Brazilian Helio Castroneves will start from the pole position in Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach IndyCar Series race for the third consecutive year and fourth time overall.
Castroneves won the pole Saturday by completing a lap of the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit surrounding the Long Beach Convention Center in a track-record 1 minute, 6.2254 seconds (106.980 mph).
Great pole for Helio Castroneves for LBGP. Close times looking forward to the race.🏁 pic.twitter.com/vG87aZv7kE
— Jonathan Thompson (@jonathanthomp) April 9, 2017
“For me today, it was interesting because the first qualifying (segment) was a little bit tough,” the 41-year-old Castroneves said after winning the 48th pole of his IndyCar career, fourth all time and one behind tying Bobby Unser for third on the all-time list.
“We almost didn’t make it. (Engineer) John (Bouslog) and the rest of the guys were able to adjust the car for the next session. After that, we kept rolling.”
The pole victory was Castroneves’ first since last year’s Long Beach race.
The field of 21 drivers was reduced to 12 for the second qualifying session and six for the final session.
Castroneves held the previous record, 1:06.6294, set in 2015. Eleven of the 12 drivers in the second segment of the three-segment qualifying session had times faster than Castroneves’ previous record.
Castroneves also won the pole in 2001 race, the only year he won in Long Beach. Castroneves was third in last year’s race and second in 2015.
Castroneves is a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, most recently in 2009, and the fall 2007 “Dancing with the Stars” champion.
New Zealander Scott Dixon will start second for the second consecutive year after qualifying in 1:06.4123.
“Qualifying second is a great spot to start,” Dixon said. “I think our cars are typically good on the long run. I think we have a great shot at competing for the race win.”
Dixon’s qualifying matched his best effort in his 11 years driving in Long Beach.
Dixon was second in last year’s race, 0.3032 of a second behind Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, the closest finish in the Long Beach’s 33 IndyCar races.
Australian Will Power will start ninth after being eliminated in the second qualifying session. He had posted the fastest time in Friday’s practice, 1:07.08. Power had won the pole in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the only other race this season on the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Pagenaud, a Team Penske teammate of Castroneves, will start last in the 21-car field. He was penalized for impeding Castroneves on a flying lap in the first segment, nullifying what would have been a track record and being automatically eliminated from advancing.
All the cars use fourth-generation Verizon IndyCar Series Dallara chassis with Chevrolet or Honda aerodynamic bodywork and engines and Firestone tires.
Castroneves has the only Chevrolet engine among the top seven drivers in the field.
The 21-driver field consists of drivers from 11 nations — nine from the U.S., two each from Brazil and France, and one each from Australia, Canada, Colombia, England, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
–City News Service
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