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Helio Castroneves Captures the Pole and Sets New Track Record during Qualify for the Phoenix Grand Prix at PIR


Avondale, ARIZ. (April 1, 2016) – For the first time since 2005, Verizon IndyCar teams are qualifying to race on the surface of Phoenix International Raceway for Saturday’s Desert Diamond West Valley’s Phoenix Grand Prix.   The teams competing in Saturday’s race will run 250 laps, or 255.5 miles on the 1.022 mile oval.

Sam Hornish Jr., driving the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota was the last IndyCar driver to win at PIR in 2005.  During qualifying in 2005, Bryan Herta took the No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda to the pole with a 20.3837 seconds, 176.612 mph lap.  Arie Luyendyk holds the qualifying lap record of 19.608 seconds with a n average speed of 183.599 mph) set on March 23, 1996.

Today, drivers are exceeding Luyendyk’s 20 year old record by almost 10 mph, running blistering laps around the track.  Foyt won the inaugural Phoenix100 USAC race in 1964.  He holds the record with 67 Indy car race wins, seven IndyCar driver championships, including the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, 1964, 1967 and 1977.  Foyt has also won the Indy 500 as a team owner.  His IndyCar team will also be competing in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix.

Pictured Left to right: Ed Carpenter, A.J. Foyt, Bryan R. Sperber, Graham Rahal, Mark Miles Photo courtesy IndyCar Communications

Pictured Left to right: Ed Carpenter, A.J. Foyt, Bryan R. Sperber, Graham Rahal, Mark Miles
Photo courtesy IndyCar Communications

Earlier this week, Phoenix International Raceway unveiled a trophy honoring legendary driver AJ Foyt.  During the unveiling Foyt stated “I really owe Phoenix a lot. A lot of you probably remember the late Clint Brawner and Jimmy Bryan from here. Clint Brawner was the one who gave me my first ride at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I’ll never forget, I drove all the way out here from Houston and had about two dollars left. I was driving up and down 7th, he didn’t say street or avenue. I almost called him three times and said, ‘Clint, I don’t see no bank across the street from your house. He said where are you at? I said 7th Street, he said, ‘No 7th Avenue.’ My heart was beating so bad, I thought now I have the chance to go to Indy and I can’t find the guy’s house.”  When talking about the upcoming race, AJ Foyt said “Phoenix has been great in a lot of ways for me. You can’t forget the people who helped you start. I’d say right here in Phoenix is where I got my big start. I’m just glad to be back here.”

Fast forward to Friday and it was time for practice and qualifying sessions for both the Desert Diamond West Valley Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix and the Indy Lights Series.

During the first practice session for the Verizon IndyCar series, Munoz, Hinchcliffe and Sato all hit the wall in turn 2.  Munoz grazed it, leaving some rubber on the wall, but Sato and Hinchcliffe both had heavy contact, sending their cars back to the garage for major repairs.

Come time for qualifying, Helio Castroneves and the No. 3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet took the pole and set a new track record on his first qualifying lap after running the 1.022 mile oval at 192.631 mph  in just 19.0997 seconds.  The qualifying laps earned Castroneves the Verizon P1 Award.  It two decades for the old record held by Arie Luyendyk to be broken.

Here’s what Castroneves had to say after taking the pole;  “Yeah, I mean, first of all, what a great opportunity again to be back in PIR. This is probably my first oval ever in my career, so it’s great to be back again in this place.Yes, it’s an honor to be breaking the record, which has been holding for 20 years, and now we’re able to show that  (the) Verizon (cars) are fast, and also in my car, the Rev Group car, was really on rails. We came here preseason, we showed that, and we kept going. The temperatures were really difficult because of the temperature and you’ve got to push to the limit, and we definitely pushed to the limit. My first lap was pretty good, and the second lap was a little bit of a moments in Turn 3 and 4, which I was not expecting that. That’s probably why it was huge. But at the end of the day, we were able to put the No. 3 in the pole position and now we’ve got to focus for tomorrow”

Tony Kannan qualified the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet in the No. 2 position with a 192.324 qualifying lap.  Kannan said “It was pretty good, and the conditions changed a lot since this morning, so it was a little tricky to make a decision in what to do with the car. But I think big props to Chevy and Pratt & Miller on their accurate data because we made some changes in the car. It was totally blind, just according to the numbers they gave us, and it was spot on.”

Currently ranked number 1, Juan Pablo Montoya drove the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet to a 191.366 mph lap, qualifying 3rd.

The remainder of Saturday’s starting order for the Desert Diamond West Valley Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix will be;

4. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 191.220
5. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 190.780
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 190.376
7. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 190.094
8. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 189.972
9. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 189.749
10. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 189.654
11. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 189.071
12. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 188.966
13. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 187.998
14. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 186.939
15. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 186.544
16. (19) Luca Filippi, Honda, 185.814
17. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 185.046
18. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 184.261
19. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 179.770
20. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, no speed
21. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, no speed
22. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, no speed


In the Cooper Tires Indy Lights Series, Kyle Kaiser drove his No. 18 Mazda powered Dallara to the pole position, starting number 1 on Saturday afternoon.  Ed Jones will start 2nd and rookie driver Santiago Urrutia will start 3rd.  9 of the 16 Indy Lights Series drivers are rookies.

The Gates open at 10:00 Saturday morning.  The 90 lap Indy Lights race starts at 1:30 pm.

For the first time in over 60 IndyCar races at Phoenix International Raceway, Indy cars will run under the the lights on the 1.022 mile oval when the checkered flag drops for the Desert Diamond West Valley Verizon IndyCar Series inaugural Grand Prix drops at 6:15 pm.  You can learn more by clicking here.

Check back with Arizona Auto Scene as we’ll be adding race coverage and updating this article with more photos from qualifying an practice.




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