Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - Day 1

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

Astronaut has different kind of out of this world experience in an Indy car

HOUSTON, TX  - MARCH 4: NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly speaks to the media after returning from a one year mission in space aboard the International Space Station, at the Johnson Space Center March 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Kelly's his record-breaking yearlong mission was intended to provide critical data to understand how to keep astronauts healthy during long space voyages.  (Photo by Eric Kayne/Getty Images)
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Retired astronaut Cmdr. Scott Kelly has had a number of out of this world experiences, particularly serving three stints on the International Space Station.

There’s not much that can top that.

But to hear Kelly tell it, his recent visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway – and taking a ride around the legendary 2.5-mile oval in a two-seat Indy car – may have come pretty close.

Kelly and NASA PR rep Amiko Kauderer both took to Twitter to tout their respective rides that day, along with another tweet from IMS president Doug Boles.

Check them out:

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Congratulations to IndyCar driver JR Hildebrand on marriage to Kristin Paine

Indianapolis 500 - Practice
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While he’s still in the market for a full-time IndyCar ride in 2017, JR Hildebrand is officially off the market when it comes to the single life.

The Sausalito, California native, who now lives in Colorado, tied the knot on Oct. 16 with long-time girlfriend Kristin Paine in Boulder.

We wish the new Mr. & Mrs. Hildebrand all the best.

In the meantime, now back from their honeymoon, JR posted a few photos from before and after the wedding (photos are via @JRHildebrand on Twitter):

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Perez: “This year’s Mexican GP will be even better than last year’s”

xxxx during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 31, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.
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Sergio Perez is not expecting a sophomore slump for the second edition of the Mexican Grand Prix back on the calendar since 1992, in its second year at the refurbished, renovated and relaunched Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

If anything, the Sahara Force India driver expects the race to build on what it did last year, when it came back to a Formula 1 calendar after a 23-year hiatus.

“I have no doubt this year’s event will be even better than last year – expectations are huge following the success of 2015,” he said in the team’s pre-race advance.

“For me, the biggest surprise was the passion of the fans: all the affection I received, all the messages and all the incredible moments I experienced are what really made an impression on me. I am so happy to go back there.”

This is very much a home race for Perez, who finished eighth in it last year, but who could be poised to end better this go-around.

He is from Guadalajara and not Mexico City proper, but still holds an affinity for his home country’s capital city.

“Mexico City may be quite far from my city of Guadalajara, but I go there very often for professional reasons,” he said. “It’s a city I love and there’s so much going on: the best restaurants, so many sights and so many things to do. It is a huge city and sometimes traffic makes going from one side of town to the other feel like an adventure!

“It is, not surprisingly, one of my favorite moments in the season and last year’s was special not just for me, but for my team and for anyone who came to the race.”

Perez currently sits seventh in the Driver’s Championship with 84 points, having moved ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas as “best of the rest” behind the top six drivers from Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari at last week’s United States Grand Prix from Circuit of The Americas.

Gutierrez: “It’s a very special week for my whole career”

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 30:  Esteban Gutierrez announced as driver for Haas F1 Team on October 30, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images for Haas)
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Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez will have his first chance to race on home soil in Formula 1, when the Haas F1 Team driver competes in this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix from the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Gutierrez, then a Ferrari reserve driver, was announced in Mexico City last year as Haas’ second driver for 2016, alongside Romain Grosjean. But while he was at the track, he hasn’t been in a car here and that will change this weekend.

With the new version of the Haas VF-16 front wing expected to return to his chassis this weekend, Gutierrez is looking for a big weekend on home soil.

“It’s a very special week for my whole career,” he said in the team’s advance release. “It’s probably one of the best two weeks of my career because it represents so much to racing, to motorsports in Mexico in general, and to me. It’s a kind of connection where I can share my passion for racing and what I do with all Mexicans. I feel grateful for their support.”

Gutierrez reflected on what last year in Mexico was like for him.

“Last year was great. I could live the event from a different perspective, but now it will be even better when I will be racing there. I’m very excited to enjoy that.

“The atmosphere was amazing. I enjoyed it so much. Obviously, I would have liked to have been racing, but that was my position and the reality is that I wanted to enjoy in that perspective. It was a very special weekend and I felt very proud to see all the fans having a huge interaction. It turned out to be one of the best events of the season.”

With the new front wing expected and the circuit’s long straights expected to suit the Haas, which doesn’t have a ton of downforce, it could play to his and the team’s benefit this weekend.

“Romain ran the new front wing all weekend. Esteban did 20 laps on Friday and then we discovered a problem with the front wing. We had to go back to the old version because we had no spare because that was damaged in Japan when Esteban had the contact with Carlos Sainz. These wings are very complicated to make and they take a long time, but we should have the new version of the wing again for Esteban in Mexico,” team principal Guenther Steiner said.

Gutierrez added, “It will be important to do the best we can with our car. It’s a track we believe can suit the style of our car, and we’re hoping that will be the case. It’s going to be important to have as much track time as possible to adapt to the circuit.”

Several finishes of 11th have left Gutierrez on the fringes of scoring a point this season, but not yet having cracked the top-10 in any race this season.