Pato O’Ward pulled a late flyer to pace an incident filled opening practice for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The Arrow McLaren Chevrolet driver set himself in a class of his own by lapping the 1.98-mile street circuit in 1 minute 7.2233 seconds. The lap was a clear .265s ahead of six-time series champion Scott Dixon, who also turned a speedy lap late to take second place in his Chip Ganassi Racing entry.
It’s a tight field,” O’Ward said. “Long Beach is always such an intense qualifying. We just kept chipping at it today. We rolled off strong, but we’ve been definitely making adjustments to get it a little more in the window, a bit more to this track’s characteristics and to what I like. So far, it’s good.”
Honda powered entries took the next four spots with Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta taking third with Marcus Ericsson sandwiched fourth between the fellow Andretti entry of Romain Grosjean in fifth and Alex Palou making it three Ganassi entries in the top ten in sixth.
Chevrolet brought up the next three spots with O’Ward’s McLaren teammate Alexander Rossi landing in seventh place ahead of Callum Ilott in eighth with Felix Rosenqvist securing all the McLaren entries in the top ten in ninth.
Christian Lungard shined for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing by taking the 10th quickest time on the day.
Texas winner Josef Newgarden got off to a rocky start early after skimming the Turn 5 barrier. The incident damaged the left wheels and the edge of the floor of his No. Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Graham Rahal also suffered extremely minor damage in Turn 5 after spinning.
Separate incidents involving Helio Castroneves and Agustin Canapino brought out the session’s lone red flag with around 30 minutes remaining. Castroneves stopped in Turn 11 while Canapino slid down the Turn 9 escape road.
O’Ward also encountered drama when he slid in Turn 9 with 18 minutes to go.