AVONDALE, Arizona – Charlie Kimball knows he has a mountain to climb in Saturday night’s Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix.
The Carlin driver qualified a disappointing 22nd of 23 cars late Friday afternoon at ISM Raceway. The driver of the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet bounced back strong in the night practice, setting the fastest lap of 179.797 mph (20.4631 seconds) on the 1.022-mile oval and boosting hopes for a strong run in the race.
“I am happier than where we were after Practice 1 and a lot less frustrated," Kimball admitted. "Anytime you can do that lap time is great. Relevancy? I would argue that any session where you don’t go to tech before or after, you take any result with a grain of salt. At the same time, I know we were on a different program than if Practice 1 or qualifying had gone well or had gone differently, we would have been on a program more in line with what the rest of pit lane to be on."
Kimball also praised the nonstop effort of his Carlin crew that worked to overcome the slow start to the weekend.
"For those guys that, from the moment we rolled out for Practice 1 today, haven’t had a chance to eat, go to the bathroom or get anything to drink, it means a lot," he said. "And that’s the most important thing because those guys have put in a huge effort today to get us to be able to do that lap time.”
DESERT DIAMOND WEST VALLEY CASINO PHOENIX GRAND PRIX: Practice 3 results; Combined practice results
All 23 drivers participated in the final practice, completing 1,705 laps. Following Kimball on the speed chart was Scott Dixon, the 2016 Phoenix race winner, with a lap of 179.003 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Dixon will start Saturday’s race from the 17th spot.
Running third was Tony Kanaan, a two-time Phoenix winner, with a lap of 178.714 mph on the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Kanaan qualified ninth for the race.
Sebastien Bourdais, the pole sitter for Saturday’s race, was only 21st fastest in the final practice, at 174.116 mph in the No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan. With the point earned for winning the pole, Bourdais takes a 12-point lead into the 250-lap race.
The first incident of the race weekend occurred late in the night practice, when Spencer Pigot skimmed the SAFER Barrier in Turns 3 and 4 before coming to a stop. The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team restarted Pigot’s No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and he drove it back to pit lane.
Saturday night’s race will be the 64th for Indy cars at the historic oval in the desert outside Phoenix. Live coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with the green flag expected at 9:40 p.m.