HOUSTON – Helio Castroneves has made quite a bounce back from the bad luck he encountered at Houston last season with gearbox failures in both races of the doubleheader.
Castroneves’ 49-point lead over Scott Dixon turned into a 25-point deficit in one weekend. Dixon would go on to claim his third IndyCar Series championship in the next race at Fontana, California.
After Castroneves started second and finished ninth in Saturday’s race that was run under wet conditions he came back on Sunday morning to win the pole for Sunday’s second race in the Shelly and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers.
“It’s a true testament to how we put our minds together and turned that bad result into a positive one,” Castroneves said. “Qualifying is one step ahead but we still have the race today. But we are gratified with our accomplishment.”
Castroneves claimed the 40th IndyCar pole of his career tying him for fourth on the all-time list with the legendary Rick Mears on Sunday morning. The driver on the outside of the front for Sunday’s second Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers is the man that rival team owner A.J. Foyt referred to as a (Blank-blank) idiot after a crash in Saturday’s race – Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin.
Castroneves scored his second Verizon IndyCar Series pole this season when he ran a fast lap of 59.1702 for a speed of 99.415 miles per hour around the 10-turn, 1.683-mile temporary street course at Houston’s NRG Park. That was the fastest lap in a 30-minute qualifying session that was split into two groups based on Friday’s practice speeds. The drivers that came out of Castroneves’ group will line up on the inside position of each row and the drivers in Aleshin’s group will line up on the outside of each row.
“We missed by a bit in Saturday’s qualifying but this morning we had to make it happen,” Castroneves said. “We put everything together and it went really well. Thanks to the engineer and the crew they are outstanding. Starting up front is a good place to be but yesterday it was looking good until the weather played a trick on us.
“After yesterday we are prepared for whatever scenarios we are faced with here.”
Saturday’s race winner, Colombian rookie Carlos Huertas, qualified 13th in a Honda with a lap at 59.8052 (98.359 mph).
Aleshin earned the front row starting position with a fast lap of 1:00.2483 (97.634 mph) in a Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. It’s his first front row start in the Verizon IndyCar Series.