Castroneves on pole following bizarre Long Beach qualifying (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

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)

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
Leave a comment

As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”