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Power Claims Pole To Lead Penske Racing at Long Beach

April 18, 2009

Photo courtesy of IMS Photo



LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Will Power, who moved to a third Penske Racing entry when Helio Castroneves returned to racing Saturday morning, won the pole position for the 35th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

After preparing the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda for Castroneves on Friday, Power moved to the team's No. 12 Dallara/Honda sponsored by Verizon Wireless and promptly won the pole position later in the day with a lap of 1:09.7107.

Power, who won last year's Long Beach race, said he was a bit concerned about changing cars in the middle of a race weekend. But once he saw how good the new car was, he wasn‘t concerned any longer.

"I was a little worried this morning, but then I saw how these guys prepared things and I wasn‘t worried anymore," Power said. "I was right not to be, because the car was good. We ironed out a couple of bumps in the morning session, but it was great for qualifying. I'm sure it will be the same tomorrow in the race."

Castroneves returned to Team Penske Saturday after he was acquitted of tax evasion charges Friday afternoon in Miami. He will start eighth after becoming involved in an incident during the second qualifying session.

"It was a good day for us until the end of qualifying," Castroneves said. "Unfortunately, I pushed it a little bit too much trying to get into the top-six and I overdid it."

Power was moved to the No. 12 car for Sunday's race and the Indianapolis 500 in May, team officials announced Friday.

Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe, who won the season opener two weeks ago at St. Petersburg, Fla., will start from the fifth row, in the 10th position.

"We were running well, but when we put on the red tires in that second (qualifying) session, we lost the balance of the car," Briscoe said. "It's frustrating, but now we've got to focus on the race tomorrow. We're just going to keep moving forward and hopefully we can get another win under our belts."

While Castroneves' sudden appearance became the story of the weekend, Power quietly switched cars and uniforms and turned it into a great team story. "When I came into the pits during the first practice session Friday, Tim Cindric (Penske Racing's president) told me over the radio that Helio had been acquitted and was on his way," Power explained. "At that point I thought, ‘OK, I'm going to be changing cars.'"

This year's Long Beach race marks the first under the IndyCar banner after 25 consecutive years as a CART/Champ Car race. The two series merged last season.

The Indy cars return to the track for warm-up at 11:40 a.m. ET Sunday morning on the Long Beach street circuit. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will begin shortly after 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday and the 85-lap race will be televised live on Versus.