Motorsports Mondial

Photo: indycar.com

CASTRONEVES CLAIMS POLE POSITION AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK

Helio Castroneves won an IZOD IndyCar Series pole position for the first time in more than a year, topping a wild qualifying session at Barber Motorsports Park.

Castroneves set a best lap of 1:10.4768 in the Firestone Fast Six to claim the pole position for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Castroneves was the 2010 winner at Barber and the race winner at this season’s opening race at St. Pete.

James Hinchcliffe, driving the No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport, earned his first front-row start.

Honda-powered drivers Scott Dixon, the race runner-up at St. Petersburg, and Mike Conway will share Row 2, while Chevrolet-powered drivers JR Hildebrand and Tony Kanaan will occupy Row 3.

Will Power set a Barber Motorsports Park course record of 1 minute, 9.8529 seconds in the Chevrolet-powered No. 12 Verizon Team Penske on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn circuit in Round 1 of IZOD IndyCar Series qualifications.

But the Australian-born/North Carolina resident, who won the 2011 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama from pole, will start ninth in the 90-lap race (2 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network). He had competed in the past 20 Firestone Fast Six sessions dating to the 2010 season.

Also on March 31, Firestone Indy Lights driver Sebastian Saavedra, driving the No. 27 Team AFS car, posted a best lap of 1 minute, 16.4968 seconds on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park road course to earn the Sunoco Pole Award for the 45-lap Grand Prix of Alabama on April 1.

Saavedra, who topped the time sheet in the lone practice session March 30 (the second was canceled because of a downpour), jumped to the top of the qualifying time sheet with just under five minutes left in the 45-minute session and remained there when a red flag flew for a one-car incident involving the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car driven by Oliver Webb.

Tristan Vautier will start alongside Saavedra. It’s his second consecutive front-row start; the 2011 Star Mazda champion won from the pole in his Firestone Indy Lights debut at St. Pete.

DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:

The recently unveiled “Women Empowered” initiative from TrueCar, Inc., which provides sponsorship to six female racers at various levels of North American motorsport, includes five drivers with strong ties to the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

IZOD IndyCar Series driver Katherine Legge, Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear driver Ashley Freiberg, Cooper Tires presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda racer Shannon McIntosh, Pirelli World Challenge Championships driver Shea Holbrook and Rally American Series driver Verena Mei are associated with the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation established by Lyn St. James to help women achieve their goals in motorsports.

Appropriately, the new program launched in March, which is “Women’s History Month.” McIntosh opened her 2012 season at Sebring International Raceway on March 13-17, while Legge, Holbrook and Freiberg opened their respective seasons last weekend at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. All six of the “Women Empowered” drivers, which also includes SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup Series driver Emilee Tominovich, participated in a meet-and-greet and autograph session during the weekend at St. Pete.

Three of the drivers – Freiberg, McIntosh and Holbrook – are graduates of the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation’s Complete Driver Academy, which is the most comprehensive educational and training program of its kind for talented women race drivers who aspire to the professional levels of motorsports

LYN ST. JAMES: “I want to congratulate TrueCar, Inc. for creating this remarkable motorsports campaign with its sponsorship of six women racers in six different professional racing series. After watching so many women racers struggle to secure funding just to get in a race car, now these drivers know they have the support to run a full season with proper race teams, which is history making. Too often, women drivers are only able to secure short term deals, and generally aren’t funded well enough to have a competitive effort. “I look forward to watching them as the season progresses,” St. James concluded. “I know they’ve worked hard and are prepared for the challenges ahead. Without having this opportunity, they know they might be watching from the sidelines, or just struggling to get on the racetrack.”RR

KATHERINE LEGGE (No. 6 TrueCar Lotus Dragon Racing Lotus): “Lyn has been an inspiration and a role model for myself and many other young drivers both male and female,” Legge said. “She has opened many doors before us and continues to help and support the up and coming young talent in the racing arena. She was the first person I called when I came to the USA and is still the first I call when I need guidance. She is a rock star!”