Photo: Bret Kelley/INDYCAR

Kimball Charges to Fifth in Watkins Glen Qualifying

By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — After a season of qualifying frustration on the road and street courses, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball had his best road course qualifying of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season at Watkins Glen International by qualifying fifth ahead of Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen.

Kimball advanced out of the first group in round one, beating out Spencer Pigot, Ed Jones, Tony Kanaan, Max Chilton and JR Hildebrand. In round two, Kimball was able to get himself past Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Graham Rahal, Carlos Munoz and Simon Pagenaud in order to get into the Firestone Fast Six where Alexander Rossi earned the pole.

The former Team USA Scholarship recipient knows his position in the championship and his mentality going into Sunday’s race reflects that.

“Being a little further back in the championship standings, I don’t have a lot to lose points-wise,” said Kimball. “I think people who towards the end of the season like this maybe need to try and make a splash for the future, justify the job they’ve done earlier in the year, will take bigger risks.”

Kimball also knows that his job is at stake. Speculation around the IndyCar paddock has him as one of three drivers out at Chip Ganassi Racing after this season and he could be racing for his career here and at Sonoma.

“I think every race is important if you have a job past tomorrow or not” Kimball said. “The goal is still the same. It’s to go out, qualify as best as possible, do as good a job for the team, then get the result that’s maximum points and opportunities in the race.

“I think it’s irrelevant where the future lies. Honestly, you know, you do the best job, you do your job on the racetrack, everything else takes care of itself.”

What makes Kimball’s performance more impressive is where he was during practice. In Friday’s first session, Kimball was in 21st out of 21 cars because of an electrical issue that limited him to two laps of running. After a limited first session, Kimball improved to seventh in session two while in Saturday’s practice Kimball was tenth quickest.

Before Saturday’s qualifying, Kimball’s best qualifying performance on a road or street course was seventh back at Long Beach and since then he’s qualified 15th at Barber, 19th at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, 10th and 12th at Belle Isle, 10th at Road America, 17th at Toronto and 13th at Mid-Ohio.

The INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen is Sunday at 1:40 PM ET.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.