SPM drivers qualified with a big gap for tomorrow's Long Beach race

Pagenaud Sixth in Long Beach Qualifying; Aleshin 20th.

Simon Pagenaud loves California for its sun, waves and relaxed mentality. But during Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, he focused only on the job at hand - making his first appearance of 2014 in the Firestone Fast Six.

Pagenaud's lap of 1 minute, 8.0732 seconds at 104.076 mph in the No. 77 Charter Communications/SPHM Honda was sixth quickest and earned him a starting spot on the outside of the third row for the race Sunday, April 13. Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport won the Verizon P1 Award by qualifying on pole at 1:07.8219, 104.462.

"The competition is really high in the Verizon IndyCar Series right now," Pagenaud said. "If you look at lap times in the Firestone Fast Six, there's only a tenth of a second difference between second and sixth place. So you can only imagine how much attention you have to pay to detail as a driver traveling at these high speeds. With lap times being this close together, it shows that we truly have the best drivers around in IndyCar."

In 2013, Pagenaud started 17th on the Streets of Long Beach and finished eighth. Pagenaud thinks passing on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit is possible but starting toward the front of the field is a huge advantage in his Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports entry.

"Last year we had a lot of ground to make up before we even started this race, so I'm very happy with the improvement we've shown in qualifying," he said. "There's a lot of action in Turn 1 here in Long Beach, not just at the start but throughout the entire race. Fuel saving always plays a role here, as well, so you'll see lots of different strategies from different teams. With how tight the field has been during practice and qualifying here, it could be anyone's race tomorrow."

Rookie Mikhail Aleshin qualified 20th for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda fielded by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. His quickest lap of 1:08.4321, 103.530 put him on the outside of row 10 on the starting grid.

Today was my first time experiencing the Firestone red tires during a qualifying session," Aleshin said. "I have a little more to learn about how to maximize the use of those tires. I felt like that was really the only issue we had today, which is definitely encouraging."

Aleshin has worked closely through three practice sessions with his engineers and crew to find the ideal race setup.

"We had a great practice session right before qualifying and found some really good information for the race setup," he said. "We're in a good place with our race car, and we'll be ready to move up through the field tomorrow."

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

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Series INDYCAR
Article type Qualifying reports
Tags mikhail aleshin, ryan hunter-reay, schmidt peterson motorsports, simon pagenaud