LONG BEACH, Calif. – The 1.968-mile temporary street circuit in Long Beach is one of the most familiar racetracks on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to No. 7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi driver Helio Castroneves.
The Brazilian made 13 Champ Car/IndyCar starts here, winning what now is known as the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach back in 2001, and taking the pole position in each of his last three IndyCar starts from 2015 to 2017. In fact, Castroneves’ prowess at Long Beach was so great that he was inducted into the track’s Motorsports Walk of Fame last year.
Castroneves added to his Long Beach legend in qualifying for Saturday’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, scoring the Motul Pole Award with a track record lap of one minute, 11.332 seconds (99.321 mph) in the No. 7 Acura he shares with co-driver Ricky Taylor. Castroneves’ Acura Team Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya held the previous record of 1:12.922 set last year in qualifying.
It was Castroneves’ third pole in WeatherTech Championship competition. Including the three IndyCar poles, it now is Castroneves’ fourth pole in his past five races at Long Beach.
“I have to say, today the experience paid off,” Castroneves said. “We made adjustments in the car that I felt that would work, even against my engineer a little bit and little doubts, but he believed it. We were able to put it (on pole), and I feel that this pole position was part of the experience.
“My teammate also felt like, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’m positive. That’s what happened before with me in IndyCar and I know it’s going to be better.’ The whole combination was really good and now we’ve just got to keep going and hopefully for tomorrow, it’s even a better day.”
Castroneves will be joined on the front row by his Brazilian countryman Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R after Nasr posted a best time of 1:11.550 (99.018 mph). Nasr and his co-driver, Pipo Derani, head into the race tied for the WeatherTech Championship DPi points lead with No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R co-drivers Renger van der Zande and Jordan Taylor, who qualified seventh.
The second row will resemble the first as the field rushes into Turn 1 at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday. Montoya will start third after running a best lap of 1:11.847 (98.609 mph), while Nasr’s Action Express Racing teammate Joao Barbosa, qualified fourth at 1:11.870 (98.577 mph) in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Jonathan Bomarito rounded out the top five in the No. 55 Mazda Team Joest RT-24P DPi. His best time was a 1:11.884 (98.558 mph) despite the fact that he missed most of the second half of the session after sliding into the Turn 6 tire barrier and damaging the left front of the car.