A trio of Honda drivers maintained the manufacturer’s stranglehold on the top of the timesheet during preparations for the NTT IndyCar Series’ annual visit to the Long Beach street circuit with Alexander Rossi ultimately surfacing with the top lap to begin qualifying day.
Scott Dixon improved upon the fastest lap from Friday’s two sessions late in the Saturday morning outing but was overcome by Graham Rahal who lowered the mark further to a 1:07.1866.
The final lap turned by reigning Long Beach winner Rossi was completed after the appearance of the checkered flag but was 0.1278 seconds faster than the best from Rahal, who had already returned to his pit box. At 1:07.0588, Rossi’s lap was a significant 0.7352 seconds quicker than the one that made Dixon fastest on Friday.
Ryan Hunter-Reay added a second Andretti-prepared Honda to the top five, 0.3444 seconds quicker on his best tour of the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit than Simon Pagenaud, who placed fifth.
The No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet of Josef Newgarden followed Pagenaud on the timesheet in fifth over Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Pato O’Ward and Will Power in the remainder of the top 10. Honda held a 6-4 advantage in the group, which lapped within 0.4673 seconds.
Sebastien Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe in 11th and 12th also came within half a second of Rossi’s leading time while Matheus Leist, having ventured into runoff areas twice, brought up the rear of the 23-car field at 1.1104 seconds off the pace. All 23 drivers set their best times of the weekend during Practice 3.
Qualifying for the newly named Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is next for IndyCar in Southern California. The grid will be set beginning at 12:10 p.m. Saturday with live television coverage on NBCSN.