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Long Beach: Penske sweeps final practice

Will Power headed a Penske 1-2-3-4 in the third and final practice session at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, setting up an intriguing qualifying battle.

Will Power continued to set the pace at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, leading the way as Team Penske occupied the top four spots in Saturday morning practice ahead of qualifying for Sunday's race.

The Australian hasn't sat on pole in Long Beach since 2011 but, if practice pace is any indication, the Australian is favourite to win the Verizon P1 Award later this afternoon.

Morning practice saw numerous drivers attacking the year-old lap record, with Power's #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet eventually topping the 21-car field with a lap of 1min 06.8892secs, less than three-tenths of a second short of the fastest ever, set in 2015 by Penske team-mate Helio Castroneves during Firestone Fast Six qualifying.

Joining Power atop the timing sheet were all three of his current Team Penske team-mates, with Simon Pagenaud's #22 PPG Automotive Finish Chevrolet second fastest ahead of Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya. Unsurprisingly, 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 1min 06.6294secs established a year ago.

"Our guys have migrated to close to the same set-up," he revealed, "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 third practice was Russian Mikhail Aleshin, who posted a best lap of 1min 07.3949secs, the best of all Honda-powered entries and fifth-quickest overall.

On the other end of the scale, Ryan Hunter-Reay slid his #28 DHL Honda into the turn nine tyre barrier with just ten minutes on the clock, 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 1min 07.7190secs, good enough for P14, while Graham Rahal also found the turn nine wall in his #15 PennGrade Motor Oil Honda and, while he finished the session in P6, the car sustained significant left-front damage in the incident.

Tagged as: Penske , Indycar , Will Power , Long Beach

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