Seventh on the Iowa Short Track for Kimball Charlie Kimball proved his oval racing prowess once again in the Firestone Indy Lights race held at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa with a great 7th place finish. Kimball was 4th and 5th quickest in...
Seventh on the Iowa Short Track for Kimball
Charlie Kimball proved his oval racing prowess once again in the Firestone Indy Lights race held at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa with a great 7th place finish. Kimball was 4th and 5th quickest in the practice sessions for the Miller Lite 100. Kimball's qualifying was another solid result with an 8th place grid spot despite being the one of the earliest cars to qualify. The young Californian's result was made even more impressive as he had to contend with practice, qualifying and the race all in one day on a track he had never driven before. The 7th place finish for the #35 Levemir®/ Team Palm Beach International Raceway (Team PBIR) car moves Kimball up one spot in the championship chase to 12th.
The biggest challenge for the 24 year old driver headed into the race weekend was going to be learning the technical Iowa Speedway. At only 7/8 of a mile with high variable banking, the Firestone Indy Lights cars turn laps in just over 20 seconds. With a big bump between turns 1 and 2, Kimball's challenge was exaggerated. Matters were made worse when a big thunderstorm moved through central Iowa on Friday night, forcing the evening's practice to be rescheduled for Saturday morning. This would mean a very busy Saturday for all of the Indy Lights drivers with two practices, a qualifying session and the 100 mile race filling the schedule. Kimball's practice started very well with him turning fast laps straight away. He was never lower than 5th position and ended the session in a strong 4th place. The second practice gave Kimball an opportunity to practice for the afternoon's qualifying session with a new tire simulation run. Unfortunately Kimball caught traffic and was unable to post the laptime he felt possible. This left him 5th in his half of the field and 9th overall.
"What a different racetrack!" exclaimed Kimball. "It is short and still really fast. The bump at the apex of (turns) 1 and 2 makes that end of the track very exciting."
Qualifying for the Firestone Indy Lights drivers is two green flag laps, one car at a time. The order in which the cars go out to qualify is determined by drawing a number out of a hat at the driver's meeting. Kimball was 4th out of the 18 cars. As a result, he would not benefit from a lot of cars running before him to put rubber down on the track and increase the grip. However, Kimball still managed to nearly match his best qualifying on an oval with an 8th place grid spot.
"I am pleased with my qualifying position," Kimball said afterwards. "I think we will have better pace than that in the race this evening, especially if it stays warm."
The Miller Lite 100 at Iowa Speedway was scheduled to get underway at 8 in the evening. However, the Indy Car qualifying session from the late afternoon was cancelled because of moisture seeping up through the track surface. As a result of the necessary track work to dry the surface and make sure the water wouldn't reappear, the race didn't get underway until 9PM. When the green flag flew under the lights for the 115 lap race, the air and track temperature had dropped considerably. Kimball made a solid start and moved around Pippa Mann on the outside into Turn 1. That same lap, another car encountered a mechanical problem promoting Kimball to 6th place. The first of the race's yellow flags flew when Mann spun exiting Turn 4. On the ensuing restart, Kimball was overtaken by Mann's teammate Martin Plowman. After a few laps of green, the yellow flags flew again for a stranded car on the back straight.
Kimball made a solid restart and was getting ready to overtake Plowman into Turn 3 when the yellows flew again for a car into the wall in Turn 2. During the next long green flag stint, Kimball tried to find a way past Plowman but was carrying too much downforce to get a solid run and make the pass stick. Then as Plowman and Kimball worked through lapped traffic, the Team PBIR driver used a slower car to make the pass into Turn 3. As soon as he was clear, Kimball pulled ahead. Kimball then encountered Mann to put her another lap down. As he moved to the inside of the English driver into Turn 3, Mann moved down making hard contact with Kimball's sidepod. Kimball was able maintain control but lost momentum. He was unable to defend the challenge from three cars behind sliding him back down to 8th.
Kimball, who races with type 1 diabetes, then set about chasing down James Davison and championship leader J.R. Hildebrand. In the final 10 laps, Kimball closed up to the back of Davison and attempted a couple of passes. His moves were aggressively rebuffed and Kimball was unable to find a way past. Then with only two laps remaining, Hildebrand, Davison and Kimball closed on the back of Mann to lap her again. Hildebrand squeezed past into Turn 1 and Davison tried to follow him through. Mann, however, moved hard down to the apex and major contact was made. Kimball threaded the needle and passed the both cars as they spun towards the outside. The extra position moved Kimball up to 7th. The points he gains for 7th place puts him 12th in the Championship standings.
"I could see that accident happening before the contact was made and made sure I didn't get caught up in it!" Kimball said. "I had a great race throughout and I know we had a better racecar than 7th place, but we gambled with more downforce. If it had stayed hot like in the early evening, we might have moved forward more aggressively. Still, I enjoyed racing under the lights at night and can't wait to get to Watkins Glen!"
Kimball will now move from ovals to a string of three road courses in the Firestone Indy Lights championship. First up is Watkins Glen on July 4th, then a week later at the Toronto Indy street race in downtown Toronto, and, after a week break, the Rexall Edmonton Indy for the second of the Canadian rounds of the championship. As Kimball moves back to more familiar territory, he hopes to continue to improve his championship position through a very busy July and August. Charlie Kimball's Sponsors