Castroneves secures pole in IndyCar qualifying at Long Beach

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – A Team Penske driver is on pole for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN), but it’s not necessarily the driver you’d first think of.

Helio Castroneves makes it three different Penske drivers on pole in as many races, after Will Power (St. Petersburg) and Juan Pablo Montoya (NOLA) were the first two Verizon P1 Award winners of the season.

Castroneves, with a fast lap of 1:06.6294 in the Firestone Fast Six session in the No. 3 AAA Team Penske Chevrolet, has also set a new track record – eclipsing Sebastien Bourdais’s 1:06.886 from 2006.

“I tell you what, the AAA machine was on rails,” Castroneves told NBCSN’s Marty Snider. “Being pole position with the teammates I have, it’s like a victory. Fantastic guys. It’s paying off. One day it’ll be my day, one day another one. From the beginning of the weekend until now, we’re chipping away.”

This is the 42nd career pole position of Castroneves’ career, the fourth most in IndyCar history. Bobby Unser sits third on the all-time list with 49 career poles. The only other time Castroneves sat on pole here was 2001, when he drove to victory for the only time in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Castroneves’ teammate and 1999 Long Beach winner Juan Pablo Montoya was second at 1:06.6587.

Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden completed the Fast Six.

For Hunter-Reay, he upheld Honda’s honor as its only representative in the Fast Six; Newgarden was the only driver outside the Penske, Ganassi and Andretti teams in delivering CFH Racing’s first Fast Six appearance this season.

Tony Kanaan rolls off seventh, ahead of Graham Rahal with his best start of the year in eighth. Sebastien Bourdais and Marco Andretti completed the top 10.

Sebastian Saavedra impressed in his opening qualifying appearance with Chip Ganassi Racing in P11, just ahead of the third Andretti Autosport entry of Carlos Munoz.

The biggest absence from both the Fast Six and Q2 was defending series champion Will Power, who was caught out on timing during his group session in Q1.

Stefano Coletti crashed exiting Turn 4 in his No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, which brought the session to a conclusion without several cars – Power’s included – unable to set a representative time.

Power will start 18th, but was diplomatic in his post-qualifying comments to IndyCar Radio.

“I turned the engine down and coasted,” Power said. “It’s gonna be tough. You know how these IndyCar races go. We gotta be positive and hopefully the yellow falls our way.”

If it helps, Power won from 12th here three years ago.

Elsewhere NOLA winner James Hinchcliffe will start 13th, Luca Filippi 14th in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet that was the winning car last year, and Conor Daly 21st in his first IndyCar start in nearly two full years. Daly was brought in as a last-minute injury substitute for Rocky Moran Jr.

Here’s a screen capture of the grid:

Qualifying results are below:

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Qualifying Saturday for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Verizon IndyCar Series event at the 1.968 mile(s) Streets of Long Beach, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1.  (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:06.6294 (106.331)
2.  (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:06.6587 (106.285)
3.  (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 01:06.7870 (106.081)
4.  (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:07.0473 (105.669)
5.  (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:07.1433 (105.518)
6.  (67) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:07.1716 (105.473)
7.  (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:07.1090 (105.572)
8.  (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:07.1290 (105.540)
9.  (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:07.2411 (105.364)
10.  (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:07.3161 (105.247)
11.  (8) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 01:07.3924 (105.128)
12.  (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:07.4049 (105.108)
13.  (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:07.3976 (105.119)
14.  (20) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 01:08.6104 (103.261)
15.  (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:07.4217 (105.082)
16.  (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:08.6276 (103.235)
17.  (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 01:07.4653 (105.014)
18.  (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:08.8348 (102.925)
19.  (7) James Jakes, Honda, 01:07.7702 (104.542)
20.  (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:08.8732 (102.867)
21.  (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 01:08.7825 (103.003)
22.  (19) Francesco Dracone, Honda, 01:09.8815 (101.383)
23.  (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 01:10.4644 (100.544)