Castroneves on pole following bizarre Long Beach qualifying (VIDEO)


LONG BEACH, Calif. – Helio Castroneves has captured his second straight Verizon P1 Award in the Verizon IndyCar Series ahead of Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The driver of the No. 3 AAA Team Penske Chevrolet set a best time of 1:07.1246 to score his 47th career pole and second straight at Long Beach following one of the more chaotic and confusing qualifying sessions in recent memory.

Team Penske now also has all three poles to start 2016, with Will Power scoring pole (but Simon Pagenaud starting first after Power’s failure to start) at St. Petersburg. The team won the first five poles in a row to start 2015.

Behind him, the remaining five drivers in the Firestone Fast Six all were Chevrolet entrants, and all came from Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.

Scott Dixon, who finally broke through at Long Beach last year, was second (1:07.4455) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet ahead of points leader Pagenaud in third, who seeks his first win with Team Penske in the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Chevrolet.

Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya and Power completed the Fast Six. For Power, an off at Turn 9 during the final session negated any hopes of his scoring the pole, but it was still a marked improvement over qualifying 18th last year.

Timing & scoring, however, became the story of the session. One driver got knocked out after failing to start his lap before the timing & scoring loop, and then in Q2, a transponder went out.

Here’s how the session transpired:

Scott Dixon led Q1, Group 1 at 1:07.5019 but only 0.2092 of a second separated first through sixth.

Others than advanced included Juan Pablo Montoya, James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay – a nice three-three split of Chevrolet and Honda runners.

Conor Daly just missed out by only 0.041 of a second in seventh and will roll off 13th, a year after he made his IndyCar street course debut with Dale Coyne Racing on last-minute notice.

“That’s the first time this year, where I felt (that) I’m shaking,” Daly told IndyCar Radio’s Zach Veach. “I thought I was really on the limit. The guys gave me a great car. It’s much better we’re talking about barely missing top 12 vs. making the field.”

Charlie Kimball, Graham Rahal and Max Chilton were next. Rahal’s team got his No. 15 PennGrade Honda repaired after left front wing and suspension damage from Rahal’s morning accident.

Group 2 wasn’t particularly eventful until after the checkered flag. Power dropped in the first 1:06 of the session at 1:06.9712, which led the way over Carlos Munoz, Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan.

And then there was sixth. Initally, Luca Filippi had it, then Sebastien Bourdais bumped him, and then Filippi got back in after it was determined Bourdais started his final lap 0.2 after the checkered flag appeared at the timing & scoring loop.

Bourdais’ best time was 1:07.4843 with Filippi’s 1:07.6214, but with Bourdais not getting that lap to count, he fell to a 1:07.6432.

It’s funny that timing & scoring became an issue in Q1, because it became a bigger issue in Q2.

Due to a transponder issue, and the primary timing loop going down, INDYCAR timing & scoring needed to re-download the data to ensure the right six drivers advanced.

In Q2, the top six before T&S reset was Montoya (1:07.6296), Pagenaud, Power, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay and Dixon.

But after the reset, Dixon led the way at 1:06.6459, ahead of Power, Montoya, Pagenaud, Kanaan and Castroneves. Newgarden and Hunter-Reay dropped to ninth and 11th after the reset.

For the Firestone Fast Six, the timing line was moved to an alternate timeline on the backstraight.

Just after crossing that alternate timeline, and Power posted a 1:09.2936, he ran in too deep into Turn 9 to cause a red flag.

That was his only completed timed lap, but because he caused the red flag he’d lose his two fastest laps – which was his only lap.

Although five minutes of green flag running had elapsed, drivers got one more lap afterwards once the session restarted.

But Castroneves didn’t lose the pole position in the one-lap dash.

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

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:07.1246 (105.547)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 01:07.4455 (105.045)
3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:07.7410 (104.587)
4. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:07.7951 (104.503)
5. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:07.9054 (104.333)
6. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)
7. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:07.1415 (105.520)
8. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:07.2299 (105.382)
9. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:07.2548 (105.343)
10. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:07.2663 (105.325)
11. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:07.3171 (105.245)
12. (19) Luca Filippi, Honda, 01:07.9660 (104.240)
13. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 01:07.7520 (104.570)
14. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:07.6432 (104.738)
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:07.8065 (104.486)
16. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:07.6872 (104.670)
17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:07.8841 (104.366)
18. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:07.8513 (104.417)
19. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:08.3843 (103.603)
20. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:07.9929 (104.199)
21. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:08.2045 (103.876)