Graham Rahal fastest in final IndyCar practice at Long Beach

Photo: IndyCar
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Graham Rahal was pretty dejected when his car wrecked during Saturday’s practice for today’s 42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, suffering left front and left rear damage.

But after overnight repairs, Rahal’s Honda showed little worse for the wear, as he was fastest in Sunday morning’s final practice session on the nearly two-mile road course.

Rahal led all 21 cars in the warmup with a best speed of 105.222 and a top time of 1:07.3319.

However, Rahal will have a long way to get back to the front in today’s race, as he starts from the 17th position.

The rest of the top five in Sunday’s practice were polesitter Helio Castroneves (104.866 mph at 1:07.5605), Juan Pablo Montoya (104.783 mph at 1:07.6142), James Hinchcliffe (104.739 mph at 1:07.6426) and Scott Dixon (104.670 mph at 1:07.6871).

But several drivers struggled to get speed. Will Power was second-to-last on the speed chart with a speed of 103.656 mph at 1:08.3493, and Marco Andretti was two spots ahead of Power at 103.756 mph at 1:08.2832.

Sixth through 10th were Sebastien Bourdais (104.652 mph at 1:07.6984), Simon Pagenaud (104.632 at 1:07.7117), Ryan Hunter-Reay (104.537 at 1:07.7734), Mikhail Aleshin (104.375 at 1:07.8785) and Alexander Rossi (104.337).

The rest of the drivers, from 11th through 21st, were Takuma Sato (104.235 at 1:07.9693), Max Chilton (104.210 at 1:07.9861), Tony Kanaan (104.131 at 1:08.0373), Charlie Kimball (104.114 at 1:08.0488), Conor Daly (104.110 at 1:08.0508), Josef Newgarden (104.077 at 1:08.0725), Jack Hawksworth (104.043 at 1:08.0952), Marco Andretti (104.010 at 1:08.1167), Carlos Munoz (103.756 at 1:08.2832), Will Power (103.656 at 1:08.3493) and Luca Filippi (102.623 at 1:09.0371).

There were a few minor mishaps in the 30-minute session – primarily single car, no-damage spins — that involved Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball and Dixon on the final lap.

Luca Filippi also suffered a wheel fire when carbon on the outside of the rotor lit up. The fire was quickly extinguished and Filippi was back on the track shortly afterward.

 

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Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”