We teased it earlier this week in looking at him as a possible spoiler. But the way Charlie Kimball made this Firestone Fast 6, his second of 2013, wasn’t nearly as straightforward as his first in Barber in April.
Kimball had an off in the morning practice, losing control through Turn 1 and backing into the tire barriers. Although his car temporarily got airborne upon impact, it was a soft landing and he emerged unhurt.
From there, a full team effort from the Novo Nordisk and Target Chip Ganassi Racing crews helped prep Kimball’s backup car, so he could go out and drive it in qualifying. As soon as he did, he was right on pace.
“It was a great effort by all the Chip Ganassi Racing guys. There were as many red shirts from the Target side in the garage as there were orange shirts,” said the third-year driver. “They gave me the easy job of driving the racecar. They kept kicking me out of the garage, telling me to get out of the way. All I had to do while they changed the backup was get the car ready for me and all I had to do was go out and drive it.
“The boys deserved it,” he added. “We had a really good car all week, both starting at the test and yesterday’s practice. This morning we just got caught out by the track conditions, a little dampness under the bridge. That was unfortunate, but it was great to bounce back and get a top-five starting spot.”
Kimball’s orange-and-blue No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda split the Target twins; Scott Dixon lines up fourth as he seeks his fourth consecutive win this season and fifth in seven years at Mid-Ohio, and Dario Franchitti, in a blue-and-purple GE Reveal livery this weekend, starts sixth.
You can see the IZOD IndyCar Series’ 14th round of 2013 Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network.
The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.
The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.
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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.
He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.
“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”
It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).