Castroneves, driving the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet, recorded a quick lap of 1 minute, 7.1925 seconds on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park road course to claim the $10,000 pole award for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. The pole was the 43rd of Castroneves’ career, which is fourth all time in Indy car history, and inches the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner one step closer to Bobby Unser, who is third on the all-time list with 49 poles.
The Firestone Fast Six was called with 1:40 left in the 10-minute segment because of lightning in the area. The three rounds of knockout qualifications set the 23-car starting grid for the 90-lap race April 26 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN). The weather forecast is for sun and temperatures in the mid-70s.
Castroneves set a track record at Long Beach a week ago and has three of Team Penske’s seven consecutive Verizon P1 Awards bridging the 2014 and ’15 seasons. Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power also has three and Juan Pablo Montoya started on the pole for the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on April 12 based on entrant points as rain canceled the final segment of qualifying.
“It’s all about team effort,” said Castroneves, who entered the race weekend three points behind front-runner Montoya in the championship standings. “For us, every practice is qualifying. That helped us to push ourselves to be in this position. It’s not about because we have success here. I think it’s part of it, but it’s in the equipment. At the end of the day, it’s a team effort. Everyone is working hard.”
Castroneves won the inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park in 2010. The Verizon P1 Award winner has gone on to win the race twice in its five previous years (Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2013 and Power in 2011).
Power was second quick in the Firestone Fast Six (1:07.3833) and posted the quickest lap in qualifying at 1:06.8050 in the second 10-minute segment in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Scott Dixon set the lap record of 1:06.7750 (123.999 mph) in the first round of knockout qualifications in 2013.
Power has started from the pole three times (2014, 2011, 2010) in the five races at Barber Motorsports Park and won in 2011 and 2012. He earned the Verizon P1 Award in 2014 with a lap of 1:08.3120 in the Firestone Fast Six.
Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud qualified third in the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet and Dixon qualified fourth in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Josef Newgarden, driving the No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet, and Tony Kanaan, in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, will share Row 3. It was the second top-six start in a row for Newgarden.
“I just don’t think we’re right up there for pole territory, but at least we’re in consistent Fast Six territory,” said Newgarden, whose best qualifying position on a road/street course is second on three different occasions. “That’s a good improvement for us. We’re definitely getting there. I’m excited about that but I’m a little worried about (the race). I think we’ve got a little work to do on our race car, to make it consistently fast over a stint.”
Hunter-Reay, who has won the past two races at Barber Motorsports Park, will have to come through the field to earn the three-peat. The reigning Indianapolis 500 champion qualified 18th in the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda.
Montoya, who won the season opener at St. Petersburg, Fla., will have considerable work to claim his fourth straight top-five finish of the season, and seventh consecutive top-five finish dating to 2014. He qualified 15th in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Team Penske Chevrolet.
“It’s always important to collect the points,” added Castroneves, who is seeking his first series championship. “But at this stage, I’m not thinking right now of that. I’m thinking about collecting the victory that slipped from our hands in Long Beach. I’m going to push as hard as I can to keep after that quest.”
All teams tested March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park for the first time with the new road/street and short oval aerodynamic bodywork packages.
2015 Verizon P1 Award winners:
- Streets of St. Petersburg – Will Power, Team Penske (track record)
- NOLA Motorsports Park – Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske (based on entrant points when qualifying was canceled by rain)
- Streets of Long Beach – Helio Castroneves, Team Penske (track record)
- Barber Motorsports Park — Helio Castroneves, Team Penske