Top 10 at the Milwaukee Mile for Kimball
Charlie Kimball battled through a challenging race weekend, May 30th-31st, at the Milwaukee Mile to record his third top 10 result in the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights championship. The young Californian overcame a practice crash, limited laps and a fifteenth place qualifying effort to move through the field to 10th place in the Husar's House of Fine Diamonds 100 presented by Charter. In moving forward 5 places, he earned the For Earth Hard Charger Award of $1,000. The points for 10th kept him within striking distance of the top-5 in the Championship standings.
Practice at the Milwaukee Mile was over before it really began for Charlie Kimball. With cool weather conditions and overcast skies, Kimball was caught out by cold tires on his third timed lap. The Team Palm Beach International Raceway (Team PBIR) driver lost the back end of his #35 Levemir® car on the exit of Turn 2. He slid up into the wall and then was run into at unabated speed by Wade Cunningham. The contact with the wall bent the rear suspension and the contact from Cunningham bent the front suspension meaning that Kimball's mechanics would have quite a job to repair the car in time for qualifying.
Kimball talked about the crash, "I fully expected a lot more grip on that lap. I was starting to push, but the tires just caught me out. Wade was following so closely that he had nowhere to go but into me. I have to help the guys get the car rebuilt and see what the rest of the weekend brings."
The mechanics put an incredible effort into putting the car back together and had it ready to go for Kimball's qualifying effort. As Kimball only had 5 practice laps and a completely rebuilt car for qualifying, he planned to not push very hard, but make sure the car would be ready for Sunday's race. He still managed a time that would put him 15th on the grid and within range of a solid top-10 result.
"I have to thank my crew for doing a great job fixing the car," Kimball said afterwards. "It felt fine right away so I could push a little bit more on the second lap of qualifying. It was impossible to get an accurate read on the set-up, so we are going into tomorrow's race a bit blind."
Limited track time wouldn't prove to be a problem in the race as Kimball began his forward progress at the start. He passed for 14th headed into Turn 1 of Lap 1. Then, as he got more and more comfortable with the car, he closed the gap to 13th. As he prepared to overtake Martin Plowman for 13th, Plowman pulled off the track with a mechanical problem. After the yellow flag period needed to recover Plowman's car, Kimball began the task of overtaking the other Team PBIR car of Pablo Donoso. The 24 year old made a run exiting Turn 4 and completed the pass for 12th position into Turn 1. He then pulled out a sizeable margin before being caught by the leaders. Kimball was very respectful of the leader's race and made sure they could safely make their way past. In addition to managing the faster traffic from behind, Kimball caught and lapped cars that were behind him in the order. After a lengthy green flag stint, the yellow flags flew again for a crash by Jonathon Summerton in Turn 2, moving Kimball up to 11th. After the restart and another 25 lap green flag portion, the yellow flags flew for a crash on the exit of Turn 4 by Daniel Herrington, moving Kimball up to 10th place. Kimball was fighting a deteriorating handling condition in the race car. Consequently he was losing pace during the last segment of the race. However, because he had done such a good job early in the race, he was the only driver on his 'lap' meaning he could manage the car to the end of the race. Kimball proceeded to cross the line in 10th place, three laps down on the leaders.
"That was a very long race!" exclaimed Kimball. "The car was manageable at the start, but went away from lap 50 (out of 100). I was just holding on at the end and it took a big effort not to overdrive the car and crash. This weekend was definitely a lesson in patience and to take what is available when it is available."
Kimball will now attend the ADA National Convention in New Orleans on Saturday June 6th where he will be signing autographs next to the Levemir® car. From there, he will continue his training regime in preparation for Round 7 of the Firestone Indy Lights championship under the lights at the Iowa Speedway, June 20th at 8PM.