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KIMBALL EARNS FIRST INDYCAR POLE IN RECORD FASHION
FORT WORTH, Texas (June 9, 2017) – Charlie Kimball checked another box off his Verizon IndyCar Series to-do list Friday afternoon when he qualified on-pole for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Kimball secured his first series pole by touring TMS’ repaved and re-profiled 1.5-mile oval with a record two-lap average of 222.556 mph, knocking Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon off P1. Dixon, the race-winner here in 2008 and 2015, had posted a two-lap average of 222.516 mph.
The previous two-lap track qualifying record was set by Will Power of Team Penske at 219.182 mph in 2013. Kimball, whose best lap of two was clocked at 222.747 mph, fell just shy of the track’s one-lap qualifying record of 222.864 mph set by Gil de Ferran of Team Penske in 2003.
Kimball scored his first pole in his 109th series start. His previous best start was second in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course in May 2016.
“It’s fantastic and so much credit goes to the guys,” said Kimball, driver of the No. 83 Tresiba Honda. “Scott had a great test here in April, in the No. 83 car no less. With a condensed schedule like this it’s pretty awesome to get pole.” Friday morning’s opening practice was delayed by heavy rain, and eventually shortened.
Kimball, a 32-year-old native of Camarillo, Calif., living in Indianapolis, is the first winning Verizon IndyCar Series driver with Type 1 diabetes, diagnosed in 2007. Kimball races with a continuous glucose monitor that wirelessly transmits data so that if his glucose level falls during an event, he can drink sugar water. His lone series victory was scored at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2013 – 64 starts ago.
Dixon, who qualified on-pole for the 101st Indianapolis 500 last month, is competing with a left ankle injured in a grinding crash during the race on May 28. “It’s (the ankle) not too bad,” said Dixon, a four-time series champion and driver of the No. 9 NTT Data Honda. “Detroit was definitely the hardest weekend (separate races last Saturday/Sunday) if you have an injury or not. It’s nice to be coming to an oval…I won’t be touching the brake too much.”
Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion, will start third after lapping at 222.442 mph in the No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda. Tony Kanaan, who won here in 2004, qualified fourth after lapping at 222.007 mph in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda fielded by CGR.
Frenchman Christian Vautier proved to be a super-sub, qualifying fifth in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda at 221.801 mph. Vautier is replacing Sebastien Bourdais, a four-time Champ Car champion who suffered pelvis and hip injuries in a crash during qualifying for the Indy 500 on May 20.
Earlier in the session, reigning Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato provisionally moved to the top of the chart at 221.458 mph, pushing defending event winner Graham Rahal to P2. The third driver out, Rahal posted an average of 220.954 mph in his No. 15 Mi-Jack/Bobby Rahal Automotive Honda to knock Marco Andretti (220.318 mph) off the provisional pole. Sato, also of Andretti Autosport and the first Japanese driver to win in the series, will start eighth in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.
“The car went high on the first lap in qualifying on the exit of Turn 2, so not as fast as should have been,” Sato said. “But the No. 26 car again showed great speed and we carry great momentum, so I’m very happy with that.”
Rahal won last year’s rain-delayed race here on Aug. 27 by 0.0080-seconds over James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Rahal will start 11th after sweeping last weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing on the Belle Isle street course.
“The car was OK, maybe we could have trimmed a little more,” Rahal said. “It didn’t quite pull all of the six gears. The track grip felt really low. It seemed to take a couple of laps just to get the tires to come in and start working but it was a solid run. There are guys that I knew would go quicker than that but it was an OK run. I was just hoping to stay in the top-10. We just wanted a good, solid starting spot for the race.
“On the last lap of practice we got pretty neutral with the setup and probably got too conservative going into qualifying. We started 13th last year and won, so we’re hoping for the same result from 11th.”
Honda-powered cars continued the oval-track dominating they demonstrated around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month by taking the top-eight starting spots in the 22-car field. Power led the Chevrolet camp in ninth after lapping at 221.277 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske entry. Power was followed by teammate Helio Castroneves – a four-time TMS winner - at 221.200 mph in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Chevy.
Carlos Munoz of Colombia qualified on-pole last June at 217.137 mph while driving for Andretti Autosport. Friday, 19 of 22 drivers eclipsed that pole-winning speed thanks to the smooth, repaved surface, which includes a re-profiling of Turns 1 and 2. The banking in those corners has been reduced from 24 to 20 degrees, and the corners widened from 60 to 80-feet to encourage more passing. Turns 3 and 4 have retained their traditional 24-degree banking.
Munoz was disqualified Friday for a rules infraction and will start last, ironically, for the team owned by Houston native and Indy car legend A.J. Foyt Jr.
Saturday’s race, scheduled for 248 laps/327-miles, will be televised by NBC Sports Network beginning at 7 p.m. (CDT).
Tickets for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 are available by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com or the speedway ticket office at 817.215.8500.