Helio Castroneves’ top time in pre-qualifying practice foreshadowed a dominant drive during DPi qualifying on the streets of Long Beach which saw the Brazilian pilot storm to the overall pole.
A 1:11.562 lap from Castroneves in the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 put the car on top but a 1:11.332 two laps later kept it there, matching Team Penske’s Long Beach qualifying feat with Juan Pablo Montoya in the sister car a year ago.
Castroneves’ countryman Felipe Nasr was his closest competition during the brief outing but the Penske driver’s advantage was 0.218 seconds by the time the checkered flag brought qualifying to a close.
Adding to his NTT IndyCar Series qualifying success at Long Beach, which includes consecutive poles from 2015 to 2017, Castroneves made himself the new prototype lap record holder at the Southern California street circuit, eclipsing Nasr’s year-old record by an impressive 1.062 seconds.
Castroneves is now a three-time DPi pole sitter, adding to his Petit Le Mans qualifying run in a Penske-fielded ORECA 07 in 2017 plus his Mid-Ohio pole in 2018. Friday’s effort translated to Castroneves’ first WeatherTech Championship pole on a street circuit.
Nasr and the No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R from Action Express Racing will share the front row with Castroneves to begin Saturday’s 100-minute third round of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
Last year’s Long Beach pole sitter Montoya qualified third in the sister No. 6 Acura DPi at half a second off Castroneves’ time. Joao Barbosa and Jonathan Bomarito added the second Action Express Cadillac DPi and the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P to the top five.
Tristan Nunez was 0.263 seconds slower than his Mazda Team Joest stablemate Bomarito to place sixth in the No. 77 Mazda DPi while Jordan Taylor earned a seventh-place start for Wayne Taylor Racing.
The trio of Cadillacs fielded by JDC-Miller Motorsports and Juncos Racing joined CORE autosport’s Ligier Nissan DPi at the bottom of the DPi running order and will similarly join the Jonathan Bennett-qualified car at the back of the grid to start Saturday’s race.
After NBCSN’s live telecast opens at 4:30 p.m. EDT, 35 minutes before the green flag is scheduled to fly at 2:05 p.m. PDT.