Chip Ganassi Racing’s newest IndyCar signing has said he was contacted by all but one team after winning for Carlin Racing in Iowa in Indy Lights last year.
Addressing the assembled media at IndyCar Media Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the former Formula 1 driver said: “The deal actually took a really long time.
"When I won the Iowa race, it was the same day my teammate [Jules Bianchi] passed away, and so there was big public awareness of it.
“People realized that was only my second ever oval race and so they were taken aback by that. For a European driver to win on an oval that early is pretty rare.
“The following week, I got contacted by every team bar one and I had a sort of filter system. And there was one I wanted to be with, and that was actually the one I signed with a few weeks ago.”
Chilton, who will drive the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing entry alongside four-time and reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, as well as Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball, continued: “Obviously Ganassi has a fantastic history with 11 titles and four Indianapolis 500 wins. So this is a fantastic opportunity for me.
“Even though I was in Formula 1 and that was my dream, it was really frustrating. You could do the best race and end up 13th. It’s disheartening.
“Now I’m with Chip, yes, there’s lot for me to learn, but I’ve got that chance to win, and I haven’t had that chance for a few years, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Chilton, who finished fifth in the 2015 Indy Light championship for Carlin with six podiums and three poles to add to his Iowa win, admitted he didn’t yet feel comfortable on ovals, and hadn’t yet tried an IndyCar.
“I haven’t yet made the transition yet because I’m yet to drive an IndyCar on a road course or oval,” he said, “so I can’t really say how it’s going to be. I remember the first time I drove an Indy Lights car at Homestead, and – I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of European drivers who come across – you feel completely out of your comfort zone.
“And I’m not going to lie, I still feel that way. But in time I’m sure I can overcome that.”
“I spoke to Dario [Franchitti] and he said it took him three years to feel comfortable there. So I’ve just got to soak it up. I’ve got three of the best teammates I could have in Tony, Scott and Charlie and they have so much experience I can soak up. That’s what I’ve got to do.”
Chilton added too, that Franchitti’s continued role at Ganassi, now as a driver coach, was a major incentive: “Dario is a massive part of my going there.”