BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Helio Castroneves beat the rain and the field for Team Penske’s seventh consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series pole, leading into Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).
The driver of the No. 3 AAA Chevrolet set a best time of 1:07.1925 in the truncated final session, the Firestone Fast Six, for his second consecutive pole position and 43rd of his career.
“It’s all about team effort,” Castroneves said. “Today is just another team effort. You can see it’s 1-2-3. Juan Pablo is not there. But for us every practice is qualifying. That help us to push ourselves to be in this position.
Lightning in the area forced the conclusion of the session with less than two minutes remaining, and extra rain popped up before the finish.
The qualifying start time was bumped up five additional minutes from 3:55 p.m. CT and local time to 3:50 p.m. given the impending weather threat, with time in-between sessions also shortened.
Given the rush, and given the NOLA Motorsports Park qualifying session got canceled with the field lining up by entrant points, it seemed drivers were on their best behavior to get the session completed today.
Simon Pagenaud, Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, Luca Filippi, Graham Rahal and Sage Karam made it through Group 1 in Q1, with the biggest driver to miss advancing points leader Juan Pablo Montoya – he’ll start 15th on Sunday.
Scott Dixon, who held the track record going into the weekend at 1:06.7750 in 2013, led Group 2 ahead of Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Charlie Kimball, James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan.
Filippi, Karam, Kimball and Hinchcliffe all advanced to their first Q2 of the year.
In Q2, Power led Castroneves and Pagenaud for a Penske 1-2-3, with Dixon and Kanaan following and Newgarden also advancing into the Firestone Fast Six. Power set a 1:06.8050 in the session, which was the fastest time of qualifying, but not the fastest when the Verizon P1 Award was on the line in Q3.
Castroneves got his lap in ahead of Power, with Pagenaud third to complete the top three sweep. Dixon, Newgarden and Kanaan complete the top six on the grid.
Castroneves expanded on the pole streak (dating to Milwaukee 2014) in the post-qualifying press conference.
“It shows how tough and how proud everybody is. The work has been showing,” he said. “We have a tremendous amount of quality people in the shop. Like I said, it’s details.
“We test here in preseason. We test more than many other circuits. I’m not just saying Penske. It’s actually really gratifying seeing all three guys right there showing that everybody has the best that they could possibly have in this race.
“So it’s the work that’s been paying off.”
Results of qualifying Saturday for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Verizon IndyCar Series event at the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park road course, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:
1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:07.1925 (123.228)
2. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:07.3833 (122.879)
3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:07.6383 (122.416)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 01:07.6938 (122.315)
5. (67) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:07.8922 (121.958)
6. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:07.9426 (121.868)
7. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:07.2462 (123.130)
8. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:07.3903 (122.866)
9. (20) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 01:07.6302 (122.431)
10. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:07.6626 (122.372)
11. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:07.8405 (122.051)
12. (8) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 01:07.8930 (121.957)
13. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:07.6295 (122.432)
14. (7) James Jakes, Honda, 01:07.9671 (121.824)
15. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:07.7235 (122.262)
16. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 01:07.9947 (121.774)
17. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 01:07.8191 (122.089)
18. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:07.9984 (121.768)
19. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:08.0082 (121.750)
20. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:08.2541 (121.311)
21. (18) Rodolfo Gonzalez, Honda, 01:08.5259 (120.830)
22. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:08.3533 (121.135)
23. (19) Francesco Dracone, Honda, 01:10.1133 (118.095)