Team Penske is at it again. Helio Castroneves grabbed the Pole for Sunday’s race at Long Beach, and his teammate Juan Montoya will start alongside him on the front row. On his way to the top spot, Castroneves set a new track record, with a lap of 1:06.6294 around the streets of Long Beach.
Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay will share row two, and Simon Pagenaud will join Josef Newgarden in row three. Rounding out the top ten starters are Tony Kanaan, Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais, and Marco Andretti. Six of the top seven cars are powered by Chevrolet engines.
One name you didn’t see in the Top Ten and probably expected to, was Will Power. The Team Penske driver waited a little too long during the first round of qualifications, and didn’t get in a fast lap before the red flag came out for Stefano Coletti. He failed to advance out of the first round, and will start 18th in tomorrow’s race.
For Dixon, it will be an opportunity for him to conquer a circuit in which he has been anything but spectacular. It’s hard to believe, but in eight career races at Long Beach, Dixon has never finished on the podium. In fact, he only has one Top Ten finish in those eight races.
Conor Daly will be driving the No. 18 car for Dale Coyne Racing tomorrow, in a late substitution that took place just before the practice session today. Rocky Moran Jr was slated to drive the car this weekend, replacing Carlos Huertas. Unfortunately he suffered a broken thumb after an incident in Turn 1 with Carlos Munoz on Friday. Conor was up to speed quickly, despite not having any time in the car, with the team, or with the new aero kits. The team has not announced who will be driving the car next weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, which is coincidentally the final scheduled race for their other driver, Francesco Dracone.
After qualifying today, Townsend Bell confirmed his plans for next month’s Indianapolis 500, in which he will drive the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing entry, using Chevrolet power.
Since 2002, only one driver has won the race from Pole position at Long Beach. That was Sebastien Bourdais, who did it in 2006 and 2007. Between 1991 and 2006, there was another driver that won at Long Beach from Pole. It was 2001, and his name was Helio Castroneves.
The race distance is 80 laps, which is 157.4 miles around the 1.968-mile 11-turn street circuit. Hunter-Reay won the Pole for last year’s race, and Mike Conway is the defending race winner.
Coverage for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begins at 4 PM ET.
Below are highlights of Saturday’s action, courtesy of IndyCar:
Will Power: “I’m just kicking myself for not finishing the lap that I had a bobble on. I turned the engine down, coasted for a bit and took off again. It’s going to be tough. You know how these INDYCAR races go. Anything can happen. We have to be positive and hope a yellow falls our way. That’s kind of our only chance to make something of it.”
Juan Montoya: “Yesterday in the first practice we were really good … We went one direction for the second practice and went slower, tried something this morning and went even slower, so I was like, ‘Oh, let’s put it back.’ We spent two days trying to figure it out and then just put it back the way we started and things were good. Welcome to motor racing. I really thought I had it (pole) there, but I made a mistake in the last corner, but it is what it is.”
Helio Castroneves: “The team worked really hard because we changed everything in the car last night, so congratulations to them. It was not pretty last night, but it proved that we were able to keep pushing. When you get the pole position with the teammates I have, it’s actually pretty cool. The car is awesome so we have to keep pushing.”
James Hinchcliffe: “Obviously, qualifying wasn’t what the No. 5 Arrow Electronics team was hoping for. I made a mistake on what ended up being our fast lap, which I’m definitely kicking myself for. Then on the following lap, we were up and there was a yellow flag for [Scott] Dixon. I caught [Tony] Kanaan on the end of the lap there. He was just absolutely on cruise trying to make it back to the finish. He was P1 and didn’t need to push but we were still trying to get into the top six. I’m pretty disappointed that nothing came of it, not that it really would’ve changed our day. We just have to do a better job all around – me not making mistakes and trying to find a bit more speed in the car – but one of the specialties of this group is digging ourselves out of a hole so hopefully we can just be smart tomorrow and come away with some good points.”
Scott Dixon: “The Target car actually rolled off really well here – better than we normally do. We came into this weekend with a different mindset and I’m really proud of everyone on the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team for getting it going. We seemed to do really good on the black tires. We were hoping for bigger improvements and more of a time difference with the reds from the blacks, but we just didn’t find it. We were still quick enough, but hopefully we can find that time tomorrow during the race. Long Beach is always a tough one and strategy is definitely going to be top-of-mind.”
Tony Kanaan: “It’s frustrating that we didn’t make it into the Firestone Fast 6, especially after the lap times we were running in that first round. We made a change between Q1 and Q2 and that unfortunately cost us a few tenths in the NTT DATA Chevrolet. We were less than one-tenth from sixth, so it was definitely tight. That’s what I love about INDYCAR though- the competition is so strong and I think tomorrow’s race will definitely be exciting.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “Disappointed definitely. The Hydroxycut machine is not where we want it to be, but it could have been a lot worse. We could have gotten taken out straightaway in the first round of qualifying. We just don’t have the speed. It has been a trying weekend so far. I think we got a little bit lost, so we need to hit the reset button. We will do that and see what happens in the warm up tomorrow morning.”
Conor Daly: “I am getting the feel of the car every lap. For sure it is a steep learning curve. It was great to get at least one session in this morning and get a feel for it. I haven’t ever driven on the red Firestone tires before and they were nice. The last lap I was half a second or four tenths up on my previous best which would have been nice. But, again, that is racing and it’s the way these things work. I’m very happy to be here but I’m very hard on myself because I want to be competing for wins. I just have to keep moving forward and do my best tomorrow.”
Simon Pagenaud: “We’ve been fast in every practice. Team Penske did a great job. Overall, it’s been a good weekend so far. Hope it stays that way tomorrow.”
Marco Andretti: “It was alright actually. I’m glad we did what we did – we saved some tires, so I have two new sets of (Firestone) reds for the race. We start 10th with two new sets of reds. I’d rather be there than even sixth (place) with no reds, so we’re in a good spot for tomorrow.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “That was pressure-packed. We definitely put the goal out today to make the Firestone Fast Six – that, for us, was a pole today. We got in there and we got well within (the top six), so we’re pretty happy about that. Tomorrow, for warmup, we’re going to have to see how the No. 28 DHL is with race trim, but this is another step forward with this new Honda (aero) package, and I think it’s obvious you can see it. Congrats to Helio (Castroneves) on the pole; I think he won the pole here back in ’86 or something like that (haha)! No, no, like 13 years ago, but that’s a testament to how talented he is. We’re making steps on this Honda aero package, and I think we just keep chipping away at it like this and we’ll be able to close that gap.”
Josef Newgarden: “This was a good recovery from practice one as we didn’t roll off the truck stellar. The CFH Racing team is so good at figuring things out and recovering, and that’s exactly what we did. I am happy and proud of my team, they’re strong. Sixth is not as high up as we wanted to be, but we’re right in the thick of it. We’ve got a strong chance to challenge tomorrow, we’ve just got keep our nose clean for once around this place and we should definitely be primed for a good result.”
Qualification Photos via IndyCar