Castroneves Takes The Pole At The Honda Indy Grand Prix
March 31, 2012
Photo courtesy of Steve Swope
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (March 31, 2012) – Helio Castroneves kept his winning momentum going during qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and will start from the pole position for Sunday's race at Barber Motorsports Park. Castroneves will attempt to win his second race at Barber on Sunday.
Castroneves, who won at Barber in 2010, recorded a fast lap of 70.4768 on the way to his 37th career pole position and the 205th in the history of Penske Racing's open-wheel racing team. Last week's winner on the Streets of St. Petersburg was very pleased with how the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet handled the 17-turn, 2.38 mile circuit.
"The AAA Insurance Team Penske car was looking good, feeling great and we couldn't do it without Chevy power in the engine. The Firestone tires were able to give me a Top Six and thanks again to Firestone. It is important (for) us to start strong and continue to do what we are doing," said Castroneves, the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion. "I won here before from the second row and I have a lot of confidence in our car starting up front. I am enjoying the moment and can't wait for tomorrow."
Castroneves' Team Penske teammates were not as fortunate as they were unable to qualify for the Firestone Fast Six. Will Power will start ninth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, as his hot lap – which would have earned him a spot in the Fast Six – was disqualified by officials due to an incident involving Ryan Hunter-Reay in second-round qualifying. IndyCar officials determined that Power's lap was posted after the yellow flag was displayed for the incident so the time was disallowed. Power, a two-time pole winner at Barber and 2011's race winner, posted a top lap of 69.8529 seconds in the first qualifying round to surpass the track record he established in qualifying for the 2010 race. Power will start ninth on Sunday as he saw his 20-race streak of qualifying for the Fast Six come to an end.
"It's a pretty frustrating qualifying result. Man, we had a great Verizon car today. We had a good first session and we were ready to fight for the pole," said Power. "I know IndyCar threw the (yellow) flag there but I'm not sure why they didn't allow our fast lap. It's definitely going to be tough starting ninth tomorrow, but we know we've got a fast car. We have to have a good start and be strong on the restarts and hopefully work our way up front."
Briscoe, who started on the front row last weekend at St. Pete, will start 12th after trouble with his car's clutch control prevented him from competing in the Round 2 of qualifying. However, the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet will be ready for the start of Sunday's 90-lap race.
"We had a good first session and felt really good heading into the second round of qualifying with the No. 2 Hitachi car," said Briscoe. "We just had a problem with the clutch control unit and first gear. We could get it in first gear but the car wouldn't actually leave the gear. It's pretty disappointing because I really felt we had a car that was capable of winning the pole. It's a long race ahead of us though and I know Team Penske will come up with a good strategy to get a good result tomorrow."
In the 38 previous races Castroneves has started from the pole, he has won 12 times. He last won from the pole at Motegi in 2010. Saturday's result also was the third consecutive pole at Barber by Team Penske.
"The AAA Insurance car felt very strong," Castroneves said. "We couldn't have done it without Chevrolet power. Chevy has done a great job to put everything together. We put ourselves in a very good position. Now we just have to continue to do what we're doing."
Tape delayed coverage of today's qualifying airs on NBC Sports Network today at 4:00 pm ET and live coverage of Sunday's race begins at 2 p.m. ET on NBC Sports.