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Castroneves Sits On Barber Pole

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, April 25 2015
Helio Castroneves has become a pole-winning demon. (Photo courtesy of the Verizon IndyCar Series)

Helio Castroneves is P1 for second race in row. (Photo courtesy of the Verizon IndyCar Series)

Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves became a back-to-back IndyCar Series pole winner Saturday when he recorded the fastest lap during qualifying at Barber Motorsports Park.

Castroneves, who won the pole a week ago in the streets of Long Beach, Calif., won the pole for Sunday’s race when he recorded a quick lap of 1 minute, 07.1925 seconds on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn Barber road course.

Castroneves’ effort at Barber Saturday gives Penske drivers pole-position starts in all four of the 2015 IndyCar Series races – Will Power was P1 at St. Petersburg in the season opener while Juan Pablo Montoya won the pole at NOLA Motorsports Park in Race No. 2, though that pole was notched based on season points.

“It’s all about team effort,” said Castroneves, who entered the race weekend three points behind front-runner Montoya in the championship standings. “For us, every practice is qualifying. That help us to push ourselves to be in this position. It’s not about because we have success here. I think it’s part of it, but it’s in the equipment. At the end of the day it’s a team effort. Everyone is working hard.”

Castroneves won the inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park in 2010. The Verizon P1 Award winner has gone on to win the race twice in its five years (Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2013 and Power in 2011).

Power was second quick in the Firestone Fast Six (1:07.3833) and posted the quickest lap in qualifying at 1:06.8050 in the second 10-minute segment in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

“We were very strong in qualifying,” Power said, “but unfortunately it rained before the end. I just kick myself because the two laps I did there in the Fast Six I didn’t go harder. But I’m very happy to be starting on the front row considering last week (at Long Beach). Starting up front is huge here – we can win from there. That’s definitely the plan tomorrow. It’s been a slow start to the season and I’m very determined to get that first win of the year.”

Scott Dixon set the lap record of 1:06.7750 (123.999 mph) in the first round of knockout qualifications in 2013.

Power has started from the pole three times (2014, 2011, 2010) in the five races at Barber Motorsports Park and won in 2011 and 2012. He earned the Verizon P1 Award in 2014 with a lap of 1:08.3120 in the Firestone Fast Six.

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud qualified third Dixon qualified fourth in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.

“It’s interesting here with the aero kits with all the high-speed corners and the hairpin – so we get to see what the aero kits are doing at different speeds,” Pagenaud said. “It really helps the teams to understand the new bits and pieces as we try to optimize them. I love this track, but the only thing I would say is the level of commitment is beyond limits. You really have to push yourself before you get in the car and kind of turn off your brain a bit.”

Dixon said, “I think there is a little more pressure in getting up to speed quickly here as the weekend went from a traditional three-day format to a two-day format. Qualifying for us went well, and I understand they had to cut it just a bit short after the five minutes of guaranteed green-flag time had been satisfied. Helio put up a great lap when it counted and we’ll shoot at the top three Penske cars tomorrow.”

Josef Newgarden, driving the No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet, and Tony Kanaan in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet will share Row 3. It was the second top-six start in a row for Newgarden.

“I just don’t think we’re right up there for pole territory, but at least we’re in consistent Fast Six territory,” said Newgarden, whose best qualifying position on a road/street course is second (2014 at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma) . “That’s a good improvement for us. We’re definitely getting there. I’m excited about that but I’m a little worried about (the race). I think we’ve got a little work to do on our race car, to make it consistently fast over a stint.”

Hunter-Reay, who has won the past two races at Barber Motorsports Park, will have to come through the field to earn the three-peat. The reigning Indianapolis 500 champion qualified 18th in the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda.

Montoya, who won the season opener, also will have considerable work to claim a fourth consecutive top-five finish. He qualified 15th in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Team Penske Chevrolet.

“It’s always important to collect the points,” added Castroneves, who is seeking his first series championship. “But at this stage, I’m not thinking right now of that. I’m thinking about collecting the victory that slipped from our hands in Long Beach.  I’m going to push as hard as I can to keep after that quest.”

All teams tested March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park for the first time with the new road/street and short oval aerodynamic bodywork packages.

Results of qualifying Saturday for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Verizon IndyCar Series event at the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park road course, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:07.1925 (123.228)
2. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:07.3833 (122.879)
3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:07.6383 (122.416)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 01:07.6938 (122.315)
5. (67) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:07.8922 (121.958)
6. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:07.9426 (121.868)
7. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:07.2462 (123.130)
8. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:07.3903 (122.866)
9. (20) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 01:07.6302 (122.431)
10. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:07.6626 (122.372)
11. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:07.8405 (122.051)
12. (8) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 01:07.8930 (121.957)
13. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:07.6295 (122.432)
14. (7) James Jakes, Honda, 01:07.9671 (121.824)
15. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:07.7235 (122.262)
16. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 01:07.9947 (121.774)
17. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 01:07.8191 (122.089)
18. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:07.9984 (121.768)
19. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:08.0082 (121.750)
20. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:08.2541 (121.311)
21. (18) Rodolfo Gonzalez, Honda, 01:08.5259 (120.830)
22. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:08.3533 (121.135)
23. (19) Francesco Dracone, Honda, 01:10.1133 (118.095)

 

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, April 25 2015
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