FORT WORTH, Texas – Charlie Kimball sped to the first pole position of his Verizon IndyCar Series career, claiming the Verizon P1 Award in record time for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Kimball, who will make his 109th start Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network), set one- and two-lap INDYCAR qualifying records on the 1.5-mile oval to earn the first starting position for the 248-lap race.
RAINGUARD WATER SEALERS 600: Qualifying results
Kimball averaged 222.556 mph over two laps in the No. 83 Tresiba Honda to beat the old record held since 2013 by Will Power by more than 3 mph. Kimball’s qualifying run was more than a full second faster than Power’s previous standard.
“I’m really excited to be on pole. The guys totally deserve it,” said Kimball, whose second qualifying lap of 23.2730 seconds also eclipsed the 14-year-old record of 23.5031 seconds held by Gil de Ferran.
“The No. 83 Tresiba Honda was really good right out of the box and Todd (Malloy, engineer) made a few adjustments that made it better during the course of practice. During qualifying, we just took a swing at it and went out and got the job done.”
Nineteen of the 21 cars that made qualifying attempts bettered Power’s previous two-lap record time of 47.7960 seconds on the new track surface at Texas Motor Speedway that was completely repaved in the offseason. In addition, the banking in Turns 1 and 2 was decreased by 4 degrees to 20 degrees and the track widened 20 feet to 80 feet in that area.
Kimball credited the effort of teammate Scott Dixon at a Texas Motor Speedway test in April for helping all four Chip Ganassi Racing cars roll off the transporters fast today. Dixon, in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda, appeared bound for the pole until Kimball’s attempt.
“I knew we were going to have a good car. … I just had to go out and get the most out of it,” Kimball said. “I think it showed because I had to make some adjustments for the balance of the car, and I had the confidence to do that and take a fairly big swing at the car for that second lap because I think the first lap wasn't fast enough to beat Scott, but the second lap was.”
All four Ganassi drivers qualified in the top six. Dixon, the current points leader, was second (222.516 mph), missing the pole by less than one-hundredth of a second. The four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion will start on the front row for the fourth time this season in search of his first 2017 victory.
“It really doesn't matter where you qualify here, but I think we've got a decent setup to go after it (in the race) in the NTT Data Honda,” said Dixon. “Congrats to Charlie and the No. 83 team for their first pole. Great team effort today and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Also for Chip Ganassi Racing, Tony Kanaan was fourth in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda (222.007 mph) and Max Chilton sixth in the No. 8 Gallagher Honda (221.654). Alexander Rossi (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda) and Tristan Vautier (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda) were the drivers to break up the Ganassi stranglehold, qualifying third and fifth, respectively, as Honda drivers locked down the first eight spots.
Vautier’s effort was impressive since it was his first time driving an Indy car since the 2015 season finale.
“I got back in it pretty quick and the team made it easy because the car was so good from the start, to be honest,” said Vautier, filling in for the injured Sebastien Bourdais this weekend. “It's really good to work with these guys, (engineers) Craig (Hampson) and Olivier (Boisson) and obviously the rest of the team. The car felt really nice from the start, so it's really helped me out.”
Saturday’s race is the ninth of 17 on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule and the 29th at Texas Motor Speedway since the facility opened in 1997. Through the first eight races of 2017, seven different drivers have been winners. The top seven qualifiers today have yet to visit victory lane this season.
Dixon, a two-time winner at Texas, takes an eight-point lead into Saturday’s main event over Helio Castroneves, a four-time winner at the track. Castroneves will start 10th in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet.
Take a few laps around Texas Motor Speedway with Graham Rahal via visor cam: