Kimball: More direct interaction a benefit

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Three might be the magic number for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball this year.

His third year of IndyCar is his first as part of the streamlined three-car effort between the Novo Nordisk camp and the flagship Target Chip Ganassi squad, where Kimball has been able to better directly interact with its drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.

A methodical approach has aided his development and progress to this point, and the feedback between the three has been beneficial.

“I think one thing I’ve noticed in the testing and then in the first two rounds of the season is that with three inputs from drivers, you have a better opportunity to learn, and learn from what they’re doing car-wise, driving-wise, engineering-wise,” Kimball said in a conference call on Wednesday. “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.”

His integration in the team has also improved.

“I think the biggest things I’ve learned have not been about a certain corner or a certain racetrack,” he said. “It’s more about how to work with the team and how much effort to put in and how that be repaid by the crew members and by the mechanics. It’s more about managing the team and working with all of the tools that are available to maximize what options we have.”

Kimball had one of, if not his best overall weekends last race at Barber when he qualified fifth and finished fourth. He noted there were signs of being close to a result in the last three races of 2012, but ultimately they failed to come to fruition.

Both Kimball and Franchitti will be back in their usual liveries at Long Beach after having different orange and blue paint schemes at Barber.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.