Rain fell early on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, but it wasn’t gloomy for Chip Ganassi. Charlie Kimball earned his first career pole in the Verizon IndyCar Series, as all four Ganassi machines qualified in the top six. Series points leader Scott Dixon starts alongside Kimball on the front row, with Alexander Rossi and Tony Kanaan sharing Row 2. Tristan Vautier is driving the No. 18 car for Dale Coyne Racing this weekend, and qualified fifth, just ahead of Max Chilton.
Kimball set one and two-lap qualifying records on the 1.5-mile reconfigured oval. The banking in Turns 1 and 2 was decreased 4 degrees to 20 degrees and the track surface widened 20 feet to 80 feet in that area.
Qualification Results for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600
Honda-powered cars took the top eight spots, with Mikhail Aleshin and Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato starting in Row 4 tomorrow night. Row 5 features a pair of Team Penske drivers that have had their share of success at Texas. Will Power earned three consecutive pole positions, and Helio Castroneves owns nearly all of the IndyCar records at Texas, including the most wins. Defending race winner Graham Rahal starts 11th tomorrow night, and aims to continue his momentum after sweeping the two races in Detroit last weekend.
Andretti Autosport had a mixed bag once again, with Rossi and Sato doing well, while Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti struggled. Hunter-Reay starts 13th tomorrow, and his last three finishes at Texas are 19th, 18th, and 13th. If Marco wants to end his 100-race winless streak, he’ll have to do it from 15th position. Behind him is James Hinchcliffe, who nearly won the race last year. He’ll have some work to do if he wants to earn his second win of the season.
Kanaan could be a very good pick for this race, as he has eight podium finishes in 17 starts at Texas, completing 3,532 of 3,535 possible laps. Castroneves, Kanaan, and Dixon have more combined podium finishes at Texas (22) than the rest of the entire field combined (9). There will be one final 30-minute practice session this evening, at 6:45 PM ET.
The race distance is 248 laps, which is 357.12 miles around the 1.5-mile oval. Carlos Munoz won the pole for last year’s race, and Rahal is the defending race winner. This race will mark the unofficial halfway point of the 2017 season.
Coverage for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 begins at 8 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Simon Pagenaud: “I was really hoping for more for our No. 1 DXC Technology Chevrolet. We ran about the same in practice as qualifying. It’s OK. We’re going to work on the car more before final practice and see what we can figure out and go from there. I do think we’ll have a good car for the race, though.”
Josef Newgarden: “I’m a little bummed about where we qualified. We worked on the car during first practice and couldn’t find the speed we needed to head into qualifying. It’s disappointing, but the No. 2 Hum by Verizon Chevy team and I are looking forward to final practice to see what we can do to find more speed. We’ll be able to get things sorted out and be ready for the race tomorrow night.”
Helio Castroneves: “We’re going to start 10th in tomorrow’s race here at Texas. It’s not what I hoped for, but the No. 3 AAA Chevrolet team and myself have some things we want to work on for final practice. The one thing about this track is that you never know what’s going to happen. It always has a surprise or two. We’re ready to get back on track soon.”
Conor Daly: “We trimmed out a lot, but there’s just no speed in the car, and I don’t really know why. It felt balanced, but we’re just a little ways off, so we’ll work to have a better car for the race. The car did feel OK in traffic earlier, so hopefully we’ll have a good car for the race.”
James Hinchcliffe: “We’re one of the teams that didn’t get to properly test here, and the rain today kind of condensed the schedule in a way that was definitely not advantageous for people that hadn’t run here. We didn’t really have time after practice to come back and look at the data, make a decision about downforce and get gears changed in time. We were really handcuffed by the schedule. Qualifying isn’t normally super important here in Texas, but now it is; the track doesn’t race like it used to and everybody is pretty worried about a processional race. We’ll find out tomorrow night, but very upsetting where we’re starting. We’ve got a long night tomorrow.”
Mikhail Aleshin: “Obviously until you’re P1, you’re not satisfied if you’re a good athlete, and that’s how I am. To be honest, qualifying is just qualifying, and you’re going to get the points during the race which is the most important thing. I hope that we’ll be able to continue developing after practice tonight and have a good car.”
Max Chilton: “We’re working on getting a little more speed in the Gallagher car. The new configuration to the banking in Turns 1 and 2 have been a bit tough to adjust to. We can get through Turns 3 and 4 flat, but still need some adjustments to do the same in 1 and 2 to get those good, consistent and fast speeds.”
Scott Dixon: “Obviously the weather is much different than when we tested and it’s supposed to be a lot warmer tomorrow, but we learned some things and it was a good practice session this morning for the No. 9 car and the team. It really doesn’t matter where you qualify here, but I think we’ve got a decent setup to go after it tomorrow in the NTT Data Honda. Congrats to Charlie and the No. 83 team for their first pole. Great team effort today and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Tony Kanaan: “I feel like we put together a really good lap and I’m happy with where we are in terms of speed right now in the NTT Data car. We still have a little work to do though. My teammates have good cars too so that will be great data to go look at when we’re done tonight. The track really got better as we went on for sure. But hat’s off the Charlie on his first pole. He put together a great two laps.”
Will Power: “We had a good run in qualifying, but we needed a little more. We’ll start ninth which isn’t terrible but not ideal either. We still have final practice and are ready to look for more speed. The No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet team and myself have some ideas we’re ready to try. Our cars have been good in the races all season and there’s no reason to think that will change.”
Graham Rahal: “The car was OK, maybe we could have trimmed a little more. 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.”
Tristan Vautier: “I was a bit nervous, to be honest, just to know how it was going to feel, that first lap out. 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. Obviously everything goes a bit faster than when you’ve done it all season, but I got back in it pretty quick. The team made it easy because the car was so good from the start. It’s really cool to work with these guys, Craig (Hampson, engineer), Olivier (Boisson, engineer) and obviously the rest of the team. The car has felt really nice from the start and it’s really helped me out. The (qualifying run) was good, I think that they nailed the downforce quite perfect to the good level. I’ve had some tougher (qualifying sessions) where I didn’t qualify as well, so I have to give credit to the team. Obviously the race is going to be much tougher for me. Long, obviously very long, and I’ve been out for a while, but we have tonight to practice and we’ll see how it goes.”
Ed Jones: “I love this track. If anything, this is the most comfortable I’ve ever been on an oval from the get-go. For qualifying we had too much downforce, it was too easy fast, which is a bit frustrating. We had limited track time and our team is the only one that wasn’t able to test here in April, so we were going into it with a lot of unknowns, but I’m confident that we’re going to have a good race car and that’s what’s important for tomorrow.”
Ed Carpenter: “We are still all trying to figure this place out. Our balance could have been a little bit better, and I could have gone harder on the warm up lap. Both would have helped our qualifying speed, but we’ll focus on practice tonight and see what we can do from there.”
JR Hildebrand: “I felt great in the practice session this afternoon. I am super surprised by our lack of speed in qualifying. We were running faster than that on our own on used tires in practice. We’ve got another practice to run later on today and we’ll get back with the program.”
Takuma Sato: “The car went high on the first lap in qualifying on the exit of Turn 2, so not as fast as should have been. But the No. 26 car again showed great speed and we carry great momentum, so I’m very happy with that.”
Marco Andretti: “I drew an early qual run, first car out, so we were dependent on the temperature. If the clouds clear and the track heats up, then it’s good to be early with cloud cover. But if the clouds hold, then everyone is just adjusting based on your run and running quicker. Lap 2 was fast, but Lap 1 I was on edge and the car was so loose. Normally I’m flat in qualifying, but today had to lift on Lap 1. I’m not real happy about that.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We’re making small steps. We missed the open test here so we’re a few steps behind our teammates in the competition and speeds. We’re trying to catch up, but we need to make sure that we’re doing that methodically and not just swinging for the fences. Practice this morning was a start and qualifying was one more step, but we need every minute of today’s final practice session for the DHL team.”
Charlie Kimball: “I’m really excited to be on pole. The guys totally deserve it. 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.”
Gabby Chaves: “We are finished with practice and qualifying and move onto the race. Our position is not ideal, but given the very short amount of track time that we’ve had, I think we’re within the window of being pretty competitive for the race. I am looking forward to racing here at Texas (Motor) Speedway with our new team.”
Alexander Rossi: “The ShopAndretti Honda was good from when we rolled off (the truck) today. I knew when we got in the qualifying line that we didn’t have anything for pole with how much the Ganassi cars were trimmed. But, third is good, as we saw last year, a lot can happen at this race and I feel really good in the race car as well – confidence is high at the moment.”