8853, 104.364 mph). 

“The PennGrade car seems to be good, the balance isn’t bad,” said Rahal, whose best finish at Long Beach was runner-up in 2013. “We have a couple things to work on, but we’re in a good position right now. I feel good about what the car is giving me. We have a little more work to do in terms of competitiveness, but we seem to be very close.”

Verizon IndyCar Series action at Long Beach continues Saturday morning, with practice at 1 p.m. ET and qualifying at 5 p.m. ET. Both will be streamed live at RaceControl.IndyCar.com. NBCSN will air a tape-delayed qualifying broadcast at 6 p.m. ET Saturday.

Coverage of the 80-lap Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network begins at 4 p.m. ET Sunday.

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