Long Beach: Series qualifying report

POWER TAKES TOP SPOT AT LONG BEACH FOR THIRD STRAIGHT POLE LONG BEACH, Calif. (Saturday, April 17, 2010) - Will Power, whose drive to an IZOD IndyCar Series' record three consecutive victories was derailed April 11 at Barber Motorsports Park, is...

POWER TAKES TOP SPOT AT LONG BEACH FOR THIRD STRAIGHT POLE

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Saturday, April 17, 2010) - Will Power, whose drive to an IZOD IndyCar Series' record three consecutive victories was derailed April 11 at Barber Motorsports Park, is back on track.

Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, recorded a quick lap of 1 minute, 09.3185 seconds in the 10-minute Firestone Fast Six shootout on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit April 17 to earn the PEAK Performance Pole Award for the 36th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"We certainly have the car figured out, and I'm very happy that the Verizon car is P1 again," Power said. "We've got to get the strategy right this weekend. I know sometimes it's really hard to read, but we need to keep executing in races."

Power, who won at Long Beach in 2008, recorded his third consecutive pole start (Dario Franchitti was P1 in Brazil). The series record is four by teammate Helio Castroneves and Billy Boat, and the next race is May 1 on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval (Power started 18th in 2008).

"I think the key to success is starting up front," Power said. "I think getting the yellow. You've got to get the lucky yellow. You can be out front leading and bam, get caught by a yellow. You could see it last weekend. Strategy can screw you, but it also can go your way."

Power earned the pole by more than four-tenths of a second over Ryan Hunter-Reay, but less than three-tenths of a second separated the second through fifth positions on the grid. Just 1.6 seconds separated Power from No. 23 starter Mario Romancini.

Hunter-Reay, driving the No. 37 IZOD car for Andretti Autosport, notched a season-best second starting position (1:09.7506). Justin Wilson (1:09.7939) tied a season best with a third-place start in the No. 22 Z-Line Designs car for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, and Castroneves (1:09.8470) will join him in Row 2.

Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe (1:10.0255) and Andretti Autosport's Tony Kanaan (1:10.1618) will be on Row 3. Kanaan, driving the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car, posted his fourth consecutive top-10 start (and participated in the Fast Six for the third time).

It was the second time ever that Team Penske put three drivers into the Firestone Fast Six.

Conversely, Scott Dixon will start eighth and teammate Dario Franchitti will start 12th - the first time that a Target Chip Ganassi Racing car has not qualified for the Firestone Fast Six. Dixon, though, extended his series record to 36 consecutive top-10 starts.

FAZZT Race Team's Alex Tagliani (1:09.8730 in the second round) missed the Firestone Fast Six by 0.0367 of a second and will start seventh. Marco Andretti, who bumped Simona De Silvestro from advancing to the second round with a final-lap 1:10.3594, will start ninth in the No. 26 Venom Energy car for Andretti Autosport. Dan Wheldon in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car will start a season-high 10.

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TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH NOTEBOOK:

SGT Louie M. Martinez , a native of National City, Calif., and a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, is the National Guard Panther Racing's "Hometown Hero" for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

SGT Martinez was given a ride in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater by National Guard Panther Racing driver Dan Wheldon, had a special "hero card" with his picture and biography that he signed at the IZOD IndyCar Series autograph session and will be honored during the driver introductions.

Martinez, assigned to the HHC 40th Infantry Division, is a recipient of the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal and National Defense Service Medal among other commendations.

Panther Racing honors a "Hometown Hero" at each domestic IZOD IndyCar Series race.

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KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser won the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race today from the pole. Professional drift and rally driver Tanner Foust finished second, with actor Brian Austin Green in third. Green was the first celebrity finisher.

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Chef Giada De Laurentiis, host of the hit show "Everyday Italian" on Food Network, will be a guest of Target Chip Ganassi Racing during the IZOD IndyCar Series race Sunday.

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KV Racing Technology announced today that it is entering a car in the 2010 Indianapolis 500 for veteran Paul Tracy.

2003 CART champion Tracy will drive the No. 15 GEICO-KV Racing Technology car.

Tracy, 41, finished second in 2002 at Indianapolis to Helio Castroneves and finished ninth last year. He will attempt to make his seventh Indianapolis 500 start this year. This year's edition of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" opens Saturday, May 15.

KV will grow to a four-car team at Indianapolis, as Tracy joins the team's IZOD IndyCar Series regulars, E.J. Viso, Mario Moraes and Takuma Sato.

PAUL TRACY: "I want to thank (co-owners) Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser of KVRT and GEICO for the opportunity to return to the world's biggest auto race. I have won races and championships at the top level during my racing career, but what I'm missing is a win at Indy. I feel I have some unfinished business at the Brickyard and, with the support of GEICO and an outstanding team like KV Racing Technology, I feel good about our chances at this year's '500.'"

JIMMY VASSER (Co-owner, KV Racing Technology): "It is tremendous to bring Paul back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway again this year. Paul was very competitive last year in the GEICO machine in his first Indy 500 in seven years. After last year's return to the Speedway, we believe Paul will be a contender for the win."

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Every driver in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will start the race Sunday on the alternate "red" tires except for #2 Raphael Matos, #7 Danica Patrick and #34 Mario Romancini. Each car must use the alternate (red) Firestone Firehawk tires for at least two green-flag laps per race.

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PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

* Will Power earned his third Peak Performance Pole Award this season. It was his third consecutive pole, tied for second all-time in series history with Helio Castroneves (2006), Scott Dixon (2003) and Greg Ray (2000). Billy Boat (1998) and Castroneves (2004) share the series record with four consecutive poles.

* This was the fifth career IZOD IndyCar Series pole for Will Power. He has three poles this season (St. Petersburg, Barber, Long Beach) and two poles in 2009 (Long Beach, Edmonton).

* Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified a career-best second. His previous best was third in 2008 at Watkins Glen. He won that race.

* Justin Wilson qualified third, tying a season-best set at Brazil.

* Ryan Briscoe qualified a season-best fifth. His previous best was eighth at Brazil.

* Dan Wheldon qualified a season-best 10th. His previous best was 15th at St. Petersburg.

* This is the second time that Team Penske has placed three drivers in the Firestone Fast Six since the qualifying format's inception at the start of the 2007 IZOD IndyCar Series season. In 2009 at Edmonton, Will Power won the pole, Ryan Briscoe qualified second and Helio Castroneves third.

* This is the first time that a driver from Target Chip Ganassi Racing has not qualified at least one driver for the Firestone Fast Six since the qualifying format's inception at the start of the 2007 IZOD IndyCar Series season. Scott Dixon will start eighth and Dario Franchitti 12th in the race Sunday, as both were eliminated after the second session.

Scott Dixon (2007-10), Dario Franchitti (2009-10) or Dan Wheldon (2007-08) had made the Firestone Fast Six at the 21 IZOD IndyCar Series races on road or street courses since the start of the 2007 season.

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PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

WILL POWER (No.12 Verizon Team Penske, pole): "We certainly have the car figured out, and I'm very happy that the Verizon car is P1 again. We've got to get the strategy right this weekend. I know sometimes it's really hard to read, but we need to keep executing in races."

(How important is it to get through first session with black tires, saving a set of reds for the Firestone Fast Six?): "that's important. It gives you a good chance to get the pole. If you're quick enough, you have to do it. You've got to take the risk to get through on the blacks. The blacks take longer to come on, but actually they're pretty quick. They're good."

(What's the key to your success at Long Beach?): "I think the key to success is starting up front. I think getting the yellow. You've got to get the lucky yellow. You can be out front leading and bam, get caught by a yellow. You could see it last weekend. Strategy can screw you, but it also can go your way. So we've got to read that well tomorrow."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic, 11th): "In the first round, we used two sets of red Firestone option tires, and at one point we looked very strong. The Formula Dream/Panasonic car was good; we improved a lot from practice to qualifying. I gained almost one second. The second round seemed tough because we had already used the two reds in the first run, so we only had used reds for Round 2 so that's why we couldn't go any faster. We know we have speed, so maybe next time we can use black and red tires in the first round and two sets of reds in the second. The team did a fantastic job. I'm pretty happy."

DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, 10th): "It was a really good team effort by everybody in the National Guard Panther Racing crew. We tried a lot of different things in all three practice sessions leading up to qualifying, and we managed to take all the good things from each one. I don't want to be greedy, but if I would have saved a set of the Firestone red tires, we probably could have run in the Top Six because I was feeling extremely confident in the No. 4 car."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 HP Luczo Dragon, 18th): "There's no question this hurts us because it's difficult to pass here, so track position is very important. The car just didn't have the balance or the grip to push and move forward. We thought we had a good idea of how we would be after practice this morning, and even though we did improve, it wasn't enough to advance. We're all disappointed, but we'll just have to regroup and come up with a strategy to compete tomorrow."

BERTRAND BAGUETTE (No. 36 Conquest Racing RACB, 24th): "It was not the best qualification for us. We lost half a second from the previous practice, and we are not sure why. We are really struggling with the brakes on the car, and the front wheel is locking a lot. We need to work hard because this will not work for the race."

MARIO ROMANCINI (No. 34 Conquest Racing, 23rd): "I think more than ever we are seeing how important the details are. We definitely improved compared to the previous session, but because the cars are all running so closely I am only starting 23rd. Qualifying is over, so we have to start focusing on tomorrow's race. Now it's up to us to look at the small details, seeing where we can improve to find these tenths that we are still missing. We will fine-tune the car overnight, using the warm-up session tomorrow to test the changes."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing, 22nd): "It's again been a very frustrating day, and I think that pretty well caps it off. Never have I ever been the slowest one in qualifying in my entire career. It's pretty frustrating; we just can't seem to get the car to react to any changes that we make. We've tried everything; there's no lack of effort. It's quite simply the fact that overall we just can't get the car right, which leads us to question a lot of things. It's been a frustrating day, but I hope we can have a good strategy and try to get at least halfway up the field tomorrow. You never know what can happen. Stranger things have happened than people winning from the back, so we'll see tomorrow."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply Co. A.J. Foyt Racing, 14th): "It's bittersweet. It is our best qualifying run so far, but it's still not where we want to be. But at least we can be on the same strategy as the leaders and the ABC Supply car is very good on the long run, so I'm very encouraged for the race."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, seventh): "I'm so very proud of the FAZZT Race Team. They are just doing a fantastic job. We are right there every time we go out, and today just shows how incredibly competitive the IZOD IndyCar Series is to be only half a tenth out of the Fast Six. It's just amazing. And I have to say, I'm just very happy with what we are doing this year. I couldn't be happier with the guys, the team, everything has just been really amazing. For tomorrow's race, this track is really challenging, and it changes quite a bit from practice to qualifying to the race, so you can't really go overboard and be too worried about your car. I think you have to let the track come to you, but it also has a lot of different corners, like very slow corners on concrete and then fast corners, so you need stability. So basically, it can be very difficult to find the compromise on this track, but I think we are very close and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

E.J. VISO (No. PDVSA-Jet Aviation-KVRT, 17th): "It has definitely been a very difficult weekend for the PDVSA - KV Racing Technology team. We have been working on some things and managed to get find some more speed for qualifying. But we are still lacking grip, which is what we are working on tonight. I am sure after talking with my engineers we will have a better car for the tomorrow."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 Lotus-KV Racing Technology, 19th): "It was a very tough and disappointing day. We tried many different things since yesterday, but unfortunately the car just isn't working well. We changed the car quite a bit for qualifying, but we still need to find more grip. We will review and analyze everything overnight for tomorrow."

MARIO MORAES (No. 32 KV Racing Technology, 15th): "Qualifying for the KV Racing Technology team was definitely not what we were looking for. We were hoping to get into the top 12. I was working hard with my engineer, and we had a problem with the car, which we shall fix tonight. We proved in morning practice that we have a good setup for the race, so I am looking forward to that tomorrow."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, fifth): "I'm extremely happy. It's our first Fast Six of the year. I knew coming into Long Beach that I had to step it up in qualifying, and I think we really did that today. We're making the car better in the Fast Six, but the tires are just getting older and older, and I wasn't able to improve my time. Will got through without using an extra set of reds and had a sticker set at the end, which gave him a big advantage. But we're right there, and we've got ourselves into good position to win the race on Sunday."

MIKE CONWAY (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, 16th): "We improved the TranSystems car from yesterday, but we are still not quite there. We will work on it during the warm-up to see if we can get it better again."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, sixth): "I was trying … trying too hard. When the field is that close, you just have to get the max out of it. So it wasn't really a problem. I was just trying to get my measurement for my fastest lap."

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SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
9:15-9:45 a.m. IZOD IndyCar Series practice (all cars)
1:15 p.m. IZOD IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (85 laps)

-source: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Billy Boat , Helio Castroneves , Jimmy Vasser , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Will Power , Kevin Kalkhoven , Mario Moraes , A.J. Foyt , Mario Romancini , Danica Patrick
Teams Andretti Autosport , Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , FAZZT Race Team , Conquest Racing