O’Ward tops IndyCar first practice at Long Beach ahead of Team Penske’s Power and McLaughlin

Aerial shot of the Long Beach track
Photo Credit: Penske Entertainment
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Pato O’Ward topped the opening practice session for Arrow McLaren ahead of the Team Penske pair Scott McLaughlin and Will Power.

Felix Rosenqvist set the fourth-best time ahead of Josef Newgarden in a highly competitive opening outing.

The first IndyCar practice session at Long Beach got underway, and many cars swarmed onto the circuit in California.

They quickly returned to the pit lane after completing installation laps at the start of the 45-minute session, and a sense of calm descended over the track.

After a lull, the circuit became busier as the drivers gained valuable track time, including debutant and FIA F2 champion Theo Pourchaire for Arrow McLaren.

On his first outing at Long Beach, the Frenchman took a conservative approach to getting up to speed, braking early into Turn 1.

Sting Ray Robb topped the standings with 1:10.3346 ahead of Dutchman Rinus Veekay’s 1:10.5254.

Linus Lundqvist usurped the A. J. Foyt Racing driver with half an hour to go. The Swede quickly dropped to third place behind Marcus Ericsson and Power as the track continued to gain grip.

Tom Blomqvist’s session started disrupted; the British driver only joined the circuit for the first time with 27 minutes remaining. The Meyer Shank Racing driver had a throttle position sensor issue, which cost him almost 20 minutes of track time.

With 22 minutes to go, the American went faster by one-tenth and snatched the top spot from Power in the weekend’s opening session.

The Kiwi brushed the wall on the exit of Turn 4 and subsequently backed out of his lap before returning to the pit lane in his Team Penske car.

With 15 minutes remaining, Herta held the best time ahead of Power. Despite storming to victory in 2023, Kyle Kirkwood suffered a quiet session and sat in 27th place for Andretti after enduring a mechanical issue.

Similarly, Team Penske’s Newgarden sat outside the top 20 for much of the session before improving to set the 11th quickest time.

Power ran wide into the runoff area at the end of Seaside Way as he began to push the limits. American Alexander Rossi ran wide at Turn 1 at the biggest braking zone on the track. They were both able to continue without sustaining damage.

McLaughlin leapfrogged Herta in the closing stages of the first segment to set the fastest time, lapping the 1.968-mile circuit in 1:07.3709.

Photo Credit: Penske Entertainment

The red flags were brought out with half a minute remaining after Kyffin Simpson stalled in the runoff area at the end of Seaside Way, ending the first part of the session.

At the end of the first 45-minute session, the 10-minute sections began with the field split into two groups.

For the first time in the session, the drivers used the grippier, less durable Firestone alternate tyres. Danish driver Christian Lundgaard used the added grip to go fastest for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. 

The driver of the number 45 car was beaten by O’Ward halfway through the session, as Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Agustin Canapino moved into fourth place.

The Mexican topped the session with a 1:06.6874 ahead of Rosenqvist and Lundgaard.

O’Ward remained at the top as Nolan Siegel locked up at Turn 9 and eventually returned to the track after navigating the narrow run-off area.

Power improved to third moments before Simpson stalled in the run-off area at Turn 9 with 1:45 remaining. 

Theo Pourchaire placed P21 overall, just under 1.6s slower than teammate and fastest man Pato O’Ward.