Pirelli World Challenge: O’Connell, Roush Jr. win Long Beach poles

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Johnny O’Connell earned the GT pole and Jack Roush Jr. did the same in the GTS class ahead of tomorrow’s Pirelli World Challenge race on the streets of Long Beach.

O’Connell (No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R) set a new GT track record with a time of 1:20.386, toppling the previous mark of 1:21.087 set by James Sofronas last year.

His Cadillac Racing teammate, Andy Pilgrim, will start alongside him on the GT front row after logging a time of 1:20.633.

As for Roush Jr. (No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R), he too set a track record in GTS with his lap of 1:27.325. That eclipsed Andy Lee’s old record of 1:27.662, which was set last year.

Nic Jonsson (No. 36 Kia Motors America Kia Optima) earned P2 on the GTS grid for tomorrow’s race thanks to his time of 1:27.509. St. Petersburg GTS winner and defending GTS class champion Lawson Aschenbach qualified third with a 1:27.512 in his No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro.

Fastest in the GT-A subcategory for gentlemen drivers was Nick Mancuso (No. 16 R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia), who will start 7th on the GT grid after posting a 1:21.329.

World-ChallengeTV.com will stream tomorrow’s race starting at 7 p.m. ET, while NBCSN will air the race broadcast next Sunday, April 20, at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Qualifying Results

GT Class
1. No. 3 – Johnny O’Connell, Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V R, 1:20.386, 88.1347 mph
2. No. 8 – Andy Pilgrim, Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V R, 1:20.633, 87.864 mph
3. No. 61 – Anthony Lazzaro, R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 1:20.698, 87.794 mph
4. No. 9 – Alex Figge, K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3, 1:20.729, 87.760 mph
5. No. 21 – Andrew Palmer, GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra, 1:20.964, 87.505 mph
6. No. 6 – Robert Thorne, K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3, 1:21.144, 87.311 mph
7. No. 16 – Nick Mancuso(A), R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3, 1:21.329, 87.112 mph
8. No. 14 – James Sofronas, Spyder/The Thermal Club Audi R8 Ultra, 1:21.629 86.792 mph
9. No. 2 – Mike Skeen, Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra, 1:21.756, 86.657 mph
10. No. 31 – Tim Bergmeister, EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3R, 1:22.137, 86.255 mph
11. No. 64 – Mike Hedlund, DragonSpeed/ESM Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 1:22.181, 86.209 mph
12. No. 10 – Henrik Hedman(A), DragonSpeed Ferrari 458 GT3, 1:22.422, 85.957 mph
13. No. 41 – Michael Mills(A), EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3R, 1:22.648, 85.722 mph
14. No. 44 – Brent Holden(A), GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra, 1:23.146, 85.209 mph
15. No. 80 – Dan Knox(A), ACS MFG/Performance SpeedTech SRT Viper GT3R, 1:23.377, 84.973 mph
16. No. 32 – Bret Curtis(A), Spectra/United Steel/Valspar Audi R8 Ultra, 1:23.645, 84.700 mph
17. No. 99 – Jeff Courtney(A), Kenda/RecStuff.com Audi R8 Ultra, 1:24.058, 84.284 mph
18. No. 54 – Tim Pappas(A), Black River Caviar Mercedes AMG SLS GT3, 1:24.136, 84.206 mph
19. No. 15 – Tomy Drissi, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Aston Martin GT3, 1:24.462, 83.881 mph
20. No. 95 – Bill Ziegler(A), Swisher Racing/GMG Audi R8 Ultra, 1:25.354, 83.004 mph
(A) denotes GT-A subcategory drivers

GTS Class
1. No. 60 – Jack Roush Jr., ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss302R, 1:27.325, 81.131 mph
2. No. 36 – Nic Jonsson, Kia Motors America Kia Optima, 1:27.509, 80.960 mph
3. No. 1 – Lawson Aschenbach, Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, 1:27.512, 80.958 mph
4. No. 33 – Tony Buffomante, Capaldi Racing/Ford Racing Ford Mustang Boss302S, 1:27.862, 80.635 mph
5. No. 73 – Jack Baldwin, RESET-MD/StopTech/Motul Porsche Cayman S, 1:27.871, 80.627 mph
6. No. 17 – Alec Udell, Watson Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:28.297, 80.238 mph
7. No. 38 – Mark Wilkins, Kia Motors America Kia Optima, 1:28.328, 80.210 mph
8. No. 20 – Andy Lee, Crown7.com/BestIT Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 1:28.331, 80.207 mph
9. No. 52 – David Sterckx, BG Reach Out Worldwide Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:28.568, 79.992 mph
10. No. 02 – Drew Regitz, TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4, 1:28.814, 79.771 mph
11. No. 96 – Brad Adams, VoodooMusic/DatDog/Yo MTVRaps! Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:29.206, 79.420 mph
12. No. 51 – Ric Bushey, Nissan/Motul/SPL/OSGiken Nissan 370Z, 1:29.436, 79.216 mph
13. No. 97 – Mitch Landry, VersaCrane/DeepSouth Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:29.558, 79.108 mph
14. No. 11 – Tony Gaples, BlackDog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, 1:29.594, 79.076 mph
15. No. 01 – Don Istook, Forge Motorsports/Recaro Audi TTRS, 1:29.934, 78.777 mph
16. No. 40 – Geoff Reeves, BestIT/Bondurant School Chevrolet Camaro, 1:31.335, 77.569 mph
17. No. 75 – Erik Davis, Reach Out Worldwide Ford Mustang Boss302S, 1:31.611, 77.335 mph
18. No. 72 – Buz McCall, RESET-MD/StopTech/Motul Porsche Cayman S, 1:32.443, 76.639 mph
19. No. 34 – Nick Esayian, Natural Cures Aston Martin GT4, 1:34.147, 75.252 mph
20. No. 04 – Jorge De La Torre, TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4, 1:37.469, 72.687 mph

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field. Finishing sixth in 2015 after a late rally was Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 6th Place, 3 Wins, 1 Pole, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 195 Laps Led, 10.2 Avg. Start, 10.9 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 6th Place, 2 Wins, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 71 Laps Led, 12.2 Avg. Start, 10.4 Avg. Finish

The old adage “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” would probably be the best way to sum up Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2015 season, which until the final quarter of season could best be described as a forgettable nightmare.

The first three races seemed somewhat OK, with eighth, seventh and fourth place grid spots. But none of the three produced a result of note; Hunter-Reay was also caught up in the three-car, late race accident at NOLA Motorsports Park and didn’t bank any good finish until a fifth place at Barber the end of April.

A tailspin followed. Hunter-Reay started between 14th and 21st every race between the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Milwaukee – a stretch of eight races – and only had one top-10 finish in that stint, eighth at the rain-affected lottery that was Detroit race two. Some seasons are just ones you want to end and by Milwaukee it was obvious that Hunter-Reay was racing just to get to the end of the year, without things getting any worse.

Things finally came good with a typically good drive at Iowa and arguably one of the drives of his career, two races later at Pocono, to end with two wins and extend his streak of winning a race in each of his six seasons at Andretti Autosport. It was no coincidence, either, that Hunter-Reay’s uptick in form came with the return of the late Justin Wilson’s presence in a fourth car.

After Pocono, Hunter-Reay also drove well to finish second at Sonoma, and by that point he’d completed an incredible late-season turnaround to jump from 14th to sixth in points. But if asked, he’d probably admit this was his toughest season yet at Andretti and arguably his toughest overall since his 2009 season, when he was in-between full-time rides and saw out the year with Vision Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field with fifth-placed Helio Castroneves.

Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2014: 2nd Place, 1 Win, 3 Poles, 6 Podiums, 7 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 282 Laps Led, 5.7 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 5th Place, Best Finish 2nd, 4 Poles, 5 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 198 Laps Led, 4.9 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish

Much as you’d write about his fellow countryman and longtime friend and rival Tony Kanaan, age hasn’t slowed Helio Castroneves, but it’s instead fueled continued success. And while Castroneves went winless for only the second time (2011) in his illustrious 16-year career with Team Penske, he wasn’t down on performance.

Now 40, Castroneves continued to have several shining moments in 2015, which was particularly important to do to stand out against defending champion Will Power, this year’s primary title contender Juan Pablo Montoya and new driver Simon Pagenaud.

Castroneves scored four pole positions and boasted a 4.9 averaging starting position, second in the field to Power, which was very impressive to note. His run of form from Texas through Milwaukee, capturing three podiums in four races, was his best race stretch this season. Additional highlights included back-to-back runner-up results in the NOLA lottery and then on pure pace at Long Beach.

The month of May must though be viewed as a disappointment. Castroneves played a role in the first corner mess at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and got a points penalty (although the number was dropped) as a result. Then he endured another Indianapolis 500 where he was not the out-and-out fastest car in the Penske brigade. While Montoya and Power were dueling for the win and Pagenaud had speed to burn all month, Castroneves’ lone moment of note came with his accident in practice, which mercifully he emerged unscathed from.

As ever though, fifth in this field owed to his consistency and dogged determination to succeed. Castroneves has ended top-five in seven of the last eight seasons since the IRL/Champ Car merger in 2008 and if it wasn’t for Dixon’s top-three run hogging the headlines, we’d probably appreciate Castroneves even more so. As long as he’s continually competitive, he’s still worthy at Team Penske.