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IndyCar 2017 driver review: Max Chilton

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. Max Chilton made a significant improvement in performance and final finishing position this year.

Max Chilton, No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

  • 2016: 19th Place, Best Finish 7th, Best Start 4th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 2 Laps Led, 13.9 Avg. Start, 16.1 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 11th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 6th, 1 Top-5, 6 Top-10, 64 Laps Led, 12.6 Avg. Start, 12.2 Avg. Finish

Max Chilton’s second season in IndyCar was a solid, serviceable leap in performance from year-to-year – under-the-radar but sufficient enough to prove his proper place on the grid after a mixed first season.

Chilton enjoyed an excellent month of May, with a great run from 14th to seventh in the Indianapolis Grand Prix, and an even better Indianapolis 500 when he led a race-high 50 laps before fading to fourth place by the checkered flag. Four other top-10 finishes between seventh and ninth provided a good improvement versus 2016.

Crucially, where Chilton also impressed this year was in showing his passion for racing in the series – something you might accuse him of lacking if you didn’t know him any better given his affluent background and appearance.

When Chilton was frustrated, it was because he’d felt he hadn’t got the chance to showcase what he could do. Getting taken out at Phoenix and getting parked at Pocono were two moments where he felt aggrieved at the circumstances as he’d been retired for reasons outside his own control. Finishing fourth at the ‘500 annoyed him, as well, because it fueled his motivation to want to win the series’ biggest race after getting that close. The two DNFs at Phoenix and Pocono cost him critical points, and considering he was only seven out of the top-10 at year’s end, they loomed large. His only real mistake of the year came at Gateway when he lost the rear end of the car in Turn 4.

Now married to his lovely bride Chloe, Chilton managed to make a more positive impression on the paddock in his sophomore season and was arguably Chip Ganassi Racing’s second most consistent driver in its foursome this year ahead of Tony Kanaan, although Kanaan had higher upside and ultimately better results. In an expected Carlin team situation, Chilton has the potential to flourish even more than he did this year.

Simon Pagenaud’s engineer relives 2019 Indy 500 victory on Twitter

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The Team Penske engineer for last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner is reliving Simon Pagenaud’s day by tweeting about what he was doing each moment a year later.

Starting with an observation that he awoke in his Indianapolis hotel room at 4:30 a.m., Ben Bretzman (@benbretzman) sent nearly two dozen tweets by 11 a.m. ET about how the morning before the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 unfolded.

Bretzman was through the infield tunnel and in Gasoline Alley by 6 a.m. By 7:30 a.m., he was wondering if his driver was awake yet, but he had heard for the first time from Pagenaud 45 minutes later.

‘BACK HOME AGAIN’Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, NBC

FIERCE FRIENDSHIPPagenaud, Rossi recall epic battle of 2019 Indy 500

Among other highlights: The team’s last strategy meeting was at 8:30 a.m.; final check of the weather was at 9:30 a.m. and Bretzman gave the No. 22 Dallara-Chevrolet a once-over at 10:35 a.m. before it was pushed to the grid.

Follow @BenBretzman to watch the day unfold from the pit box and tune into “Back Home Again at 2 p.m. ET on NBC as Pageanud and Alexander Rossi, who are good friends off the track, recap their epic duel with host Mike Tirico.

Simon Pagenaud and engineer Ben Bretzman debrief at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IndyCar photo by Joe Skibinski).