After flirting with the top of the charts in the two-hour morning practice session, Acura Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves won the pole Friday afternoon (April 13) for Saturday’s BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach. Castroneves won the pole with a lap at 99.321 mph, a new track record for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The lap is a mere two-thousandths of a second slower than the all-time sports car track record, set in 2008 by Timo Bernhard in a Penske-run Porsche RS Spyder in the American Le Mans Series.
For Castroneves, this is his sixth career pole at Long Beach in all disciplines (one in Indy Lights, four in INDYCAR and one in IMSA). He’s quite pleased.
“I love it. I’ll tell you what. If you take away Indianapolis, this is a very much a favorite place,” Castroneves said during his post-qualifying press conference. “You ask any driver, they like to go fast here. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Castroneves’ lap was two-tenths of a second faster than Action Express Racing’s Felipe Nasr, who was fastest in practice Friday morning. Nasr tried very hard to top Castroneves’ time late in the session, but went too hard into Turn 1 and went straight into the runoff.
Juan Pablo Montoya qualified the No. 6 Acura in third, right where he finished the opening practice. Filipe Albuquerque will start the second Action Express Racing Cadillac in fourth while Mazda Team Joest’s Jonathan Bomarito is fifth.
Bomarito is lucky that he’ll be able to keep that starting spot after he clipped the inside wall while turning in for Turn 6. The wall contact shot Bomarito nose-first into the tires. Bomarito was then able to back himself out of the tires and drive back to the pits without drawing a red flag, which would have cost him his best lap. Despite that, the Mazda Team Joest team will have some work to do prior to the race.
GT Le Mans had a much difference look early in the session, but the status quo more or less was reinstated by the finish.
Early on, Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and Antonio Garcia paced the field, turning laps significantly quicker than they did in the morning. However, as the session continued, the Porsches came to life.
Nick Tandy was able to put down a lap at 92.839 mph to take the top spot on the charts. The lap held up to give Tandy his second pole of 2019.
Tandy’s lap was six-hundredths of a second faster than teammate Laurens Vanthoor, who posted his best lap on his 10th circuit, which is somewhat unusual. Gavin ended up third fastest in his Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, while Sebastien Bourdais, driving in place of Joey Hand, was fourth. Garcia ended up fifth quickest, three-tenths of a second off the class pole. The entire GT Le Mans class was separated by just over nine-tenths of a second.
Coverage of the BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN, immediately after NTT IndyCar Series qualifying. The green flag is scheduled to fly at 5 p.m.
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