Driving in his sixth Verizon IndyCar Series season, Charlie Kimball is finding his niche.
Kimball, who has been with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams since he moved up from Indy Lights in 2011, claimed his first win at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2013, but has been winless since. Since then, Kimball has had bouts of greatness and pitfalls as well.
Among the highlights was being in the four-way dogfight for the win in the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2015. He was closing on Will Power for second place on the final lap, but ran out of time and had to settle for third. While coming that close to winning the Indy 500 was disappointing, Kimball found it to be inevitably motivating.
“Coming that close last year definitely lights a little bit of a fire under you to come out harder and do everything that you can to get to Victory Lane,” he said. “Having said that, finishing third was a big confidence boost. There was great coverage, it was a huge result for (sponsor) Novo Nordisk, for Chip Ganassi Racing. While not the result that we aimed for as our goal, we definitely learned from that and used it as a springboard moving forward.”
Although he ended up finishing 12th in the final 2015 standings, a third-place finish in the season finale at Sonoma Raceway gave Kimball and his team a boost headed into the offseason. The team made some personnel changes during the offseason in order to prepare for the year ahead in the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet.
“One of the things about the Verizon IndyCar Series is that it is so competitive,” he said. “It is so deep that it takes not just a lot of performance and bringing your ‘A’ game from everybody, it also takes a little bit of luck.”
With teammates like Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan – both past Verizon IndyCar Series champions as well as Indianapolis 500 winners – it might seem daunting. Not to Kimball. He has found support in knowing that the experience level of his teammates can only better his race craft.
“I think it’s a great benefit for a driver to have teammates like Scott and Tony to learn from,” Kimball said. “Their experience, their knowledge is second to none and so to be able to learn from them – especially with a team like Chip Ganassi Racing that has such good precedent for sharing information and working together and working as an open book – has been very helpful for me.
“When you have a teammate like Scott who is so good at being able to get the most out of the car, you can always look at his data, compare it and figure out how to best make it work for yourself moving forward. If I can continue to learn and make progress and continue to be successful, it comes down to just doing the job on the racetrack and letting everything else be as it may.”
This year also has Chip Ganassi Racing Team bring on a new fourth member of the team in ex-Formula One pilot Max Chilton. Kimball cites Chilton’s experience to also be advantageous.
“It’s been nice having Max on board,” Kimball said. “He spent last year in Indy Lights, but has some Formula One and European experience. It brings a different perspective to the team. It’s already been a benefit even as he learns what it takes to make an Indy car go quick.”