Franchitti leads Long Beach practice

Dario Franchitti topped Friday morning practice for the IndyCar Series' Long Beach debut

Franchitti leads Long Beach practice

The Scotsman and his Ganassi team are making their first appearance at the legendary California street track since 2002, as Long Beach has been added to the unified IndyCar schedule this year after hosting the Champ Car finale last season.

Franchitti's time of 1m11.1915s gave him a clear 0.3-second margin over St Petersburg winner Ryan Briscoe (Penske) in second place.

Mario Moraes took a surprise third for KV Racing, which is set to announce this afternoon that it will add Paul Tracy to its line-up for at least the Indianapolis 500.

Will Power took fourth in the second Penske car, but the main news for Roger Penske's team was that while practice was underway Helio Castroneves was found not guilty by the jury in his tax evasion trial in Miami.

The Brazilian is expected to reclaim his seat from Power from the next race at Kansas, amid speculation that he could even fly straight to Long Beach to drive a third Penske entry this weekend.

Newman/Haas/Lanigan duo Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos completed the top six, Doornbos having been comfortably fastest in the initial half-hour session for rookies and drivers outside the top ten in the championship.

Reigning champion Scott Dixon was seventh for Ganassi, with Mike Conway impressing for Dreyer & Reinbold again in ninth - although Luczo Dragon's Raphael Matos was the top rookie this time, one place ahead.

Andretti Green had a disappointing session, with Tony Kanaan - the best of its drivers - having a spin on the way to 11th ahead of St Pete heroes Ryan Hunter-Reay (Vision) and Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing)

Alex Tagliani and Darren Manning have managed to extend their respective one-race deals with Conquest and Dreyer & Reinbold to encompass Long Beach as well, and were 17th and 18th fastest.

Pos Driver Team Time 1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1m11.1915s 2. Ryan Briscoe Penske 1m11.5385s + 0.3470s 3. Mario Moraes KV 1m11.6395s + 0.4480s 4. Will Power Penske 1m11.6512s + 0.4597s 5. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 1m11.6777s + 0.4862s 6. Robert Doornbos Newman/Haas/Lanigan 1m11.9263s + 0.7348s 7. Scott Dixon Ganassi 1m11.9562s + 0.7647s 8. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon 1m12.023s + 0.8318s 9. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 1m12.0611s + 0.8696s 10. EJ Viso HVM 1m12.1371s + 0.9456s 11. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 1m12.3380s + 1.1465s 12. Ryan Hunter-Reay Vision 1m12.3799s + 1.1884s 13. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne 1m12.5172s + 1.3257s 14. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 1m12.6952s + 1.5037s 15. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 1m12.7809s + 1.5894s 16. Dan Wheldon Panther 1m12.8060s + 1.6145s 17. Alex Tagliani Conquest 1m13.3121s + 2.1206s 18. Darren Manning Dreyer & Reinbold 1m13.4413s + 2.2498s 19. Vitor Meira Foyt 1m13.5154s + 2.3239s 20. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 1m13.8488s + 2.6573s 21. Ed Carpenter Vision 1m13.8651s + 2.6736s 22. Stanton Barrett 3G 1m14.1921s + 3.0006s 

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