WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Charlie Kimball met one of his biggest fans again before today’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen presented by Hitachi. It’s a good idea for Kimball to stay on friendly terms with Zach Schubert because the 12-year-old might be his boss one day.
Kimball and Schubert met five years ago when the Verizon IndyCar Series driver visited the youngster at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Ind. An immediate bond was created between the fellow diabetics.
“I met him one year and the next year he came back and I wore a Charlie Kimball jersey and he signed that,” Schubert said this morning from inside Kimball’s No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet compound after visiting with his favorite driver. “Ever since then we’ve been coming to races.”
Schubert and his father, Bruce, have attended some 10 races at Mid-Ohio, Belle Isle, Indianapolis (for both the grand prix and Indy 500) and now Watkins Glen. The Chip Ganassi Racing Teams family has welcomed the Schuberts and Zach is on a first-name basis with several crew members.
“Charlie made Zach a fan and it’s not just him,” Bruce Schubert said. “None of us were race fans – not INDYCAR, not NASCAR, not anything. He came up to Lutheran Hospital, met Zach and we all got together as a group there. Charlie was so nice that we started watching the races.
“We were not race fans. We became race fans because of the experience, which was that good, and it has been extended over and over.”
Zach, whose bedroom is decorated in the previous orange and blue theme of Novo Nordisk, Kimball's sponsor (photo below), does much more than watch races. He and his father started creating spreadsheets to chart how Kimball and the other series drivers stack up in areas such as how many spots they improve in a race, driver performance by track and their average finish in the Indianapolis 500. Kimball said it’s a welcome sight when Zach comes to a race.
“It’s always awesome to see Zach at the racetrack,” Kimball said. “Not only do he and I have a lot in common with type 1 diabetes, but he always brings some really great statistics to me when he comes to the track.”
Zach is a seventh-grader at St. Charles Catholic School in Fort Wayne. His dad says his interest in creating data-based spreadsheets took off once he could fill them out with statistics from his newfound passion for INDYCAR racing.
“It’s amazing to see his interest and involvement with INDYCAR racing,” Kimball said. “He learns from just watching at home and coming to a few races a year. It’s really neat because he has such great access through all of INDYCAR’s assets as far as TV, apps and the website.
According to Zach’s tracking, Kimball excels on road courses like Watkins Glen International. It proved true today: Kimball finished sixth in the 60-lap race.
“He’s really plugged in to what the drivers are like and what’s going on during a race weekend,” Kimball said of Zach. “It all really just comes back to that connection we have sharing our experiences with diabetes and commonality between us.”
The commonality could continue if Zach has his way. When asked if he wanted to pursue a career in INDYCAR racing, the youngster said without hesitation that he’d like to be a crewman or, better yet, a team owner. “I’d like to take over for Chip,” he said.