CHEVROLET RACING IN THE VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES
TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH
STREETS LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
POST QUALIFYING RECAP
APRIL 8, 2017
Helio Castroneves Puts Chevrolet on Pole with Track Record at Long Beach
LONG BEACH, Calif – (April 8, 2017) – Something about the Streets of Long Beach fits Helio Castroneves to a “T”. For the third consecutive year and the fourth time in his career, the driver of the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet will start on pole for the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
With a track record time of one minute, 06.2254 seconds at 106.980 mph, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner topped the Firestone Fast Six qualifying to capture the 48th Verizon P1 Award of his IndyCar Series career.
“The AAA Chevy is pretty good and my crew is working really hard and so is Chevy,” said Castroneves. “With the changes from the crew, my car just came alive from this morning’s practice. We know our competitors came on strong, but we were able to get a good lap. Now we will concentrate on tomorrow.”
Josef Newgarden, No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, qualified eighth followed by teammate Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet in the ninth starting position.
The remaining Team Chevy drivers qualified as follows:
Carlos Munoz, No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet – 14th
JF Hildebrand, No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet – 15th
Conor Daly, No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet – 17th
Spencer Pigot, No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet – 19th
Simon Pagenaud, No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet – 21st
NBCSN will telecast the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach live, starting at 1 p.m. PT. The race also will be broadcast on INDYCAR Radio Network affiliates, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com, the INDYCAR Mobile app, Sirius 212, and XM209.
HELIO CASTRONEVES, NO. 3 AUTO CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, POLE WINNER: “This competition in the Verizon IndyCar Series, it’s so incredible. It’s ridiculous, plus every time you go into a session, it’s something different. The track changes, the tires change, traffic… It is absolutely very difficult. The crucial time when it comes, you see everybody hundredths of a second separated from each other. My car felt pretty good. Especially with the reds (Firestone alternate tires), my car came alive from this morning, so the AAA Chevy is working really hard. Today is extra special because Long Beach is a great place. I remember winning here from the pole in 2001 and, the last two years, we were right there. We’re not going to let this escape again.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO. 2 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 8TH: “The Hum by Verizon Chevrolet was good enough to transfer, but we just couldn’t make it happen. It’s nothing to spend a lot of time thinking about. We just need to move on to Sunday and get to the front. The car is plenty fast. We’ll see what we can do strategy-wise and see how the cautions fall and make some decisions from there.”
WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 9TH: “It’s a little disappointing to be honest. We just couldn’t put together a solid lap. I’m not exactly sure what happened behind me on the thing with Simon (Pagenaud) and Helio (Castroneves). I was gearing up for a fast lap and trying to gauge the traffic in front. We came up a little short overall, and we’ll just hit the track tomorrow ready to go. The Verizon Chevy team gave me a great car and it will be awesome again tomorrow.”
CARLOS MUNOZ, NO. 14 ABC SUPPLY AJ FOYT CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 14TH: “We made a lot of progress from practice 3 to qualifying, we were a little bit more competitive. We knew our qualifying group was really tough, and we barely missed it. I lost all the time in the last corner (Turn 9). I made a big mistake, we should have been in the top 12, that was our goal. But I’m positive we’ll make some changes. The car is not what I need it to be. We have to make some overnight changes. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”
JR HILDEBRAND, NO. 21 FUZZY’S VODKA ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 15TH: “The car is actually pretty good. This morning, we ended up running a little longer on tires than other guys and were still able to maintain our lap times. I feel like the car will be solid in the race tomorrow and hopefully we can take advantage of the right opportunities along the way. We’re not that far off from being able to pick able to pick off a few guys for a single-digit finish. That is definitely in play for us, so that’s what we’re going to shoot for.”
CONOR DALY, NO. 4 ABC SUPPLY AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 17TH: We made big steps forward from St Pete which is nice. We’re starting several positions higher than we did then which is good. But I’m just disappointed a little bit in myself because I went a little bit wide and just got a little bit of the marbles from the race previously on my tires of the exit of 9 so lost a bit of time. I don’t know if it would have been enough to make it into the Top 12. We’re still fighting a little bit of oversteer in the car so hopefully we can continue to build on what we’re doing and just have a good race tomorrow.”
SPENCER PIGOT, NO. 20 FUZZY’S VODKA ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 19th: “Throughout the weekend, I’ve just been trying to get better. Both with improving the car and also improving some things that I have been working on. It is a tough track! We made some progress in the practice this morning, but when we put the red tires on in qualifying it just wasn’t there for us. We will go back and look at everything and focus on getting quicker for tomorrow.”
SIMON PAGENAUD, NO. 1 PPG AUTOMOTIVE FINISHES TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 21st: “It was just one of those unfortunate things. I understand the penalty because I interfered with (Helio) Castroneves’ lap. I backed up a little to set up a second lap on the (alternate tires) and Helio was right there. I was boxed in; there was nothing I could do. The Menards Chevy was fantastic. We’ll start from the back. St. Petersburg was won from the back and we’ll try to do that, too.”
FIRESTONE FAST SIX PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
Fast Six Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: This is Helio’s third pole in a row here, his fourth total in Long Beach. Also his 48th career pole. That’s fourth on the all-time pole list. One more pole will tie him for third on the all-time pole list.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, three in a row here. Seems like you have this track’s number. What is it that makes you so successful here in qualifying?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It’s those damn kids, coming over here trying to steal my thunder.
I tell you what, actually exactly what Ryan was mention about this competition in the Verizon IndyCar Series, it’s so incredible. It’s ridiculous.
Plus every time you go into a session, it’s something different. The track change, the tire change, traffic. It is absolutely very difficult. The crucial time when it comes, you see everybody hundredths of a second separated from each other.
For me today it was interesting because the first qualifying was a little bit tough. We almost didn’t make it. John and the rest of the guys were able to adjust the car for the next session. After that, we kept rolling.
Car felt pretty good. Especially with the reds, my car came alive from this morning. So the AAA Chevy is working really hard. Also Chevy in particular. We noticed that our competitors, Honda, are strong. To put a lap out there together, now we got to think about tomorrow.
Q. Helio, going back to the first session, what really happened between you and Simon? Did he impede your progress that much? Did you feel it warranted a penalty?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, unfortunately I think it was a snowball. Will, like, wasn’t going. We were not understand because we took enough gap from each other. I think maybe he was having issues with the brand-new set of reds.
In my position, because I was the third car, so I was so far back, I was catching those guys. All of a sudden when he came to the hairpin, obviously Simon was also trying — he was also penalized from that situation. It was too suddenly.
I actually touch Simon’s wheel ring on the hairpin. But we were able to come back and still made it to the top six. Were surprised actually when they penalized him. Obviously we didn’t say anything. It’s a shame because he was also a very good competitor. I mean, it’s another car for Team Penske able to win.
We never know. Sebastien won starting from the back. I hope that’s not the case this weekend, tomorrow. But for Team Penske, anything can happen.
Q. Helio, yesterday you told us, you were talking about the prestige of winning at Long Beach. You were happy you had. Then you said, And I’m going to do it again. You obviously have a very fast car right now. Is this the year?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, it is. So we’re looking forward to a great race tomorrow. I feel the AAA machine is running rails right now. Qualifying is one thing, the race is another. But I feel like we have a very good chance.
Q. Helio, how much is it motivating to try to keep these kids in their place? How much does that keep you going?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, man, I tell you. A lot. Every time I wake up in the morning, I do my workout. Sometimes some of the guys got friends that come by, that are really young. When you come out and say, Yeah, you’re tired, aren’t you? It feels good.
The point is always when I come to the race, I feel great. In my own team, I have incredible teammates. Incredibly talented, incredibly fast. I’m always learning with them. I’m not worrying about the other ones.
I tell you what, when you beat our team, you feel pretty darn good because you know you’re right on top. Today is extra special because Long Beach is a great place. I remember winning here from the pole in 2001, and last two years was — I mean, we were right there. We’re not going to let this escape again.
Q. Helio, you have Honda everywhere you look.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I tell you, I’m not worried about them at this point. I say they did a very good job during the off-season. Chevy, we are working on it the way we can.
I’m proud of those guys. I’m sure that we’re going to continue working because, you know, in the past I think they won the past five, six years, the championship. At one point Honda will step up their game. That’s what they did this year.
Now we got to keep it together and keep working. Hopefully at the end of the season we’ll also be battling for the championship.
Q. Helio, some years ago you got Roger to climb the fence with you after winning Indy. This year you kind of did a mosh-pit like jump into your crew members’ arms after winning pole. Do you think you can get the old man to jump into the crew members’ arms?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No (laughter). Not going to do that, I guarantee. But it’s pretty cool to have Roger in your corner, again, calling the shots. In fact, when I came in from the lap, I don’t think he was looking to the lap time. He knew we were running out of gas. He was just make sure I came in without stopping on the racetrack.
When I came in, he was like, Oh, all right. When I looked to the time sheet, Whoa, what a lap.
I know. I know.
It was pretty funny.
But Roger is a master of calling some shots, especially strategy. I have the best team in my corner for tomorrow. That’s why I’m super confident.
Q. This was brought up yesterday, about the pit exit, which became an issue last season when Dixon was coming down the track and Pagenaud came out of the pits and managed to get in front of him. Helio, since your starting in the front row, what is your understanding of where you can exit the pit lane? Can you see where you have to pass by? I know there’s an orange stripe, but how much can you see from the car?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, you can. It gets a little bit confused, to be honest, because it’s really far down. Yesterday, I thought I did a good job. Sounds like — towards the end, they called me. I’m not leaving any doubt. I’m just going straight to make sure I don’t have any issues.
You can see. There is a sensor. You just need to be careful because you can’t go in that gray area. You might be called. But you can see.
Q. I’m looking up there, Team Penske, no teammates. I know you’re not a kid. But can you look back 12 months from now, are you having more fun now? Your teammates are absent.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It’s surprising. I think Simon would be up here, for sure, and Will. I’m not sure what happened to them, to be honest. I was kind of like surprised.
But, well, it is what it is. I give full credit to my teammates because we’re working so together, each one learning from each other. I did get this pole position because of learning from those guys.
It’s a great team effort. It’s great to work with guys like that. Josef is a great addition to the team, as well. But in the end of the day, we are having a good time.