There’s a saying “Timing is Everything” which proved to be the case Saturday during IndyCar qualifying, literally and figuratively. Several drivers had highs and lows and visa versa, all controlled by timing and scoring.
Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet has the Verizon P1 Pole Position for Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Race at the 42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He almost didn’t. His pole lap was 1:07.1246/105.547 mph. He took the Checkered Flag in Turn Nine in the Firestone Fast 6 Qualifying Round, after IndyCar had to move the official Timing Line to the transponder loop on the back straight due to problems at the Start-Finish line.
This was the second consecutive pole for Castroneves this season, and second consecutive/ third overall for him at Long Beach, making his total now 47. Castroneves is fourth overall in pole positions, behind third place Bobby Unser, who has 49.
In Victory Circle, Castroneves said “Definitely it was a bit hard because of the yellow/red flag. It was phenomenal. It’s so cool to see so many people here already.”
The Firestone Fast 6 finishers were Castroneves, Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 PPG Automotive Finishes Team Penske Chevrolet, Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, and Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Earlier, in Round Two of Qualifying, Castroneves’ name briefly fell below the magic six cutoff until a problem with IndyCar Timing & Scoring had been resolved. The monitor went from showing six drivers with Montoya on top, followed by Pagenaud, Power, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay, and Dixon, with Castroneves not making the Firestone Fast Six. The times weren’t all that great. Then the list briefly recalibrated – with a different top six list – all Chevy drivers, including Castroneves – with faster times. Then all six showed No Time. Castroneves went from zero to hero.
And then in the Firestone Fast 6 session, with less than two minutes to go in the ten-minute session, Will Power spun out in turn Nine, bringing out the Red Flag. Once that was cleared, IndyCar announced that Power lost his two fastest laps and wasn’t allowed to continued. The other drivers were allowed to go back out for one timed lap.
Later, in the Press Conference, Castroneves was more open about his confusion. “Qualifying was good until the last session. 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, so I don’t understand how the rule — 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. It wasn’t a great lap, but the five minutes guaranteed were done.”
Dixon said “We could have had it if the qualifying had carried through. We had the speed for pole. But front row is a good place to start and hopefully we can replicate the race from last year.”
Pagenaud said “Yeah, it was an interesting Fast Six. We locked in one lap. Luckily that was good for P-3. But yeah, I was concerned. We didn’t have a lap in when the red came out. I’m happy with third right now because I really thought we were getting sixth.”
Montoya said “When you look at the practice, we were all — all the cars were the fastest cars normally in practice. Our car is good.”
A hapless Power starts sixth, with No Time. He spun in Turn Nine in the Firestone Fast 6. He said “I kind of went a bit deep and didn’t want to take a risk and hit the wall and tried to spin it back around. I thought it was all over then anyway because once you cause a yellow you lose your best two laps. But that’s okay. I always seem to start way back. It’s not way back this year. It’s a lot better than the previous two or three years. At least I’m in the top six.”
The top Honda was James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, placing seventh. The other two Hondas in the top ten were Takuma Sato/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing, ranking eighth, and Carlos Munoz/No.26 Andretti Autosport in tenth. Josef Newgarden/No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet slotted in ninth.
Munoz said “I have kind-of a two-way feeling. I’m disappointed. It was an okay qualifying, especially after Practice 3. We were really good in Qualifying Round 1, we were the second fastest car and everyone was really close with each other.”
The weather was hot and breezy, and the track was 121 degrees F.
Each of the two groups had ten minutes in the first go-round to throw down a killer lap fast enough to make the next round. No one in Group One made it into the 1:06’s. In Group Two, Power finally broke that barrier, although not as fast as his morning’s top time.
All three Rookies missed the first cut. Conor Daly/No.18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Dale Coyne Racing Honda starts thirteenth. Alexander Rossi/No.98 Castrol Edge/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda is gridded sixteenth. Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet starts nineteenth.
Sebastien Bourdais/No.11 California Baptist University-KVSH Chevrolet suffered a blow. Several minutes after making the cut in Group Two in P5, he was told that his last/fastest lap didn’t count as he took the checkered flag two seconds before he started that lap. He said “I am disappointed for the guys. They worked really hard. 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. 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.”
Two of the eligible 12 cars for Round Two didn’t go out – Lucca Filippi/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Carlos Munoz/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda.
Sunday morning IndyCar has a half-hour Warm Up at 9am local time.
Pirelli World Challenge has the Replay XD Grand Prix at Long Beach presented by Cadillac – a 50-minute sprint race. IndyCar has its pre-race activities leading up to the 1:37 Green Flag drop for the 80-lap race. Live TV coverage starts at 1pm local time/4pm ET on NBCSN. Rick Allen will be announcing in the booth, with Townsend Bell and Paul Drivers as analysts. In the pits will be Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller.
UNOFFICIAL QUALIFYING RESULTS
Rank Car Driver Name C/A/E/T Time Speed Session
1 3 Castroneves, Helio D/C/C/F 01:07.1246 105.547 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
2 9 Dixon, Scott D/C/C/F 01:07.4455 105.045 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
3 22 Pagenaud, Simon D/C/C/F 01:07.7410 104.587 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
4 10 Kanaan, Tony D/C/C/F 01:07.7951 104.503 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
5 2 Montoya, Juan Pablo D/C/C/F 01:07.9054 104.333 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
6 12 Power, Will D/C/C/F No Time No Speed Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
7 5 Hinchcliffe, James D/H/H/F 01:07.1415 105.520 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
8 14 Sato, Takuma D/H/H/F 01:07.2299 105.382 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
9 21 Newgarden, Josef D/C/C/F 01:07.2548 105.343 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
10 26 Munoz, Carlos D/H/H/F 01:07.2663 105.325 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
11 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan D/H/H/F 01:07.3171 105.245 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
12 19 Filippi, Luca D/H/H/F 01:07.9660 104.240 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
13 18 Daly, Conor (R) D/H/H/F 01:07.7520 104.570 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
14 11 Bourdais, Sebastien D/C/C/F 01:07.6432 104.738 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
15 83 Kimball, Charlie D/C/C/F 01:07.8065 104.486 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
16 98 Rossi, Alexander (R) D/H/H/F 01:07.6872 104.670 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
17 15 Rahal, Graham D/H/H/F 01:07.8841 104.366 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
18 7 Aleshin, Mikhail D/H/H/F 01:07.8513 104.417 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
19 8 Chilton, Max (R) D/C/C/F 01:08.3843 103.603 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
20 41 Hawksworth, Jack D/H/H/F 01:07.9929 104.199 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
21 27 Andretti, Marco D/H/H/F 01:08.2045 103.876 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
Pursuant to Rule 8.3.5, Car 12 best two lap times invalidated in his session.