The Honda-powered Andretti Autosport tandem of Ryan Hunter-Reay (pictured) and James Hinchcliffe will lead the field to the green flag tomorrow in the 40th Anniversary of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Hinchcliffe jumped to the top of the Firestone Fast Six in the final minute with a time of 1:07.9403, but it was his American teammate Hunter-Reay that denied him his first career IndyCar pole by posting a 1:07.8219 with no time left on the clock.
It’s Hunter-Reay’s sixth career pole and his first since Mid-Ohio in 2013.
“It just comes down to this team giving me what I need, when I need it,” Hunter-Reay told the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. “Wow, what a qualifying session. It was unreal. You never knew who was going to put in the [best] lap – it was anybody’s session.
“…It’s a good start for us but tomorrow’s going to be challenging. We’ve got the standing start and a long day on the Beach, but I’m just thrilled to be here. I love this race – we’ve been on the outside pole so many times here, [but we] finally got the big one.”
Sebastien Bourdais, a three-time winner in Champ Car at Long Beach, was the lone Chevrolet-powered driver to make the FF6 and was able to earn P3 on the grid with a time of 1:07.9580.
Josef Newgarden has set himself up for a possible upset bid tomorrow after qualifying fourth (1:08.0097), while British rookie Jack Hawksworth (1:08.0525) and French veteran Simon Pagenaud (1:08.0732) will make up Row 3.
Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti start in Row 4, and Helio Castroneves and Justin Wilson are in Row 5.
The biggest shock of the first round was IndyCar points leader Will Power’s failure to advance out. The Australian won the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg two weeks ago, but now must roll off from 14th position tomorrow – a tough climb on a course as tight as Long Beach.
“Man, that’s bad for us,” Power told IMS Radio. “We were just a little too conservative on the two laps that counted and, yeah, just not quite right, unfortunately. But we’re starting 14th, and we’ll see what we can do.
“It all depends on the yellows. If it’s a full green race, yes, it would be very difficult to make your way forward. But with some yellows there [and] a bit of strategy, we can potentially have a good day.”
Other notables that didn’t make it out of Round 1 were Tony Kanaan in 13th, defending Long Beach champion Takuma Sato in 15th, and open-wheel returnee Juan Pablo Montoya in 16th.
Sato ended up losing his two fastest laps in his Round 1 group session after he was found to have interfered with Hunter-Reay’s progress on the track.
VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES – TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH
1. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport
2. 27-James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport
3. 11-Sebastien Bourdais, KVSH Racing
4. 67-Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
5. 98-Jack Hawksworth (rookie), Bryan Herta Autosport
6. 77-Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
7. 9-Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
8. 25-Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport
9. 3-Helio Castroneves, Team Penske
10. 19-Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing
11. 34-Carlos Munoz (rookie), Andretti Autosport
12. 16-Oriol Servia, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
13. 10-Tony Kanaan, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
14. 12-Will Power, Team Penske
15. 14-Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Racing
16. 2-Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske
17. 20-Mike Conway, Ed Carpenter Racing
18. 8-Ryan Briscoe, Chip Ganassi Racing
19. 83-Charlie Kimball, Chip Ganassi Racing
20. 7-Mikhail Aleshin (rookie), Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
21. 18-Carlos Huertas (rookie), Dale Coyne Racing
22. 17-Sebastian Saavedra, KV/AFS Racing
23. 15-Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan