Castroneves remains Phoenix king of speed with new track record

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AVONDALE, Arizona – For the second consecutive year, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves claimed pole position and set a track record at Phoenix Raceway.

The Brazilian posted one- and two-lap track records in his No. 3 REV Group Chevrolet to claim the title “King of Speed,” as the fastest person to circulate the 1.022-mile oval. His second lap clocked in at a record 18.8701 seconds (194.975 mph), capping off a two-lap average of 194.905 mph.

“I tell you man, that was great,” said Castroneves, whose 49th Indy car pole ties him with Bobby Unser for third on the all-time list. “Great team effort, the REV Chevy was really fast. I always say because of my teammates, these guys are the toughest ones, everybody’s pushing each other. But I’m really glad the No. 3 prevailed this time.”

DESERT DIAMOND WEST VALLEY PHOENIX GRAND PRIX: Qualifying results

All three of Castroneves’ teammates joined him in the top five, with Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet) running second, Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet) fourth after leading the afternoon’s practice session and Simon Pagenaud (No. 1 Menards Chevrolet) fifth. Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) split the foursome up by qualifying a career-best third for Saturday’s 250-lap race.

“It was just a little tough going second in line because of all the dust that had blown on the track,” said Power. “So I was very unsure on the first lap. The car felt really good, honestly. You know, Helio actually ran a little less downforce than me, so it was trimmed more. Yes, he was very fast.”

Defending race winner Scott Dixon (No. 9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) will have to battle from the eighth starting position to repeat at Phoenix.

“The ambient conditions changed a lot from practice to qualifying,” said the four-time series champion. “We found a lot and learned that we were a bit too conservative in qualifying. We came up a little short and we know we can trim out a bit more for the race in the NTT Data No. 9.”

Fellow Chip Ganassi Racing driver and two-time Phoenix winner Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Honda) qualified sixth.

Hildebrand, coming back from a broken hand that kept him out of last weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, was pleased with his Chevrolet’s pace and looks forward to fighting for the win.

“The car’s been good from the (February) test to rolling out here in practice and I had a good, strong run there,” said Hildebrand, whose best previous qualifying effort was fourth at Iowa Speedway in his rookie season of 2011. “It’s so difficult to pick your downforce level in these kinds of varied conditions. We saw Helio and those guys roll out with a little less (downforce) than where we were at. But looking towards the race, I think our cars are really good in race trim.”

The fourth race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season – and first on an oval – is set for the 1.022-mile oval on Saturday. A tape-delayed broadcast of Friday’s qualifying airs at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday, leaving into live race coverage beginning at 9 p.m. on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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