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