Charlie Kimball will get a seventh season at Chip Ganassi Racing next year, and the American says that for rookies, staying in the IndyCar Series should be as big a priority as getting there.
Kimball has accrued six podium finishes in his six years at Ganassi, his highlights being victory at Mid-Ohio in 2013 and third place in last year’s Indy 500.
This season he finished ninth on the Verizon IndyCar Series points table for the second time in his career, largely on the strength of his consistency. The #83 Ganassi car finished 11 of the 16 races inside the Top 10, with his best results being a pair of fifth places at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and also the Indy 500.
But having confirmed to Motorsport.com that he would get a seventh term with Chip Ganassi’s team, Kimball went on to say that aspiring IndyCar drivers needed to focus on longterm objectives, not just breaking into the IndyCar ranks.
Kimball said: “The biggest thing I’ve learned outside the car over the last few months is for Indy Lights guys to stop talking about getting into IndyCar. It needs to be about getting in with a longterm plan of staying in.
“You work your whole career to get here but if you don’t have a plan to stay here, then… what? Some of the guys arrive and think they’ll figure it out once they get here. And there’s just too much going on.
“This series is so competitive now, the margins are so close, that it’s all you can do to keep your head above water and hopefully make a good impression.
“But you think about the talented guys who’ve come in and done well, showed they have talent… and then they’re gone. It’s not enough to think you can just show up, drive well and teams will be chasing after you with a contract. It’s not like that, and it hasn’t been like that for a couple of decades, to be honest.”
Downbeat conclusion to a “reasonably” satisfying season
Kimball qualified 12th and finished ninth in Sunday’s IndyCar finale at Sonoma, but says the Ganassi cars were never in the hunt. Asked if the team had figured out what was missing all weekend, Kimball said: “Speed! Seriously, that was as far as we got in nailing down why we weren’t really up there with the best cars. The Penskes were great, the Andretti cars were pretty strong, too.
“We just seemed to be missing a little bit of everything. We couldn’t roll through the corner carrying as much throttle as they could, and the handling in traffic wasn’t good, so that meant we also couldn’t save as much fuel.
“I think if we could have gotten ahead of Marco [Andretti, eighth-place finisher], we could have driven away from him, but I couldn’t get close enough to him to try and pass.”
Nonetheless, Kimball said he was “reasonably” satisfied with his 2016 season overall.
“We tied for points with Juan [Montoya],” he said, “but since he got a win at St. Petersburg, he’s classified ahead in the table.
“I think if you’re tied with Juan in points, and you’re only 40-something points behind a teammate like Scott [Dixon] and about 30 behind Tony [Kanaan], that’s not a bad year.”
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