RYAN HUNTER-REAY/No.28 Andretti Autosport Honda is on pole for Sundays Verizon IndyCar Series race at the 40th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, with a lap of 1:07.8219. His lap, the fastest of all four of the qualifying rounds, and the fastest of the weekend, pipped his Andretti teammate, JAMES HINCHCLIFFE/No.27, on the last qualifying lap. This is the sixth career pole position for the 2010 Long Beach winner. RHR is currently second in the IndyCar standings.
IndyCar qualifying was held in sessions, Round One for Group One and Group Two, taking the top six from each to proceed to Round Two. The top six from that session went around one last time. SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS/No.11 KVSH Racing Chevrolet was the fastest in each of his first two rounds, lowering his time each run. However, come the final round, he finished third overall – the lone Chevrolet – behind Hinchcliffe.
Fourth through sixth were JOSEF NEWGARDEN/No.6 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda, Rookie JACK HAWKSWORTH/No.98 BHA BMM with Curb Agajanian Honda, and SIMON PAGENAUD/No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda.
Hunter-Reay said “It was very entertaining to get the pole. You didn’t know who would get the pole until it was over. Tomorrow expect the unexpected. Different tracks have different strategies. It’s going to be a tough one with the close competition.”
RHR, as well as some of the other drivers, commented how very unusual it was for no Penske or Ganassi cars in top six. Hunter-Reay said “I can’t remember that ever happening.” Newgarden expressed surprise about WILL POWER/No.12 Team Penske Chevrolet not making the cut. and Bourdais said “I think it really sums up how much things are certain right now in IndyCar, and how the field is competitive. Five teams in top six. Cars separated by hundredths. All bets are off.” Hinchcliffe scoffed. “Will can win from twelfth.” They’ll be strong in the race.” Pagenaud said the times were very close. Power will start fourteenth.
RHR confirmed his wall scrape in the morning session. “I flapped the car, front and rear, into the wall. Not serious but I did it.” Regarding starts, rolling or standing, he said “I just think we should do it one way or another. standing or rolling start.” When repeatedly asked about his race strategy, he joked “I’m trying to tell you my strategy but then my engineers would have to ……..”
Bourdais said “It was fun. It’s been a team effort. We really thought we had a shot at it. We have a really fast car here, came up a bit short today, but there’s always tomorrow.”
Newgarden said “It wasn’t a big jump between reds and blacks (tires.) It was kind of weird in a way. We’re starting up front and it’s our goal to stay up there.”
Hawksworth was the top Rookie. He presents as one of the more serious drivers, especially contrasted to Newgarden. Hawksworth wasn’t too concerned about having less pre-season practice than most. “When you have a good foundation to build from, it wasn’t why we weren’t picking up at square one. It was already kind of there ad we just chipped away ever since.”
Pagenaud said “I think it’s very tight. The competition is really high. And really, I think it’s the best drivers around in IndyCar. Long Beach is a good track for passing actually, because there is a lot of action in Turn One, not only in the start, but also during the race. There is a lot of fuel saving usually, that makes for different strategies.
Sunday’s 80-lap race, with a standing start, airs live on NBCSN, with the pre-race show starting at 12:30pm local time.