1. If You Missed It: INDYCAR Conference Call with Charlie Kimball
2. Competition to get tougher in IZOD IndyCar Series
3. Chaves aims for another podium at Long Beach
1. If You Missed It: INDYCAR Conference Call with Charlie Kimball: Earlier today, IZOD IndyCar Series driver Charlie Kimball participated in an INDYCAR Conference Call to discuss the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season and preview the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 21. Selected quotes from the call are below.
Q. Before we talk about Long Beach, let’s talk about the race weekend at Barber. It was a very strong weekend for the entire No. 83 team. You led a practice session. Qualified for your first Firestone Fast Six, led laps in the race and scored your first top five of the season.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think that’s an indication of the progress that the whole team has made over the winter. We went away after Fontana last year and did a really intensive self‑evaluation from everybody on the team: From driver, to management, to engineering, to mechanics. And we all came up with ideas and started to put those in practice. We went testing before the Christmas break, and then coming out of Christmas and coming out of the winter, when we went to the open test at Barber, we went with a pretty decent car and continued to make it better, so that the momentum carrying from Barber into Long Beach is better than it’s ever been.
We’re really proud of the progress we’ve made as a team, and I think that there’s no reason why we can’t continue to build positive results through the rest of the season.
Q. You mentioned the momentum your team started at Barber. How do you carry the momentum from the Barber weekend into the Long Beach weekend? And does the way you’ve started the season change the outlook for the weekend in terms of scoring a podium and maybe even your first win?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think as far as carrying the momentum, you have to forget about the result a little bit. You have to take the positives, learn from the mistakes and move forward. The first practice at Long Beach, anything we did at Barber is irrelevant, as far as where we are on the timesheet. We have to take that, forget that and move forward. But also understand when we get, hopefully, into the Fast Six again in qualifying and racing up front when we learn from the strategy and weaknesses we’ve shown at Barber. I’ve learned about how to race up front a little bit better. So I think you take those lessons, remember them, and apply them, and that’s how you build that momentum. You get comfortable up there. You’re used to being up there. When you’re running up front, it’s almost a little easier. I mean, it’s harder. The speeds are harder, and the lap times harder to maintain. But as far as knowing the people that are around you and understanding the risks everyone’s taking, it’s maybe a little easier.
Q. Chip Ganassi Racing was a four-car team last year, and it’s reduced to three cars this year. Can you talk about the relationship between Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti this year? Does that affect the way you guys have worked together this year?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think one thing I’ve noticed in the testing and then in the first two rounds of the season is that with three inputs from drivers, you have a better opportunity to learn, and learn from what they’re doing car‑wise, driving‑wise, engineering‑wise. And so we’re able to collate that data. Because between sessions, if you have four-car data to look at or only three-car data, you have the same amount of time,
So to be able to pull highlights from Scott and from Dario, and have a little more time to talk to them individually, the communication has been a little easier definitely starting the season. I think the more that the 83 team is able to run up front, the more we’re contributing back to the 9 and 10 cars.
To be fair, I’m really excited about the addition of Ryan Briscoe coming on board in the 8 car for the Indy 500 in the month of May. To have somebody of that caliber, to have last year’s pole sitter, the guy who won the race, and the guy who finished second last year to learn from, it’s definitely ‑‑ Chip Ganassi has built a very strong stable heading into the Month of May.
Q. You mentioned with the reduction of Ganassi from a four-car to a three-car outfit. That you have more time to talk to Dario, talk to Scott and learn from them. What is some of the best advice or some of the best things you’ve learned from them being such great drivers and your time with the team with them?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think the biggest things I’ve learned have not been about a certain corner or a certain racetrack. It’s more about how to work with the team and how much effort to put in and how that be repaid by the crew members and by the mechanics. It’s more about managing the team and working with all of the tools that are available to maximize what options we have.
Because I think that’s what Chip Ganassi Racing does best. It’s got great people with all the tools that we need to go in, and sometimes you don’t know how best to use those tools. And watching Scott and Dario, they are masters at making the most of whatever the situation is.
2. Competition to get tougher in IZOD IndyCar Series: What do Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves have in common aside from at least one Indianapolis 500 victory?
They’re the only drivers this season to finish in the top five in both of the series’ first two races. Naturally, they’re 1-2 in the championship standings heading into the 39th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The six other drivers with top-five finishes at either St. Petersburg or Barber Motorsports Park shows the competitiveness of the series in Year 2 of the fourth-generation IZOD IndyCar Series chassis and turbocharged V-6 engine packages from Chevrolet and Honda.
Overall, 16 different drivers have scored top-10 results. Marco Andretti and Justin Wilson each have two top-10 finishes, while rookie Tristan Vautier and second-year driver Josef Newgarden each recorded their first top 10 at Barber
“It’s been a pretty good mix,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car who is coming off a runner-up finish at Barber. “I know some of the bigger teams have made pretty big fumbles. I think this year you have a lot of smaller teams that have caught up in areas.
“It’s tough. It’s not like the old days if you messed up with a big team a few 10ths (of a second), you would lose a spot or two. Now it’s like five, six or seven spots. You have to keep your eye on the ball and try to make the most of it. So it is a tough season. I think it’s going to get tougher as the season goes on.”
Similarly, nine different drivers have competed in the Firestone Fast Six session to determine the Verizon P1 Award and set the first three rows for the race. Castroneves, Vautier and Will Power have advanced to the 10-minute round at both venues.
“In INDYCAR, the momentum can swing at any point because the competition is so close, the drivers are so talented,” said reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won by .6363 of a second April 7 at Barber. “You could be going to your best racetrack, have a little bit of a mistake in qualifying, be 10th or 11th. Your weekend is changed at that point.”
Hunter-Reay started from the pole on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park road course and led a field-high 53 of 90 laps. There will be a season-high 27 competitors at Long Beach, including six former winners.
“It’s amazing when I think about it how different the weekend could be,” Hunter-Reay said about the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. “Let’s say I didn’t put that lap in qualifying in the end, you start second or third, the whole weekend is changed. It can hinge at any point. That’s the beauty of racing. That’s the things that the fans don’t get to see is how precise the whole entire execution of the weekend is.
3. Chaves aims for another podium at Long Beach: After contact with another car cost him a potential top-three finish in St. Petersburg, Gabby Chaves was not to be denied at Barber Motorsports Park.
Chaves, a 19-year-old from Bogota, Colombia, marched his No. 7 Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb-Agajanian car to a third-place finish on the permanent road course and is setting his sights even higher entering Long Beach.
“The podium finish in Barber was much needed after a disappointing finish in St. Pete,” Chaves said. “It gets us back on track and begins to build our momentum.”
Chaves finished on podium in 10 of the 17 Pro Mazda Championship rounds in 2012 and never once finished outside of the top 10. To carry that momentum into the next level of competition in Firestone Indy Lights and not finish the first race was a frustrating start to the season, but the rebound at Barber has him sitting solidly in fifth in the race to the championship.
Chaves will join a talented field of 10 for the Long Beach 100 on Sunday, April 21, hoping the trouble he encountered in St. Petersburg is ancient history.
Each of the five rookies on the entry list will be racing at the 1.968-mile street circuit for the first time. Veteran Peter Dempsey did not race at Long Beach last year and only completed nine laps in 2011 after contact in an early incident.
For Chaves, the benefits of a team that has won multiple times over the series’ history at the track is paying off in pre-race preparations.
“Thanks to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys, I have some resources I can use to make the process of learning new tracks quicker,” Chaves said. “The objective is still to stand on the top step of the podium at the end of the race weekend.
“I’ve heard Long Beach is a great street venue, and I’m really looking forward to having a winning car there.”
The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 21 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. The race will be televised live at 4 p.m. (ET) by the NBC Sports Network (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, including on Sirius and XM Channels 211 and www.indycar.com. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Long Beach 100 on Sunday, April 21 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. The race will be broadcast by NBC Sports Network at 3 p.m. (ET) on April 21, immediately preceding the IZOD IndyCar Series race broadcast.