Castroneves Takes Pole, Sets Track Record for Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
LONG BEACH, Calif. – It took only eight minutes of the first of three knockout qualifying rounds for the nine-year-old Long Beach track record to fall.
Tony Kanaan, who will make his 12th Indy car start in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and 297th overall, recorded a lap of 1 minute, 06.7442 seconds on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit.
About 30 minutes later in the Firestone Fast Six, Helio Castroneves reset the record with a lap of 1:06.6294, which earned the driver of the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet for Team Penske the Verizon P1 Award for the 80-lap race April 19 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
The track record at the 1.968-mile configuration, which was implemented in 2000, had been held by Sebastien Bourdais at 1:06.886. That was in 2006, and he went on to win the race.
It was the 42nd career Indy car pole for Castroneves, which is fourth on the all-time list. Castroneves won at Long Beach from the pole in 2001.
“The team worked really hard because we changed everything in the car last night, so congratulations to them,” said Castroneves, who will seek to claim his 30th career victory. “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.”
Team Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., will start on the outside of Row 1. His quickest lap of 1:06.6587 in the Firestone Fast Six in the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet also was lower than the previous track record.
Scott Dixon, driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, had a best lap of 1:06.7870 in the Firestone Fast Six, which also bettered the 2006 record. He’ll share Row 2 with Ryan Hunter-Reay, who is driving the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport.
Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske and Josef Newgarden of CFH Racing will be on Row 3.
Kanaan would have gladly traded the record lap for a spot in the Firestone Fast Six and a chance at the Verizon P1 Award in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Six drivers advance out of Round 2; Kanaan was seventh — .0783 of a second out.
“It’s frustrating that we didn’t make it into the Firestone Fast Six, especially after the lap times we were running in that first round,” he said. “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 the race will definitely be exciting.”
Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, who earned the Verizon P1 Award in the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, will start on the outside of Row 9 in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Power was caught out by a red flag for a one-car incident involving rookie Stefano Coletti late in the 10-minute first round.
“I’m just kicking myself for not finishing that lap that I had a bobble on. I just had to turn the engine down and coasted for a bit before taking off again,” Power said. “It’s tough, but in these INDYCAR races anything can happen.”
Last season, Power won at Belle Isle after starting 16th and was the Long Beach runner-up after starting 14th.
DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:
Conor Daly has been named to drive the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda for the remainder of the weekend in place of Rocky Moran Jr., who sustained a broken left thumb in Friday practice.
Daly, 23, has one previous Verizon IndyCar Series start, finishing 22nd in the 2013 Indianapolis 500. The son of retired Formula One and Indy car driver Derek Daly was the 2011 Indy Lights race winner at Long Beach and has spent most of the past three years in GP2 and GP3, the F1 feeder series.
Daly has been driving the Indy Racing Experience two-seater at Long Beach this weekend until getting the call from Coyne this morning.
“It’s a shame to see Rocky break his (thumb) like he did, but this is why I bring my stuff to the track every week and this is why I’m here and this is why I’m ready,” Daly said. “I can’t thank Dale enough for the call, to be able to get out here and do some laps and get in the game. We’ll see what happens, but I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Daly, who tested an Indy car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in the offseason, has realistic expectations stepping in this deep into the weekend.
“We’re not here to set the world on fire,” said Daly, whose team borrowed a seat from Marco Andretti. “We’re here to learn. At least I’ve been on the track this weekend. I should be ready to go and excited for it. I’ve always wanted to race (an Indy car) on a road course, and especially here at Long Beach.”
Helio Castroneves has posted a lengthy list of impressive accomplishments during an Indy car career that spans 297 race starts and is into its 18th season. The likable Brazilian driver for Team Penske is most famous for the three Indianapolis 500 wins among his 29 career victories (11th on the all-time chart) and he has won the pole position 42 times (fourth all time). He won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach back in 2001.
The prize that has eluded the soon-to-be 40-year-old, however, is a Verizon IndyCar Series championship. He has been the runner-up bridesmaid four times, including last year to teammate Will Power.
“A championship is something I’m working really hard toward and, unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be yet,” Castroneves said Friday. “But that’s one of the things that keep you motivated to come back this year and do it again.”
Since his first Indy car season in 1998, Castroneves has finished in the top five of the championship standings 11 of the 17 years. Through two races this season, buoyed by second- and fourth-place finishes, he sits 10 points behind front-runner and teammate Juan Pablo Montoya entering Sunday’s race.