IndyCar: Castroneves takes pole for Sunday’s GP of Houston Race 2

Helio Castroneves celebrates winning the Verizon P1 Pole Award

Helio Castroneves claimed his 40th IndyCar career pole tying him for fourth on the all-time list with the legendary Rick Mears on Sunday morning.

Castroneves scored his second Verizon IndyCar Series pole this season when he ran a fast lap of 59.1702 seconds with a speed of 99.415mph around the 10-turn, 1.683-mile temporary street course at Houston’s NRG Park.

That was the fastest lap in a 30-minute qualifying session that was split into two groups based on Friday’s practice speeds. The drivers that came out of Castroneves’ group will line up on the inside position of each row and the drivers in Aleshin’s group, who qualified second, will line up on the outside of each row.

"We missed by a bit in Saturday’s qualifying but this morning we had to make it happen," Castroneves said. "We put everything together and it went really well. Thanks to the engineer and the crew they are outstanding. Starting up front is a good place to be but yesterday it was looking good until the weather played a trick on us.

"After yesterday we are prepared for whatever scenarios we are faced with here."

Castroneves has bounced back from his double-disappointment at Houston last October when he entered the race with a 49-point lead over Scott Dixon in the battle for the championship and had gearbox issues in both races. By the time the second race of the doubleheader was over, Dixon was in front of Castroneves by 25 points for a 74-point swing in the points race.

Dixon would go on to claim his third career IndyCar championship in the final race of the season at Fontana, California.

Castroneves started second and finished ninth in Saturday’s race that was run under wet conditions. But it remains an improvement over last year’s disastrous finishes.

"It’s a true testament to how we put our minds together and turned that bad result into a positive one," Castroneves said. "Qualifying is one step ahead but we still have the race today. But we are gratified with our accomplishment."

Castroneves was asked about starting next to the Russian rookie who was involved in a crash with Takuma Sato on Saturday, taking both cars out of the contest.

"He did a good job today putting the car on the front row but I can’t think about that to be honest; I have to do my thing and go for it," Castroneves said. "Hopefully he will use common sense and I can keep him behind me going forward."

Aleshin earned the front row starting position with a fast lap of 1:00.2483 (97.634 mph) in a Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. It’s his first front row start in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

"It’s definitely a great thing to do after the frustration of yesterday," Aleshin said. "Saturday, it was a really tough day for us. It was difficult to put it behind but this morning I managed to do that during the night. When I visited the team they looked happy and fully prepared for today.

"Yesterday, the good thing is it’s a doubleheader here so what happened on Saturday is not very important on Sunday because you have another qualifying and another race. I think that helps on Sunday. The result we have shown in qualifying shows our potential and shows that we have left it all behind."

Simon Pagenaud, who won the pole in Saturday’s "Knockout" qualifying session, starts third in a Honda with a lap at 59.1962 seconds (99.371 mph) alongside another Honda driven by Graham Rahal at 1:00.2993 (97.55 mph). Sebastian Bourdais rounds out the top five in a Chevrolet with a fast lap of 59.2863 seconds (99.220 mph).

Sunday’s second race of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston starts at 3:30 p.m. ET.