Kimball: No. 83 Ganassi team’s consistency “astounding” in 2016

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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.”

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.