Castroneves gives Penske 3 poles through 3 races this season
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) Helio Castroneves made Team Penske 3 for 3 in qualifying this season when he won the pole Saturday for the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Castroneves turned a lap at 1 minute, 7.1246 seconds to earn the top starting spot for the race Sunday on the temporary street course. It's the second consecutive year Castroneves will start from the pole at Long Beach, and second consecutive race. He also won the pole two weeks ago at Phoenix, and Penske teammate Will Power won the pole for the season-opening race at St. Petersburg.
In 2015, Penske drivers won the first five poles of the season.
''It shows that our team is very consistent,'' Castroneves said. ''We are working together very hard.''
Scott Dixon, the winner at Phoenix, qualified second and was followed by Penske driver Simon Pagenaud, Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya and Power.
The fast six was comprised only of Chevrolet drivers - four from Penske, two from Chip Ganassi Racing - as Honda failed to advance a driver into the final round.
Issues with timing and scoring marred the qualifying session, and then a potential misinterpretation of the rules during the final round left Montoya annoyed.
First, Sebastien Bourdais failed to advance out of the first round because he failed to hit the timing and scoring loop before the clock expired. Then in the second session, a transponder went out and IndyCar had to review the final standings.
The review changed the fast six as Castroneves was put in the field and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had been carrying the banner for Honda, was knocked out. Hunter-Reay was dropped from sixth to 11th after the review
IndyCar then moved the timing line to a different position on the track for the final round.
That session, though, was marred when Power ran too deep into Turn 9 and had to have his car pulled out. It caused a red flag, and IndyCar decided to give the remaining five drivers a chance at one more timed lap.
Montoya was adamant that was against the rules, and complained it dropped him from third to fifth on the starting grid.
Castroneves, who won at Long Beach in 2001 in the CART series, is fourth on the career list with 47 poles. He believes the last time he won back-to-back poles was a decade ago.
MAD MONTOYA: Because IndyCar allowed drivers to make one more lap in the final session after the red flag, Montoya dropped two positions on the starting grid. He was adamant that IndyCar incorrectly applied the rule in giving the drivers extra time.
''Will made a mistake, and the five minutes guaranteed were out, and the rules say when the five minutes guaranteed are over, the session is over,'' Montoya said. ''How did the rule work? So you'd better explain it to me because the rule book says when the five minutes guaranteed are over, the session is over. Like that, I should be P-3. So the rules are there to be broken whenever they feel like, I guess.''
MISSING THE MARK: Bourdais just missed advancing into the second round of qualifying because he didn't hit the timing line before the clock expired.
''On the replay you can see that the checkered flag falls behind me, but apparently the checkered flag is not in sync with timing and scoring,'' Bourdais said. ''As far as I am concerned, I didn't go by the checkered flag twice. It is just different reference points. We thought we were clear, but apparently I wasn't.'' Bourdais will start 14th.
RAHAL ROUGH DAY: Graham Rahal had one of the better cars in the Saturday morning practice session, but he crashed his Honda and his team was forced to make repairs. While he praised the team for getting him ready to qualify, the car wasn't as fast and Rahal qualified 17th.
''We thought we would be able to advance in qualifying but that wasn't the case,'' he said. ''I just feel bad for the guys. They worked hard to get the car ready for qualifying. We thought we had a good horse, but we'll work on it for the race.''
WHAT TO EXPECT: Probably another Chevrolet victory. The manufacturer has won both races to start the season and seems to have a considerable advantage over Honda.
The top six Chevy drivers were asked after qualifying if they fear anyone else in the field, and nobody seemed too concerned with anyone outside the Penske and Ganassi camp.
''When you look at the practice, we were all, all these cars were the fast cars,'' Montoya said.