Helio Castroneves on Pole at Long Beach

Tomorrow marks the 33rd consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series race on the famous street circuit in Long Beach. Helio Castroneves will start on pole, as he captured the top spot with a lap of 1:07.1246 seconds. It’s the second consecutive pole for Helio this year, and the 47th of his career. It is also his third at Long Beach, which ties him with Will Power, Mario Andretti, and Gil de Ferran for the most of any driver at Long Beach. Helio is currently in sixth in the championship battle, but the four drivers starting directly behind him are all in front of him in the standings.

The top six qualifiers all came from the Team Penske and Chip Ganassi race teams. Scott Dixon won the race here last year, and he will join Castroneves on the front row for tomorrow’s race. Simon Pagenaud and Tony Kanaan will share Row 2, while Juan Montoya and Will Power will make up Row 3.

Qualification Results for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

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The top two Honda qualifiers were James Hinchcliffe and Takuma Sato in 7th and 8th. Josef Newgarden had a solid run and will start 9th, while Carlos Munoz starts 10th as the highest qualifying Andretti Autosport driver. Ryan Hunter-Reay is just behind him in 11th, Alexander Rossi is 16th, and Marco Andretti will start last in the 21-car field on Sunday. Dale Coyne Racing teammates Luca Filippi and Conor Daly had decent efforts on Saturday, and will start 12th and 13th respectively.

Here is some good news for Castroneves, Dixon, Pagenaud, and Kanaan; Of the 32 IndyCar races at Long Beach, only seven times has a driver won the race starting outside of the first two rows.

Power made a mistake in the Firestone Fast Six, which brought out the red flag when he got trapped in the runoff area. Because of that, he had to forfeit his lap times, which puts him in the outside of Row 3 tomorrow. Graham Rahal struggled during his first session, and was fighting severe understeer after his car was repaired from an earlier practice session crash. He has just one top-ten finish in his last eight starts at Long Beach, and has never led a lap in his nine races here. Rahal will roll off in 17th position tomorrow, which isn’t necessarily a nail in the coffin. The driver starting in 17th at Long Beach has actually won this race twice; Paul Tracy in 2000, and Mike Conway in 2014.

The race distance is 80 laps, which is 157.44 miles around the 1.968-mile 11-turn street circuit. Castroneves won the Pole for last year’s race, and Dixon is the defending race winner.

Coverage for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begins at 4 PM ET on NBCSN.

Qualification Photos via IndyCar

Driver Quotes

Helio Castroneves: “I am very happy, first of all, for the AAA car. We have been good all weekend long. We have been working together all weekend long. I want to say Team Penske probably had the upper hand. You know, at the end of the day, the No. 3 had the top spot. They said it’s better to be lucky than good and we planned very well.  Will (Power) was definitely in a league of his own and he seems to be putting in phenomenal laps. But in the end, putting on red tires, you saw (Scott) Dixon up there and just saw (Tony) Kanaan up there, Juan Pablo (Montoya) and Simon (Pagenaud). You know, it was a mix but I will take it. The AAA and Team Penske did a phenomenal job. Hey, it’s the right spot to start so let’s keep it.”

James Hinchcliffe: “Today was a really good day. We rolled off the truck with a good car on Friday and I’m really proud of the Arrow Electronics guys for the prep that they did because the car was a rocket right from the get-go. We’ve just been making little tweaks to it, trying to get into a position to be fighting for the Firestone Fast Six, and we did. We finished seventh. We kind of got screwed a little bit with the way that the Timing and Scoring system failed but it is what it is. We saved a run on a set of reds, which could be a benefit for the race. We’re starting on the inside, which is great. It’s such a turnaround from the race in Phoenix two weeks ago. There are a lot of reasons to be happy today and I’m proud of the guys. Hopefully we can just move forward in the race.”

Mikhail Aleshin: “The qualifying didn’t go how we expected it to go, but the race is going to be long and we just need to get used to red tires, and be optimistic.”

Scott Dixon: “It was a lot better than this morning. We were definitely struggling, but yeah, once we got the car dialed in in qualifying, especially Q2, it was pretty much just a scenario of good old-fashioned front wing. We just kept adding front wing in the car, just kept going faster. Obviously kudos to Team Penske and Helio (Castroneves), sticking to his running two sets of reds in Q3 and that time sticking. Unfortunately I think we definitely had speed to go for the pole, so we missed on that a little bit, but it’s definitely going to be an interesting race tomorrow. The competition is so tight, and definitely looking forward to it, but it’s great to have TK here and obviously two Ganassi cars in the top six.”

Tony Kanaan: “We really struggled in practice yesterday and this morning, but things came together for the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet in qualifying today. We made a change after the morning practice and it was obviously a change in the right direction. We’re really happy with where we’re starting tomorrow and it’s great to have two Ganassi cars up front for tomorrow’s race. Hopefully we’ll be able to pull off a win tomorrow!”

Sebastien Bourdais: “I am disappointed for the guys. They worked really hard. On the replay you can see that the checkered flag falls behind me, but apparently the checkered flag is not in sync with timing and scoring. As far as I am concerned I didn’t go by the checkered flag twice. It is just different reference points. We thought we were clear, but apparently I wasn’t. We also have a new sponsor here, California Baptist University and some of their engineering students, so I feel bad for them. Qualifying 14th will definitely make tomorrow’s race a lot more difficult. We will have to come up with something during the race if we are going to have a good result.”

Will Power: “I wouldn’t say I locked up, but I kind of went a bit deep and didn’t want to take a risk and hit the wall and tried to spin it back around. I thought it was all over then anyway because once you cause a yellow you lose your best two laps. But that’s OK. I always seem to start way back. It’s not way back this year. It’s a lot better than the previous two or three years. At least I’m in the top six.”

Takuma Sato: 
“I think we should be happy with the result under the circumstances. We had difficulty in this morning’s practice but in qualifying we caught up to the quickest Hondas. It was a shame it was a couple tenths down from the top six especially because we had a little confusion in the second segment when we didn’t have any lap times for reference. So I needed to keep pushing and I feel I lost a little bit because I caught up to the car ahead of me and had to lift on my final lap which was my fastest lap. But I think the ABC Supply team and engineering did a great job to make the car faster. After practice we went through all the data and came up with a different philosophy on the setup. I’m very proud of them. We’ll aim to have a clean and strong race tomorrow.”

Graham Rahal: “Hats off to my guys for getting the PennGrade car repaired. We thought we would be able to advance in qualifying but that wasn’t the case. The car was the same as this morning but in certain areas the balance was OK, but that was as good of a lap as I could have done. There was nowhere on the lap that I thought I gave up some time. In Turn 9, I had a couple of big moments again. We just have to find a little overall grip. It seemed like the reds (Firestone alternate tires) change my car quite severely.  Even at the start of the session I was struggling a little bit but the blacks (primary tires) seemed more consistent for me than when I went to the reds.  I just feel bad for the guys. They worked hard to get the car ready for qualifying. We thought we had a good horse but we’ll work on it for the race.”

Conor Daly: “We were close and that’s the thing. I’m hugely thankful for the progress that we’ve made. To be nearly last in the qualifying at St. Pete, same in Phoenix, it’s very cool to be fighting for the Top 12 group now and that’s what our goal is, to keep improving. It’s cool that we’ve done that. It was really close. Hopefully at Barber we can make it into the Top 12 next time. I think we have a great car for tomorrow and that it will come down to who can make the Firestone reds last the longest and the most efficiently. I don’t know how that is going to work out but hopefully it works out in our favor.”

Luca Filippi: “We had a solid first round and the Boys Scouts of America car was working very well. I think we were very close to the guys on top. We made good progress. We still have a lot to learn, but it’s nice to see that that we’re working in the right direction. I felt confident which is important for the race tomorrow. In the Fast 12, I made a mistake closing the lap and opening the last one so it would have been difficult to improve because I had a slow start to the last lap, so I just came in. With getting to the Fast 12 we can actually now think differently about the race for tomorrow because we have fast guys in front of us and we can maybe just work our pace more than a strategy. It will be important to have a strong pace.”

Josef Newgarden: “We didn’t qualify as high as we were all hoping for. We’ve got a good race car and we’ve been fast on old tires. We’ve been really in the mix all weekend, we just can’t seem to get that last little bit. It would have been nice to get in the Firestone Fast Six and put the Fuzzy’s Vodka car a little closer to the front! We have a little more work to do tomorrow. It was a weird session, I didn’t have any timing and scoring in the car or any split times, I was just trying to go as hard as I could and get the most I could out of the thing! It makes it a little bit harder, but at the end of the day we didn’t have enough to advance.  Tomorrow, we’ll try and do better. I have a lot of confidence in the Fuzzy’s crew, we’ll have a fast race car!”

Simon Pagenaud: “Yeah, it was an interesting Fast Six. We locked in one lap. Luckily that was good for P3. But yeah, I was concerned. We didn’t have a lap in when the red came out. I’m happy with third right now because I really thought we were getting sixth. The car was really good. PPG car has been strong all weekend. Everybody at Penske has been really strong. I think we actually have a better race car than a qualifying car, so P3 is good.”

Carlos Munoz: “I have kind of a two-way feeling. I’m disappointed. It was an okay qualifying, especially after Practice 3. We were really good in Qualifying Round 1, we were the second fastest car and everyone was really close with each other. I think we will go to the maximum of what we had and see what will happen. It is a long race tomorrow and anything could happen from P10, so we’ll see where we end up.”

Marco Andretti: “On what would have been our ultimate lap we were held up by another car. We were too loose anyway, so we were battling with the balance. Had we not been held up, I think we would’ve been a little better off. Just not a good enough. Tomorrow we will have to go off strategy and make something happen to get the United Fiber & Data/ Snapple car up front.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “It was a disappointing day. Our worst qualifying at Long Beach before today was fourth, so to come out of here starting 11th is mind-boggling to say the least. We’ll have to go back and look at the data for the DHL Honda, see what we can do for tomorrow and hopefully have a good race. We could use some luck this weekend as well, just not like (we had) at Phoenix.”

Jack Hawksworth: “Disappointing qualifying for us. We struggled for grip and didn’t really have any bite. Obviously we were more competitive in practice so we have to figure out what went on and come back and recover tomorrow.”

Charlie Kimball: “Frankly, I’m really disappointed with that. The track conditions caught me out; I wasn’t expecting it to be nearly as slippery as it was. We were within a tenth of transferring into Group Two and I think the lap time was there, but I didn’t quite get it done. The No. 83 car has been competitive, inside the top 10, all weekend. Tomorrow we’ll just have to conjure up some magic so we can get up to the front and stay there.”

Alexander Rossi: “It’s disappointing to miss out on the top 12 by a couple hundredths (of a second). I’m going to lose some sleep over that tonight. I think the Castrol Edge/ Curb car is a lot better than we had at St. Pete. We made steps forward and we will have to see what we can do in the race tomorrow. The car was the best it had been all weekend, so that was our opportunity to capitalize. Unfortunately, we were just one step behind. We’ll have to play a bit of catch up in the warm-up tomorrow morning and hopefully have a good race tomorrow afternoon.”

 

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