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IndyCar 2017 driver review: Max Chilton

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. Max Chilton made a significant improvement in performance and final finishing position this year.

Max Chilton, No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

  • 2016: 19th Place, Best Finish 7th, Best Start 4th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 2 Laps Led, 13.9 Avg. Start, 16.1 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 11th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 6th, 1 Top-5, 6 Top-10, 64 Laps Led, 12.6 Avg. Start, 12.2 Avg. Finish

Max Chilton’s second season in IndyCar was a solid, serviceable leap in performance from year-to-year – under-the-radar but sufficient enough to prove his proper place on the grid after a mixed first season.

Chilton enjoyed an excellent month of May, with a great run from 14th to seventh in the Indianapolis Grand Prix, and an even better Indianapolis 500 when he led a race-high 50 laps before fading to fourth place by the checkered flag. Four other top-10 finishes between seventh and ninth provided a good improvement versus 2016.

Crucially, where Chilton also impressed this year was in showing his passion for racing in the series – something you might accuse him of lacking if you didn’t know him any better given his affluent background and appearance.

When Chilton was frustrated, it was because he’d felt he hadn’t got the chance to showcase what he could do. Getting taken out at Phoenix and getting parked at Pocono were two moments where he felt aggrieved at the circumstances as he’d been retired for reasons outside his own control. Finishing fourth at the ‘500 annoyed him, as well, because it fueled his motivation to want to win the series’ biggest race after getting that close. The two DNFs at Phoenix and Pocono cost him critical points, and considering he was only seven out of the top-10 at year’s end, they loomed large. His only real mistake of the year came at Gateway when he lost the rear end of the car in Turn 4.

Now married to his lovely bride Chloe, Chilton managed to make a more positive impression on the paddock in his sophomore season and was arguably Chip Ganassi Racing’s second most consistent driver in its foursome this year ahead of Tony Kanaan, although Kanaan had higher upside and ultimately better results. In an expected Carlin team situation, Chilton has the potential to flourish even more than he did this year.

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

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