Carlin’s Max Chilton hitting his stride in Indy Lights with three straight podiums


Given his pace and pedigree, it only seemed a matter of time before Max Chilton truly got on a roll in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series.

The 24-year-old Englishman certainly has been of late with Carlin, as the hottest driver in the series scoring podiums left and right while the championship battle rages between his teammate Ed Jones, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Jack Harvey and Juncos Racing’s Spencer Pigot.

It took Chilton five races before he scored his first podium finish at Barber Motorsports Park in April.

But in his last seven race starts, he has five podium finishes.

Chilton missed three races, with a fuel leak costing him a chance to start the Freedom 100, and then missing the Toronto doubleheader weekend due to his Nissan LMP1 commitments at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Even so, Chilton sits fifth in the points standings – ahead of six other drivers who have started each of the 14 races.

While Chilton’s first career win from his first career pole at Iowa Speedway was all about emotion, won less than 24 hours after the loss of his Marussia Formula 1 teammate Jules Bianchi, his double podium at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago was a more straightforward affair.

It came after a test at the end of June produced limited dry running and left him with almost no preparation heading into the race weekend.

“It’s a very unique track,” Chilton said during the post-race press conference at Mid-Ohio. “We came and test about four weeks ago and we had three dry laps in the morning and it was literally like we were on ice, it was so low grip and then it rained.

“So we haven’t done any testing really and it is an awesome track. The problem is it’s shiny surface, so at times it rubs in hugely, but in other areas, there’s just no grip.”

Chilton emerged second in the first race of the weekend after starting sixth, surviving a chaotic race when all three title contenders had issues.

“It was one of those races where everything went as planned… I did a couple of good overtakes and a couple of people came off in front of me. It was a pretty good race,” Chilton said.

“We were slightly at the back when we qualified. I gave the best lap of the year and we were only P6. We decided not to change anything for the race because we didn’t have much rubber in and it actually worked really well.”

On Sunday, Chilton was second again, this time behind Sean Rayhall instead of RC Enerson, again seizing his opportunities when he had the chance.

“I had really good fun out there today. I was trying to be easy on my race car today because I knew we had two championship contenders at the front, so I knew someone was going to kick off and usually if it doesn’t kickoff, they tend to stay on track,” he said.

“So then I thought I’ll keep my boost and… at one point I had 41 or 42 seconds of boost saved up, but they both went off and so I just had 10 or 15 laps at the end to keep using boost every lap. That’s when I started to close in a bit.”

The momentum, as mentioned, is evident – and Chilton should be able to continue it at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a track he has past experience at.

A then 16-year-old Chilton showed up at the track in 2007 to race in the American Le Mans Series race, but wound up being told he was too young, so he instead raced in Star Mazda.

“Momentum doesn’t hurt anyone, so it’s good for the team…to get the win there (at Iowa), we’ve come from that straight ahead, never having been here (Mid-Ohio) before, but I love this track,” Chilton said of the Mid-Ohio weekend.

“It reminds me of where I started off on the British circuit…a crescent line where you can’t see much, you can’t go off because it’s just grass and gravel.”

Chilton’s been a welcome addition to the Indy Lights field this season. At our last “let’s discuss next year” chat, he told me in Le Mans he wasn’t sure where things stood for next year as he’s balanced the Nissan and Carlin commitments.

However, with Nissan having announced it will focus on testing its LMP1 GT-R LM NISMO for an extended time period and with no race return set, it would be great to see Chilton and Carlin continue their American efforts for another season.

IndyCar Power Rankings: Pato O’Ward moves to the top entering Texas Motor Speedway


The NBC Sports IndyCar power rankings naturally were as jumbled as the action on the streets of St. Petersburg after a chaotic opener to the 2023 season.

Pato O’Ward, who finished second because of an engine blip that cost him the lead with a few laps remaining, moves into the top spot ahead of St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, who finished fourth in his Arrow McLaren debut. Scott Dixon and St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who led 31 laps) rounded out the top five.

St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who started first at St. Pete after capturing his second career pole position) Callum Ilott (a career-best fifth) and Graham Rahal entered the power rankings entering the season’s second race.

Three drivers fell out of the preseason top 10 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – including previously top-ranked Josef Newgarden, who finished 17th after qualifying 14th.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through the first of 17 races this year (with previous preseason rankings in parenthesis):

NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings

1. Pato O’Ward (5) – If not for the dreaded “plenum event” in the No. 5 Chevrolet, the Arrow McLaren driver is opening the season with a victory capping a strong race weekend.

2. Marcus Ericsson (7) – He might be the most opportunistic driver in IndyCar, but that’s because the 2022 Indy 500 winner has become one of the series’ fastest and most consistent stars.

3. Alexander Rossi (10) – He overcame a frustrating Friday and mediocre qualifying to open his Arrow McLaren career with the sort of hard-earned top five missing in his last years at Andretti.

4. Scott Dixon (3) – Put aside his opening-lap skirmish with former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and it was a typically stealthily good result for the six-time champion.

5. Romain Grosjean (NR) – The St. Petersburg pole-sitter consistently was fastest on the streets of St. Petersburg over the course of the race weekend, which he couldn’t say once last year.

6. Scott McLaughlin (6) – Easily the best of the Team Penske drivers before his crash with Grosjean, McLaughlin drove like a legitimate 2023 championship contender.

7. Callum Ilott (NR) – A quietly impressive top five for the confident Brit in Juncos Hollinger Racing’s first race as a two-car team. Texas will be a big oval litmus test.

8. Graham Rahal (NR) – Sixth at St. Pete, Rahal still has the goods on street courses, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan remains headed in the right direction.

9. Alex Palou (4) – He seemed a step behind Ericsson and Dixon in the race after just missing the Fast Six in qualifying, but this was a solid start for Palou.

10. Will Power (2) – An uncharacteristic mistake that crashed Colton Herta put a blemish on the type of steady weekend that helped him win the 2022 title.

Falling out (last week): Josef Newgarden (1), Colton Herta (8), Christian Lundgaard (9)