- Associated Press - Friday, April 11, 2014

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) - The Frenchmen were the fastest Friday on the streets of Long Beach.

Simon Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais were first and second in the final practice before qualifying for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Pagenaud was quickest on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn circuit with a lap of 1 minute, 9.1488 seconds.

“The car’s been wonderful. I think the team’s done a great job over the winter at helping the car on the curbs and on the bumps,” Pagenaud said about his Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports entry. “I feel pretty confident this weekend, we’ve got a pretty good package.”

Three-time winner Bourdais was 0.0120 seconds back in his KV-SH Racing entry.

“I’m pretty happy with where we’re at, we still have a bit of work to do, but the KV-SH Group has done a whole lot over the winter and we’re showcasing it this weekend and hopefully we can put it up front,” he said. “It’s going to be hard to make a move on somebody on Sunday, so track position is going to be crucial more than ever, but every time we say that we end up seeing more passing than any other race.”

Jack Hawksworth, a rookie, was third, followed by defending race winner Takuma Sato. Will Power, winner of the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Fla., rounded out the top five.

Honda had the edge with six cars in the top 10.

Juan Pablo Montoya had his strongest showing to date with the ninth-fastest speed in the second practice. The Colombian is back in open wheel after seven seasons in NASCAR.

“I’m doing a better job,” Montoya said. “I feel like I’m pushing myself harder here than at St. Pete. At St. Pete it was all about being cautious. Here, I’m trying to get a little more performance out of the car early on. We’re making progress. We aren’t there yet but we aren’t that bad.”

Five things going on Friday at Long Beach:

FUTURE OF THE RACE: As the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach prepares for its 40th running on Sunday, its future is under attack.

Grand Prix founder Chris Pook wants the rights to the race back to return Formula One to the streets. The Long Beach City Council recently gave the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach a three-year extension that keeps IndyCar here through 2018, but could open the event up for bidding after that.

F1 ran at Long Beach from 1976 through 1983, then the event became a CART race.

IndyCar drivers want the race to remain an IndyCar event.

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