NEWTON, Iowa – The driver who our NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell has occasionally dubbed “Super Chuck,” Charlie Kimball, has arguably the most misleading stat line and points standing of the year.
The driver of the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet has, in nine completed races, banked two top-fives, six top-10s and eight top-12 finishes, and only twice started outside 13th – this from a driver whose qualifying has never been his strongest point as he’s in his sixth Verizon IndyCar Series season, although it’s gotten a lot better.
Being that model of consistency would figure to put him, say fifth or sixth in points.
Yet heading into this week’s Iowa Corn 300, Kimball ranks 12th in points. But he’s only 30 points in arrears of four-time series champion and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, who ranks fourth.
“I think it’s been very consistent. Our progress in qualifying and racing has been astounding this year,” Kimball told NBC Sports on Friday.
“We’ve been consistently around the top-10. Coming sixth at Road America and losing two spots shows how tight everything is.
“If we sneak a podium or two, and do well at Sonoma where we got a podium last year, that will help. If we contend for a win this year, then that puts us in the conversation for a better standing. Scott and Tony (Kanaan) are up there so we have to work as a team, but a couple good results can put our own 83 team in good shape.”
The aforementioned 83 team Kimball notes has been one of the tightest knit groups in the IndyCar paddock, and through nine races, it’s worth noting that what was already good team chemistry hasn’t been impacted too much by the departure of Kimball’s longtime right-hand man on the timing stand.
Brad Goldberg’s departure left big shoes to fill on the engineering side, but while Goldberg’s gone on to his own well-deserved success in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – his No. 67 Ford GT has won the last two GT Le Mans class races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Watkins Glen International while the car also finished third in the GTE-Pro class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the No. 83 engineering post has been filled just fine by veteran Eric Cowdin.
Cowdin, who’s spent a good portion of his career engineering teammate Tony Kanaan, has given Kimball a different perspective from the engineering outlook this year. But “CK” and “EC” have gelled nicely almost from the off.
“Brad and I still have a great relationship. We talk and text a lot,” Kimball admits. “Eric is different, but he’s been around a lot.
“But the difference is now that in my sixth season, I know what I need to do for feedback. So I give him the info to do his job.
“Having Scott Harner and his strategy has been huge. Partnering with Kate (Gundlach, assistant engineer) and Eric, then with my crew chief Ricky Davis, he has been around the sport a long time. Ricky’s probably forgotten more about this sport than most of us will ever know!
“So on the whole, the group cohesion is still there.”
Kimball’s coming off a somewhat crazy Road America, where he was engaged in a furious scrap for position with a couple Team Penske drivers (Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya) and Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport, the last of whom was less than pleased with Kimball’s racecraft post-race.
Kimball noted to NBCSN at the time at Road America he didn’t mean to race RHR quite how he did, and elaborated today that he felt he meant to do better.
“There was a lot of aggressive driving and a lot of guys were proactive at defending,” he said. “The racing was great though.
“There was Tony trying to run down Will at the end of the race. Then because I was so caught up in it, I didn’t realize how good the racing was all throughout the field. I watched the broadcast and NBCSN did a great job of covering the whole depth of the field.”
Kimball’s improved quite a bit in his IndyCar career, but short ovals remain his weakest point.
His finishes at Milwaukee, Iowa and Phoenix leave a bit to be desired, although signs of progress occurred earlier this year with his fourth place-qualifying run at Phoenix before falling to 12th by the flag there after a couple incidents.
At Iowa in particular, Kimball has finished 22nd, 11th, 12th, 10th and 22nd, so if he’s to make any headway in points he can’t afford another clunker in the corn fields.
“It’s all of the above why we’ve struggled,” he joked. “Maybe 11th was our best result? But last year were good and then I understeered into the wall. The car was coming alive as night went on. I was really on it.
“We were good at Phoenix. We got shuffled back in yellows and few other things. So it’s nice to come back here with confidence with Phoenix to get ready for Iowa.
“The expectations now have shifted. We’ve made it to the top 12 regularly on road and street courses. The ovals have been good. We just need to keep progressing on them.”