HELIO CASTRONEVES EARNS POLE, SETS PHOENIX TRACK RECORD
Team Penske driver leads Chevrolet to top 10 positions in qualifications on oval
PHOENIX (April 1, 2016) – Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves broke the 20-year-old Phoenix International Raceway track record on the way to earning the Verizon P1 Award for the pole position for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix.
Castroneves’ first lap of 19.0997 seconds (192.631 mph) in single-car qualifications on the 1.022-mile oval eclipsed the record set by two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Scottsdale, Arizona, resident Arie Luyendyk. Castroneves, driving the No. 3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet, earned the pole with a two-lap average speed of 192.324 mph.
Luyendyk, a Verizon IndyCar Series race steward, set the mark with a lap of 19.068 seconds (183.599 mph) in earning the pole on March 23, 1996.
Castroneves, who won at PIR in 2002 from the pole, will lead the 22-car field to the green flag for the 250-lap race under the lights Saturday as the Verizon IndyCar Series makes its return to Phoenix International Raceway after an 11-year absence. NBCSN will telecast the race at 8:30 p.m. ET.
“The first lap was really big and I was really happy with the balance of the car,” said Castroneves, who claimed the 46th pole of his long and successful career – fourth on the all-time Indy car list. “I was very surprised actually that it happened. At the end of the day, the car was strong. The REV Group Chevrolet was really, really strong. Now we have to keep pushing so hopefully we finish at the top.
“Nineteen seconds a lap, it is pretty impressive. The fans that are going to be here at Phoenix are going to see the fastest cars in the world going around this place.”
Chevrolet drivers claimed the top 10 positions in qualifying. Tony Kanaan (No. 10 GE LED Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet), who won at the track in 2003 and ’04, will join Castroneves on the front row after posting a two-lap average speed of 191.511 mph.
“It was pretty good, and the conditions changed a lot since this morning, so it was a little tricky to make a decision in what to do with the car,” Kanaan said. “But I think big props to Chevy and Pratt & Miller on their accurate data because we made some changes in the car. It was totally blind, just according to the numbers they gave us, and it was spot on.”
Juan Pablo Montoya, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship runner-up in 2015 and winner of the 2016 opener last month on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, qualified third in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) qualified fourth, and team owner/driver Ed Carpenter (No. 20 Fuzzys Ultra Premium Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet) rounded out the top five.
Team Penske drivers have earned the pole for the first two races of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, with Will Power setting the track record for the opener.
The Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix is set to start on Saturday, April 2 at 5:30 p.m. PT(8:30 p.m. ET) with live television coverage on NBCSN. Live radio coverage will be on XM Radio Channel 209, IMS Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 212. In addition, IndyCar live timing and scoring with the radio broadcast can be found at www.indy.car.com, indycarradio.com and IndyCar App on your mobile device.