INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Max Chilton was in full attack mode in Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver started 14th and moved through the field with little pressure from behind throughout the 85-lap race, finishing seventh in the fifth Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season.
“We had a great car out there,” Chilton said. “I have no doubt that if we would’ve started on the front row, we would’ve finished on the front row.”
While the outing tied the 26-year-old Brit’s career-best result from his rookie campaign at Phoenix Raceway last year, Chilton was far more pleased with his afternoon on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course at the Brickyard.
“That was the best race I’ve had in INDYCAR by far,” said Chilton, driver of the No. 8 Gallagher Honda. “My rookie race at Phoenix last year, we had a good car and just stayed out of trouble, there was not much overtaking. Here, maybe you could argue there was not much overtaking, (but) where I was there seemed to be quite a bit. There was groups catching groups.
“I felt like that was a flawless race on my side and the team’s side,” he added. “We went against strategy on the tire call – that was my call to start on the black (Firestone primary tires) and it worked. We seemed to always have good pace and, whenever we caught a car, got it overtook when we wanted to.
“That makes a world of difference. If you start using push-to-pass and not getting overtakes done, before you know it, a gap 10 seconds behind has closed in on you. If you can just catch the car and do it the first time, it makes such a difference.”
Chilton said he enjoyed being the hunter instead of the hunted most of the race.
“I’m one of those drivers, I don’t particularly like looking in my mirrors and, if I do it, it holds me up,” said Chilton. “That race, I was not under pressure. There was always something nearish, but it was more about what I was catching and when I was going to overtake, and it makes such a difference to me.
“That was a mega race, and there was no messy sort of yellow screwing up the race or safety cars, people doing lungey moves after a safety car. That was a pure race.”
With the month of May shining on “The Racing Capital of the World,” Chilton acknowledged the importance of building momentum. He has moved up to 15th in the championship standings, just 13 points out of the top 10. Chilton now looks to improve on his rookie performance in last year’s Indianapolis 500 on the 2.5-mile oval, where he finished 15th.
“That was a great way to start the month,” he said. “We’ve had a difficult start to the season. We’ve been quite quick, but we’re P-Nowhere in the championship, worse than where we were last year. To have a race where we’ve gained a lot of points, and also a lot of people had a bad race, it makes a world of difference.
“It was one of those days. I was driving around there from 10 laps in thinking it was going to be a great day. I was the leading car on blacks and I wasn’t losing anything to the guys on the reds (alternate tires). And I thought, ‘You wait until the next stint when they’ve got black and I’ve got reds. This is going to be good.’ It just worked out the whole race.”