Charlie Kimball triumphed in a Honda-dominated IndyCar qualifying session at Texas Motor Speedway to secure his career-first pole position for tomorrow night’s Rainguard 600.
Spearheaded by Chip Ganassi Racing, Honda locked out the first four rows. Kimball was the fourth-last driver to make his run, and delivered a two-lap average of 222.556 mph to unseat teammate Scott Dixon’s 222.516 mph.
“With the surface changes, it almost races like a short track,” Kimball said. “Track position is king, and fortunately, we’ve got the best position out there.”
Alexander Rossi rebounded from a difficult test at this venue to claim third in the grid ahead of Tony Kanaan, while Tristan Vautier rewarded the faith that Dale Coyne placed in him by calling him up as a substitute for the injured Sebastien Bourdais by putting the No. 18 car fifth.
“The car is really good,” he said. “Straight from this morning, it gave me really good confidence. I’m happy, I’m enjoying it. I was a bit nervous [this morning] but the car felt good straight away. I’m grateful to be here, and am enjoying the moment.”
The Frenchman will start alongside Max Chilton, who felt he could have been a row or two higher up had he not needed to lift slightly on his first lap. He made some adjustments to the No. 8 from within the cockpit and delivered a 221.141 mph on his second lap, which suggests that his suspicions were probably correct.
Mikhail Aleshin and Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato were next, meaning that Chevrolet had to look all the way down to ninth to find its best qualifier. The driver in question was two-time Texas pole winner Will Power, whose 221.277 mph was just enough to put him ahead of Penske teammate Helio Castroneves (below).
“I was wide open all the way around,” Power said. “We had to take everything off – I could not trim out any more. Everything was off, and I was wide open.”
But while Honda had the edge in terms of overall performance, there were still haves and have-nots within the HPD camp, with the dividing line being who had the opportunity to participate in the earlier test. Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe were among those that didn’t, and will start from 13th and 16th, respectively.
“We were just a few steps behind today,” said Hunter-Reay.
The other story was one of outright speed. Coming into this weekend, the two-lap qualifying record stood at 219.182, set by Power in 2013. Today, that would have put him 18th on the grid.
Elsewhere, fledgling team Harding Racing made good on its promise to follow up on its debut at Indy with an appearance at Texas, and will watch Gabby Chaves start from 20th in the No. 88 entry.
A.J. Foyt Racing’s Carlos Munoz failed to set a time as his car was too late to tech inspection and will start from the rear of the grid alongside teammate Conor Daly, who was unable to conjure anything more than a 215.521 mph average from his No. 4 car.