FORT WORTH, Texas — Charlie Kimball sped to the first pole of his Verizon IndyCar Series career on Friday, claiming top qualifying honors in record time for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Kimball, who will make his 109th Indy car start on Saturday night, set one and two-lap INDYCAR qualifying records on the 1.5-mile oval in earning the Verizon P1 Award for the 248-lap, 600-kilometer race.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver averaged 222.556 mph over two laps in the No. 83 Tresiba Honda, beating Will Power’s four-year-old record by more than three miles per hour.
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, utilizing a new track surface at Texas Motor Speedway that was completely repaved in the offseason to do the job.
In addition, the banking in Turns 1 and 2 was decreased by four degrees, down to 20 degrees, and the track was widened out from 60 to 80 feet in that area.
Kimball credited the effort of teammate Scott Dixon at a Texas test session in April for helping all four Chip Ganassi Racing cars roll off the transporters with speed.
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.”
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, still seeking his first win of the year.
“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 (222.007 mph) and Max Chilton sixth (221.654).
Alexander Rossi and Tristan Vautier 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 season finale two years ago.
“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, who is 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.”
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.
Full qualifying results can be viewed on the next page…