Helio Castroneves loves Long Beach. Today he earned his third consecutive pole for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. It is the 48th career pole for the Brazilian, which came with a lap of 1:06.2254 seconds, breaking the track record. Helio now has his sights set on a third straight podium finish, and perhaps a trip to victory lane. If Castroneves is able to finish the job, it would end his 44-race winless streak.
The front row will be a Penske/Ganassi combination, as Scott Dixon will start alongside Castroneves. Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe have been quick all weekend, and will start the race from Row 2. Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal will share Row 3, as they finished off the Firestone Fast Six. While it is important to start up front, it should be mentioned that the race hasn’t been won by the pole sitter since 2007.
Josef Newgarden and Will Power qualified 8th and 9th respectively, but defending race winner and series champion Simon Pagenaud is bringing up the rear for Team Penske. This was due to a penalty issued to Simon for interference on Castroneves during the first round of qualifying. With Pagenaud losing his transfer spot and starting in last, Marco Andretti was able to advance to the second round, where he eventually qualified in 10th position.
Qualification Results for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
It was a great day for Rahal, who found himself back in the Firestone Fast Six. He is looking to stay up front, but hasn’t had great success at Long Beach. In nine starts here, he has never led a lap, and has just one Top Ten finish. Still, he is vastly improved, and should be a threat to win. If he does, it would be the team’s first victory in the historic event.
Hunter-Reay is also looking to rebound at the iconic street circuit. Despite his memorable victory in 2010, his last six finishes at Long Beach are 23rd, 6th, 24th, 20th, 13th, and 18th respectively. It feels like he is due for a win anytime now, and it could very easily come tomorrow. Despite earning just one Top Ten finish in his first six starts at Long Beach, Dixon has been exceptional in his last two, finishing 1st and 2nd.
The race distance is 85 laps, which is 167.28 miles around the 1.968-mile 11-turn street circuit. Television coverage for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begins at 4 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Simon Pagenaud: “It was just one of those unfortunate things. I understand the penalty because I interfered with (Helio) Castroneves’ lap. I backed up a little to set up a second lap on the (alternate tires) and Helio was right there. I was boxed in; there was nothing I could do. The Menards Chevy was fantastic. We’ll start from the back. St. Petersburg was won from the back and we’ll try to do that, too.”
Josef Newgarden: “The Hum by Verizon Chevrolet was good enough to transfer, but we just couldn’t make it happen. It’s nothing to spend a lot of time thinking about. We just need to move on to Sunday and get to the front. The car is plenty fast. We’ll see what we can do strategy-wise and see how the cautions fall and make some decisions from there.”
Helio Castroneves: “This competition in the Verizon IndyCar Series, it’s so incredible. It’s ridiculous, plus every time you go into a session, it’s something different. The track changes, the tires change, traffic… It is absolutely very difficult. The crucial time when it comes, you see everybody hundredths of a second separated from each other. My car felt pretty good. Especially with the reds (Firestone alternate tires), my car came alive from this morning, so the AAA Chevy is working really hard. Today is extra special because Long Beach is a great place. I remember winning here from the pole in 2001 and, the last two years, we were right there. We’re not going to let this escape again.”
Conor Daly: “We made big steps forward from St. Pete which is nice. We’re starting several positions higher than we did then which is good. But I’m just disappointed a little bit in myself because I went a little bit wide and just got a little bit of the marbles from the race previously on my tires off the exit of Turn 9, so lost a bit of time. I don’t know if it would have been enough to make it into the top 12. We’re still fighting a little bit of oversteer in the car so hopefully we can continue to build on what we’re doing and just have a good race tomorrow.”
James Hinchcliffe: “Our weekend has been pretty solid. We rolled off the truck with a pretty decent car. In these weekends when it’s so tight, the track time is so limited, that’s huge. Yesterday afternoon, we had a little bit of problems. This morning we had a couple problems but we didn’t panic. Huge credit to Schmidt Peterson Motorsport. Two Firestone Fast Six appearances for two, which is great. It’s just so tight. I think that’s been the topic of the weekend, for sure, is how competitive it is. You got to be, I think, in the top six to have a shot at this thing. There’s a lot of great cars up there. Going to be perfect execution tomorrow, in the pits, on the racetrack. Hopefully, we can get the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda to the front.”
Mikhail Aleshin: “Well obviously, qualifying ended early for us. Unfortunately, I think that’s all we had today. I hope that we are going to have a good car for tomorrow and a good warm up in the morning. The race is obviously the most important, so that’s what we’ll focus on and hope for good results.”
Max Chilton: “It’s been a challenging weekend so far. I know the past doesn’t predict the future, but we had a bad first practice and I said ‘Guys the street circuits, it’s always very hard once you’ve lost that momentum to get it back – you are always one step behind.’ I feel like I can drive well around here. We weren’t happy with the car after second practice so we changed a lot overnight and third practice was better. For qualifying, I was actually fairly happy with the car until I knew where I qualified and in my opinion, something wasn’t right. I felt like the job I did was on the limit without overdriving it and I was basically last. We’ve been good recently – we were P2 at Barber and P6 in Sonoma, so it doesn’t really add up to me and I think we have a bit of work to do there. Tomorrow this race is known for changing up a bit and now that they have added five laps there is a lot of fuel saving happening. If people save fuel we can just do the opposite of what the others are doing. As you saw last week, Bourdais started last in St Pete and won because he took a different strategy.”
Scott Dixon: “Yeah, bit of a bummer there but congrats to Helio. It was a hell of a lap I think he put together there. The NTT Data car actually had a lot more grip than I expected and kind of caught me off guard I think. Once I felt it I tried to go beyond it a couple of times and just made too many mistakes I think on the qualifying run. I struggled a little bit this weekend on the red tires just with straight-out speed. Unfortunately, I think we are going to be running a lot of reds tomorrow but that’s the way it will work out. But I’m definitely confident in the fact we have a great race car here, all four Ganassi cars have been strong this weekend and hopefully we will see how it plays out.”
Tony Kanaan: “It’s been a frustrating weekend for the NTT Data team. We had some electrical issues before the first practice session this morning that only allowed us five laps on track before qualifying. The guys worked really hard to get the car on track to maximize the little time we had left. Starting 11th is going to be a challenge with it being so difficult to pass but we will work on getting the car in the right race set up in tomorrow’s warm up session and be sure we have the best strategy to get back up front.”
Will Power: “It’s a little disappointing, to be honest. We just couldn’t put together a solid lap. I’m not exactly sure what happened behind me on the thing with Simon (Pagenaud) and Helio (Castroneves). I was gearing up for a fast lap and trying to gauge the traffic in front. We came up a little short overall, and we’ll just hit the track tomorrow ready to go. The Verizon Chevy team gave me a great car and it will be awesome again tomorrow.”
Carlos Munoz: “We made a lot of progress from Practice 3 to qualifying, we were a little bit more competitive. We knew our qualifying group was really tough, and we barely missed it. I lost all the time in the last corner (Turn 9). I made a big mistake, we should have been in the top 12, that was our goal. But I’m positive we’ll make some changes. The car is not what I need it to be. We have to make some overnight changes. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”
Graham Rahal: “To be able to fight through the things we did as a single car team makes me proud because we tried some big changes overnight and they worked out. We took ourselves from a place where we were average in terms of being competitive to a place where we were third fast overall in Round 2 of qualifying and ended up qualifying sixth based on our time in Round 3. We had an issue in Round 3 which was disappointing but based on where we were on Friday, I’m happy to have made the Firestone Fast Six. I’m pleased with the car, pleased with where we stand against the competition. Now we just have to work on a couple of little things to improve for the race and try to get the PennGrade Honda in Victory Lane.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “Qualifying was OK in Round 1 and then Round 2, we ran out of juice I guess. I thought it was a decent lap but we came out two-tenths short of making the Firestone Fast Six and not only that but when you finish 12th in Round 2 you think to yourself, we should have kept the tires! It’s obviously not the way we want to go so I’m disappointed for the group and to end up there. It’s so close, two-tenths and you’re in or you’re out. I made a small mistake and that was enough. It’s not a fun race from mid-pack and a lot of bad things can come your way. If it’s an incident-free race like last year it’s tough to make stuff happen. We’ll keep digging and see what happens.”
Ed Jones: “It’s been great work by the team. I struggled a bit this weekend but we worked hard overnight to improve the car from yesterday. The changes proved that we went in the right direction. It was a very good qualifying for me, so close to the top 12. It’s a bit frustrating, but thanks to the team for giving me the car to do that. I’m really confident for the race. I have great memories here from racing in Indy Lights two years ago, so I hope I can add to those memories tomorrow.”
Spencer Pigot: “Throughout the weekend, I’ve just been trying to get better. Both with improving the car and also improving some things that I have been working on. It is a tough track. We made some progress in the practice this morning, but when we put the red tires on in qualifying it just wasn’t there for us. We will go back and look at everything and focus on getting quicker for tomorrow.”
JR Hildebrand: “The car is actually pretty good. This morning, we ended up running a little longer on tires than other guys and were still able to maintain our lap times. I feel like the car will be solid in the race tomorrow and hopefully we can take advantage of the right opportunities along the way. We’re not that far off from being able to pick able to pick off a few guys for a single-digit finish. That is definitely in play for us, so that’s what we’re going to shoot for.”
Takuma Sato: “It was a disappointing qualifying today after having a good session in practice. We didn’t have a good lap – it’s just that kind of day, it’s a shame. But, I think we have a good car, so hopefully we can recover tomorrow.”
Marco Andretti: “We lucked out on transferring into Round 2 – I had a huge moment there and were lucky to not come back on the hook. So, we were lucky to transfer and missed the Firestone Fast Six by half-a-tenth (of a second). To qualify the UFD car 10th and miss Round 3 by half a tenth, it shows you what Indy car racing is all about – it’s super tight. Every hundreth (of a second) counts and it’s going to make for a great race tomorrow.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Certainly much better than last year (at Long Beach). This team has worked so hard over the offseason and we’ve all worked together – that’s the important thing – a lot of testing and we’ve definitely found a good direction now. It’s great to have this yellow and red DHL Honda back up where it belongs, back up in the sharp end of the grid, especially here at Long Beach. It’s been such a special track for me both personally and professionally. To be starting up front like this is definitely a nice surprise, it’s a nice break over what we experienced on the street courses. So far, we’re checking off the boxes. It’s a long way to go and we have a lot of work to do, tomorrow is going to be a tough race. But, the weather is beautiful here in Southern California, the fans are great, the crowd is unbelievable for a Saturday and we’ve got everybody here from DHL. Big thanks to the Andretti guys for such hard work and hopefully we can make them all proud tomorrow.”
Charlie Kimball: “Obviously after yesterday I am really pleased to qualify seventh today. I think we made the car a lot better overnight which showed this morning. We were able to make some more improvements for qualifying, so pretty happy with that being within a hundredth of making the Firestone Fast Six is a new version of frustrating. I’m obviously pleased I think tomorrow we should have a good car, put together clean stops a clean race through the first couple laps, and settle into a rhythm. I know my guys will get the job done really well in pit lane we just have to put the laps together and get the fuel mileage we need and see where we end up at the end of the day.”
Alexander Rossi: “It was a really good day. It was the NAPA Racing team’s first (Firestone) Fast Six appearance, which is a huge turn around for Andretti Autosport and Honda from last year. I don’t think we maximized all our practice potential, so it was nice to put it out there today in qualifying. The NAPA Auto Parts car has been strong all weekend and now we can look forward to tomorrow.”