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IndyCar: Charlie Kimball feels right back at home with Carlin Racing

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Charlie Kimball was just 20 years old when he began racing for Trevor Carlin in 2005 in British Formula 3.

Fast forward 13 years and the now 33-year-old Kimball has reunited once again with Carlin, who owns Carlin Racing, one of three new teams to enter the Verizon IndyCar Series for the 2018 season.

“It feels like coming home, honestly,” Kimball told NBC Sports on Wednesday. “Racing for Trevor back in 2005 was one of the greater experiences of my young racing career at that point.”

Kimball spent that season driving for Carlin Motorsport in British Formula 3, earning five wins and finishing second in the championship to teammate Alvaro Parente.

“Now, being able to come back and race with Trevor in their first foray into professional open-wheel racing with the IndyCar Series means a lot to me,” Kimball said. “It means a lot that Trevor has the faith in me, and that Max (teammate Max Chilton) and I have the opportunity to really build this team within IndyCar.

“The chance for them as a team to learn from us and be led by our experience is really, really cool.”

Kimball and Chilton were both released from Chip Ganassi Racing after last season when the team scaled back from four to only two cars for 2018 with veteran Scott Dixon remaining, joined by Ed Jones (who replaces Tony Kanaan, who moved to A.J. Foyt Racing after last season).

Kimball and Chilton are once again reunited with Carlin Racing, and that should pay dividends as opposed to two drivers who aren’t familiar with each other coming into a new season and new team situation.

“It means that in that collaboration, as we work with the engineers, mechanics and management to get Carlin up to speed as much as possible, we don’t have to learn each other,” Kimball said of Chilton. “We don’t have to learn what each other wants from the car, we don’t have to refigure that stuff out, which helps shorten an already very tall learning curve.

“So having that ability to have Max and I come over together and having worked together as teammates and knowing what worked the last couple years and things we wanted to improve on, we can push those items together.”

After spending seven seasons with Ganassi and serving as understudy of sorts to veterans Dixon and Kanaan, Kimball became the senior driver at Carlin, given that Chilton is now in just his third full IndyCar season.

“It definitely feels like a reboot a little bit,” Kimball said. “There’s a little different stress as a driver this year. I hope my experience is leading the team down the right path and leading them to better results and progress. It’s just a different experience I’ve had in my seven previous years in INDYCAR.”

While Carlin Racing will have to walk before it can run, so to speak, it could also be a dark horse if things start coming together soon.

“I would not have gone to Carlin if I didn’t think we could be successful together,” Kimball said. “It’s going to take time being successful in the INDYCAR series, especially this year with the new teams, the new car, the rookies.

“It’s a stacked field talent-wise, so it’s going to take a little while for us to find our feet, but I don’t think there’s any reason why eventually we can’t be running up-front and competing at each weekend.

“Now, I don’t know how long that’s going to take, because I don’t underestimate the task we face on the performance side. But the fact we went to St. Pete as a brand new team, didn’t have a single piece of an Indy car last October, and we had two cars that ran every lap, ran the whole race, guys did great stops for their first live IndyCar pit stops, I’m really proud of the effort they’ve put in over the winter to get to where they are now.”

Kimball and Chilton both struggled in Carlin Racing’s IndyCar debut two weeks ago at St. Petersburg. Kimball started 21st and finished 20th, while Chilton started 20th and finished 19th.

But they also saw signs of promise both on and off the racetrack.

“I think internally that we’ll continue to develop race by race, session by session,” Kimball said. “The more we can focus on real, meaningful progress on each session, the more the long-range results will take care of themselves.

“We can’t change the weather or change what the other teams are doing. We can only focus on doing as good and as complete a job as a race team as we’re capable of.

“And from there, I think there is every opportunity to be hitting expectations that we’ve set for ourselves or exceeding them.”

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NHRA shocker in Houston: John Force fails to qualify for first time since 2008, snaps 221-race streak

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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Sunday’s eliminations in the 31st annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston  just won’t be the same without John Force.

In one of the most stunning turn of events seen in the last decade-plus in NHRA drag racing, the legendary 16-time Funny Car champion and the sport’s all-time winningest driver on Saturday failed to qualify for Sunday’s main event of the race weekend.

It marks the first time Force, who turns 69 on May 4, failed to qualify for a race since Sept. 13, 2008 in Charlotte race, snapping a string of having made the eliminations in each of the subsequent 221 races until failing to do so Saturday.

“That is hard for me,” Force said after failing to go any faster than 222.29 mph in the four qualifying rounds for the race, two on Friday and the other two on Saturday. “You earn what you get. We didn’t put it in the show. We couldn’t get to half-track.

“We have had a lot of problems all year. At least I got my final shot to get in and I didn’t make it. I will be here tomorrow rooting on Robert, Courtney and Brittany (teammates Robert Hight and daughters Courtney and Brittany Force). I’ll be signing autographs for all the fans. I am sorry to all of you fans that I didn’t make it.”

Saturday’s failure to qualify marked only the 22nd time he’s DNQ’d in his 40-year professional drag racing career. He set a drag racing record by qualifying for 395 consecutive events from 1988 until April 2007.

“I am bummed that the boss didn’t get in. That was quite a streak he had going,” Hight said of hoss and father-in-law. “There is nobody better at rallying a team and leading a comeback than John Force.

“He loves the fight and he will do whatever it takes to get his team back on top. It really isn’t something to worry about because two of our Chevys are No.1 and No. 2 right now.

“We have good combinations and we just have to duplicate one of those set ups for John’s PEAK Funny car. He’ll be back next week in Charlotte.”

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As for the other classes (information courtesy NHRA Media Relations):Leah Pritchett set a new Top Fuel track record during the final qualifying session on Saturday to secure the top spot in Top Fuel heading into Sunday.Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the fifth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Defending event champion Pritchett raced her Mopar Dodge dragster to a pass of 3.680-seconds at 326.00 mph. This is her first No. 1 qualifier of the season and eighth of her career.

“We’ve been developing our confidence the last couple of races,” Pritchett stated. “To be able to put it on the track is phenomenal. We know we need to be exceptional because our competition is exceptional.”

Pritchett will line up against Terry Brian in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Defending world champion Brittany Force locked-in the No. 2 spot after a 3.701 at 313.80 in her Monster Energy dragster. Tony Schumacher is seeded third and will face William Litton.

Hight’s final qualifying pass of 3.894 at 317.27 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro took him to the top of the Funny Car category. This is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season, second at Houston and 58th of his career.

“This is going to be a new ball game tomorrow,” Hight said. “With fresh asphalt and the sun being out; these cars are going to spin. It’s definitely going to be fun. Two of our Chevy’s are one and two (in Funny Car) which shows we have good combinations.”

Hight will face-off against Todd Simpson Sunday morning in the first round. Teammate Courtney Force sits in the No. 2 position with a pass of 3.911 at 295.14 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro and two-time world champion Matt Hagan rounds out the top three.

Anderson, four-time Pro Stock world champion, remained atop the field Saturday with his pass of 6.492 at 213.00 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro from the first qualifying session on Friday. He notched his third consecutive No. 1 qualifier of the season and is seeking his first victory of the year.

“I haven’t had great Sunday’s yet,” Anderson stated. “I know I’m going to break through one of these days though. The weather is going to be great again tomorrow. I feel good about it, I’m excited and so far it’s just been a great weekend.”

Anderson will race Steve Graham in the first round of eliminations. Jeg Coughlin Jr. qualified in the No. 2 position with a pass of 6.504 at 212.36 in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro and Tanner Gray is third.

Eliminations at the NHRA SpringNationals begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Royal Purple Raceway.

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SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS FOR ELIMINATIONS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.680 seconds, 326.00 mph vs. 16. Terry Brian, 4.275, 284.62; 2. Brittany Force, 3.701, 320.20 vs. 15. Terry Haddock, 4.081, 287.17; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.703, 322.73 vs. 14. Bill Litton, 3.927, 306.60; 4. Billy Torrence, 3.737, 317.87 vs. 13. Kebin Kinsley, 3.819, 313.51; 5. Antron Brown, 3.740, 324.98 vs. 12. Terry McMillen, 3.783, 314.31; 6. Clay Millican, 3.746, 315.78 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.766, 313.73; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.748, 320.05 vs. 10. Richie Crampton, 3.766, 316.23; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.754, 318.17 vs. 9. Steve Torrence, 3.759, 313.88. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Totten, 4.636, 216.34.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.894, 317.27 vs. 16. Todd Simpson, Dodge Charger, 4.318, 288.33; 2. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.911, 313.58 vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.151, 283.49; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.913, 311.85 vs. 14. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.077, 305.77; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.918, 317.42 vs. 13. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.026, 308.99; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.918, 301.94 vs. 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.017, 307.51; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.925, 311.41 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.994, 311.34; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.926, 313.00 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.989, 313.37; 8. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.927, 316.52 vs. 9. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.938, 314.09. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 4.341, 273.05; 18. John Force, 4.625, 222.29.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.492, 213.00 vs. 16. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.775, 205.60; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.504, 212.36 vs. 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.621, 208.65; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.507, 211.99 vs. 14. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.592, 210.93; 4. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.513, 212.29 vs. 13. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.548, 210.67; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.518, 211.99 vs. 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.545, 210.50; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.525, 212.79 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.532, 212.73; 7. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.527, 212.29 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.532, 211.79; 8. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.528, 211.93 vs. 9. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.530, 211.33.