IndyCar Driver Review: Charlie Kimball

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With the IndyCar season in the books and a limited amount of news to come since the season finale at Fontana, my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and are taking a look back at the 2013 season just past. Chris and I each ranked our top 10 drivers and some of the biggest stories; now we take a look back at the field driver-by-driver.

In ninth place, one of the breakout stars of 2013, Mid-Ohio winner Charlie Kimball…

2013 SEASON PREVIEW

Charlie Kimball

  • Team: Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing
  • 2012: 19th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 9th
  • 2013: 9th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 4th, 2 Podiums, 3 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 80 Laps Led, 12.8 Avg. Start, 10.9 Avg. Finish

DiZinno says: I love how this kid has grown up and silenced the doubters. Often overlooked, ridiculed and derided for the first year-and-a-half of his IndyCar career as just “that driver with diabetes,” “Chuck strong” began to show signs of life with the 2012 pass of the year and a runner-up finish in Toronto. He took it a step further in 2013 with another jaw-dropper at Barber, on Will Power of all people. Then he added second in Pocono, a masterfully executed first win at Mid-Ohio (yeah, I called it), and another excellent drive in Fontana. To finish ninth in points in this caliber field is a credit to his development and the quality of people around him at Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. It could not happen to a nicer individual.

Estrada says: When Kimball first entered the big leagues in 2011, there was some doubt as to whether he really belonged. Three years later, he’s firmly become part of IndyCar’s “new generation” of talent after methodically improving over time. In 2013, the Californian showed that he can now be counted on as a regular contender in the series after great runs at Barber (fourth), Pocono (runner-up), and Mid-Ohio, where he pulled off a three-stop strategy and bested Simon Pagenaud in the closing laps to take his inaugural career win. This was the year that Kimball had to really start putting results on the board, and he did the job.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.