Kimball, Franchitti join Ganassi podium sweep

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One week from returning to Toronto, where he scored a career-best runner-up finish last season, Charlie Kimball has matched that result today with a second-place effort at Pocono Raceway.

After the final pit stops of the afternoon were completed, Kimball, who started 12th, found himself in the lead with 29 laps remaining. He would lose the lead to Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon one lap later, and chased the former Indianapolis 500 winner to the checkered flag, losing out by less than half a second.

Still, the third-year American driver was pleased following his second Top-5 run of the season. He also surely impressed the group of families from sponsor Novo Nordisk’s North American headquarters, which made the two-hour trip north from New Jersey to cheer him on.

“Both Thursday at the [Open Test] and then yesterday, we really focused on our race car,” said Kimball. “The team [and] the whole Chip Ganassi Racing crew, as evidence by [the 1-2-3 finish], was focusing on race day, knowing that’s when it mattered.  So throughout today, the guys made it better on each pit stop and the car just got quicker and quicker. A lot of credit to Honda – they gave us the fuel mileage and speed to get it done. All I had to do was pedal the car around.”

“It was a lot of fun. When you get a good car like that and running up front, it’s always fun.”

Right behind Kimball and completing the all-Ganassi podium was Dario Franchitti, who has struggled at times this year but netted a third-place finish after starting 20th due to an engine penalty.

“We went for a very aggressive setup, very low downforce,” said Franchitti, who earned his best result since running fifth in Race 2 of last month’s doubleheader in Detroit.

“When I get some kind of gap, I could run some fast laps. The Honda today – it’s so good on fuel mileage, and that really, really helped us. I could catch back up Charlie in spots, but I couldn’t do anything with him because of the aggressive setup we ran.”

Franchitti credited his charge from the back of the field to a variety of reasons.

“A lot of it is timing and momentum – you’re trying to keep the momentum up, but the car’s sliding and your brain’s telling you to lift,” Franchitti said. “Then you gotta keep your foot down.

“Some momentum passes and definitely some strategy with the Honda fuel mileage, some great pit stops from my guys, and just some hard racing too. I definitely made some moves out there.”

Sage Karam, Tony Kanaan fastest in Monday’s practice for Indy 500

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In the second-to-last practice session of the week, Sage Karam paced the 33 drivers qualified for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 on Monday.

Karam had a field-best speed of 226.461 mph, followed by Tony Kanan (225.123 mph), Ryan Hunter-Reay (224.820), Charlie Kimball (224.582) and Alexander Rossi (224.507).

Sixth through 10th fastest were Will Power (224.445), Helio Castroneves (224.368), Marco Andretti (224.148) and rookie Zachary Claman Demelo (224.91) and Scott Dixon (223.966).

Power and Castroneves ran the most laps of all drivers at 120 and 118, respectively.

Two other Team Penske drivers struggled to get speed out of their cars. Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was 28th-fastest (221.982 mph) and Simon Pagenaud, who was the slowest (220.902 mph) of the 33 cars on-track.

Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was 14th-fastest with a best speed of 223.573 mph in a 100-lap effort.

Most drivers were in race trim or were testing things for Sunday’s Greatest Spectacle In Racing such as fuel mileage, chassis setup and more.

Rookie Matheus Leist missed most of the session with an apparent electrical problem that kept him to just 19 laps.

There was one incident of note during the 3 ½ hour session: IndyCar rookie Robert Wickens crashed coming out of Turn 2 during the first hour of practice.

Wickens appeared to skim the outside SAFER Barrier, went left and then violently turned hard back into the outside retaining wall.

MORE: Wickens wrecks during Indy 500 practice

The Honda-powered machine for the Canadian driver suffered heavy damage to the right side, particularly the right front tire and the right side of the front end.

There will be no further on-track activity for the Indy cars until Friday’s final practice to fine tune things for Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

We’ll have the full practice speed chart, as well as What Drivers Said, shortly. Please check back soon.

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