Last year, Charlie Kimball completed the IndyCar season with one podium finish – second at Toronto, and six top 10s in 15 races. After their season, Kimball and team went and did their homework, doing an intensive self-evaluation on the team.
“From driver, to management, to engineering, to mechanics,” he said. “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.”
The result of the successful Barber test marked a fourth place finish for Kimball in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama two weeks ago. Kimball is now looking to take that momentum forward to Long Beach this weekend, a track in which he has now failed well at in his two starts due to mechanical issues.
“You have to take the positives, learn from the mistakes, and move forward,” he said. “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.”
He added that in building momentum and continuing to run up front, you get comfortable with running up front in getting to know those from runners better and understanding risk vs. reward.
Kimball went on to say that he is more so looking back on the previous street-course event of the season at St. Petersburg where he finished 12th. He feels they were quicker than 12th, but had to work on some things. Therefore, he feels he can take the knowledge that he learned with running up front at Barber and apply that while growing stronger on the street courses as a driver.
Ganassi Racing went from a four car team to a three car team for 2013 and that has benefited Kimball. He says that it allows him to have a better opportunity to learn from his teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.
“Between sessions, if you have four‑car data to look at or only three‑car data, you have the same amount of time,” he said. “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.”
However, with that said, he is looking forward to having Ryan Briscoe as a fourth teammate for the Indianapolis 500 in 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,” Kimball commented.
In his experience with working with Dixon and Franchitti so far, he says it’s not just one thing that they’ve taught him – but looking at how a team can work together to get better.
“I think that’s what Chip Ganassi Racing does best,” he said. “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.”
Kimball also recognizes that his time is now and he needs to perform.
“It’s my third year,” he said. “I’m not a rookie. I’m not a sophomore anymore. We have the experience as a group. We have the capability to run up front. So it’s time we did that.”