Charlie Kimball soars to first IndyCar pole in Texas

(Photo: Chris Jones/INDYCAR)

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

With more than 100 starts to his name, Charlie Kimball doesn’t see a lot of firsts in the Verizon IndyCar Series, but he managed just that in the first qualifying session on the newly-repaved and restructured Texas Motor Speedway.

Kimball soared ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon with a 222.556 mph average speed over two laps to claim his first Verizon P1 Pole award ahead of Saturday’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600.

“I’m really excited to be on pole. The guys totally deserve it,” Kimball said. “Everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing has been working so hard and the boys have had my back all year long through the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s so nice to be able to repay them with a pole position here at Texas Motor Speedway.

“The No. 83 Tresiba Honda was really good right out of the box and Todd 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.”

Dixon slotted in second, with Alexander Rossi, Tony Kanaan and the returning Tristan Vautier rounding out the top five. Vautier’s fifth-place run came in the first IndyCar qualifying session for the Frenchman since the 2015 season finale at Sonoma Raceway.

The 27-year-old is substituting for the injured Sebastien Bourdais’ in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 18 Honda, becoming the third different driver to compete in the machine in as many weeks. James Davison piloted the Honda in the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500, with former Formula One shoe Esteban Gutierrez driving the entry in the Chevrolet Grand Prix double-header weekend at Belle Isle Park.

“I was a bit nervous, to be honest, just to know how it was going to feel, that first lap out,” Vautier said. On a road course maybe not, but here on an oval, it’s a difficult place. I was just kind of anxious to get in the car and see how it would be, but after three of four laps, it was OK.”

In all, Honda took the top eight positions and 10 of the top 13 in a dominant qualifying performance. Max Chilton, Mikhail Aleshin and Takuma Sato completed the manufacturer’s top eight dominance, with Team Penske’s Will Power and Helio Castroneves leading the way for Chevrolet in ninth and 10th.

21 of the scheduled 22 cars completed a lap during the session. Carlos Munoz – the race’s defending polesitter – failed to complete a lap after failing to make it through technical inspection in the time provided by INDYCAR.

Speeds soared on the 1.5-mile oval, with the fresh pavement and restructuring of Turns 1 and 2 leading to an increase of more than five miles per hour. Munoz’s fast time last year was just 217.137 mph.

Results, via INDYCAR 

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