Results not Reflective of Race Pace in Long Beach Charlie Kimball continued his 2009 Firestone Indy Lights campaign in round 3 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in California this past weekend. Kimball, in the Palm Beach International ...
Results not Reflective of Race Pace in Long Beach
Charlie Kimball continued his 2009 Firestone Indy Lights campaign in round 3 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in California this past weekend. Kimball, in the Palm Beach International Raceway (Team PBIR) entry, was 13th and 18th in the two practice sessions on Friday. The southern California driver then qualified for Sunday's race in 18th place. During the race on Sunday, Kimball executed several clever passes and was running in 11th place when he tagged the inside wall of the Turn 11 hairpin. The contact bent his suspension and forced him into retirement, where he was classified in 19th place. The points for 19th dropped Kimball to a tie for 12th in the championship standings, less than 20 points from 5th place. In addition to the on-track action, Kimball announced in the week leading up to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach an exciting new partnership with Novo Nordisk, a world leader in diabetes care. Together, Kimball and Novo Nordisk will showcase that with proper management, diabetes does not have to be a roadblock.
Kimball's 'home' race weekend began well as he got up to speed and learned the intricacies of the very technical Long Beach street circuit. With the large bumps, varying pavement surfaces, and significant road crown, car set up and gearing are crucial to competitive lap times. In first practice, the 24 year old from Camarillo, CA put a time in that was good for 13th quickest and the car was far from perfect. The team focused on making changes to the car between the two 45-minute practice sessions. Working with his race engineer, Dave Conti, Kimball had high expectations heading into the second practice. Kimball encountered traffic on his last fast lap attempt which left him with only the 18th quickest time. Had he been able to complete his lap, he would have been just outside the top-10.
"What a racetrack!" exclaimed Kimball after his first taste of the 'roar by the shore.' "The car isn't perfect and the gearing needs some work, but I am sure we will make the right changes for tomorrow's qualifying."
Unfortunately for Kimball, improvements in the gearing were offset by changes in the wrong direction on car set-up. This made the car very difficult to drive and hard to maximize the potential of new tires. As a result, Kimball finished the session in 9th place in his group, 18th overall. He also made light contact with the tire barrier in Turn 9 which ended his qualifying session a few laps early.
Kimball was frustrated by the result, "We can do a better job as a team than 18th place. The gearing is right now, but we made the car nearly impossible to drive! I was pushing the braking into Turn 9 when the car stepped out on me over a bump- then it was straight into the tires. Luckily it was a light hit and will be easily fixed."
Kimball, who has type 1 diabetes, proved once again that his race craft is one of his strongest assets. In front of a very large race day crowd that included a large contingent of Charlie Kimball supporters, Kimball was one of only three drivers able to make competitive passes on track. He made 4 textbook passes at the end of the famous front straight, Shoreline Drive, and avoided other incidents to move up to 11th place. Kimball had already pulled out a sizeable gap over 12th place as he pushed to catch the three cars ahead of him. As he came through the very tight, 30 mile an hour Turn 11 hairpin, his right rear wheel caught the inside concrete wall. This spun him around, bent his suspension and ended his day. Kimball managed to get his disabled car back into pitlane, but repairs during the race weren't feasible.
"I am so disappointed not to give my PBIR mechanics and crew the result we deserved today," said Kimball. "We finally got all of the elements right for the race and I was having the race of my life. Pushing as hard as I was, mistakes happen and I just caught the wall. The team is really starting to gel though and we will be strongly in the top 10 very soon. I am confident that as we put a better car on track during qualifying, our race performance will yield the results we deserve."
Kimball will now prepare for his first oval race experience next weekend, April 25th-26th, at Kansas Speedway.