Hunter-Reay surges to IndyCar pole at Long Beach

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A former series champion will lead the field to the green flag in tomorrow's Indycar race at Long Beach.

Long Beach, Calif. – Ryan Hunter-Reay made up for past shortcomings by surging to the pole position for Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the second race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

The 2010 race winner made a final effort payoff as he charged around the 1.986-mile street course at a speed of 104.462 miles per hour. He drives the DHL Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport.

For Hunter-Reay, he earned his sixth career IndyCar pole position. At Long Beach, he has started second in three of the last four races, making today’s achievement special to him.

“Qualifying at Long Beach has been frustrating of late,” Hunter-Reay said. “We have missed the pole by hundredths of a second and not tenths of a second, so to finally get the pole here is very fulfilling. The guys gave me a great car when I needed it. What was most entertaining about the final session was that it was anybody’s session to win, and it depended on who was going to put up that last fast lap. Actually, the competition in IndyCar is pretty ridiculous.”

Regarding his effort on the final go-around, he added, “I was consistently quick through turns 8, 9, 10 and 11 but I hadn’t done so well in turns 5 and 6 until the final lap, and that was the key to the pole.”

Five of the top-six qualifiers used Honda engines, and the pole winner said it showed how much effort the company had put into refining its engines. And another key point is that neither Team Penske nor Chip Ganassi Racing had an entry among the top-six qualifiers.

Sunday’s race will feature a standing start, and Hunter-Reay said, “The key to standing starts is all about the first 30 feet out of the box, and whoever times it just right will have a huge advantage.”

He did let it be known he’s not a fan of switching back and forth between rolling and standing starts. “If the fans like it and it sells more tickets, I am all for it,” he said. “Comparing IndyCar starts on street courses to F1, they have a football-width field while we have a swimming-pole width to start on.”

Teammate James Hinchcliffe will start alongside the pole winner. And Hinchcliffe drives the United Fiber & Data Honda. His speed was 104.280 mph.

Said the Canadian, “When you strap on those Firestone red tires for the first time, you don’t know if you will be in the ballpark. I made the best of it in the second segment, but didn’t so well in the final round. I am not in the Firestone Fast 6 too often, so I don’t know all the tricks that others do. Ryan (Hunter-Reay) only ran three laps to our four. If you are going to lose the pole to someone, it is good to have it be a teammate.”

Sebastian Bourdais and Josef Newgarden qualified for the second row, and Bourdais admitted he was chagrined not to win the pole. His KVSH Racing entry was the only Chevrolet-powered car in the top-six.

Rookie Jack Hawksworth and Simon Pagenaud gained the third-row starting spots.

Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves and Justin Wilson rounded out the top-10 qualifiers.

For Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon was the top performer and Castroneves carried the flag for Team Penske.

St. Petersburg winner Will Power timed 14th fastest and teammate Juan Pablo Montoya ended up 16th on the speed chart.

2013 winner Takuma Sato dropped to 15th on the starting grid after receiving a penalty for blocking Hunter-Reay in the first segment.

For Sunday’s 80-lap race, 23 cars will start the grind. The NBC Sports Network will broadcast the race live at 4 p.m. ET.

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Series INDYCAR
Article type Qualifying reports
Tags andretti, indycar, long beach, qualifying, ryan hunter-reay