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Hinchcliffe starts fastest in Long Beach

The first track activity of the weekend saw Andretti Autosport's James Hinchcliffe almost two tenths ahead of the field in practice at Long Beach.
Clear skies, light and variable winds and temperatures just moving into the 70s Fahrenheit greeted the drivers on Friday morning, as the first practice session for the Verizon IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach got underway.

The weather could hardly have been better for the IndyCar teams as they took to the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit. KVSH Racing pair Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Saavedra were among the early fast runners during the 45-minute practice, but most drivers took a relaxed and laid back approach to the morning. They were instead content to stay on pit road, undertake pit stop practice or else concentrate on fine tuning their standings start skills, as this year will see the first such start to the race at Long Beach.

Gradually the activity picked up, but was then promptly interrupted halfway through the scheduled running time by a red flag for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's Josef Newgarden making contact with the tyre wall in turn 8, just after the #67 had posted the fastest time of the day so far.

That left 16 minutes on the clock once the green flag signalled that the track had reopened, and it was only a few minutes later than Bourdais also made light contact with the tyres, this time in turn 1 and without causing a stoppage as he was able to bring the #11 back to pit road without assistance.

Andretti Autosport's James Hinchcliffe went top with a time of 1:09.9262s six minutes from the end of the session. His time stood to the chequered flag which left him 0.1795s ahead of Team Penske's Helio Castroneves; the Canadian had also topped the opening session at last year's race, albeit a second faster in 2013 before the team's switch from Chevrolet to Honda power.

Dale Coyne Racing's Justin Wilson in third ahead of Hinchcliffe's team mate Ryan Hunter-Reay. Despite his earlier mishap, Newgarden was able to secure fifth fastest spot a tenth of a second ahead of championship leader Will Power, meaning that four of the top six cars are Honda powered and only the two Penskes showing up for the bow tie brigade.

Rookie driver Jack Hawksworth was an impressive seventh place for Bryan Herta Autosport, just a couple of hundredths faster than his compatriot Mike Conway who was eighth fastest in the session in the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing entry. In total, 17 of the 22 cars were within one second of Hinchcliffe's benchmark.

Tony Kanaan has been cleared to race this weekend despite having been diagnose with a scratched eye, which apparently occurred when a make-up lady was preparing him for an appearance on a TV talk show during the week.

See full practice 1 times and results



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Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]

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