Will Power wins pole for Long Beach GP
Penske Racing driver Will Power, who was displaced in the No. 3 Penske car by Helio Castroneves just this morning, showed boss Roger Penske why he deserves a full-time IndyCar ride by winning the pole for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in the No. 12 Penske car that he had never turned a lap in until this morning.
Ironically the two regular Penske drivers, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe spun during qualifying and it was down to the Champ Car transplant Power to save the day.
And save the day he did, by topping the times Friday in the No. 3 and then coming back in a different car and doing it again on Saturday when it counted with a fast lap of 1m09.7107s. It was good enough to beat Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti by just 0.1568 of a second.
When asked if he had any concern switching to a different car this morning, Power said, "I was a little worried this morning, but I just saw how these (Penske) guys compare things. To be honest, I wasn't that worried — and I was right. We ironed out a couple of bugs in the morning and the car was great for qualifying and I'm sure it will be the same tomorrow in the race."
Dario Franchitti qualified 2nd, followed by rookie Raphael Matos, EJ Viso, Justin Wilson and Scott Dixon, who rounded out the Fast 6.
The knockout style qualifying came down to a final 12 drivers of Dario Franchitti, Justin Wilson, Raphael Matos, EJ Viso, Scott Dixon, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alex Tagliani, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe and Graham Rahal.
That session ended when Castroneves lost control in Turn 1 and spun backward and impacted the tire barrier rear-end first. The Indy Car medical Director says Castroneves shows no sign of a concussion, but he was complaining of a headache and he will be reevaluated in the morning. If he is cleared to drive he will line up 8th.
"This feels really good," Matos told AutoRacing1.com.
"I have to thank the team for putting the car back together after our crash in St. Petersburg. They did a really good job and this is a dream come true for the Luczo Dragon team and for me.
"I'm not intimidated by the more experienced drivers around me. I finished 2nd here in 2006 in the Atlantic cars and then won in 2007 in the Atlantic cars.
"Managing the red tires will be key on Sunday. Whereas they were 4/10ths of a second faster than the harder black tires in St. Petersburg, here they are much softer and are 7/10th of a second a lap faster. They will, therefore, wear faster so a driver who abuses them early may find himself going backwards on Sunday."
Justin Wilson and Dale Coyne Racing made it through to the final qualifying round, posting the fifth fastest time in the Firestone Fast Six (1m10.268s).
"Anytime you make it through to the Firestone Fast Six you're happy," said Wilson. "The Z-Line Designs car was working very well and we set a really quick time in the second session. I was very happy with that, but we just couldn't repeat it in the final session."
Wilson was fastest in his group during the first round of qualifying and was P2 in the second round on the alternate, softer (red-sidewalled) Firestone Firehawk tires. His final qualifying result came on the prime, harder tire compound.
"There's a pretty big difference between the prime and softer compounds here," Justin explained. "The softer tires definitely have a lot more grip and that's a cool feeling, but when you put the prime tires back on you're slipping and sliding a lot. We just didn't quite have the balance that we'd had before and though we made a few small changes as the final session went on, it wasn't enough. All in all we're very happy and I think that gives us a good chance for the race. We can definitely aim for another podium, if not win this thing."
The 85-lap Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will start at 4:30 p.m. (ET) and will be broadcast live on Versus.
WILL POWER (No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless, first): “It was obvious in the first session that you had to use reds (tires) to get through. So it was a matter of saving your reds a little bit and saving your energy to the final round. That's sort of what I did. I saved my big lap until the end. A great job by the team. They had to swap everything over on this car, with an all new crew, new engineer and everything. They did a good job. We're looking to have a strong race tomorrow and hopefully move up in the championship.”
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, second): “I’m happy to be back at Long Beach. I love the track. I love the atmosphere. There’s such a buzz about the place all week. The balance of the Target car was really good there at the end. I was just trying to get a clear lap. You run to the limit so much here in qualifying. We had a really good lap going, and I ran out of fuel in Turn 9. Starting second’s not bad. It’s better than fifth at St. Pete. And the Target team did a great job rebuilding the car after I had a little indiscretion this morning. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 US Air Force Luczo Dragon Racing, third): “I’ve got to give all the credit to the boys here on the Luczo Dragon team. It was a great comeback from St. Pete. We had a huge wreck in St. Pete, and the guys put the car back together. I’ve got to thank the whole team. They did an awesome job. I also want to thank our sponsors, McAfee, the Air Force and the Marines. I want to thank all of the people who have been helping us and supporting our program. It’s been just an amazing year for us.”
E.J. VISO (No. 13 PDVSA HVM Racing, fourth): “It was a great day. The tires were good. Everything happened as we expected. We’ve had very good pace on this track since we came here. Things didn’t come together in St. Pete, but hopefully it will happen here in Long Beach. So far the team performance has been great, and I’m very proud to be in my second season with this team.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Z-Line Designs, fifth): “We gave it all we had today but came up a bit short for the No. 18 Z-Line Designs/Dale Coyne Racing team. I think we used the red stripes a bit too early in the second session and really had nothing left for the last run.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, sixth): “We were trying to put on another set of tires, and it didn't really work out the way we wanted it to. The set we were trying to put on wasn't what the Target boys had, and we were going to put on a flat-spotted set of tires, so it was kind of chaos in the pits there. It's disappointing. Qualifying is so important on road and street courses and we had a chance to start up front. We just didn't make the most of the chance.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team, seventh): “It’s obviously disappointing that we didn’t make it through to the Firestone Fast Six. After putting the McDonald’s car on pole at the last race, we had expectations of making it to the last round. I think we had the pace to do it but weren’t able to. We had pretty much the same pace on old tires as we did on new. You expect to have a big gain on new ones, but we had nothing when everybody else gained quite a bit. That’s how it goes sometimes. We have our work cut out for us tomorrow starting seventh, because it’s not easy to pass here. Our hope is that the car stays underneath us and we can move up through the field. We’re pretty good on old tires, which bodes well for us, but we’ve got to hope we can save fuel better than these other guys and get by them in the pits.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, eighth): “It was a good day for us until the end of qualifying. Unfortunately, I pushed it a little bit too much trying to get into the top six and I overdid it. I’m obviously very happy for Will Power; he did an incredible job jumping from the No. 3 car to the No. 12 car. Winning the pole today really shows how tough of a competitor he is. It’s great to be back out here at the track. My crew has been smiling all day and so have I. I think that even though we had an incident this afternoon we feel good for the race tomorrow. This is not going to hurt us, it’s just going to build us even stronger and tomorrow is another day.”
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 34 Conquest Racing, ninth): “The Conquest team did a great job today. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino/The Joint car was good. Unfortunately we had a small electrical problem this morning that cost us some track time. Before qualifying, we made some changes and we made a few more adjustments during the first round, which allowed us to make it to Round 2. We’ll be starting ninth tomorrow, and considering the small problems we had it’s pretty good. I’m happy with how qualifying went, but we’ll keep working tonight on the car, and hopefully we can have a good race tomorrow and fight for a podium.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, 10th): “I'm disappointed to not have been in the Firestone Fast Six today, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I thought the Team Penske car was pretty good for qualifying. We were running well, but when we put on the red tires in that second session, we lost the balance of the car. 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.”
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