LONG BEACH, Calif. – Will Power hasn’t sat on pole at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach since 2011, but if practice pace is any indication, the Australian is the favorite to win the Verizon P1 Award later this afternoon.
In this morning's last practice before qualifying, drivers attacked the year-old lap record on the marquee on the 1.968-mile temporary street course. Power’s No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet topped the 21-car field with a lap of 1 minute, 6.8892 seconds (105.918 mph), less than three-tenths of a second short of the track record set in 2015 by teammate Helio Castroneves in Firestone Fast Six qualifying.
Joining Power, the Long Beach pole winner in 2009, '10 and '11, atop the timing sheet this morning were all three of his Team Penske teammates. Simon Pagenaud’s No. 22 PPG Automotive Finish Chevrolet was second fastest (1:07.1162), Castroneves in the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet third (1:07.2635) and the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet of Juan Pablo Montoya fourth (1:07.3157).
CLICK HERE: Practice 3 results; Combined practice results; Qualifying groups: Friday highlights video from Long Beach
Team owner Roger Penske, who was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame on Thursday, felt good about his quartet's chances in qualifying and the prospect of breaking the track standard of 1:06.6294 (106.331 mph) Castroneves established a year ago.
"Our guys have migrated to close to the same setup," Penske said. "Juan was very quick yesterday when he came out and Power obviously is a master around here. We look at the (lap) traces and the guys understand where they've got to be better, and I think the preparation has been good. Our shock work and aerodynamics seem to be good. Do you put more on or do you take some downforce out? That's going to be the question for qualifying."
Making a splash in Practice 3 was Russian Mikhail Aleshin (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda), who posted a best lap of 1:07.3949, the best of all Honda-powered entries and fifth-quickest overall.
Ten minutes into the session, Ryan Hunter-Reay slid his No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport into the Turn 9 tire barrier, bringing out a brief red flag. The 2010 Long Beach race winner and 2014 pole winner returned to the course and posted a best lap of 1:07.7190, good enough for P14. Also finding the wall late was the No. 15 PennGrade Motor Oil Honda of Graham Rahal, again in Turn 9. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver finished the session P6 (1:07.4066) but his car sustained significant left-front damage in the incident.
Verizon P1 Award qualifying to set the race starting begins at 5 p.m. ET. It will be streamed live at RaceControl.IndyCar.com and telecast on a tape-delay basis on NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET. Coverage of Sunday’s 80-lap race, the 33rd straight Indy car event on the iconic streets of Long Beach circuit begins at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.