LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 16, 2011) – For the third consecutive time at Long Beach and third straight time this season, Verizon Team Penske's Will Power claimed the pole position.
Power secured the No. 1 starting position Saturday for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach by recording a lap of 1:09.065 around the 1.9-mile, 11-turn street course in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda. He led Team Penske's effort, as Helio Castroneves qualified sixth and Ryan Briscoe qualified 12th for Sunday's race.
Power said he had to work very hard to secure his 19th career Indy car pole position.
"That was a very difficult qualifying session," said Power after securing his third straight pole to start the season and his 10th pole in the last 12 IZOD IndyCar Series road or street course races. "It's important to start up front here. We've just got to be smooth and clean on the double-file restarts. I think everybody is learning how to deal with that. We should be better this weekend."
After struggling in practice to start the weekend, Castroneves and the No. 3 Automobile Club of Southern California team rallied to qualify for the Firestone Fast Six. The team fought for the pole before earning a sixth-place starting spot in the 27-car field for Sunday's 85-lap race.
"The Automobile Club of Southern California Team Penske car was a bit difficult to drive out there at the beginning of the weekend," said Castroneves, who posted a fast lap of 1:09.842 in the final qualifying session. "My engineer Ron (Ruzewski) and the No. 3 car guys made some changes and they helped me to make the Fast Six. You know it was tough, but we never give up, we just keep working. If you would have told me this morning that I would make the Fast Six, I would have said, ‘Get outta here.' We have our work cut out for us tomorrow, but this Auto Club Team Penske group will find a way."
Briscoe, who owned the fastest lap in practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, got hung up in traffic and couldn't repeat his chart-topping lap in qualifying. Instead, he recorded a fast lap of 1:09.824 in the No. 6 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Honda as he fell just short of earning his way into the final round of qualifying.
"The Penske Truck Rental car has been fast all weekend so it's tough to not make the Fast Six and fight for the pole," said Briscoe. "We just didn't get a clean lap. A bunch of guys came out (of the pits) in front of me and we just missed the peak of the tires. The (Firestone alternate) reds went off quickly and we just missed it. It's so competitive out there, it doesn't take much. We've got some work ahead of us for the race tomorrow but we're feeling really confident with the car and we know we have the speed. We just need to get through the start and go from there."??The battle for the pole position came down to a duel between Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won the Long Beach race last year after Power captured the pole.?
"(Hunter-Reay) going to be tough in the race," said Power, who won at Long Beach in the 2008 Champ Car Series finale. "We're going to have to be good tomorrow, but we finished on the podium the last two years. I want to get that (top) step."