Sunday, April 17, 2016

Morning Warm-Up: Long Beach 2016

A tire failure derailed Hélio Castroneves' race at Phoenix. What can he do at Long Beach?
For the second consecutive race, Hélio Castroneves starts on pole position. The Brazilian ran a lap of 67.1246 seconds to earn his 47th career pole position. This is Castroneves' third pole position at Long Beach. Castroneves won at Long Beach in 2001 from pole position and he finished second last year  from pole position to Scott Dixon. Dixon starts second. It is the twelfth time Castroneves and Dixon have started on the front row together, the first time since Belle Isle in 2008 when Dixon started on pole position. The last time Castroneves started on pole position with Dixon starting second was Motegi 2008. Last year at Long Beach Dixon led 44 of 90 laps while Castroneves led 31 laps, the second most. Castroneves has won from pole position twelve times but has not done it since Motegi 2010.

Championship leader Simon Pagenaud will start third. The Frenchman enters with consecutive podium finishes, something he had never done in his career until Phoenix. Pagenaud has finished in the top five in three of five Long Beach starts with his worst finish being in 2007 when he finished 14th, five laps down. Tony Kanaan will start fourth. Kanaan has only one podium finish at Long Beach and has only led at Long Beach twice in his career. The last time Kanaan started fourth was last year's Indianapolis 500, which ended early after Kanaan suffered an accident. Juan Pablo Montoya rounds out the top five. He has a victory, a third and a fourth in four Long Beach starts. His victory at Long Beach in 1999 was his first career victory in his third start. Will Power rounds out the top six. The Australian had his two fastest laps invalidated after he brought out a red flag in the final round of qualifying.

James Hinchcliffe was the top Honda qualifier in seventh. This is the Canadian's best start since starting fourth at Sonoma in 2014. Hinchcliffe finished fourth and third in his first two Long Beach starts but has failed to crack the top ten in his last three appearances. Takuma Sato qualified eighth. It is the third time Sato will start in the top ten at Long Beach. He started sixth in 2012 before being spun by Ryan Hunter-Reay on the final lap and finishing eighth. He started fourth in 2013 and won the race. Josef Newgarden qualified ninth. It is the third consecutive time he has qualified in the top ten at Long Beach. In 2014, contact with Hunter-Reay ended his race when he was in contention for a victory. Last year, he finished seventh. Carlos Muñoz rounds out the top ten. It is his first top ten start since starting sixth at Pocono last year and first top ten on a road/street circuit since starting ninth at Sonoma 2014.

Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified 11th. Hunter-Reay qualified in the top four in the last six Long Beach races but he has also failed to finish three of the last five Long Beach starts and has only one top ten finish at Long Beach since winning the Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2010. Luca Filippi will join Hunter-Reay on row six. The Italian had started 16th in the first two races of 2016. Filippi has made it to the second round of qualifying in eight out of 13 chances. He has finished 21st, 24th, 20th and 20th in his last four starts. Conor Daly starts a position behind his Dale Coyne Racing teammate. This is only the second time in Daly's career he has started in the top fifteen. He started tenth at Belle Isle 2 last year and finished sixth. All three of Daly's lead lap finishes have come on street circuits, including last year at Long Beach when he substituted for an injured Rocky Moran, Jr. Sébastien Bourdais starts 14th. Bourdais' eighth at Phoenix ended a run of four consecutive finishes outside the top ten.

Charlie Kimball starts 15th. Kimball started and finished 15th last year at Long Beach. Fellow Californian Alexander Rossi will also start on row eight. Rossi made contact with the turn five barrier in first practice on Friday. The only Californian to win the Grand Prix of Long Beach was Jimmy Vasser in 1996. It was Vasser's third career victory. Graham Rahal starts 17th. A Long Beach winner has started 17th twice. Paul Tracy won from 17th in 2000 and Mike Conway won from 17th in 2014. Mikhail Aleshin makes it an all-Honda row eight. Aleshin's first career IndyCar top ten came at Long Beach when he finished sixth in 2014. He has finished in the top ten in four of his nine street course starts.

Max Chilton and Jack Hawskworth will start on an all-British row ten. Chilton finished fifth last year at Long Beach in Indy Lights. Chilton will try and become the first driver to win an IndyCar race in car #8 since Will Power won the 2008 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Hawksworth has finished 15th and 14th in his previous two Long Beach starts. Marco Andretti rounds out the field in 21st. This is the 13th time in Andretti's career he has started outside the top twenty. He has finished in the top ten in three of the previous 12 starts outside the top twenty, including finishing seventh at Long Beach from 25th on the grid in 2013. Andretti has not finished in the top ten in the last four races.

The 2016 Grand Prix of Long Beach can be seen at 4:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN with green flag scheduled for 4:38 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 80 laps.