It was not the way anyone would have planned, but a roller coaster Indianapolis 500 ended with Charlie Kimball near the front of the field and scoring major points.
Kimball started the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in 16th, never led a lap, and was forced to overcome a season’s worth of drama in 200 laps, but when the checkered flag waved he finished fifth.
To score that result, Kimball had to stretch his fuel 36 laps, the same number as eventual race winner Alexander Rossi.
Kimball’s result was not nearly as emotional as it was for Rossi. But it might have been more dramatic.
Rossi had to fight back from a drop to the low 20s early in the race but Kimball also had a crazy day in the temporarily renumbered No. 42 Tresiba Chevrolet, which is usually No. 83 for Chip Ganassi Racing.
“The 42 crew worked so hard all month long and then during the race, nothing went right, it seemed like, until close to the end,” Kimball told NBC Sports following the race. “We hit a huge piece of debris about lap 100 that changed the front wing.”
One obstacle would have been enough of a challenge for most drivers, but Kimball’s misfortunes were stacked one upon another. His car was struck by debris, he believed from Mikhail Aleshin’s car after his accident.
“There was a bumper pod that I thought was going to hit right on the cockpit. It took the right front wing, broke the mount, and then got lodged in the suspension. Debris just filled the side pod so we had to come down pit lane four or five times just to clean it all out.”
“Third set from the end we had a problem with the right rear tire. I just about crashed three or four times. And then with 15 laps to go—trying to save fuel to the end—I tapped the wall in turn one as well. It was an eventful day.”
“It’s tough to swallow this because the team worked so hard,” Kimball added. “Coming away with a top-five; it helps in points, but that is about the only salve for the disappointment.”
Kimball is ninth in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.
“We’ll take it. We’ll learn from it. We’ll move on. We’ll be better next week.”