Chevy still tops, but Honda closing gap


AVONDALE, AZ – APRIL 01: Graham Rahal, driver of the #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honday IndyCar prepares for qualifying to the Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway on April 1, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – For the fifth time in as many races this season, a Team Penske Chevy won the IndyCar pole as Simon Pagenaud topped the field Friday evening at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But as Pagenaud and second-place Charlie Kimball, a Chip Ganassi Chevy, lead the field to the green flag Saturday afternoon, a trio of Hondas will be close behind, as Graham Rahal (third), James Hinchcliffe (fourth), and Jack Hawksworth (sixth) all qualified in the top six.

“I don’t think that’s happened for a few years,” said Rahal. “I’m proud of (Honda).”

Rahal has been the standard-bearer for Honda recently, as the 27-year old finished fourth in the IndyCar standings in 2015, the best finish for a Honda driver.

“We try to work very hard at that,” explained Rahal. “As I tell my guys all the time, keep our heads down, focus on what we can focus on, do our best, and be the top Honda team. I think we can win from here. Just gotta stay out of trouble.

“Clearly with Honda, the effort’s they’ve put in, you can see it.”

That effort has caught the attention of several Chevys near the top of the field.

“The Honda boys have caught up a little bit,” said Charlie Kimball with a smile.

“It’s gonna be tight competition (between Chevy and Honda), but that’s exactly what we want to see,” added pole sitter Simon Pagenaud.

No Honda car has won a race in 2016 after the manufacturer took six out of 16 IndyCar events in 2015. Rahal appears to have the best chance at Indianapolis, as he finished second in last year’s Grand Prix and fifth in the Indianapolis 500. Rahal was the only Honda driver to finish in the top five in either of those races.

The green flag will drop for the 2016 Grand Prix of Indianapolis at 3:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

UPDATE: Rahal and Josef Newgarden’s cars failed post-qualifying technical inspection for being too light.  They will both start at the rear of the field.

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