After his first two days of testing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Max Chilton is fully soaking up the experience and guidance of his three teammates at Chip Ganassi Racing.
The 24-year-old Englishman has tested at Sonoma Raceway and most recently at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, the latter of which served as his maiden oval running in an IndyCar.
Even though he’s only just getting acclimated to the series and the team, the advice and intangibles provided by teammates Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball – as well as team advisor Dario Franchitti – are quickly proving invaluable.
“It’s quite eerie how welcoming everyone is,” Chilton told assembled reporters during an IndyCar conference call today. “I understand why the teams are welcoming, but the drivers, I’m not used to that. The drivers get along, there might be a couple you have as sort of mates.
“Everyone in IndyCar, even with Indy Lights, the whole sort of (Mazda) Road to Indy process is so welcoming. All the drivers seem to be best mates and they don’t seem to have other friends. Their best friends are I guess their rivals on the track. That’s sort of taken me awhile to get my head around.
“Including my teammates, Tony, Scott and Charlie, are so welcoming. Scott is four-times champion. They’re willing to help as much as I need to sort of get me settled in learning the ovals and any tips I need. Even Tony came all the way down to L.A. just to do an eight-lap run at the start of the day on my Fontana test last Saturday just so I felt comfortable going flat out, knowing someone else had already done it in the same car that day. That’s amazing to have teammates like that already.”
Chilton expanded on that Fontana test, and Franchitti’s role within the team.
“Fontana, the test, it was sort of a faultless day. There was zero wind all day. Lovely. It was nice and warm, clear skies,” he said.
“T.K. got in the car and did an out and in lap, then an eight-lap run. He was flat out pretty quickly. I stood up in the stands with Dario Franchitti and a spotter just watching how it seemed.
“Dario, he’s there for the team’s sake. He has been before I joined. He’s nothing directly for me. He’s employed by the team to help out. He’s been doing that I think since his accident.
“Scott and T.K. were both mentioning to me they’ve learnt quite a lot of information from him last year with him being at the track helping out, even though they have just as much experience as Dario. Obviously you share things as teammates, but not everything. I think there were things that Dario kept back because he thought, Oh, I’ve got an advantage here. But now he is working for the drivers. They learnt from him last year.
“Having him around, giving us the secret tips, is a big help. He’s just such a genuine, lovely guy. He’s there for the right reasons, loves the sport. Yeah, I think he misses it a great deal. That’s why he loves coming back and hopefully helping out a fellow Brit trying to replicate what he’s done.”