for full Grand Prix of Long Beach qualifying times
As suggested by its dominance of practice, Team Penske will indeed start from pole position at the 2016 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, but it was Helio Castroneves who ensured top spot rather than the luckless Will Power.
Power had topped the times on both Friday's combined practice result sheet and again on Saturday morning, where Penske took a 1-2-3-4 sweep of proceedings, but had to settle for sixth on the grid after finding an escape road during one of his Firestone Fast Six runs and ending up without a competitive time as his laps in the final phase of qualifying were forfeited for interrupting the session.
Without the Australian as a threat, Castroneves emerged as the man to beat, fending off Ganassi rival – and Phoenix racewinner – Scott Dixon by 0.3secs around the famous Long Beach street layout, while points leader Simon Pagenaud and Tony Kanaan filled out row two for Penske and Ganassi respectively. The third Penske entry of Juan Pablo Montoya will join Power on row three for Sunday's race.
"We've been good all weekend long, we've been working together all weekend long," Castroneves said, "I would say Team Penske probably had the upper hand. At the end of the day, the #3 ended up in P1. They say it's better to be lucky than good and we plan very well.
"Will was definitely in a league of his own and he seems to be putting up phenomenal laps but, in the end, you saw Dixon up there, you saw Kanaan up there, Juan Pablo, Simon. It was a mix but I'll take it. It's the right spot to start so let's keep it."
Dixon had led the way in the first group of the day, taking his #9 Chip Ganassi Racing Target Chevrolet to a best lap of 1min 07.5019secs. He was joined in progressing to phase two by Montoya, James Hinchcliffe (# 5 Schmidt Peterson Arrow Electronics Honda), Pagenaud and Takuma Sato (#14 AJ Foyt Racing ABC Supply Honda), while Power surprised no-one by pacing the field in the second group with a best lap of 1min 06.9712secs. The Australian was nearly a half second quicker than second-quickest Carlos Muñoz, who moved onto part two along with Castroneves, Josef Newgarden (#21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet), Sebastien Bourdais (#11 KVSH Racing California Baptist University Chevrolet) and Kanaan.
The ten-minute battle to make it through to the Firestone Fast Six saw Dixon come out on top again, this time with a lap of 1min 06.6459secs to emerge less than two-hundredths of a second shy of Castroneves' lap record. No-one was quite sure who had made it through initially, however, as a fault with the timing system kept everyone guessing - and left several drivers disappointed after early suggestions that they had done enough to progress. Dixon was eventually followed through by Power, Montoya, Pagenaud, Kanaan and Castroneves, setting up an all-Chevy fight for the Verizon P1 Award.
While many expected Castroneves' lap record to fall in the final phase of qualifying, a red flag - displayed as Power went off at turn nine – effectively rendered the session into a one-lap shootout to determine the polewinner. In the end, it was Castroneves who came out on top, lapping in 1min 07.1246secs to take his 47th career pole and second straight at Long Beach.
Dixon, meanwhile, was delighted to secure a front row berth, having laboured through the early part of the weekend.
"I'm stoked, considering how we started this weekend," the Kiwi - whose lap in the second segment of qualifying came within two-hundredths of a second of Castroneves' track record - confirmed, "We tried a totally different set-up from last year. The cars have changed, especially aerodynamically, so we thought we might need some different things, but that wasn't the case.
"Even this morning, we struggled a little bit. Some good old front wing helped us today as we were able to carry the speed of the Target car through the corners. We could have had [the pole] if the qualifying had carried through. We had the speed for pole, but front row is a good place to start and hopefully we can replicate the race from last year."