LONG BEACH, California: Veteran IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves earned his second straight Long Beach pole and third of his career after posting the fastest qualifying lap on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at the 2016 Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The 40-year-old Brazilian and Team Penske driver, who won from the pole in Long Beach in 2011, also claimed the coveted spot during last year’s qualifying session.
“We’ve been good. We’ve been working together all weekend long,” Castroneves said.
“I would say Team Penske probably had the upper hand. At the end of the day, the No. 3 car ended up in P1 [position No. 1]. They say it’s better to be lucky than good, and we plan very well.”
Castroneves now has 47 career poles in 19 IndyCar seasons as he recorded a lap of 1:7.12 (105.54 miles per hour/168.86 kilometers per hour) to finish ahead of Australian-born Kiwi Scott Dixon who will join the Brazilian on the front row.
Castroneves needs just two more poles to tie three time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser for third place on the all-time pole list.
Dixon, the reigning IndyCar Series champion and 2015 Long Beach winner, notched his best qualifying effort in 10 tries at Long Beach, joining Castroneves on the front row with a lap of 1:07.44 (105.04 mph/168.06 kph) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
“I’m stoked, considering how we started this weekend,” Dixon said. “We tried a totally different setup from last year. The cars have changed, especially aerodynamically, so we thought we might need some different things, but that wasn’t the case.”
“Even this morning, we struggled a little bit. Some good old front wing [added]helped us today as we were able to carry the speed of the Target car through the corners. “We could have had (the pole) 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,” he added.
Tony Kanaan joins the Penske quartet on the front row for Sunday’s street circuit race which is the third of the 2016 season.
This year’s 16-race calendar does not have races in New Orleans, Milwaukee and Fontana, California, from 2015, but new races were added in Boston, Phoenix and Milwaukee in June.
The feature event will be the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.