Castroneves on pole at Long Beach; Dixon to start second

| Photographer Credit: IndyCar Series

Helio Castroneves continued his mastery of Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying by winning the Verizon P1 Award today, earning the pole position at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The Team Penske driver, in his 19th Indy car season, collected his 47th career pole with a lap of 1 minute, 7.1246 seconds (105.547 mph) in Firestone Fast Six competition. It moved the 40-year-old Brazilian within two poles of third-place Bobby Unser in Indy car history as Castroneves led all four Team Penske entries qualifying in the top six for Sunday’s 80-lap race on the iconic 1.968-mile temporary street course.

“We’ve been good all weekend long, we’ve been working together all weekend long,” Castroneves said. “I would say Team Penske probably had the upper hand. At the end of the day, the No. 3 (car) ended up in P1. They say it’s better to be lucky than good and we plan very well.”

The Firestone Fast Six session, the last of three knockout rounds of Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying, was interrupted by a red flag caused when Will Power went off course in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy. Power, who had paced two of the three practice sessions leading to qualifying, lost his fastest two laps of the Fast Six by rule and was not permitted to finish the session. INDYCAR was able to restart the session to allow the remaining five cars a chance to post one timed lap.

It is the second straight Long Beach pole for Castroneves and third of his career on the circuit. Castroneves won from the pole at Long Beach in 2001.

The driver of the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet also has back-to-back poles in the 2016 season, following his top qualifying effort for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix two weeks ago.

Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan joined the Penske quartet up front. Dixon, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2015 Long Beach winner, notched his best qualifying effort in 10 tries at Long Beach, joining Castroneves on the front row with a lap of 1:07.4455 (105.045 mph) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

“I’m stoked, considering how we started this weekend,” Dixon said. “We tried a totally different setup from last year. The cars have changed, especially aerodynamically, so we thought we might need some different things, but that wasn’t the case.

“Even this morning, we struggled a little bit. Some good old front wing (added) helped us today as we were able to carry the speed of the Target car through the corners,” added Dixon, whose lap in the second segment of qualifying came within two-hundredths of a second of Castroneves’ track record set in 2015. “We could have had (the pole) if the qualifying had carried through. We had the speed for pole, but front row is a good place to start and hopefully we can replicate the race from last year.”

Simon Pagenaud qualified third in the No. 22 PPG Automotive Finish Chevrolet (1:07.7410), Kanaan fourth in the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet (1:07.7951), Juan Pablo Montoya fifth in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevy (1:07.9054) and Power sixth (no time due to the penalty).

“Will was definitely in a league of his own and he seems to be putting up phenomenal laps,” Castroneves said. “But in the end, you saw Dixon up there, you saw Kanaan up there, Juan Pablo, Simon. It was a mix but I’ll take it. Definitely, AAA of Southern California and the entire Chevy team did a phenomenal job. But, hey, it’s the right spot to start so let’s keep it.”

Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is the third of 16 races on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, as Indy cars race for the 33rd consecutive year on the streets of Long Beach.

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:07.1246 (105.547)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 01:07.4455 (105.045)
3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:07.7410 (104.587)
4. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:07.7951 (104.503)
5. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:07.9054 (104.333)
6. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)
7. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:07.1415 (105.520)
8. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:07.2299 (105.382)
9. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:07.2548 (105.343)
10. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:07.2663 (105.325)
11. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:07.3171 (105.245)
12. (19) Luca Filippi, Honda, 01:07.9660 (104.240)
13. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 01:07.7520 (104.570)
14. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:07.6432 (104.738)
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:07.8065 (104.486)
16. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:07.6872 (104.670)
17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:07.8841 (104.366)
18. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:07.8513 (104.417)
19. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:08.3843 (103.603)
20. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:07.9929 (104.199)
21. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:08.2045 (103.876)

Related Stories

Join in the conversation!