Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kimball Races to Second in front of Home Town Crowd

Charlie Kimball competed this weekend, April 17 and 18, in the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Long Beach in front of an enthusiastic crowd of sponsors, friends and family. Kimball put on a great show, qualifying third and racing to a second place finish on Sunday. Balancing responsibilities on and off the track kept the young driver busy, but he continued to impress and share his story across southern California.

Kimball’s race weekend began two weeks ago as he joined the IRL team at the Long Beach media day to promote the race. He coached celebrities competing in the Celebrity Pro race, gave Pace Car rides to members of the media and was the featured Indy Lights driver for the Grand Prix weekend. When he finally got into the #26 Levemir® Flexpen® car at the race weekend on Friday morning, Kimball was ready to go to work. He worked with his AFS Racing/ Andretti Autosport team throughout the two free practice sessions, developing the car and sneaking up on race pace. Kimball’s times in the sessions were never outside the top 5.

‘When we first got on track on Friday, we were a ways off with the car set up but my engineer and I went to work. We worked through a lot of changes and produced a very competitive car,’ remarked Kimball of the practice sessions. ‘We chose to play a conservative strategy in practice and now I’m exceptionally well placed for qualifying.’

Qualifying was run under the midday sun through the streets of Long Beach and was marred by two late yellow flags. Kimball started the session on new tires and immediately posted quick times. By the time he had put on his third set of new tires, Kimball was ready to post a blistering time. As he headed towards the final few corners of the circuit, the Camarillo native was preparing to record the pole time. However, yellow flags were out and Kimball reduced his speed to ensure the safety of the stricken car and on-track officials. Because the yellow flags came out so close to the end of the session, the checkered flag was thrown meaning Kimball ended up third on the grid.

‘I’m really disappointed by this session. We had the car and the pace for pole position, but for the third race in a row, we got caught by yellow flags,’ explained Kimball after qualifying. ‘But I love this track for passing – last year, I passed at least 6 cars so I’m sure I can make something happen from third.’

Kimball spent the rest of Saturday and early Sunday morning hosting his many supporters, fans, friends and family at the track and showing them around his racing world.

‘It’s such a great opportunity to be able to thank everyone who has supported me throughout my career by hosting them here at Long Beach,’ said the Camarillo, California native. ‘I’m honored that nearly 70 people are here to support me in today’s race!’

As the Indy Lights field headed for the green flag, Kimball made sure he was tucked up close behind pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe. The field poured into Turn one and Kimball maintained his position behind Hinchcliffe, boxing out second place starter JK Vernay. The 25-year-old then held station behind Hinchcliffe, pacing himself as the tires and cars fell off the pace. Two yellow flags and restarts offered Kimball small opportunities to grab the race lead however it wasn’t to be. Kimball crossed the line in touch with the leader but in second position.

‘I’m pleased with second place. I gain championship points on points leader Vernay,’ said Kimball at the podium ceremony. ‘I had the pace there at the end to catch Hinch. I was hoping for lots of yellows or green running the whole way but neither worked out. On the parade lap, I saw of sea of red in my grandstand and I’m glad I could honor my fans with a good result this year.’

Kimball consolidated his second place points position by gaining 5 championship points on leader JK Vernay and extending his lead over third place. His next race will be the Freedom 100 run on the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 27th and 28th. Kimball will fill the time until then appearing for Novo Nordisk at American Diabetes Association Expos in Phoenix, AZ and Seattle, WA as well as a Taking Control of Your Diabetes conference in Raleigh, NC.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hollywood Boulevard, SHUT DOWN!

Tonight, IZOD took over Hollywood Boulevard and gave it to the Indy Car and Indy Lights guys. They put on a pit stop competition, did an autograph signing, even had Mark Wahlberg and Diddy show up. The event was crazy. There were so many people and it was unreal hearing the engines fire up and reverberate off the Kodak theater. It was really encouraging to see such an amazing event put on by the people at Izod. It bodes well for the future.

But now it’s race weekend. Not just any race weekend, but the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Bring it!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Racing at home!

This weekend is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and I am super pumped! Long Beach is one of the more special races on the calendar this year for me. Mainly because the pits are only 75 miles from my house. And when I am racing all over the country (and Canada), 75 miles is practically next door! Long Beach also holds a special place in my heart because I remember coming to this race for years with my dad when he was doing consulting. I would get a ticket and then get to hang around the race track all day and inevitably get sunburned. But I still got to soak in the great atmosphere, the race track, the cars, the drivers and everything else that makes the Grand Prix here such a jewel. Now after years of racing in Europe, being as close to home as Long Beach is means that everyone who supported me abroad can come support me in person. The drive down the 405 is a lot easier (some of the time) than flying across the Atlantic! At the moment, we have about 60 people in the Charlie Kimball Cheering Section of the grandstand. There are a few tickets left if you want to come join us! Message me on Twitter with an email address, or comment here with an email and I will send over some information.

The track itself is pretty special. It is one of the longest straights (Shoreline Drive) we will run on all year and yet it also has the slowest corner (the hairpin) we see as well. Put those things together and it makes for a great racetrack. I come into the weekend sitting second in points behind the Frenchman JK Vernay. I am still confident in the long haul to the Championship because Vernay hasn't been to many of the rest of the tracks this year and has never raced on an oval. Plus, I plan on building on last weekend's second place finish from Barber and working on cutting his points lead!

Time to go racing at the Roar by the Shore!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Podium in the Park!

Sunday was race day at Barber Motorsports Park and I had high hopes going into the day. I qualified second on Saturday morning and then had a nice relaxing afternoon. The car had been really good since I was quickest in the first practice and while we had to make changes for the heat of the day in practice 2, we still had a really good race car. Race day started very early on Sunday morning with a warm up at 8AM! The track was very cold and even though the Grand-Am cars had run all afternoon on Saturday, the grip was really good. We were consistently quick throughout warm up and at the end of the session, I was happy with the car for the race.

The key to the race was always going to be the start. With a short start/finish straight and a fast blind turn 1, getting a good start would be important. Couple that with the very limited passing opportunities at Barber and the start would be crucial. I had talked through strategies for the race with my race engineer and we believed that tire management would be key for the race. As hot as the track temperatures were and with the sun beating down, the Firestone Firehawks would be consistent as long as you didn't overdrive the car early. And overdriving the car early would be easy to do being second on the grid and shooting for a race win. I had a couple of pace car rides just before my race to scare a couple of my guests from Alabama. Those laps gave me an idea of how much rubber had accumulated offline and would make the start even more difficult.

And then it was race time. And I was ready. My blood sugar numbers were just where I wanted them to be, I was relaxed, confident in my race pace, knew my fitness wouldn't be an issue and ready to fight for the victory. I knew I might be able to get a good start because the pole sitter, JK Vernay, would only be doing his second ever rolling start. He had admitted in the qualifying press conference that he didn't have a good start at the first race and was nervous about the start. We lined up side by side as we came around the last corner to take the green flag. I was waiting for him to 'punch off' before hitting the gas. 'Punching off' is a racing term for when the pole sitter hits the gas and starts accelerating for the start. As the pole sitter, he has the right to set the pace and decide when to 'punch off'. The only rule is that when you do go to throttle, you commit and stay on power.

I was ready for JK to go and when he did, I reacted well and got a good start. We were wheel to wheel when we both went to power. Then JK slid back. After the race I found out row 2, consisting of my teammate, Martin Plowman, and Sebastien Saavedra, had gone to power with the front row. Then as JK either made a mistake, lifted, braked or had a problem, Plowman ran into the back of him. Once I had gone to throttle though, I was committed. When the green flag flew, I was in front and led into turn 1. Halfway around lap 2, my engineer radioed me that the officials had said I jumped the start. The penalty for that would not be a complete restart and give me the opportunity to make a good start again, but to give up the lead of the race. At any other racetrack, it would not have been as big a penalty as I would have the speed to take the position back. However, at Barber the track offers slim to no passing chances. As a result, I shadowed JK all race, never more than 2 seconds behind but unable to mount a challenge for the win. To his credit, he never made a mistake large enough for me to capitalize on. The second place finish moves me up to second in the championship and is my first podium in the Firestone Indy Lights. Still it leaves me wanting for more. We had the speed all weekend and the crew did a great job with not making any mistakes. I did all the right things and I can't wait to get to home turf next weekend. Roll on Long Beach and another chance for Victory Lane!

One last comment on the race weekend. It was the first Indy Car race held at Barber Motorsports Park and I could not have been more impressed. The grounds are immaculate, the facilities are incredible and the people couldn't have been friendlier. I was blown away by the crowd (someone said over 100,000 for the weekend) and am sure this is going to be a crown jewel event on the IRL calendar. George Barber has and continues to do an amazing job. Well done to him and his staff and thanks for letting us come race around your park!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday night in 'Bama

A quick update since I really want to get a good night's sleep. Today went really well at the Barber Motorsports Park. I was quickest in this morning's session but just a small margin over James Hinchcliffe. Then in Practice 2, I was 3rd for most of the session until Niall Quinn put new tires on right at the end. Since we wanted to save everything for qualifying, we stayed on old tires. Still, looking through the data and analyzing the split reports, my engineer and I are happy going into tomorrow. I really think we are good on fast time pace and really good on consistent race pace.

Qualifying is at 8:15 AM CDT. You can watch live timing here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Barber Preview

Back at a racetrack and none too soon! I got a taste of racing in St. Pete and am just itching to get back in the car. Not to say that I haven't been busy. I have been in 4 states, 5 airports, 3 hotels and even at home since the race. I got a chance to go back to California to see my family for Easter, rest and beat the cold I picked up in Florida and go cycling for a couple hours with my friends. Then on Tuesday, I got to drive a pace car for media at the Long Beach Grand Prix circuit. It was a blast and I even got to meet a couple of the celebrities and pros driving in the Toyota Pro Celebrity race at the Long Beach Grand Prix. I got to have a cool conversation with Zachary Levi who plays Chuck on TV and even got a photo (I look terribly star struck....And I am so glad he is repping a Dodger hat....Go Blue!).

But now it is back to business. I am down in Birmingham Alabama for the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the Barber Motorsports Park. We had a good test here back in February and I can't wait to see how tomorrow shakes out. At the open test, I was third quickest, just 0.2sec off the quickest time (even with an engine problem that cost us 2 hours of track time!). My engineer and I have a few good ideas about how to improve from the test and I hope we can be setting the pace from the outset. I can't wait. I hope I can sleep tonight!

Also, here is a great article from the AP as it was posted on and