Categories
News Open Wheel

Kimball Sets Texas Track Record to Win First Career Pole Position

FORT WORTH, Texas (Friday, June 9, 2017) – Charlie Kimball sped to the first pole position of his Verizon IndyCar Series career, claiming the Verizon P1 Award in record time for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kimball, who will make his 109th start Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network), set one- and two-lap INDYCAR qualifying records on the 1.5-mile oval to earn the first starting position for the 248-lap race.

RAINGUARD WATER SEALERS 600: Qualifying results

Kimball averaged 222.556 mph over two laps in the No. 83 Tresiba Honda to beat the old record held since 2013 by Will Power by more than 3 mph. 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 on the new track surface at Texas Motor Speedway that was completely repaved in the offseason. In addition, the banking in Turns 1 and 2 was decreased by 4 degrees to 20 degrees and the track widened 20 feet to 80 feet in that area.

Kimball credited the effort of teammate Scott Dixon at a Texas Motor Speedway test in April for helping all four Chip Ganassi Racing cars roll off the transporters fast today. 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.”

All four Ganassi drivers qualified in the top six. 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 in search of his first 2017 victory.

“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 in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda (222.007 mph) and Max Chilton sixth in the No. 8 Gallagher Honda (221.654). Alexander Rossi (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda) and Tristan Vautier (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda) 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 2015 season finale.

“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, 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.”

Saturday’s race is the ninth of 17 on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule and the 29th at Texas Motor Speedway since the facility opened in 1997. Through the first eight races of 2017, seven different drivers have been winners. The top seven qualifiers today have yet to visit victory lane this season.

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.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Phoenix

Indycar_Power_Rankings_logo

Throughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.

Is Simon Pagenaud returning to his role as the rabbit of the Verizon IndyCar Series? Following his first win of 2017 at Phoenix, the Frenchman is headed toward recasting a sequel. However, coming into the fourth round sixth in the driver rankings, it is impossible to move all the way to the top.

Looking ahead to the 101st Indianapolis 500, POPULAR SPEED has extended our IndyCar team rankings to reflect those who will make their lone appearance at the Brickyard.

Team Rankings:

1. Team Penske (No Change)

Phoenix showed the remainder of the IndyCar grid what a five-car Team Penske could do when the transporters reach Gasoline Alley. Pagenaud won at Phoenix and any of his four teammates, including two-time Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya, are capable of adding their face to the Borg-Warner Trophy on May 28th.

2. Chip Ganassi Racing (+1)

Honda’s failure to figure out Phoenix derailed Ganassi’s performance in Arizona; however, if the pace the Japanese manufacturer showed last year at Indy can be replicated, good finishes from Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, and Charlie Kimball are possible. It is probably too early to add Max Chilton as a serious challenger though.

3. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (+1)

12th was the best SPM could manage from James Hinchcliffe; but, Mikhail Aleshin’s elimination on the lap puts a question mark on the table. It is tough to move them ahead of DCR based on last weekend, but on potential looking ahead to Indy, Schmidt in the words of former Price is Right host Bob Barker, “is the bigger bargain.”

4. Dale Coyne Racing (-1)

Craig Hampson was right – DCR is not a serious contender on the ovals. Sebastien Bourdais was another victim of the lap one pileup but struggled for pace in practice. Ed Jones also failed to feature, managing an 11th-place finish based on attrition. Not the news Indy 500-only pilot Pippa Mann was hoping to hear.

5. Andretti Autosport (No Change)

Another quadruple retirement for Andretti at Phoenix. The good news is with six cars track side at IMS at least one car should make the finish in the 500. How the rest of the six-pack handles the attention that Fernando Alonso is guaranteed to get this month will guide them to their climax.

6. Ed Carpenter Racing (+1)

Ed Carpenter never made the impact that was hoped for at Phoenix, although J.R. Hildebrand certainly did. A solid qualifying run, coupled with a clean showing in the race netted a third-place finish for the Californian. While it is premature to tag the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Chevrolet as an Indy 500 favorite, the car and its occupant should not be overlooked.

7. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (-1)

Confidence is dropping fast at RLLR, and Graham Rahal is not hiding that things look bleak. A good Indy 500 finish may depend on Oriol Servia at this point.

8. A.J. Foyt Racing (No Change)

The offseason signings Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly continue to be mired among the rear guard. The addition of Zach Veach at the Indy 500 should help, but just when Foyt could not fall any further down the list, here comes the Indy-only invaders.

9. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (Unranked)

The combination of DRR and Sage Karam can cut it against the big boys. 31st to ninth in 2014 and a brief surge into the top-ten last year justifies their placement as the group most likely to rattle the full-timers club this month.

10. Harding Racing (Unranked)

Team boss Larry Curry is the perfect choice to lead a new operation, and you cannot do much better than hiring Gabby Chaves as the wheelman. Alliance with DRR means perhaps an equal level of performance.

Driver Rankings:

1. Scott Dixon (+1)

Four top-fives in four starts to open 2017. No doubt about it, the Iceman appears ready to challenge for a second Indianapolis 500 win.

2. Josef Newgarden (+1)

The Tennessee-native was not the best of the Penske bunch at Phoenix, but he should be effective when he sets foot at the corner of 16th and Georgetown in one week from now.

3. Sebastien Bourdais (-2)

Perhaps Dale Coyne Racing can salvage their month of May with a big push in the IndyCar Grand Prix. Once the scenery moves back to the 2.5-mile oval, the odds are not in the Frenchman’s favor.

4. Will Power (+1)

Power finally reached the finish of an 2017 IndyCar race without issue. A second-place finish behind Pagenaud was well earned and should make the Aussie a challenger in both May events.

5. Simon Pagenaud (+1)

Even without the yellow flag, Pagenaud was looming as a potential winner. Although a third IndyCar GP win in four tries is signficant; the 2016 IndyCar champion has made it clear that the Indy 500 is the one he wants the most.

6. James Hinchcliffe (-2)

Last year’s Indy 500 pole winner should bounce back to play a role in the drama on May 28; however, based on his Long Beach victory, his best shot at Brickyard glory could be in the IndyCar Grand Prix.

7. Helio Castroneves (+1)

Castroneves has been more effective in qualifying than on race day. The pressure to make history as a four-time Indy 500 champion exists, but expect the Brazilian to dig deep in his quest to get there.

8. Tony Kanaan (Unranked)

A quiet sixth-place last week sets the stage for TK’s best chances for victory this season. If Honda regains its muscle from 2016, watch out.

9. Alexander Rossi (-1)

Rossi and his Andretti teammates floundered at Phoenix, leaving their month of May prospects in doubt. Probably faces a higher mountain than any defending Indy 500 champion in history.

10. J.R. Hildebrand (Unranked)

Indy’s hard luck hero added his name to the contenders’ list with a podium finish at Phoenix. He was in the mix late in last year’s Indy 500 until he made contact with Helio Castroneves.

Dropped Out: Ryan Hunter-Reay (9th last week), Spencer Pigot (10th last week)

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

Charlie Kimball Left Frustrated With Will Power

Charlie Kimball did not even get to complete one lap in Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach as a result of contact with Will Power.

Starting seventh, Kimball had Power on his trail, with the pair bouncing off each other through turns two and three. Going into four, Power dove underneath his rival but wasn’t clear as contact resulted. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver carried on down the course a little, before pulling off and done for the event.

“To say I am frustrated with how today’s race went is an understatement,” Kimball said. “I thought I was clear of the 12, but I obviously wasn’t. He turned me and put me in the wall pretty heavy. I am really disappointed for the guys – they worked so hard to get the car to a good place for today’s race. The No. 83 Tresiba Honda was fast, and I thought we had a lot of potential for a solid result in today’s race.”

Power got restarted and was able to continue, eventually finishing the event in 13th.

“It was a tough day for the No. 12 Verizon Chevy,” Power said. “We were caught up in an incident early in the race, and I feel like it really ruined my day. It was an awful situation to be put in since we had nowhere to go when we made contact with the wall. Still, we battled. I’m really proud of my guys for working as hard as they did to try and come back from the incident but we couldn’t. We’re ready to head to Barber and get another chance to perform well.”

For both, it marks the second straight rough race as they finished 18th and 19th in St. Petersburg last month.

You can check out the contact below.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary Open Wheel

EMBURY: Another Sporting Event Will Not Boost INDYCAR Ratings

It sounded good on paper. A hot shot American driver from the Verizon IndyCar Series, taking over the circuit’s Twitter account to cover a major sporting event. Now on first glance and based on what was going on in the world of auto racing this past weekend, it should been a lock as to where Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing driver Charlie Kimball could and probably should have been located.

Even though he was not partaking in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, you’d think Kimball would have been trackside tweeting about his team, Chip Ganassi Racing, four-car effort in the event. You’d also think he’d be talking about his IndyCar Series teammates Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, and rival Sebastien Bourdais contributing to the team’s GT LeMans Division victory.           

Unfortunately, Kimball was not at the Daytona International Speedway as several current and former IndyCar Series pilots were this weekend. Instead, he was at the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend festivities in Los Angeles, California, nearly on the other side of the United States, covering the event for IndyCar’s Twitter account. 

Now, this is not a knock at the sport of ice hockey, a past time primarily supported by many IndyCar racing fans north of the 49th parallel. However, it seems to me to be a lesser help to the short term and long term health of open-wheel racing to support something that appears to have zero ties to racing.

Sure, the National Hockey League is featured on the NBC Sports Network, a channel that shows a majority of the events on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule and indeed at one point the league sponsored a truck on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (1997 and 1998 driven by Lance Norick). However, I don’t see how any helpful ties could be created.

For one, not once during the Skills Competition Saturday, nor during the 3-on-3 tournament on Sunday did NBCSN or NBC mention anything about television coverage of the upcoming Verizon IndyCar Series season. If that trade-off had been featured, the move for Kimball to cover the NHL’s big weekend for INDYCAR promotion purposes would have made sense.

Based on that fact and several others, the logical move would have been for Kimball to focus directly on the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which would have a perfect segue into the Verizon IndyCar Series opener also in the state of Florida. A racing event, which is likely to feature several of the same drivers that were running at Daytona on Saturday and Sunday. Also, with the track drawing perhaps one of its largest crowds in recent years, despite harsh temperatures and rainy conditions, it would have been the perfect hook for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Unfortunately, I think it is safe to say here that the media relations and promotions side of INDYCAR, did not take the right fork in the road this past weekend and most definitely missed a golden opportunity to extend the reach of the circuit. With the sport not in perfect health at this time, INDYCAR needs to find more sure fire means to boost awareness (the race track for one), rather than appearing at a non-racing entity. In my opinion, the tactic they chose to use is like throwing a hail mary pass which nine times out of ten will not be caught.

Stay tuned for more of my Verizon IndyCar Series takes on the next edition of Embury’s Outlook.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: IndyCar Stars Who Have Conquered The Rolex 24

The wheels are not exposed and the cars feature roofs, yet many veterans of the Verizon IndyCar Series have taken well to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. And while proving road racing savvy is not limited to one series of competition, a few big names of the current or recent fulltime fleet have managed to put a Rolex Chronometer on their wrists as an overall champion.

The biggest benefactors to this over the last decade have been drivers associated with Chip Ganassi Racing, who have achieved similar success in sports car racing as they have over the years in IndyCar competition. Former IndyCar veteran and 1995 Michigan 500 winner Scott Pruett has won the Rolex 24 overall on five occasions, four coming with Ganassi. With the larger than normal driving teams at Daytona sometimes requiring as many as five different pilots for one car, the former driver and current team boss has often opened the door to his drivers from both his IndyCar and NASCAR operations to participate in the famous endurance race and several have made the most of the opportunity.

The most successful of those one-off runners is two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia, who has reached the top step of the podium in the Rolex 24 at Daytona three times.  Multi-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has collected two overall wins at Daytona, while current teammate Tony Kanaan paired up with Dixon to the race in 2015, while Charlie Kimball teamed up with Pruett to earn first place in 2013. In addition to the three members of the four drivers currently featured on Ganassi’s fulltime openwheel racing team, former team members Graham Rahal, Dario Franchitti and the late Dan Wheldon have also tasted success at the Rolex 24.

Of course, IndyCar drivers succeeding at Daytona, have not been limited to Chip Ganassi Racing, however. For instance, current Dale Coyne Racing team member Sebastien Bourdais joined forces with former Newman Haas Racing pilot Christian Fittipaldi to win the race for Action Express Racing in 2014. Reigning Rolex 24 at Daytona champion Scott Sharp, won the inaugural Indy Racing League title in 1996 and won the pole position for the 2001 Indianapolis 5oo. Also, 2004 Indy 500 champion Buddy Rice won at Daytona in 2009 as part of the famed Brumos Racing team.

In addition to the above listed names, since 1990 fellow Indy 500 veterans Davy Jones, P.J. Jones, Mark Dismore, Rocky Moran, John Paul, Jr., Arie Luyendyk, Didier Theys, Chris Kniefel, Johnny O’Connell, Max Papis, A.J. Allmendinger, and the late Justin Wilson have also won the overall race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Among those veterans, the efforts from Luyendyk, Theys, and Papis stand out the most in the history of the twice around the clock challenge. Luyendyk and Theys made up half of the driving quartet that delivered longtime driver and entrant Dr. Gianpiero Moretti his first and only Daytona triumph in 1998, after the Ferrari runner had come close earlier in the 1990s on several occasions. Papis teamed up with Theys to win the race in 2002; however, the Italian may be more remembered for his late race surge to within a lap of the overall win over the final three hours of the event in 1996.

Although the chances of another current IndyCar driver claiming overall victory in 2017 appears limited at this point, there could be plenty of action in the lower grand touring classes. Paul Gentilozzi’s new GT Daytona class Lexus team will feature Pruett, three-time Indy 500 starter Sage Karam, and former A.J. Foyt Racing driver Jack Hawksworth. Michael Shank Racing’s new Acura NSXs will have current Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay behind the wheel, while Scott Dixon will team up with 2012 Indy 500 pole sitter Ryan Briscoe in a Ford GT for Chip Ganassi in the GT Le Mans class.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.