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Long Beach - Qualifying times

14 April 2012

Qualifying consisted of half the field running in the 15 minute Group 1 and the other half in Group 2, with the top six from each group progressing to the ten minute Top 12 session, and the top six then going through to the shoot-out Firestone Fast Six round.

Round 1 Group 1

Ed Carpenter was first out of the pits, followed by Katherine Legge and eventually by Charlie Kimball and Alex Tagliani, but most of the 13 drivers once again play the waiting game hoping that other cars will work on improving the unexpectedly slick track conditions for them - a very risky proposition if the session had become as strewn by red flags as the earlier practice session had been, but in fact it proved to be incident-free throughout.

Finally just before the halfway point of the 15 minute session the rest of the cars start to stream out, led by Takuma Sato, Ryan Briscoe and Rubens Barrichello. The first driver to post a time under the 70s mark was Scott Dixon with a lap of 1:09.7909 but that was quickly bettered by Ryan Briscoe and then by Justin Wilson. Dixon responded with a lap of 1:09.5756 to go top again with a little more than three minutes remaining, and with only 0.18s covering the top six positions that would progress through to round 2.

With a minute remaining EJ Viso briefly popped to the top spot but was swiftly displaced by a new flying lap of 1:09.3277s from Ryan Briscoe. Along with Dixon and Wilson, the final round 2 spots went to James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan, with Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal failing to do enough in their final fast laps after the chequered flag came out.

1. Ryan Briscoe Penske-Chevrolet 102.193mph 1:09.328s (5 laps)
2. EJ Viso KV Racing-Chevrolet 101.971mph 1:09.479s + 0.151s (5 laps)
3. Scott Dixon Ganassi-Honda 101.848mph 1:09.562s + 0.235s (5 laps)
4. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne-Honda 101.763mph 1:09.620s + 0.293s (5 laps)
5. James Hinchcliffe Andretti-Chevrolet 101.686mph 1:09.673s + 0.346s (6 laps)
6. Tony Kanaan KV Racing-Chevrolet 101.568mph 1:09.755s + 0.427s (4 laps)
7. Takuma Sato RLL-Honda 101.356mph 1:09.900s + 0.572s (6 laps)
8. Graham Rahal Ganassi-Honda 101.241mph 1:09.980s + 0.652s (6 laps)
9. Charlie Kimball Ganassi-Honda 101.184mph 1:10.019s + 0.691s (7 laps)
10. Rubens Barrichello KV Racing-Chevrolet 101.117mph 1:10.065s + 0.737s (4 laps)
11. Alex Tagliani BHA-Lotus 100.044mph 1:10.817s + 1.489s (6 laps)
12. Ed Carpenter ECR-Chevrolet 99.155mph 1:11.896s + 2.568s (9 laps)
13. Katherine Legge Dragon-Lotus 98.244mph 1:12.114s + 2.787s (10 laps)

Round 1 Group 2

HVM's Simona de Silvestro was quick to exit pit road in order to make the most of a deserted track at the start of the second round 1 qualifying group, which she had to herself for well over six minutes until finally Oriol Servia and Dario Franchitti led the start of the track invasion by the remainder of the field.

De Silvestro's early best time of 1:12.0590s was soon displaced by Franchitti's 1:10.6209s lap despite the back end of the #10 stepping out dramatically in the attempt. Josef Newgarden briefly went top of the times, but Franchitti responded by posting the first sub-70s lap of the group with a 1:09.9025s.

Series rookie Newgarden immediately hit back with a brilliant lap of 1:09.4754s that was almost half a second faster than the reigning champion, and which even Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay were unable to beat in their own flying laps. Newgarden improved his time even further to 1:09.2455s before pulling into the pits with a minute remaining, and he ended up over two tenths of second clear of the nearest competition - a performance that left many observers literally slack-jawed with amazement.

Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves claimed the final two spots in the top six that progressed into round 2, bumping out the 2011 Long Beach winner Mike Conway to seventh place.

1. Josef Newgarden SFHR-Honda 102.314mph 1:09.246s (5 laps)
2. Will Power Penske-Chevrolet 101.972mph 1:09.478s + 0.233s (5 laps)
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti-Chevrolet 101.842mph 1:09.567s + 0.321s (4 laps)
4. Dario Franchitti Ganassi-Honda 101.787mph 1:09.604s + 0.359s (7 laps)
5. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt-Hamilton-Honda 101.742mph 1:09.635s + 0.390s (6 laps)
6. Helio Castroneves Penske-Chevrolet 101.425mph 1:09.853s + 0.607s (6 laps)
7. Mike Conway AJ Foyt-Honda 101.375mph 1:09.887s + 0.641s (7 laps)
8. JR Hildebrand Panther-Chevrolet 100.666mph 1:10.379s + 1.134s (6 laps)
9. Marco Andretti Andretti-Chevrolet 100.36mph 1:10.594s + 1.348s (4 laps)
10. Oriol Servia Dreyer & Reinbold-Lotus 100.233mph 1:10.684s + 1.438s (7 laps)
11. James Jakes Dale Coyne-Honda 100.127mph 1:10.758s + 1.512s (5 laps)
12. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon-Lotus 100.046mph 1:10.815s + 1.570s (6 laps)
13. Simona de Silvestro HVM-Lotus 98.319mph 1:12.059s + 2.814s (4 laps)

Round 2 - Top 12

With the session time cut to just ten minutes in round 2, it was nonetheless almost two and a half minutes before Ryan Briscoe was the first car to exit pit road for the Top 12, followed by Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Justin Wilson and then soon the rest of the field.

Briscoe set the first strawman target time of 1:14.3700s with his first lap but this was immediately topped by Dario Franchitti with a 1:10.8612s. Briscoe's response was to drop below 70s for the first time in round 2 with a lap of 1:09.3962s.

But Scott Dixon was on fire: literally. There were visible flames coming out of the Ganassi car and he was shown the black flag and directed to pit immediately for team to extinguish it, after which he was immediately ushered back out on track without missing a beat. But Dixon's problem proved more than just a cosmetic flash fire and the car was still smoking and showing signs of fire. Shown the black flag once more, he nonetheless continued out on track even as the smoke started to billow out in force. By the time he took to an escape road after the chequered flag came out, the fire finally appeared to have exhausted itself.

In the meantime Will Power had posted the best time yet seen at Long Beach, a lap of 1:08.8516s putting him ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dario Franchitti. Ryan Briscoe, EJ Viso and James Hinchcliffe also made it into the Firestone Fast Six round 3, just bumping Josef Newgarden to seventh place.

That meant that once again Chevrolet had proven their domination of the sharp end of qualifying, with five of the six round 3 cars all sporting Chevy engines. The difference is that with the ten-grid penalty imposed on all Chevrolet teams for an unscheduled engine change, Franchitti would automatically inherit pole position for the start of the Toyota Grand prix of Long Beach - and Newgarden would start alongside him on the front row.

1. Will Power Penske-Chevrolet 102.9mph 1:08.852s (3 laps)
2. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti-Chevrolet 102.819mph 1:08.905s + 0.054s (4 laps)
3. Dario Franchitti Ganassi-Honda 102.702mph 1:08.984s + 0.132s (6 laps)
4. Ryan Briscoe Penske-Chevrolet 102.663mph 1:09.010s + 0.158s (4 laps)
5. EJ Viso KV Racing-Chevrolet 102.645mph 1:09.022s + 0.171s (5 laps)
6. James Hinchcliffe Andretti-Chevrolet 102.619mph 1:09.040s + 0.188s (5 laps)
7. Josef Newgarden SFHR-Honda 102.575mph 1:09.070s + 0.218s (3 laps)
8. Helio Castroneves Penske-Chevrolet 102.553mph 1:09.085s + 0.233s (5 laps)
9. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne-Honda 102.543mph 1:09.091s + 0.239s (5 laps)
10. Tony Kanaan KV Racing-Chevrolet 102.383mph 1:09.199s + 0.347s (5 laps)
11. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt-Hamilton-Honda 102.37mph 1:09.208s + 0.356s (5 laps)
12. Scott Dixon Ganassi-Honda 102.137mph 1:09.366s + 0.514s (4 laps)

Round 3 - Firestone Fast Six

With pole position secured and little to gain by pushing things in round 3, Dario Franchitti would have been justified in taking his time and concentrate on tyre strategy rather than worry about qualifying positions. That left the Chevrolet runners of Ryan Briscoe, EJ Viso, Will Power, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay to jockey for the best of the grid-penalty positions.

In fact Franchitti was first out of pit road as the clock ticked ticked to the halfway point of the ten minute session, with the Chevy cars following hot on his heels. Franchitti set a time of 1:09.7511s, but this was soon bettered by Penske duo Ryan Briscoe (1:08.6089s) and Will Power (1:08.7073s).

Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay also ducked under the 69s mark with a lap of 1:08.7163s, while Franchitti showed that he was not just sitting back and coasting to pole position by improving his time to 1:09.0327s by the time the chequered flag, just three hundredths of a second faster than EJ Viso who was the best of the KV Racing stable at Long Beach.

While Briscoe will be bumped back on the starting grid on Sunday, he's still credited with winning pole position and receives both the bonus prize money and the championship points for doing so. Best of all as far as he's concerned, he has the bragging rights over his team mate and fellow Aussie Will Power for once.

1. Ryan Briscoe Penske-Chevrolet 103.264mph 1:08.609s (4 laps)
2. Will Power Penske-Chevrolet 103.116mph 1:08.707s + 0.098s (4 laps)
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti-Chevrolet 103.102mph 1:08.716s + 0.107s (4 laps)
4. Dario Franchitti Ganassi-Honda 102.63mph 1:09.033s + 0.424s (4 laps)
5. EJ Viso KV Racing-Chevrolet 102.584mph 1:09.063s + 0.455s (4 laps)
6. James Hinchcliffe Andretti-Chevrolet 102.365mph 1:09.211s + 0.602s (3 laps)


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