LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Ryan Hunter-Reay, determined to rebound from a disappointing season, is off to a strong start in what he hopes will be another run toward the IndyCar championship.
Hunter-Reay won the pole Saturday for the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, knocking teammate James Hinchcliffe from the top spot while ensuring an all-Andretti Autosport front row.
Hunter-Reay won three poles last year, but as his performance tapered off in the second half of the season, he was unable to defend his 2012 championship. He opened this year with a second-place finish at St. Petersburg, and now will try for his first win of the season Sunday at Long Beach.
"It just comes down to this team giving me what I need when I need it," the American said after turning a lap in 1 minute, 7.8219 seconds on the temporary course through the streets of downtown.
Hinchcliffe wound up second after his lap at 1 minute, 7.9403 seconds.
"If you are going to lose pole, it might as well be to a teammate," Hinchcliffe said.
Sebastien Bourdais was third, followed by Josef Newgarden, rookie Jack Hawksworth and Simon Pagenaud.
Honda drivers made up five of the Fast Six spots, with Bourdais the only Chevrolet representative.
"What a qualifying session — you never knew who was going to put in the best lap," Hunter-Reay said. "It was anybody's session."
Well, not anybody.
The session was surprising for who didn't advance into the later rounds, and that it marked the first time in series history that no drivers from Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing advanced to the final round.
Defending race winner Takuma Sato didn't make it out of the first group, and was penalized for interfering with Hunter-Reay during his lap. The punishment stripped Sato of his two fastest laps in the session.
"Tough qualifying session," Sato said.
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