LONG BEACH, Calif. – It took only eight minutes of the first of three knockout qualifying rounds for the nine-year-old Long Beach track record to fall.
Tony Kanaan, who will make his 12th Indy car start in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and 297th overall, recorded a lap of 1 minute, 06.7442 seconds on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit.
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About 30 minutes later in the Firestone Fast Six, Helio Castroneves reset the record with a lap of 1:06.6294, which earned the driver of the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet for Team Penske the Verizon P1 Award for the 80-lap race April 19 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
The track record at the 1.968-mile configuration, which was implemented in 2000, had been held by Sebastien Bourdais at 1:06.886. That was in 2006, and he went on to win the race.
It was the 42nd career Indy car pole for Castroneves, which is fourth on the all-time list. Castroneves won at Long Beach from the pole in 2001.
“The team worked really hard because we changed everything in the car last night, so congratulations to them,” said Castroneves, who will seek to claim his 30th career victory. “It was not pretty last night, but it proved that we were able to keep pushing. When you get the pole position with the teammates I have, it’s actually pretty cool. The car is awesome so we have to keep pushing.”
Team Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., will start on the outside of Row 1. His quickest lap of 1:06.6587 in the Firestone Fast Six in the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet also was lower than the previous track record.
Scott Dixon, driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, had a best lap of 1:06.7870 in the Firestone Fast Six, which also bettered the 2006 record. He’ll share Row 2 with Ryan Hunter-Reay, who is driving the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport.
Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske and Josef Newgarden of CFH Racing will be on Row 3.
Kanaan would have gladly traded the record lap for a spot in the Firestone Fast Six and a chance at the Verizon P1 Award in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Six drivers advance out of Round 2; Kanaan was seventh — .0783 of a second out.
“It’s frustrating that we didn’t make it into the Firestone Fast Six, especially after the lap times we were running in that first round,” he said. “We made a change between Q1 and Q2 and that unfortunately cost us a few tenths in the NTT Data Chevrolet. We were less than one-tenth from sixth, so it was definitely tight. That’s what I love about INDYCAR though, the competition is so strong and I think the race will definitely be exciting.”
Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, who earned the Verizon P1 Award in the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, will start on the outside of Row 9 in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Power was caught out by a red flag for a one-car incident involving rookie Stefano Coletti late in the 10-minute first round.
“I’m just kicking myself for not finishing that lap that I had a bobble on. I just had to turn the engine down and coasted for a bit before taking off again,” Power said. “It’s tough, but in these INDYCAR races anything can happen.”
Last season, Power won at Belle Isle after starting 16th and was the Long Beach runner-up after starting 14th.