Hunter-Reay leads Long Beach practice two

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Ryan Hunter-Reay led an incident-marred second practice session at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach at 1:09.4224.

“We’re executing a little better,” said the Andretti Autosport driver and defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion. “We’ll take the balance of what we learned today and apply it to tomorrow. We know what we’re working with.”

Mike Conway was second once again for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, with Will Power, Tristan Vautier and Helio Castroneves in the top five.

Conway, who like Hunter-Reay is a former Long Beach race winner (2011), hasn’t appeared to miss a beat for his first race back in IndyCar since Baltimore last year.

“There were cobwebs, but I felt good coming into the weekend,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about this since February.”

James Jakes, Alex Tagliani, Dario Franchitti, Takuma Sato and James Hinchcliffe completed the top 10.

Four red flags peppered the 45-minute session for the IZOD IndyCar Series. Sebastian Saavedra, Justin Wilson, Simona de Silvestro, Scott Dixon and E.J. Viso all had unscheduled appointments with the concrete barriers.

Saavedra led off the session when nosing into the Turn 1 wall. Later, Wilson went into the tires at Turn 8 and de Silvestro, who ran a wider exit of the 90-degree right hander, crashed right into him with nowhere to go.

Turn 9 was the trouble spot for both Dixon and Viso. Dixon hit the wall exiting the corner and damaged his left rear suspension, while Viso nosed into the tire barriers going into the corner.

Combined times from Practice 1 and 2 are below:

Rank  Car Driver            Team                C/E/T Time 

1.     1    Ryan Hunter-Reay     Andretti               D/C/F 1:09.4224
2.     17   Mike Conway          RLL                    D/H/F 1:09.4603
3.     12   Will Power           Penske                 D/C/F 1:09.5166
4.     55   Tristan Vautier      Schmidt Peterson       D/H/F 1:09.5657
5.     3    Helio Castroneves    Penske                 D/C/F 1:09.6008
6.     16   James Jakes          RLL                    D/H/F 1:09.7664
7.     98   Alex Tagliani        Barracuda/BHA          D/H/F 1:09.7829
8.     10   Dario Franchitti     Target Chip Ganassi    D/H/F 1:09.7891
9.     27   James Hinchcliffe    Andretti               D/C/F 1:09.8157*
10.    14   Takuma Sato          Foyt                   D/H/F 1:09.9197
11.    78   Simona de Silvestro  KV                     D/C/F 1:10.0767*
12.    19   Justin Wilson        Coyne                  D/H/F 1:10.1028*
13.    9    Scott Dixon          Target Chip Ganassi    D/H/F 1:10.1479*
14.    15   Graham Rahal         RLL                    D/H/F 1:10.1906*
15.    67   Josef Newgarden      Fisher Hartman         D/H/F 1:10.2081*
16.    77   Simon Pagenaud       Schmidt Hamilton       D/H/F 1:10.2472
17.    25   Marco Andretti       Andretti               D/C/F 1:10.3292
18.    7    Sebastien Bourdais   Dragon                 D/C/F 1:10.3736
19.    4    JR Hildebrand        Panther                D/C/F 1:10.4001*
20.    11   Tony Kanaan          KV                     D/C/F 1:10.4956
21.    2    AJ Allmendinger    Penske                 D/C/F 1:10.5424
22.    5    EJ Viso              Venezuela/Andretti/HVM D/C/F 1:10.8132
23.    83   Charlie Kimball      Novo Nordisk Ganassi   D/H/F 1:10.8156*
24.    18   Ana Beatriz          Coyne                  D/H/F 1:11.0011*
25.    22   Oriol Servia         Panther DRR            D/C/F 1:11.0586*
26.    6    Sebastian Saavedra   Dragon                 D/C/F 1:11.0693*
27.    20   Ed Carpenter         Carpenter              D/C/F 1:11.6747

*Fastest time set in Practice 1 instead of Practice 2

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.