Sunday, April 19, 2015

Morning Warm-Up: Long Beach 2015

Hélio Castroneves Starts on Long Beach Pole Position
Hélio Castroneves will start the 2015 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach from pole position, the 42nd of his career. The Brazilian broke the track record in the process with a lap of 66.6294. Sébastien Bourdais previously held the track record with a lap of 66.886. Castroneves won the 2001 Grand Prix of Long Beach from pole position. Twelve of Castroneves' 29 victories have come from pole position but he has not won from pole since Motegi 2010. Championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya joins Castroneves on row one as Penske locks out the front row for the third consecutive race of 2015. Scott Dixon starts third, a career-best for the New Zealander at Long Beach. Dixon's lone Long Beach top ten finish came in 2010 when he finished fourth after starting eighth. Ryan Hunter-Reay is the top Honda in fourth. The American has finished 20th or worse in the three of the last four Long Beach races.

Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden start on row three. Pagenaud has three consecutive top ten finishes at Long Beach. Newgarden is still looking for his first Long Beach top ten. His best finish is 13th. Tony Kanaan starts seventh. Kanaan broke the track record in round one, group one with a time of 66.7442, however, he missed the Firestone Fast Six by less than a tenth of a second. Graham Rahal starts eighth. Rahal finished second at Long Beach two years ago. Sébastien Bourdais and Marco Andretti round out the top ten. Bourdais is a three-time Long Beach winner while Marco Andretti is still looking for his first top five on Shoreline Drive. His grandfather Mario and father Michael combined to win six times at Long Beach, including Mario winning the 1977 Formula One United States Grand Prix West driving for Lotus.

Row six is an all-Colombian row. Sebastián Saavedra makes his 2015 debut in the #8 Ganassi Chevrolet and starts 11th. One of Saavedra's three career top tens came at Long Beach last year when he finished ninth. Carlos Muñoz starts 12th. He finished third last year after starting 11th. James Hinchcliffe and Luca Filippi just missed out on the second round and will start on row seven. Paul Tracy and Alex Zanardi are the only Canadian and Italian to win the Grand Prix of Long Beach in the IndyCar-era of the event. Gilles Villeneuve won at Long Beach in 1979.

Charlie Kimball rounds out the top fifteen and Jack Hawksworth joins him on row six. Gabby Chaves starts 17th. The furthest back a Long Beach winner has come from is 17th with Mike Conway winning from 17th last year and Paul Tracy doing it in 2000. John Watson won the final Formula One race on the streets of Long Beach from 22nd while Niki Lauda finished second to the Northern Irishman after starting 23rd. Will Power was caught out by a late red flag in his qualifying group and will have to start 18th. Power won the 2012 Grand Prix of Long Beach from 12th after serving a ten-spot grid penalty for an engine change. Power has done the unprecedented before. Last year, he became the first winner at Belle Isle to start from outside the top ten as he won race one from 16th position.

James Jakes and 2013 Long Beach winner Takuma Sato round out the top twenty. Conor Daly makes his second-career IndyCar start this weekend as he replaces Rocky Moran, Jr., who broke his thumb in Friday practice. Daly starts 21st. He won the 2011 Indy Lights race from Long Beach. Francesco Dracone will start 22nd with Stefano Coletti rounding out the field. Coletti was set to advance to the second round but caused the red flag in group two after slapping the turn four barrier. He slapped the turn nine barrier in third practice as well.

NBCSN's coverage of the Grand Prix of Long Beach begins at 4:00 p.m. ET with Indy Lights coverage preempting the IndyCar race at 3:00 p.m. ET. The IndyCar race is set to go green at 4:37 p.m. ET .