Penske qualifying dominance continues in Long Beach


LONG BEACH, Calif. – We’d say stop the presses, but Team Penske’s dominance in qualifying is anything but breaking news.

The four-car team continued its assault on qualifying in the Verizon IndyCar Series Saturday ahead of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Penske has secured its sixth consecutive Verizon P1 Award (pole position) dating to Milwaukee last year. Will Power took the poles at Milwaukee and Sonoma last year, with Helio Castroneves bagging the pole at Auto Club Speedway.

In three straight races to open 2015, Power (St. Petersburg), Juan Pablo Montoya (NOLA, albeit on entrant points due to qualifying washout) and now Castroneves (Long Beach) have made it three different Penske drivers in as many races on the pole.

Castroneves praised the team after his first pole position of the season, and first since the aforementioned one in Fontana last August.

“The team worked really hard because we changed everything in the car last night, so congratulations to them,” Castroneves said.

“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.”

Not only is the dominance on the pole, but it is overall in the two Firestone Fast Six sessions thus far run this year.

Penske, between Power, Montoya, Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, have secured seven of the available 12 spots thus far.

Five other teams – Andretti Autosport (Ryan Hunter-Reay), Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon), CFH Racing (Josef Newgarden), A.J. Foyt Enterprises (Takuma Sato) and KVSH Racing (Sebastien Bourdais) – have the other five, at one apiece.

Montoya, who lost out on strategy last week in NOLA Motorsports Park despite dominating the race, said Power – who will start 18th on Sunday after mistiming his run in qualifying group one – can’t be counted out.

“It’s a long race. Tim Cindric is really good at calling strategies and those weird things. I’m sure he’s going to be there at the end somehow,” Montoya said.

“It’s funny, sometimes you when you start at the back, you can figure out a race strategy. When you’re in the front, you’re kind of tight to protect that lead. When you’re in the back, you gamble. A lot of times it pays off. Look at last week. We did everything right, but we threw it away.”

Pagenaud, who could well be poised to capture his first win as a Penske driver on Sunday and led third practice Saturday, had just a simple post-qualifying quote.

“We’ve been fast in every practice. Team Penske did a great job. Overall, it’s been a good weekend so far. Hope it stays that way tomorrow,” he said.

Power was reflective and didn’t nearly go off as much as he could have in an IndyCar Radio interview.

Overall though, Penske has opened this year in qualifying as excellent as possible, and will look to translate that into a result similar to its 1-2-4-5 effort to kick off the year at St. Petersburg.

Daniel McFadin contributed to this report

SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals


In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.