Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Watkins Glen Follow-Up

Here's the press release covering my results from this past race weekend:

Fourth Place on the Fourth of July for Kimball

Charlie Kimball achieved his season best finish this past weekend in the Corning 100 Firestone Indy Lights Race held at Watkins Glen. Kimball, who is the only driver in the history of the IRL to race with diabetes, came back from a tough practice session to qualify the Levemir® #35 Team PBIR car fifth on the grid. He then translated that into a fourth place finish in the race. The result moves Kimball into the top-10 in the championship battle.

The race weekend at Watkins Glen in upstate New York started out in a promising manner as Charlie Kimball was looking forward to returning to road courses and to a circuit where he had tested. The practice session on Friday morning immediately got off to a poor start when an electrical problem kept the 24-year old racer in the pitlane while Team PBIR tried to get the car to fire up. After about half the session, Kimball was able to take to the track and get to work developing the car set-up. Unfortunately, after coming back into the pits to make a set-up change, the team were unable to get the car to re-fire, ending Kimball’s session after only 5 laps. He still managed the 13th quickest time (out of 20 cars).

“It is a shame to have lost all of that track time,” said Kimball afterwards. “We had some set up changes to try before we head into qualifying. Now I am going to be a bit blind.”

Working through the afternoon, the team were able to solve the car problem before qualifying so Kimball was able to take to the track with confidence to qualify. With fresh tires and determination, the young Californian driver quickly went about establishing pace while still learning the limits of the circuit. Kimball notched up quick times lap after lap and held steady in fourth position. It was only after the checkered flag fell that he was bumped down one place by championship leader JR Hilderbrand.

“What a great result in qualifying!” exclaimed the Camarillo, California native. “I know I got pipped by JR right at the end there, but 5th is still the best qualifying result of the year. From there, a podium is not out of the question.”

On Saturday morning, Kimball had the opportunity to take to the circuit for one more session to work on race set up with full fuel loads. During the practice, Kimball continued the team’s testing program and proved their pace. Kimball set the fastest time of the session, proving the #35 car deserved its qualifying position.

Later that afternoon, on the 4th of July, the Firestone Indy Lights field gridded up for their 100 mile race with Kimball on the inside of the third row. As the green flag was waved and the field accelerated towards the sweeping downhill first corner, Kimball held his position but was pinched on the exit and lost a place to Felipe Guimaraes. Kimball continued to pressure Guimaraes throughout the green flag racing and stayed close through both re-starts. Kimball was promoted back to fifth when James Hinchliffe spun into the wall.

As the final caution came out with four laps to go, everyone knew it would be a sprint to the finish. The green and white flag came out together and the field put the hammer down for one final racing lap. Third place Sebatsien Saavedra fell victim to a hard charging Guimaraes with Kimball pursuing the pair. As Saavedra dropped a couple of wheels exiting turn 6, Kimball closed and looked to the inside of turn 7, “the toe of the boot”. On the exit, Saavedra missed a shift allowing Kimball to draw alongside the AFS car as they approached turn 8, “the heel of the boot”. Saavedra attempted to block Kimball to maintain his position, eventually banging wheels with Kimball. Kimball held firm and won the position holding fourth place across the finish line.

“What a race,” said Kimball afterwards. “We misjudged the track and weather conditions a little, but still had a very fast race car. I can’t wait to get to the next race and fight for that first podium!”

With this third consecutive top ten finish, Kimball continues to lead PBIR to the front of the Firestone Indy Lights field. Kimball narrowly missed out on the fastest race lap, proving both he and the team are worthy competitors in the series just below the Indy Racing League, the pinnacle of US open wheel motorsport.

Kimball heads to Orlando, Florida to continue sharing his story as an athlete with diabetes at the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference before heading to Toronto for the next race in the championship July 13th.

And here are some cool links to different articles about this past weekend's race and the team's performance.; Scene at the track; and the race report.

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