Max Chilton finally secures first Indy Lights podium with Carlin at Barber

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It took a bit later than likely he or the Carlin team anticipated, but ex-Marussia F1 driver Max Chilton finally secured his first podium in the fifth race of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.

Chilton finished fifth behind teammate and then-points leader Ed Jones in Saturday’s Round 4. In Sunday’s Round 5, Chilton held off a hard-charging Felix Serralles in one of Belardi Auto Racing’s entries for third place.

The podium for Chilton is his first overall since winning the Singapore feature round in GP2 in 2012, then driving for Marussia Carlin GP2.

The driver of Trevor Carlin’s No. 14 Dallara IL-15 Mazda said it was a tougher task than anticipated given Serralles was on fresh Cooper Tires for race two.

“We were slightly on the back foot this weekend compared to previous races,” Chilton said post-race at Barber. “I was a bit unlucky in qualifying, I should have been second, but I had a gearshift problem. I had to make sure I brought it home both races.

“Yesterday we didn’t have the speed. Today the big change occurred and I felt we could really attack. Serralles was on new ‘boots’ behind me, and he caught us pretty rapidly. But to be fair to the series, the push to pass is really effective, so if you’re strict with yourself, it it’s easy to defend if you use it in the right place.

“I knew I had the speed on him if I could not keep looking in my mirrors. But occasionally he’d get behind me and I’d look and see Jack (Harvey) pulling away. It was a cat and mouse game. It’s a shame Serralles had new tires, otherwise Jack and I could have had a really good race.”

What followed next in the press conference was a bit of good-natured humor as Chilton adapted to the friendliness of a North American media center.

“I find in this series it changes hugely per lap. So you can think you’re clear in the first sector and then in the third you find someone up your ass,” he said to a bit of laughter.

Upon catching himself, Chilton added, “It’s really sort of challenging. I’m not gonna use that (word) in America. Sorry! This series does have exciting racing and hopefully we put on a show for everyone.”

Per Trackside Online, Chilton will return to Carlin for both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Indianapolis 500 weekends.

He is tentatively slated to miss the Toronto round of the season as it conflicts with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the race where the new Nissan GT-R LM NISMO LMP1 car is due to make its race debut.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”