Castroneves Sets Record, Wins Pole In Long Beach

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 19 2015
Helio Castroneves led an assault on the Long Beach record book on Saturday.

Helio Castroneves led an assault on the Long Beach record book on Saturday.

It took only eight minutes during the first of three rounds of knockout qualifying Saturday for the track record to start falling at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The rewriting began when Verizon IndyCar Series veteran Tony Kanaan logged a lap in 1 minute, 06.7442-seconds around on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit. During the ensuing Firestone Fast Six, Helio Castroneves lowered the mark to 1:06.6294-seconds to earn the Verizon P1 Award for Sunday’s 80-lap race.

“The team worked really hard because we changed everything in the car (Friday) night, so congratulations to them,” said Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Dallara/Chevrolet fielded by Team Penske. “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.”

The previous track record on a configuration implemented in 2000 had been held by Sebastien Bourdais at 1:06.886-seconds. That was set in 2006, when the Frenchman won the race. Castroneves, who won at Long Beach from the pole in 2001, scored his 42nd career pole Saturday _fourth on the all-time list.

Team Penske bagged three of the top-five starting positions, including a front row sweep of Castroneves and No. 2 qualifier Juan Pablo Montoya. Winner of the season-opener on the Streets of St. Petersburg (Fla.), JPM’s quickest lap of 1:06.6587-seconds in the No. 2 Verizon Dallara/Chevrolet also bettered the previous track record.

“In the first practice (Friday) we were really good,” said Montoya, recounting his ensuing struggles on the venue generally considered America’s premier street circuit. “We went one direction for the second practice and went slower, tried something (Saturday) 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; it is what it is.”

Scott Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Chevrolet, posted a best lap of 1:06.7870-seconds that also bettered the 2006 record. Dixon will share Row 2 with Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 DHL Dallara/Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport.

“That was pressure-packed,” said Hunter-Reay, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion. “We definitely put the goal out to make the Firestone Fast Six _ that, for us, was a pole. We got in there and we got well within (the top six), so we’re pretty happy about that. For warmup (Sunday), we’re going to have to see how the No. 28 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. We’re making steps on this Honda aero package and I think if we just keep chipping away at it like this we’ll be able to close that gap.”

Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske and Josef Newgarden of Carpenter/Fisher/Hartman Racing will start from Row 3.

Reigning IndyCar Series champion Will Power, who qualified on-pole at St. Pete, will start on the outside of Row 9 in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/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.

NBC Sports Network will air the race live starting at 4 p.m. (EDT). The race also will be broadcast live on the IMS Radio Network, XM Channel 209 and Sirius Channel 213.

Conor Daly has been selected to drive the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Dallara/Honda for the remainder of the weekend in place of Rocky Moran Jr., who sustained a broken left thumb in practice on Friday.

Daly, 23, has one previous 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 feeder series to Formula One.

Daly was driving the Indy Racing Experience two-seater at Long Beach this weekend until getting the call from Coyne Saturday 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 will start 21st in the 23-car field.

Daly, who tested an Indy car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in the offseason, has realistic expectations for Sunday. “We’re not here to set the world on fire,” said Daly, whose team borrowed a fitted 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 I’m excited for it. I’ve always wanted to race (an Indy car) on a road-course, and especially here at Long Beach.

“I’m getting the feel of the car every lap. For sure it’s 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’s 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.”

Honda Performance Development plans to supply enough engines to support 17 entries for the 99th Indianapolis 500 next month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Our plan from the very beginning has always been for 17 cars at Indy,” said Steve Eriksen, HPD’s chief operating officer/vice president. “We always planned to support more than half the field. At 17 cars, that’s a good number for us from a resource standpoint. Based on what I’m hearing from each of our teams, I fully expect we’ll be at 17 cars for the Month of May.

“I’ve also heard Chevy’s at 17. So, if that’s true, that gives us at least one car for Bump Day.”

Jack Harvey easily eclipsed the previous Long Beach track record to capture pole position for Sunday’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race. Harvey, of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian, earned the pole on the last of his 29 laps during the 45-minute session at 1 minute, 12.0405-seconds in his Dallara IR-15 chassis. Harvey’s lap was 0.8969-seconds quicker than the previous track record set by Carlos Munoz in 2013. Rounding out the top three qualifiers for the 60-lap race were Juncos Racing teammates Spencer Pigot (1:12.1156-seconds) and Kyle Kaiser (1:12.1573-seconds).

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Verizon IndyCar Series starting grid over the 1.968-mile/11-turn Streets of Long Beach circuit, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis/engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara/Chevrolet, 01:06.6294 (106.331)
2. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara/Chevrolet, 01:06.6587 (106.285)
3. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara/Chevrolet, 01:06.7870 (106.081)
4. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara/Honda, 01:07.0473 (105.669)
5. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara/Chevrolet, 01:07.1433 (105.518)
6. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara/Chevrolet, 01:07.1716 (105.473)
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara/Chevrolet, 01:07.1090 (105.572)
8. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara/Honda, 01:07.1290 (105.540)
9. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara/Chevrolet, 01:07.2411 (105.364)
10. (27) Marco Andretti, Dallara/Honda, 01:07.3161 (105.247)
11. (8) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara/Chevrolet, 01:07.3924 (105.128)
12. (26) Carlos Munoz, Dallara/Honda, 01:07.4049 (105.108)
13. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara/Honda, 01:07.3976 (105.119)
14. (20) Luca Filippi, Dallara/Chevrolet, 01:08.6104 (103.261)
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara/Chevrolet, 01:07.4217 (105.082)
16. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara/Honda, 01:08.6276 (103.235)
17. (98) Gabby Chaves, Dallara/Honda, 01:07.4653 (105.014)
18. (1) Will Power, Dallara/Chevrolet, 01:08.8348 (102.925)
19. (7) James Jakes, Dallara/Honda, 01:07.7702 (104.542)
20. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara/Honda, 01:08.8732 (102.867)
21. (18) Conor Daly, Dallara/Honda, 01:08.7825 (103.003)
22. (19) Francesco Dracone, Dallara/Honda, 01:09.8815 (101.383)
23. (4) Stefano Coletti, Dallara/Chevrolet, 01:10.4644 (100.544)


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 19 2015
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