WATKINS GLEN, New York – An adventurous day ended with a pair of top-10 finishes for Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball in the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen.
Chilton said Sunday’s race had a familiar feel to last year, when he finished 10th at Watkins Glen International as a rookie. This time, the varying downforce levels in car setups, with some teams expecting rain, allowed for Chilton to take advantage as his No. 8 Gallagher Honda gained the most positions of anyone in the field to finish eighth.
“Today, we were really quick in the middle stint,” said Chilton. “We were really bad in the first stint. The last stint, we raced really well.
“I saved a load of push-to-pass because I had a feeling we would need it in the end. If a lot of others around me had run out, we would probably rely on the downforce compared to (Team) Penske by a mile because I was pulling (away from Simon) Pagenaud down the straights.
“We were both quick at different points of the track, but we held him off. I think eighth from starting 19th with a car which I wasn’t happy with was good. The team did good strategy.”
That charge saw the Brit move as high as second at three points of the race, though Chilton admitted he had nothing for former Formula One mate Alexander Rossi, the eventual race winner.
“I didn’t really mix up with him,” said Chilton. “I knew he was on a mission today and I didn’t have the car. If it was my car from (Friday’s first practice), I feel I could have done more of what he could have done, but he deserved that today.
“He was a monster in qualifying and a monster in the race.”
Kimball, who started fifth in the No. 83 Tresiba Honda, nearly saw his race go awry after a scuffle for position with Josef Newgarden on a Lap 29 restart. Despite falling to as low as 17th place after making slight contact with the wall on the exit of Turn 11, he rebounded to match his race at Gateway Motorsports Park on Aug. 26 with a second straight seventh-place finish.
“It was a little up and down,” Kimball said. “We had a good start through all the transition from wet to dry. We did the right thing going with a dry setup, but it meant that on all those restarts we were a little light on downforce and a little light on grip until the tires came up to temperature. Once they came up to temperature, we were a rocket ship.
“On one of those restarts, I went for it on the outside of the No. 2 (Newgarden) car and he ran me wide. I wasn’t far enough alongside to hold my position, so he did the right thing. I just got out in the dirt and it was damp. That was in (Turn) 8 and by the time I got around to (Turn) 11, it was still slippery and I slapped the wall. It took me a couple of laps to get my head back.”
Chilton earned his sixth top-10 of the year. He sits tied at 11th in points with James Hinchcliffe and is 15 points behind teammate Tony Kanaan in ninth. With the last race of the season at Sonoma Raceway worth double points, the goal is to climb into the top 10.
“I’m looking forward to Sonoma,” said Chilton. “It’s a difficult one, a hard one (that) doesn’t produce a huge amount of racing.
“It’s more about pace and strategy than genuine overtakes, but I’m really thankful we’ve got a (series open) test day before that because we haven’t used all our test days this year and that’s going to really help us iron out the problems.”
In a challenging year that has Kimball 17th in the standings with just the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma remaining, it was gratifying for him to put in a good finish.
“It’s really good,” said Kimball. “It’s good for the guys. I mean, honestly, the guys that go over the wall and the guys on the timing stand, they put so much energy in.”
The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma to determine the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion airs live at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.