Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe lock out Long Beach front row for Andretti (VIDEO)

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The Honda-powered Andretti Autosport tandem of Ryan Hunter-Reay (pictured) and James Hinchcliffe will lead the field to the green flag tomorrow in the 40th Anniversary of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Hinchcliffe jumped to the top of the Firestone Fast Six in the final minute with a time of 1:07.9403, but it was his American teammate Hunter-Reay that denied him his first career IndyCar pole by posting a 1:07.8219 with no time left on the clock.

It’s Hunter-Reay’s sixth career pole and his first since Mid-Ohio in 2013.

“It just comes down to this team giving me what I need, when I need it,” Hunter-Reay told the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. “Wow, what a qualifying session. It was unreal. You never knew who was going to put in the [best] lap – it was anybody’s session.

“…It’s a good start for us but tomorrow’s going to be challenging. We’ve got the standing start and a long day on the Beach, but I’m just thrilled to be here. I love this race – we’ve been on the outside pole so many times here, [but we] finally got the big one.”

Sebastien Bourdais, a three-time winner in Champ Car at Long Beach, was the lone Chevrolet-powered driver to make the FF6 and was able to earn P3 on the grid with a time of 1:07.9580.

Josef Newgarden has set himself up for a possible upset bid tomorrow after qualifying fourth (1:08.0097), while British rookie Jack Hawksworth (1:08.0525) and French veteran Simon Pagenaud (1:08.0732) will make up Row 3.

Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti start in Row 4, and Helio Castroneves and Justin Wilson are in Row 5.

The biggest shock of the first round was IndyCar points leader Will Power’s failure to advance out. The Australian won the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg two weeks ago, but now must roll off from 14th position tomorrow – a tough climb on a course as tight as Long Beach.

“Man, that’s bad for us,” Power told IMS Radio. “We were just a little too conservative on the two laps that counted and, yeah, just not quite right, unfortunately. But we’re starting 14th, and we’ll see what we can do.

“It all depends on the yellows. If it’s a full green race, yes, it would be very difficult to make your way forward. But with some yellows there [and] a bit of strategy, we can potentially have a good day.”

Other notables that didn’t make it out of Round 1 were Tony Kanaan in 13th, defending Long Beach champion Takuma Sato in 15th, and open-wheel returnee Juan Pablo Montoya in 16th.

Sato ended up losing his two fastest laps in his Round 1 group session after he was found to have interfered with Hunter-Reay’s progress on the track.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES – TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH
Starting Lineup

ROW 1
1. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport
2. 27-James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport
ROW 2
3. 11-Sebastien Bourdais, KVSH Racing
4. 67-Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
ROW 3
5. 98-Jack Hawksworth (rookie), Bryan Herta Autosport
6. 77-Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
ROW 4
7. 9-Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
8. 25-Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport
ROW 5
9. 3-Helio Castroneves, Team Penske
10. 19-Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing
ROW 6
11. 34-Carlos Munoz (rookie), Andretti Autosport
12. 16-Oriol Servia, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
ROW 7
13. 10-Tony Kanaan, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
14. 12-Will Power, Team Penske
ROW 8
15. 14-Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Racing
16. 2-Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske
ROW 9
17. 20-Mike Conway, Ed Carpenter Racing
18. 8-Ryan Briscoe, Chip Ganassi Racing
ROW 10
19. 83-Charlie Kimball, Chip Ganassi Racing
20. 7-Mikhail Aleshin (rookie), Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
ROW 11
21. 18-Carlos Huertas (rookie), Dale Coyne Racing
22. 17-Sebastian Saavedra, KV/AFS Racing
ROW 12
23. 15-Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.