WILL POWER/No.12 Team Penske has the pole for the first IndyCar Series race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. This makes his lap of 1:09.7107 a new track record.
The weather was hot – 83F/23C ambient and 112 F/44C track temperature, with blue skies and lots of happy fans.
Repeating St Pete’s race, five different teams qualified in the top six.
The top six drivers were: Power, DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing; Rookie RAPHAEL MATOS/Luczo Dragon Racing; EJ VISO/HVM Racing; JUSTIN WILSON/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing; and SCOTT DIXON/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
Power said “It was obvious in the first session you had to use reds. So he saved his for the last session and his big lap at the end. I was working with a new engineer and crew. There were a few bugs to iron out, but it turned out good.
“There were a lot of little details to work out, such as pedal adjustment. I was the team on the other side of the truck. I hardly made any adjustments on either car.”
Power’s two Penske teammates had problems in the third of four qualifying sessions, making owner ROGER PENSKE, visibly wince. HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 lost it and rear-ended the Shoreline Drive concrete wall pretty hard. He had already qualified eighth. Castroneves was seen by IRL Director of Medical Services, MICHAEL OLINGER, and found to have no signs of a concussion, However, Castroneves complained of a headache and will be re-evaluated in the morning. At this point, he’s not cleared to drive. Castroneves had his IRL physical Saturday morning. All IRL drivers take an Impact test at the beginning of the season, which is used for baseline at a later time.
RYAN BRISCOE/No.6 Team Penske stalled on course, and he will start tenth.
The noon Team Penske press conference with ROGER PENSKE, Castroneves and Team Penske President, TIM CINDRIC, was well attended, and the camera shutters clicked loudly and non-stop.
Castroneves said “I feel like I just woke up from a nightmare.”
Penske said the crew for the third IRL car was on site at the beginning of the weekend. “We deal in anticipation not expectation.” Race Engineer NIGEL BERESFORD flew in from England and JOHN ERICKSON, who runs the Penske Grand-Am crew, is the race strategist for Power. Penske said “We won one of our biggest races ever, getting Helio back in the car. A race is a race. This is a person’s life, his future, which is certainly a lot more important than wining a race.”
When asked why he was so supportive of Castroneves, Penske said “There was no reason for me not to support him. Our team and sponsors were concerned, but he had to know the folks with whom he’d been around for so long were with him. Everything was so negative in the press. He was guilty if you read the paper. We had to have our arms around him. We talked a number of time, in racing terms – seconds ahead, seconds behind.
“When you have a team and someone has issues, you try to stand by him. That’s the DNA of our company.”
Sunday’s 85-lap race start at 1:10 PDT and will be shown live on VERSUS.
1 WILL POWER/Team Penske 1:09.7107
2 DARIO FRANCHITTI/Target Chip Ganassi 1:09.8675
3 *RAPHAEL MATOS/Luczo Dragon Racing 1:10.2043
4 EJ VISO/HVM Racing 1:10.2232
5 JUSTIN WILSON/Dale Coyne Racing 1:10.2680
6 SCOTT DIXON/Target Chip Ganassi Racing 1:10.4038
7 GRAHAM RAHAL/Newman Haas Lanigan Racing 1:10.0283
8 HELIO CASTRONEVES/Team Penske 1:10.1139
9 ALEX TAGLIANI/Conquest Racing 1:10.1278
10 RYAN BRISCOE/Team Penske 1:10.2126
11 TONY KANAAN/Andretti Green Racing 1:10.3022
12 RYAN HUNTER-REAY/Vision Racing 1:10.4339
13 MARIO MORAES/KV Racing Technology 1:10.8459
14 DAN WHELDON/Panther Racing 1:10.5503
15 *ROBERT DOORNBOS/Newman Haas Lanigan Racing 1:10.9577
16 *MIKE CONWAY/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 1:10.6059
17 HIDEKI MUTOH/Andretti Green Racing 1:11.1177
18 DARREN MANNING/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 1:11.2411
19 MARCO ANDRETTI/Andretti Green Racing 1:11.2307
20 VITOR MEIRA/A.J. Foyt Enterprises 1:11.4487
21 *STANTON BARRETT/CCURB/Agajanian/Team 3G 1:11.4863
22 DANICA PATRICK/Andretti Green Racing 1:11.666
23 ED CARPENTER/Vision Racing 1:11.9069