Assessing risk management one of Max Chilton’s goals for May

Photo: IndyCar

INDIANAPOLIS – You don’t finish your first 25 Grands Prix in a row without proper risk assessment, and it’s a strategy that Max Chilton in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet has taken over to his opening races in the Verizon IndyCar Series, as well.

The month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a different animal and requires a similar amount of understanding how to build up pace and confidence through the days of practice and qualifying, prior to competing in the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

In working with Ganassi this year and particularly this month, Chilton has access to three-time ‘500 and four-time series champion Dario Franchitti along with his ace engineer Brandon Fry, who’s helped other first-year drivers through the process at IMS.

As the 25-year-old Chilton related, knowing how to assess what risks to take and embrace his inner George Costanza is one of his early goals this May.

“Without tempting fate too much, I am sort of a risk manager,” Chilton told NBC Sports. “Hence why I set the record I did in F1. I don’t think it can’t be beaten. It could be matched. No driver’s ever done that.

“Here, it’s crucial you’ve got the time to build up to it. Let’s face it – if I didn’t have Dario and didn’t have a team that’s so good, I’d be in a riskier position.

“He says we’ll never take downforce off without (also) doing tires. You don’t need to rush it along there. We’ve got two or three more days of running before qualifying. It’s important to make sure that you risk manage building up to it because when it comes time to an oval qualifying session, you’re gonna have to just go for it.”

Franchitti, who turns 43 today, is impressed with Chilton’s early approach to IMS.

“For any rookie coming to Indianapolis it’s always a daunting proposition,” Franchitti said. “He’s got the right temperament for it. He likes structure. The car itself, the inside of the car and the handling of the car fascinates him! I can relate to that.

“He’s impressed me so far. We’re trying to tell him the Indy 500 and weeks leading up to it is almost as much a mental game as anything else. So, far he’s handled it very well.”

Chilton also expressed thanks with Fry’s feedback and interaction with Franchitti.

“Brandon is sort of a calm, solid engineer,” Chilton said. “He gives you the car that you can trust it. Him and Dario completely bounce off each other. He gives me the engineering side of it, and Dario just tries to extract as much out of me as possible. He knows it helps. I can’t honestly pick a better person to be working with. I’m quite fortunate.”

Chilton impressed many during his first IndyCar oval start at Phoenix International Raceway – if anything, he could probably afford to feel disappointed with seventh.

Having had the baseline of some Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires running here last year, although he didn’t start the race owing to a fuel leak, he still described the adjustments he had to make stepping up to IndyCar here.

“You can obviously sense the speed is greater. The Lights car has a lot less downforce,” he said. “I know come qualifying when we’ll trim out, we’ll feel it moving around more. I felt the Lights car moved around a lot more.

“You have to drive it completely different because the speeds are greater, the rate and turn-in points are different. I’m really glad I did that last year because I wouldn’t have had that baseline I did previous.”

Wednesday was an interesting day for Chilton as he did a bunch of full-tank runs and completed 125 laps, second-most in the field only to fellow freshman Matthew Brabham.

“Anytime I’m running here, in traffic, you’re learning a lot. I was getting frustrated out there, I’m not gonna lie,” Chilton admitted.

“But it was good, because it made me realize there is a lot more to learn about timing a pass and having the right setup. I felt I was too comfortable in the corners and couldn’t move in a straight line. There’s just lots to learn.”

Fellow rookie Spencer Pigot’s accident on Wednesday was something Chilton took note of but didn’t appear to phase him too much.

“Yeah it makes you realize it can bite. But I want to avoid it all costs,” Chilton said. “He didn’t seem to do anything wrong. He seemed to turn in at the right point. He didn’t go too low below the white line.”

Has Chilton had that “holy cow!” moment as yet?

“I had a couple today!” he said. “Yeah, you follow a car, and the car isn’t turning, and the wall comes up on you very quick.

“You’ve gotta learn to appreciate this place, but not be afraid of it.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III