Saturday, June 10, 2017

Morning Warm-Up: Texas 2017

Charlie Kimball is the sixth different pole-sitter in the last six IndyCar races
Charlie Kimball won his first career IndyCar pole position at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 from Texas Motor Speedway. Kimball ran a two-lap average of 222.556 MPH, the fastest pole position at Texas Motor Speedway since Gil de Ferran took pole position for the autumn race in 2003. Kimball's only other front row start came last year in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and he finished fifth in that race. Kimball's previous best starting position on an oval was fourth at Fontana in 2013 and at Phoenix last year. In his seven previous top five starts, Kimball has finished in the top ten in six of them. Kimball could become the first driver to win from his first career pole position since Ryan Hunter-Reay did it at Milwaukee in 2004. Scott Dixon makes it an all-Ganassi row one, the first time the team has shut out a front row since Iowa 2014. Kimball was 0.0083 seconds faster than Dixon in qualifying. Dixon started second last year at Texas and he led 97 laps. This is only the second time Dixon has not been the top Ganassi qualifier this season. Tony Kanaan started sixth at Phoenix while Dixon started eighth.

For the second consecutive oval race, Alexander Rossi will start third. This is Rossi's sixth top ten start of the season through nine races. He had three top ten starts all of his rookie season. Texas has been won four times from third position on the grid, most recently by Will Power in the second Twin 275 in 2011. Tony Kanaan joins Rossi on row two. Only once has Texas been won from fourth position and that was by Hélio Castroneves in 2009. The surprise of the qualifying session was Tristan Vautier ending up fifth in his IndyCar return with Dale Coyne Racing. His previous best starting position on an oval was tenth at Milwaukee and Pocono in 2013. Vautier's best career starting position was third at Barber in 2013. Max Chilton made it four Ganassi cars in the top six and this is his fourth top ten start of the season. Chilton had four top ten starts all of last year.

Mikhail Aleshin qualified seventh in the #7 Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Aleshin has been the top qualifying SPM car on all the ovals this season. He started seventh at Phoenix in April and failed to complete a lap. Takuma Sato made it a clean sweep of the top eight for Honda. This is Sato's fourth consecutive race starting in the top ten, the longest streak of his IndyCar career. He will be aiming to get four consecutive top ten finishes for the first time in his IndyCar career tonight. Will Power and Hélio Castroneves swept the fifth row for Team Penske. This is Power's worst starting position at Texas. Power has twice won from ninth on the grid, 2012 at Barber and 2013 in the second Houston race. Castroneves has never won from the tenth position and his only victory from the fifth row of the grid was the 2002 Indianapolis 500 when he started 13th.

Last week's double winner Graham Rahal will start 11th next to his 2006 Atlantic Championship rival Simon Pagenaud. Rahal won last year's Texas race from 13th and he led only one lap. Arie Luyendyk won the inaugural Texas race from 11th on the grid in 1997. This is the fifth time in 2017 Pagenaud has started outside the top ten. In the previous two seasons Pagenaud had only started outside the top ten on three occasions. Ryan Hunter-Reay will start from the lucky 13th starting position. This is the fourth consecutive Texas race Hunter-Reay has started outside the top ten. Hunter-Reay started 13th the last time Chip Ganassi Racing swept the front row and Hunter-Reay went on to win that race from Iowa. Ed Carpenter qualified 14th for the second consecutive year at Texas. This is the 16th time Carpenter has started 14th in his career. He has five top ten finishes from 14th on the grid and his best finish was second at Kentucky in 2009.

Former teammates Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe will start on row eight. Like his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, this is Andretti's fourth consecutive year starting outside the top ten at Texas. In his five previous times starting 15th, Andretti has finished better than his starting position, including at St. Petersburg earlier this year when he went from 15th to seventh. Hinchcliffe has twice finished on the podium from 16th on the grid, third at Long Beach in 2012 and he won from 16th at NOLA Motorsports Park in 2015. Josef Newgarden will start 17th and this will be the third time he is the worst starting Penske driver this season. The other two races were Barber, which he won from seventh on the grid and the second Belle Isle race, where he finished second from 13th. J.R. Hildebrand rounds out row nine and this will be the third consecutive race Hildebrand has started 18th.

Ed Jones will make his Texas debut from 19th on the grid in the #19 Honda. A Dale Coyne Racing entry has started 19th in three consecutive races. Gabby Chaves returns with Harding Racing for the second time in 2017 and the team will start 20th. Chaves started 20th at Texas in 2015 and he finished tenth that night. A.J. Foyt Racing swept the final row of the grid for the team's home race. Conor Daly will start 21st for the second consecutive year. Daly has the worst average finish of drivers to have run every race this season at 18.333. Carlos Muñoz will start 22nd after his team failed to get the car through inspection before qualifying. Muñoz starts last one year after he picked up his first career pole position at Texas.

NBCSN's coverage of the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 begins at 8:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 8:45 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 248 laps.