Castroneves Sets Record, Wins Verizon P1 Award for Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
LONG BEACH, Calif. – It took only eight minutes of the first of three knockout qualifying rounds for the nine-year-old Long Beach track record to fall.
Tony Kanaan, who will make his 12th Indy car start in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and 297th overall, recorded a lap of 1 minute, 06.7442 seconds on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit.
About 30 minutes later in the Firestone Fast Six, Helio Castroneves reset the record with a lap of 1:06.6294, which earned the driver of the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet for Team Penske the Verizon P1 Award for the 80-lap race April 19 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
The track record at the 1.968-mile configuration, which was implemented in 2000, had been held by Sebastien Bourdais at 1:06.886. That was in 2006, and he went on to win the race.
It was the 42nd career Indy car pole for Castroneves, which is fourth on the all-time list. Castroneves won at Long Beach from the pole in 2001.
“The team worked really hard because we changed everything in the car last night, so congratulations to them,” said Castroneves, who will seek to claim his 30th career victory. “It was not pretty last night, but it proved that we were able to keep pushing. When you get the pole position with the teammates I have, it’s actually pretty cool. The car is awesome so we have to keep pushing.”
Team Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., will start on the outside of Row 1. His quickest lap of 1:06.6587 in the Firestone Fast Six in the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet also was lower than the previous track record.
Scott Dixon, driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, had a best lap of 1:06.7870 in the Firestone Fast Six, which also bettered the 2006 record. He’ll share Row 2 with Ryan Hunter-Reay, who is driving the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport.
Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske and Josef Newgarden of CFH Racing will be on Row 3.
Kanaan would have gladly traded the record lap for a spot in the Firestone Fast Six and a chance at the Verizon P1 Award in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Six drivers advance out of Round 2; Kanaan was seventh — .0783 of a second out.
“It’s frustrating that we didn’t make it into the Firestone Fast Six, especially after the lap times we were running in that first round,” he said. “We made a change between Q1 and Q2 and that unfortunately cost us a few tenths in the NTT Data Chevrolet. We were less than one-tenth from sixth, so it was definitely tight. That’s what I love about INDYCAR though, the competition is so strong and I think the race will definitely be exciting.”
Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, who earned the Verizon P1 Award in the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, will start on the outside of Row 9 in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Power was caught out by a red flag for a one-car incident involving rookie Stefano Coletti late in the 10-minute first round.
“I’m just kicking myself for not finishing that lap that I had a bobble on. I just had to turn the engine down and coasted for a bit before taking off again,” Power said. “It’s tough, but in these INDYCAR races anything can happen.”
Last season, Power won at Belle Isle after starting 16th and was the Long Beach runner-up after starting 14th.
DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:
Conor Daly has been named to drive the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda for the remainder of the weekend in place of Rocky Moran Jr., who sustained a broken left thumb in Friday practice.
Daly, 23, has one previous Verizon IndyCar Series start, finishing 22nd in the 2013 Indianapolis 500. The son of retired Formula One and Indy car driver Derek Daly was the 2011 Indy Lights race winner at Long Beach and has spent most of the past three years in GP2 and GP3, the F1 feeder series.
Daly has been driving the Indy Racing Experience two-seater at Long Beach this weekend until getting the call from Coyne this morning.
“It’s a shame to see Rocky break his (thumb) like he did, but this is why I bring my stuff to the track every week and this is why I’m here and this is why I’m ready,” Daly said. “I can’t thank Dale enough for the call, to be able to get out here and do some laps and get in the game. We’ll see what happens, but I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Daly, who tested an Indy car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in the offseason, has realistic expectations stepping in this deep into the weekend.
“We’re not here to set the world on fire,” said Daly, whose team borrowed a seat from Marco Andretti. “We’re here to learn. At least I’ve been on the track this weekend. I should be ready to go and excited for it. I’ve always wanted to race (an Indy car) on a road course, and especially here at Long Beach.”
Helio Castroneves has posted a lengthy list of impressive accomplishments during an Indy car career that spans 297 race starts and is into its 18th season. The likable Brazilian driver for Team Penske is most famous for the three Indianapolis 500 wins among his 29 career victories (11th on the all-time chart) and he has won the pole position 42 times (fourth all time). He won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach back in 2001.
The prize that has eluded the soon-to-be 40-year-old, however, is a Verizon IndyCar Series championship. He has been the runner-up bridesmaid four times, including last year to teammate Will Power.
“A championship is something I’m working really hard toward and, unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be yet,” Castroneves said Friday. “But that’s one of the things that keep you motivated to come back this year and do it again.”
Since his first Indy car season in 1998, Castroneves has finished in the top five of the championship standings 11 of the 17 years. Through two races this season, buoyed by second- and fourth-place finishes, he sits 10 points behind front-runner and teammate Juan Pablo Montoya entering Sunday’s race.
In the rain-slicked Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on April 12, Castroneves overcame a broken front-wing assembly early in the race and a spin on a restart to earn his 82nd career podium finish.
“Sometimes you are not going to have races that go your way and you need to man up, overcome and make the best of a situation,” he said. “The weather in New Orleans was something we could not control. Several drivers, myself included, made some mistakes on the wet surface and we paid for it. But the Hitachi team did a great job in making repairs and getting me back on track for a solid finish.”
Willie McGinest thrived for 15 years as a National Football League linebacker whose expertise was going fast and hitting the quarterback. When he strapped in behind racing legend Mario Andretti today for a ride in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater Indy car around the 1.968-mile Long Beach circuit, the last thing he wanted to do was hit anything.
“We run into people in football,” McGinest said with an ear-to-ear grin after stepping out of the two-seater. “I didn’t want to run into anybody while we were going 100-some miles an hour. It was unbelievable!
“There’s no words that can describe what just happened to me,” he added. “It was unbelievable, it was great. It was a legendary experience, to say the least.”
A Long Beach native, McGinest said he has ridden around the circuit in a parade truck before, but the two-seater with Andretti at the wheel was a totally new and unforgettable encounter.
“This car is a totally different experience, especially the braking and hitting and turning in the curbs. I didn’t know if we were going to get down enough to make some of those turns, but I’m riding with a legend so it was great.”
McGinest won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots and accumulated 102 quarterback sacks (86 regular season, 16 post-season) in 15 seasons with the Patriots and Cleveland Browns. Taking a lap around the track at speed gave him a deeper appreciation for the athletic abilities of Verizon IndyCar Series drivers.
“I ride in the little baby Indy cars when you’re at the little fun tracks, when you’re out having a good time, and I can’t even handle those cars,” he said. “So for what they do and the speed and the precision, the turns, everything – and you’re not by yourself, just imagine (racing) with other cars, too – it’s a different experience.”
Steve Eriksen, Honda Performance Development COO and vice president, said the Santa Clarita, Calif.-based company plans to supply engines to support 17 entries for the 99th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in May.
“Our plan from the very beginning has always been for 17 cars at Indy,” Eriksen said. “We always planned to support more than half the field. At 17 cars, that’s a good number for us from a resource standpoint. Based on what I’m hearing from each of our teams, I fully expect we’ll be at 17 cars for the month of May.
“I’ve also heard Chevy’s at 17. So, if that’s true, that gives us at least one car for Bump Day.”
With Honda entries in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Pirelli World Challenge and TUDOR United SportsCar Championship events this weekend at Long Beach, HPD has 55 engineers on site for trackside support.
Olympic alpine skier Alexandra Coletti of Monaco is attending the Long Beach race to support her brother, KV Racing Technology driver Stefano Coletti. Alexandra has competed in two Winter Olympics and was the flag bearer for her native Monaco in the 2010 opening ceremonies.
Jack Harvey (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian) obliterated the previous Long Beach track record to capture the pole position for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race. Harvey’s top lap in the new Dallara IR-15 chassis was the last of his 29 laps in the 45-minute session, at 1 minute, 12.0405 seconds. It was 0.8969 of a second better than the old track record set by Carlos Munoz in 2013. Rounding out the top three qualifiers for Sunday’s 60-lap race were Juncos Racing teammates Spencer Pigot (1:12.1156) and Kyle Kaiser (1:12.1573). The top seven qualifiers eclipsed the old record.
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m just kicking myself for not finishing the lap that I had a bobble on. I turned the engine down, coasted for a bit and took off again. It’s going to be tough. You know how these INDYCAR races go. Anything can happen. We have to be positive and hope a yellow falls our way. That’s kind of our only chance to make something of it.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, series points leader): “Yesterday in the first practice we were really good … We went one direction for the second practice and went slower, tried something this morning and went even slower, so I was like, ‘Oh, let’s put it back.’ We spent two days trying to figure it out and then just put it back the way we started and things were good. Welcome to motor racing. I really thought I had it (pole) there, but I made a mistake in the last corner, but it is what it is.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet, Verizon P1 Award Winner): “The team worked really hard because we changed everything in the car last night, so congratulations to them. It was not pretty last night, but it proved that we were able to keep pushing. When you get the pole position with the teammates I have, it’s actually pretty cool. The car is awesome so we have to keep pushing.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “Obviously, qualifying wasn’t what the No. 5 Arrow Electronics team was hoping for. I made a mistake on what ended up being our fast lap, which I’m definitely kicking myself for. Then on the following lap, we were up and there was a yellow flag for [Scott] Dixon. I caught [Tony] Kanaan on the end of the lap there. He was just absolutely on cruise trying to make it back to the finish. He was P1 and didn’t need to push but we were still trying to get into the top six. I’m pretty disappointed that nothing came of it, not that it really would’ve changed our day. We just have to do a better job all around – me not making mistakes and trying to find a bit more speed in the car – but one of the specialties of this group is digging ourselves out of a hole so hopefully we can just be smart tomorrow and come away with some good points.”
JAMES JAKES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Qualifying was disappointing. We’re just struggling a bit with the balance but everyone’s working very hard. It’s a long race tomorrow and hopefully we can just get some solid points here at Long Beach and move on. We have a bit of work to do for the No. 7 SPM Launch Consulting car but the guys are up to it and we’re ready for tomorrow.”
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “I’m just still really excited to be back in the car and racing in such a competitive field. Everyone is just running so close and it’s really fun to be out there driving. The car was really good and it handled amazingly in that first round. The red came out perfectly for us and allowed us to finish in P2 and move onto the next round. We came out in the second round really fast, but ended up picking up some understeer that killed the momentum we’d been building. I’m happy with the car for tomorrow, and I think we’ll be able to come out fast and make our move to the front.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet): “The Target car actually rolled off really well here – better than we normally do. We came into this weekend with a different mindset and I’m really proud of everyone on the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team for getting it going. We seemed to do really good on the black tires. We were hoping for bigger improvements and more of a time difference with the reds from the blacks, but we just didn’t find it. We were still quick enough, but hopefully we can find that time tomorrow during the race. Long Beach is always a tough one and strategy is definitely going to be top-of-mind.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It’s frustrating that we didn’t make it into the Firestone Fast 6, especially after the lap times we were running in that first round. We made a change between Q1 and Q2 and that unfortunately cost us a few tenths in the NTT DATA Chevrolet. We were less than one-tenth from sixth, so it was definitely tight. That’s what I love about INDYCAR though- the competition is so strong and I think tomorrow’s race will definitely be exciting.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Chevrolet): “Disappointed definitely. The Hydroxycut machine is not where we want it to be, but it could have been a lot worse. We could have gotten taken out straightaway in the first round of qualifying. We just don’t have the speed. It has been a trying weekend so far. I think we got a little bit lost, so we need to hit the reset button. We will do that and see what happens in the warm up tomorrow morning.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Another disappointing day. We tried various different setups in practice three to find good grip and balance and I think we made good improvement. I was quite looking forward to qualifying. Unfortunately, the red flag came out and qualifying finished before I was able to try for a fast lap. That was a shame. We’ll see how the car performs in the morning warmup.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “Everything went pretty well in qualifying; obviously the Steak ‘n Shake car was pretty close. We missed a top-six spot in Round 2 to advance to Round 3 by less than one-tenth of a second; it’s a close field. Obviously we would like to start a little higher up. If we couldn’t be on pole we wanted to be the fastest Honda today and we came up just short. The guys have been working awfully hard and I think this team is turning it around so hopefully we can have a good day tomorrow. I think racing is typically our thing versus qualifying so starting eighth makes it a lot easier than where we have started. I think it’s going to be an exciting race. For all the guys out here, I figured it would be pretty exciting to have the Maxim girls out here. It’s cool to have them on board. Biglari Holdings owns both Steak ‘n Shake and Maxim and it’s exciting to have them involved. It’s a new sponsor for Indy car racing. The fan support for Steak ‘n Shake in particular has been absolutely incredible. Keep those social media posts coming and go out and enjoy a Steakburger!”
CONOR DALY (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I am getting the feel of the car every lap. For sure it is a steep learning curve. It was great to get at least one session in this morning and get a feel for it. I haven’t ever driven on the red Firestone tires before and they were nice. The last lap I was half a second or four tenths up on my previous best which would have been nice. But, again, that is racing and it’s the way these things work. I’m very happy to be here but I’m very hard on myself because I want to be competing for wins. I just have to keep moving forward and do my best tomorrow.”
FRANCESCO DRACONE (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I am getting faster and faster every time I go out. I am starting to get closer to the pace of the other drivers. It was a bit unfortunate on the last lap because that would have been my best one of the qualifying session but the red flag came out for another car. I think it was the same for everyone but I would have liked to have that faster time. We should make a few more improvements for tomorrow. I think I’m getting faster mostly because of confidence. I think it is 80% confidence, 10% getting to know the track, and 10% getting the car setup better. I just asked the boys not to make any dramatic changes tonight because the car has been good. I am looking forward to racing in this historic race tomorrow.”
LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “We had much more potential and the ability to get into Round 2. Unfortunately, we were caught in traffic and when we were just starting to push on the red Firestone Firehawks, the red flag came out. It’s a bit of a shame, but it’s important that Josef (Newgarden) proved our cars are fast and the team has done a good job. I’m very positive for tomorrow. Our potential is much better than where we started. We can really aim for a strong finish here at Long Beach.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “We’ve been fast in every practice. Team Penske did a great job. Overall, it’s been a good weekend so far. Hope it stays that way tomorrow.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “Qualifying, I think, went better than this morning’s practice. Our main goal was to finish (qualifying) in the top 12; during qualifying we were thinking more about the race. We sit in 12th place for the start tomorrow- anything can happen.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “It was alright actually. I’m glad we did what we did – we saved some tires, so I have two new sets of (Firestone) reds for the race. We start 10th with two new sets of reds. I’d rather be there than even sixth (place) with no reds, so we’re in a good spot for tomorrow.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “That was pressure-packed. We definitely put the goal out today to make the Firestone Fast Six – that, for us, was a pole today. We got in there and we got well within (the top six), so we’re pretty happy about that. Tomorrow, for warmup, we’re going to have to see how the No. 28 DHL is with race trim, but this is another step forward with this new Honda (aero) package, and I think it’s obvious you can see it. Congrats to Helio (Castroneves) on the pole; I think he won the pole here back in ’86 or something like that (haha)! No, no, like 13 years ago, but that’s a testament to how talented he is. We’re making steps on this Honda aero package, and I think we just keep chipping away at it like this and we’ll be able to close that gap.”
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “We didn’t get the chance to put a time in because we were unlucky with the red flag situation. The car felt pretty decent this morning and I think we made the right changes for qualifying. I don’t think we would have been top three or four but I do think we could have been in the third or fourth row. Disappointing not to get a go and see where we were at, but we came from the back at St. Pete, so hopefully we can come through tomorrow.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “This was a good recovery from practice one as we didn’t roll off the truck stellar. The CFH Racing team is so good at figuring things out and recovering, and that’s exactly what we did. I am happy and proud of my team, they’re strong. Sixth is not as high up as we wanted to be, but we’re right in the thick of it. We’ve got a strong chance to challenge tomorrow, we’ve just got keep our nose clean for once around this place and we should definitely be primed for a good result.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “We were so close to transferring through to the next round – I think it was something like half of a tenth of a second of my fast lap. There was a local yellow out there that I slowed down for and ultimately lost that tenth off my lap time that would’ve allowed us to transfer. We were actually penalized for not slowing down enough in the local yellow zone, so I lost my fastest lap and moved down a few starting positions. I’m excited about taking the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen into the race here in Long Beach tomorrow. I think we have a good car and great people on the stand to call strategy. We have 80 laps to sort it out and come from 15th up to the front.”