Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

Castroneves Scores Long Beach IMSA Pole, Tandy Leads Porsche GTLM Front Row

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

LONG BEACH, California– Helio Castroneves brought Acura Team Penske their first pole position of 2019 ahead of Saturday’s BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.

The 2001 Long Beach Indy car winner set a fastest lap of 1 minute, 11.332 seconds, averaging 99.321 mph around the 1.968 mile street circuit in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi. Felipe Nasr qualified second in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi with a lap of 1 minute, 11.550 seconds.

Castroneves qualified fourth last year so scoring a pole position in the first year Acura is sponsoring the NTT IndyCar Series portion of the weekend was nice. What was nicer was breaking the track record Juan Pablo Montoya set last year at 1 minute, 12.922 seconds in his No. 6 Acura Team Penske DPi.

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” said Castroneves. “It’s a great start for us, especially with the Acura Team Penske, you’re thinking about Acura just taking the sponsorship with the Long Beach Grand Prix, it’s a great start for us.”

Acura and Cadillac repeated themselves on the second row with Montoya leading Joao Barbosa while Mazda Team Joest locked out the third row on the grid with Jonathan Bomarito ahead of Tristan Nunez.

Moving down to GT Le Mans, it was an all-Porsche front row as Nick Tandy in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR turned a fastest lap of 1 minute, 16.313 seconds to average 92.838 mph. Tandy led Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche by just .064 seconds.

“We obviously had a good time here last year from a pace point of view so we’re expecting good things,” said Tandy. “It’s one of our best circuits and obviously really happy to lock out the front row, looking from a manufacturers and team championship point of view because obviously we’re leading that at the moment.”

It was a Chevrolet/Ford mix on rows two and three. Oliver Gavin led Sebastien Bourdais on row two while Antonio Garcia led Ryan Briscoe on row three. BMW Team RLL rides shotgun on the field with Tom Blomqvist and John Edwards at the rear of the 19-car field.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.