Carlin embarks on new frontier before Indianapolis 500

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Max Chilton

Coming into the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, we (as fans) had a general idea of the contending teams: Penske, Ganassi and Andretti.  However, a new team with a strong history abroad has decided to enter this tightly contested field, and they go by the name of Carlin.

Trevor Carlin has been at the forefront of advancing careers for young talents and his list of drivers is a who’s who of international motorsports.  Thinking about Sunday at Indianapolis for the 102nd 500-Mile Race, 11 of the 33 starters have driven for or are driving for Carlin currently.

Furthermore, six of the 20 starters in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix have spent time in Carlin equipment at some point.  The reach of Carlin’s racing program goes across to Formula E, DTM, Super GT, Indy Lights and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship among others.

With former pupils Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton bringing their experience from Chip Ganassi Racing to the new effort, Carlin Motorsports have their Chevy’s qualified in positions 15 and 20 for Sunday’s race.

Having the driver who led the most laps in last year’s race (Chilton) and Kimball who has four top-10 results in eight starts should bode well even for a team that lacks the experience at Indianapolis itself.

Taking on Penske, Ganassi and Andretti is tough enough on a regular race weekend but Indianapolis is a completely different proposition.  Carlin’s lack of time at the Speedway made the focus on finding speed (both race trim and qualifying) important.

With the field separated by a second from first to last, the smallest error would be costly (as we saw with Hinchcliffe’s DNQ).

Making the race itself for a new team was a victory but 500 miles lay ahead for Chilton and Kimball.

With Carb Day practice under their belts and a new frontier ahead, Carlin is approaching this Indianapolis 500 like any other race they have been involved in – with a focus to win and make history.

Early returns from this weekend were positive, at least in Kimball’s estimation.

“It was a ready good final practice,” said the veteran Kimball.  “The hour on Carb Day is all about checking the boxes and making sure we are ready to go for Sunday. Reliability in the car has been rock solid all month. That didn’t change today. The speed is really good in the car… If we get clean air and get out front, we’re going to be pretty solid.

“Overall, we tuned on it, and right at the end of the session when the track was the hottest and probably the slickest, we felt like we had the best car of the week. That’s the right time to peak heading into the race on Sunday. Excited to show off what this Carlin team has done this whole month of May and this year so far.

“Everyone from Novo Nordisk to Chevy and Firestone are great partners. It’s been a great month. We’ve done an incredible job as a team and it’s been fun to watch this team enjoy the Indy 500 experience. I can’t wait to see their faces on race day.”

Chilton was a bit more concise with his evaluation of Friday’s final practice, but also showed a bit of confidence entering the weekend.

“It might not have shown on the overall speeds, but the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet had really good race pace,” said the English driver.

“This final practice always goes by so fast trying to work through everything before race day, but we are really happy with where we ended the day. We’re feeling good heading into the race on Sunday.”

Running Chevrolet engines, who look to have a decided advantage thus far at Indianapolis, the team must be feeling good going into race day, and frankly, the starting lineups in two of the three major auto races on Sunday is proof that Carlin will have a say in who wins for years to come.

Images courtesy of Joe Skibkinski/INDYCAR Media.

Phil Mathew

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