Charlie Kimball

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Charlie Kimball to visit Gateway on Thursday

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Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball will visit Gateway Motorsports Park on Thursday for a media appearance and will take a ceremonial lap of the repaved 1.25-mile oval.

Following a test in early May that saw several cars suffer cut tires, Gateway officials opted to completely repave the facility ahead of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline on August 26. The project began after the June 17 Drivin’ for Linemen 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and was completed earlier this week.

“I’m really excited to race at Gateway Motorsports Park,” said Kimball. “The opportunity to test there didn’t really pan out earlier in the season with the old paving, so I think the whole series is looking forward to getting out there and seeing what kind of improvements have been made to the track. It’s great to see the investment that Gateway has put into the track with the repaving – new asphalt always produces amazing racing with the Verizon IndyCar Series. To be able to compete under the lights in August on Saturday night on a short track like Gateway is going to be fantastic. I think the way Turn 1 and Turn 3 are so very different is going to lead to an incredible event and the new asphalt will only add to that.”

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Kimball’s Novo Nordisk Honda joins blue, white liveries in Toronto

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The bevy of blue and white liveries in the Verizon IndyCar Series grows by one – again – with Charlie Kimball’s No. 83 Novo Nordisk Canada Honda at Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.

With a Diabetes Canada primary message, the ordinarily black and green Tresiba Honda goes to a blue and white scheme this weekend.

The car ran without Tresiba signage in Toronto last year as well, with generic Race With Insulin signage on the car. But a great opportunity presents itself for Novo Nordisk Canada this weekend with this revised livery.

“As a global leader in diabetes care, Novo Nordisk has a responsibility to invest in initiatives that support the diabetes community,” said Brian Hilberdink, President at Novo Nordisk Canada, Inc. “Our partnership with Diabetes Canada and Charlie Kimball reinforces this commitment and we’re proud to support Charlie live his dream of driving professionally while managing his diabetes.

“Diabetes literally doesn’t slow him down and we hope his story will inspire others. The new car livery in Toronto leverages our strong corporate brand and reputation in the diabetes community in Canada, it also allows for a unique opportunity to partner with Diabetes Canada.”

Rick Blickstead, President and CEO, Diabetes Canada, added: “Diabetes is a serious disease that can have devastating health impacts. We’re proud to partner with Novo Nordisk to tell Charlie’s story, which shows that with the technology, medication and the right team – you can live well with diabetes.”

Kimball’s blue and white car means all four Ganassi cars have blue and white liveries this weekend. Tony Kanaan’s is the only primarily blue car, the No. 10 NTT Data Honda, while Scott Dixon’s No. 9 NTT Data Honda and Max Chilton’s No. 8 Gallagher Honda have different shades of blue with their white.

Others running some shade of blue on their cars this weekend include the AJ Foyt Racing pair of Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz, Dale Coyne Racing pair of Esteban Gutierrez and Ed Jones, Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand back in Preferred Freezer colors, and Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato at Andretti Autosport, to make 12 of the 21 cars with some shade of blue in them.

The full Toronto spotter guide is linked here.

Kimball, Chilton quiet but solid at Road America

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While Scott Dixon scored victory for Chip Ganassi Racing, two of the team’s other drivers enjoyed quietly solid days at the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America.

Charlie Kimball, in need of a strong finish after being stricken with bad luck so far in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, scored his best finish of the year with a fine run to sixth place. While he was never a part of the battle for victory, he was “best of the rest” for most of the day and enjoyed a solid, mistake-free run.

“Overall a really solid day for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team,” Kimball said afterward. Though he admitted tire management in the race’s third stint hampered his efforts, he was more than pleased with the end result.

“That third stint, I don’t think I managed the Firestone alternates as well as some of the guys around me,” Kimball revealed. “You saw that with (Will Power) with a better in and out lap. That was disappointing, because I think we could have maybe had a shot at a top five. Overall though, to fight off some competitors for that last stint after the final yellow felt good and it felt good to bring it home in sixth for the guys. Kind of a semi-trouble free weekend and pretty happy with it.”

Teammate Max Chilton, too, scored a solid ten finish, the Briton finishing ninth. However, unlike Kimball, Chilton lamented not being able to finish higher on a circuit where he feels very comfortable.

Max Chilton during qualifying for the Kohler Grand Prix. Photo: IndyCar

“It’s not how we wanted it, especially after how quick we were (in the morning warmup),” said Chilton, who started seventh and was second fastest in the morning warmup. Like Kimball, he struggled with tire management, and an untimely caution when he was on the primary black tires put paid to his chances of a better finish.

“Something just wasn’t working for us. On a set of reds, we were struggling massively and then we went to the blacks, which would’ve been alright, but then the safety car came out and everyone else had longer life on the reds and I was struggling again.”

With the Kohler Grand Prix in the books, Chilton currently sits 11th in the championship, three points behind tenth-place Ed Jones, while Kimball remains 18th, 72 points outside the top ten.

Texas polesitter Kimball optimistic luck will turn after rough stretch

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Charlie Kimball enters the second half of the Verizon IndyCar Series in a weird place – exactly double the position he ended last year’s season in the championship.

But the drop from ninth, a career-best in the standings in 2016, to 18th through the first nine races of this year, has been due to an almost freakish cartoon of bad luck that has consistently struck the No. 83 Tresiba Honda, through almost no fault of his own.

Kimball’s best result is eighth, twice in nine events. After first-lap collisions at St. Petersburg and Long Beach put Kimball under the microscope for all the wrong reasons, a cartoon anvil has come attacking him and this portion of the Chip Ganassi Racing team since.

Three Honda engine issues have hit him at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil after leading five laps, and then most recently at Texas Motor Speedway with an oil leak that took him out early after winning an overdue first career pole.

Those issues, coupled with Kimball getting caught out behind Conor Daly’s engine issue at Detroit race one, have limited the improvements in his camp since an earlier switch from Eric Cowdin to Todd Malloy as Kimball’s lead engineer.

Kimball explained what has happened to him the last month or so, while being part of a four-car Firestone tire test at Watkins Glen along with Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Max Chilton and Team Penske’s Will Power and Simon Pagenaud.

“We had an oil leak… they looked for the culprit and they thought they found it,” Kimball told NBC Sports. “By the time they thought they fixed it, we were too many laps down to make it back up and make it worthwhile.

“The important thing is, frankly, that we got the pole. The luck will come good.

“We’ve had multiple engine issues and when one wasn’t in our car, it was in the 4 car (Daly), when his engine cut out in front of us. At Detroit one, I was pretty close behind him through Turn 3 and he didn’t accelerate, he had no power, so he was decelerating. So when I tried to get out and around him, that caught my (front wing) end fence, and put me into the wall.”

Kimball’s unexpected sideline role at Texas as the only car out of the race not from crash damage provided him a bit of insight into how the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 race, ran.

As Kimball explained – and the seventh-year driver from California is generally pretty good at doing so – rather than the simple “pack race” terminology, multiple factors contributed the crash-fest.

“I think for me, it was interesting to watch,” he explained. “Part of it was I don’t think people expected it to race like that in Turns 1 and 2. Part of it was we hadn’t run much in those conditions. And then at least to me, I didn’t hear about the repave until middle of summer. So when it’s that late in the game, it leaves Firestone and the other manufacturers with less time to come up with a plan to test. So we came there, and there were still unanswered questions.”

Just 116 points separate the top 13 in the standings (Scott Dixon has 326 points to Marco Andretti’s 210). Then after a several point drop from 14th through 17th (Ryan Hunter-Reay is 14th on 194 while Carlos Munoz is 17th on 180), Kimball is a further 37 points back just of Munoz, on 143 for the year.

Stat-wise, Kimball has been fine in qualifying this year, although could be better. His average grid position through nine races is 11.4, down only one spot from the same time last year when it was 10.4 – and with more Hondas up front this year than in the past two years, that’s not really a significant drop-off.

However it’s his finishes that have nosedived and contributed to the year-to-year decline. Through nine races last year, Kimball had eight finishes in the top 12, and two fifth-place results with a worst result of 16th. This year, the two eighth places are his only finishes better than 15th, and with five finishes of 21st or worse, Kimball’s average finish has plunged year-on-year through nine races from 8.8 to 17.6.

All that may make climbing up the points standings a tall order but for Kimball, keeping the faith the Ganassi team and the No. 83 crew has entrusted in him – it’s not like he’s forgotten how to drive – is what keeps him motivated going into the second half of the season.

“I draw a lot of support from my crew, the 83 crew and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. That helps a lot. You keep working your process and keep working with the crew. There’s times you carry them, and others they carry you. The luck will come good. Because if not for bad luck this year, we’d have no luck. The pendulum will come towards the good luck swing.

“I think a lot of people miss the opportunity to seize that chance. They get stuck in a rut of bad luck after bad luck, so when it does come good, you need to take it.”

Kimball is optimistic going into next week’s KOHLER Grand Prix (Sunday, June 25, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), where he finished sixth last year and after the Watkins Glen tire test.

Despite the “weird schedule” of sleeping in until 9 a.m., getting to the track at 1 or 2 p.m. before running from 4 to 8 p.m. local time at the Corning, N.Y. circuit, Kimball has excelled knowing he’s entrusted to be part of a Firestone test.

“It’s apples to oranges, really, with last year’s kit to the Honda this year,” Kimball explained. “The grip still feels awesome. The track is a blast to drive. Really rewards commitment and a great balance. We didn’t do much tuning on the car.”

Kimball also could afford to laugh at one flashback moment, as he and Power were sat together in a circuit car surveying the track before running on Tuesday. The two collided in last year’s Watkins Glen race, Power having blamed Kimball for the contact but Kimball calling it a racing incident.

“We got back, and Simon was like, ‘You guys OK?’ I got back to my timing stand and had to laugh… it was funny. I’ve moved on.”

After a rough year that has not matched his talent, Kimball must be hoping the results move on as well.

Ganassi teams dominate Texas qualifying

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All four of Chip Ganassi Racing’s entries in the Verizon IndyCar Series came out swinging in qualifying for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway (tonight, 8 p.m ET, NBCSN).

The Ganassi squad locked out the front row for the first time this year, with Kimball scoring the first pole of his IndyCar career and the 89th for Ganassi’s IndyCar operation.

Behind Kimball, the team’s other three entries served noticed that Ganassi might be the squad to beat this weekend. Scott Dixon makes his fourth appearance on the front row in 2017 and will start alongside Kimball in second. Tony Kanaan (fourth) and Max Chilton (sixth) enjoyed strong efforts in their own right to put all four Ganassi cars in the top six.

Polesitter Kimball was understandably elated with the result and offered thanks to his team for its support.

“(The team team has) had my back all year long through the good, the bad, the ugly. We haven’t really had much great (results) yet this year except for today, so it was nice to pay them back with this pole,” Kimball explained after qualifying.

Kimball has endured a run of tough luck in the first half of the season, highlighted by crashes on the opening lap of each of the first two races and an engine failure while battling for the lead in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil. He explained that scoring a pole is a great reward for the effort the entire team puts in.

“They work so hard, especially this race being the end of a string of so many races back-to-back, the fact that we’ve shown our resilience as well as we have is — by getting this pole is an indication of how great a team I have working with me,” Kimball detailed.

However, as Scott Dixon explained, qualifying pace is not necessarily indicative of strong race pace. And, given the characteristics of Texas Motor Speedway, the winner can come from anywhere on the grid.

“I think (qualifying well) helps just keeping yourself out of trouble, but as we’ve seen in the past, if you’ve got a good car, you can come from the back here,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be about maintaining speed, probably for the last 20 laps of the stint,” he said of the impact of qualifying well.

Kanaan, too, kept his expectations muted, despite a strong showing in qualifying. “I feel like we put together a really good lap and I’m happy with where we are in terms of speed right now in the NTT Data car. We still have a little work to do though,” he revealed after qualifying.

The Rainguard Water Sealers 600 rolls off tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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