LONG BEACH, Calif., April 14, 2012 – Despite posting the 11th-fastest lap in qualifying Saturday, Simon Pagenaud will start the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach from the fourth starting position Sunday.
Driving the No. 77 Schmidt-Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, Pagenaud recorded a lap of 1:09.2078 at 102.370 mph in the second round of the IZOD IndyCar Series knockout style qualifying session. The time and speed put Pagenaud 11th on the qualifying sheet at the end of the day. However, the same INDYCAR rule that penalized Pagenaud 10 grid positions in the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg turned the Long Beach starting grid into a math equation worthy of Rain Man.
Unapproved engine changes by all 11 Chevy-powered cars will force each Chevy driver to start 10 spots back on the grid from where he qualified. As a result, Pagenaud jumps to the second row.
“Thanks to our Honda-powered engine, we are starting up front,” said Pagenaud. “The warm-up tomorrow will be important for us, but we should be OK.”
Pagenaud’s focus on Sunday’s morning warm-up is a result of the abbreviated Long Beach schedule after rain Friday washed out quality practice time for the IZOD IndyCar Series teams.
“The car is not where we want it to be at the moment,” said Pagenaud. “Unfortunately with the rain, we couldn’t work on the set-up. It was the same for everybody, but we couldn’t catch up. The car is not in a happy place at the moment. But, we found some things in qualifying which we used as a practice session, so we have a good direction for tomorrow.”
Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe qualified on pole position with a lap of 1 minute, 8.6089 seconds at 103.264 mph. It’s the fourth consecutive pole at Long Beach for Team Penske. It’s Briscoe’s first pole since Chicagoland Speedway in 2010.
Briscoe’s teammate Will Power qualified second with a lap of 1 minute, 8.7073 seconds at 103.116 mph. Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti and KV Racing’s E.J. Viso rounded out the top five in qualifying.
After the grid penalties are enforced Sunday, Franchitti will start on pole. On the outside of the front row will be rookie Josef Newgarden, who drives for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson will join Pagenaud on Row 2.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will air live on NBC Sports Network Sunday, April 15 at 3:30 p.m. ET.