Castroneves captures third straight Long Beach pole (VIDEO)

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Hondas again appeared to have the dominant package during practice and qualifying for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, with five of the Firestone Fast Six coming from the Honda camp.

But, it was Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 AAA Team Penske Chevrolet who took pole for Sunday’s race on the streets of Long Beach. Castroneves’ pole lap of 1:06.2254, a track record, was set late in the Fast Six session and locked up his third consecutive pole at the event.

“It’s those kids. They keep coming in trying to steal my thunder,” Castroneves laughed. “This qualifying says something about this competition in the paddock, it is so incredible. Plus every time you go out for a session, it’s something different.  The track changes, the tires change, there is traffic, something. It is absolutely very different.  It is a crucial time. Everyone is within hundredths of a second.

“For me today it was a little bit interesting because the first session was a little tough. We almost didn’t make it through to the second round.  But the guys worked and adjusted the car for the next session. After that the car just kept rolling.  The car felt pretty good. The way they set my car up was just came alive from this morning. The AAA Chevy is pretty good. My crew is working really hard and so is Chevy in particular. We know our competitors came on strong, but we were able to get a lap, now we will concentrate on tomorrow.”

Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Alexander Rossi, and Graham Rahal completed the Fast Six to put Hondas second through sixth on the grid. For Hunter-Reay and Rossi, their pace further cements Andretti Autosport’s resurrection on the street circuits, which were the organization’s weak point in 2016.

Outside of Castroneves, Team Penske struggled somewhat. Both Josef Newgarden and Will Power failed to advanced to the Fast Six (they will start eighth and ninth respectively), but defending champion Simon Pagenaud suffered the worst fate of the group.

He initially was set to advance out of Round 1 after turning the fastest time in his group. However, he incurred a penalty for interfering with the progress of another driver, none other than teammate Castroneves.

The penalty saw Pagenaud’s two fastest laps wiped from the record and relegated him to last in his group. The defending champion will start Sunday’s race as the last car on the grid in 21st.

Of course, that didn’t work out so bad for Sebastien Bourdais at St. Petersburg, as he went from last to first to win there.

LONG BEACH, California – Qualifying Saturday for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:06.2254 (106.980)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:06.4123 (106.679)
3. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:06.4401 (106.634)
4. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:06.5291 (106.492)
5. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:06.5595 (106.443)
6. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:06.7562 (106.129)
7. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:06.5404 (106.474)
8. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:06.6074 (106.367)
9. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:06.6145 (106.355)
10. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:06.6222 (106.343)
11. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:06.6262 (106.337)
12. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:06.7853 (106.083)
13. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:07.5832 (104.831)
14. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:07.3783 (105.150)
15. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:07.6931 (104.661)
16. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:07.3893 (105.132)
17. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:07.7977 (104.499)
18. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:07.4699 (105.007)
19. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:07.8442 (104.427)
20. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:07.5333 (104.908)
21. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:08.0439 (104.121)

Get your motor running: American Flat Track’s new season premieres Sunday on NBCSN

Photos courtesy American Flat Track
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If you like racing two-wheel style, make sure you catch the debut of a new multi-year TV broadcast deal featuring the American Flat Track motorcycle racing series on NBCSN.

The 18-round series debuts this Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN with the season-opening race that was held at Daytona International Speedway on March 15.

Going forward, all 18 rounds of the series will be televised on NBCSN in highly-coveted weekend afternoon programming slots without two weeks of each event.

Last season, AFT drew nearly two million viewers on NBCSN with regular primetime coverage on Thursday nights.

This season, the one-hour, tape-delayed telecasts will be part of NBCSN’s regular weekend programing, following or preceding coverage of NASCAR, INDYCAR and Pro Motocross.

AFT is now in its 65th season, with two distinct classes: powerful, twin-cylinder rides in the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines division, and the competition in the 450cc AFT Singles division.

“We are very excited to kick-off our second season of AFT on NBCSN,” NBC Sports Group Senior Director of Programming Jeff Macaluso. “The 2017 season provided us with some incredible racing and showed us how passionate the riders and fans are of this historic sport.

“The move to weekends this year, around other marquis motorsports properties, is sure to raise the level even higher.”

Here’s the 2018 AFT schedule on NBCSN:

Round Track, Location Track Type Premiere Time (ET) Time (PT)
1 Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL TT Sun, 3/25 2:00 PM 11:00 AM
2 Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, GA Short Track Sat, 4/14 5:30 PM 2:30 PM
3 Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, TX Half-Mile Sun, 5/06 4:00 PM 1:00 PM
4 Calistoga Speedway, Calistoga, CA Half-Mile Sun, 5/20 12:00 PM 9:00 AM
5 Turf Paradise, Phoenix, AZ Mile Sat, 5/26 3:00 PM 12:00 PM
6 Cal Expo, Sacramento, CA Mile Sun, 6/03 2:00 PM 11:00 AM
7 Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL Mile Sat, 6/09 5:00 PM 2:00 PM
8 Red Mile, Lexington, KY Mile Sat, 6/16 12:00 PM 9:00 AM
9 Remington Park, Oklahoma City, OK Mile Sat, 6/23 5:00 PM 2:00 PM
10 Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, OH Half-Mile Sat, 7/07 2:30 PM 11:30 AM
11 Weedsport Speedway, Weedsport, NY Short Track Sun, 7/15 6:00 PM 3:00 PM
12 Buffalo Chip Campgrounds, Sturgis, SD TT Sat, 8/11 12:30 PM 9:30 AM
13 Black Hills Speedway, Rapid City, SD Half-Mile Sat, 8/18 2:00 PM 11:00 AM
14 Peoria Motorcycle Club, Peoria, IL TT Sat, 9/01 3:00 PM 12:00 PM
15 Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL Mile Sat, 9/22 2:30 PM 11:30 AM
16 Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, PA Half-Mile Sun, 9/23 5:00 PM 2:00 PM
17 Canterbury Park, Shakopee, MN Mile Sun, 10/14 5:00 PM 2:00 PM
18 Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, NJ Mile Sun, 10/21 2:00 PM 11:00 AM


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