Kimball making strides in 2018

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The six-month offseason of the Verizon IndyCar Series became 0ne of transition for many in the paddock. One driver who experienced this trend is Charlie Kimball. After seven seasons at Chip Ganassi Racing, Kimball and Ganassi teammate Max Chilton joined forces again when Carlin Racing announced its entry into the series.

The start of the season was a bit of a struggle for Kimball and Carlin Racing. Despite leading final practice at ISM Raceway in April, he did not have a start inside the Top 20 or a finish inside the Top 15.

Marked improvements were seen in the third race on the streets of Long Beach. After qualifying 23rd, Kimball raced his way through the field and earned a tenth-place finish. It marked the first lead lap and Top 10 finish for his new team. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was also his first Top 10 on a street course since Belle Isle Race 2 in 2017.

After the race, Kimball was quick to praise the effort Carlin has made in their first IndyCar season.

Kimball gave Carlin Racing its first Top Ten at Long Beach (Stephen King/INDYCAR)

“We got a little lucky with yellows, but we’ll take some luck with a new team building our foundation in INDYCAR,” he expressed.

“A lot of credit to the guys though – they’ve worked so hard since October to make this happen. A top-10 finish is a start, and hopefully moving forward we can qualify better so we don’t have to work so hard to get back into the top-10.”

The next week at Barber Motorsports Park would not be so lucky. Kimball was knocked out of the race following contact with Ed Jones on Lap 11 and finished 23rd.

Three weeks after the frustrating run at Barber, the Month of May began. Kimball ran all 85 laps at the IndyCar Grand Prix, finishing 20th after starting 23rd. The 102nd Indianapolis 500 would be a gratifying run for him. Kimball would qualify 15th for the race and complete all 200 laps, finishing 18th.

The following weekend’s Dual in Detroit on Belle Isle would start off with a disappointing run. Kimball finished on the lead lap but ended the 70-lap race in 19th after starting 20th.

A day later, fortunes began to reverse course. As he did at Long Beach, Kimball battled through the field and finished eighth after starting 21st.

Carlin’s trend of improvement would continue the following week at Texas Motor Speedway. After qualifying a season-best twelfth, Kimball finished in tenth place, a lap behind race winner Scott Dixon.

Afterward, Kimball assessed his team’s progress more than halfway through its first season.

“It feels like these top-10 finishes are starting to be a habit and we’ll just keep moving forward from here,” he noted.

An eighteenth-place finish at Road America and fourteenth-place at Iowa saw Kimball improve one spot to sixteenth in points. Last week at Toronto, he turned in his best weekend to date this season.

Kimball led a lap and finished fifth at Toronto on Sunday (Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR)

Continuing his trend of moving through the field on street courses, Kimball would start the 85-lap event in 20th. He would find his way to the lead on Lap 57, Carlin’s first lap led as a team and Kimball’s first laps led since Iowa in 2017.

Kimball would finish fifth. It is Carlin Racing’s best result to date and Kimball’s first Top Five since the 2016 Indianapolis 500. It also marks his best effort on a temporary street course since the second Toronto race in 2014 (fourth).

Following the 85-lap race, Kimball continued to laud his No. 23 Dallara-Chevrolet team for their efforts.

“We struggled a little on Saturday but on race day we were able to bring it. We showed up in Toronto with a great foundation from Detroit race two, a top-10 car, and we were able to make it a little better this weekend,” he said.

“The No. 23 crew had two fantastic pit stops—that second stop was just rock solid. To be able to come out with a top-five, leaning on fourth at the end, was a great way to cap off the weekend. Really pleased to bring home Carlin’s first top-five in IndyCar and my first top-five of the season.”

Next weekend, the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200.

In six previous starts at the 2.258-mile road course, Kimball has made the Fast Six three times and has finished in the Top 10 three times. His best result at the track was in 2013 when he led 46 laps and earned his first IndyCar win after starting fifth.

Header Image by Chris Jones/INDYCAR

Spencer Neff

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