Thursday, April 22, 2010
Charlie Kimball competed this weekend, April 17 and 18, in the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Long Beach in front of an enthusiastic crowd of sponsors, friends and family. Kimball put on a great show, qualifying third and racing to a second place finish on Sunday. Balancing responsibilities on and off the track kept the young driver busy, but he continued to impress and share his story across southern California.
Kimball’s race weekend began two weeks ago as he joined the IRL team at the Long Beach media day to promote the race. He coached celebrities competing in the Celebrity Pro race, gave Pace Car rides to members of the media and was the featured Indy Lights driver for the Grand Prix weekend. When he finally got into the #26 Levemir® Flexpen® car at the race weekend on Friday morning, Kimball was ready to go to work. He worked with his AFS Racing/ Andretti Autosport team throughout the two free practice sessions, developing the car and sneaking up on race pace. Kimball’s times in the sessions were never outside the top 5.
‘When we first got on track on Friday, we were a ways off with the car set up but my engineer and I went to work. We worked through a lot of changes and produced a very competitive car,’ remarked Kimball of the practice sessions. ‘We chose to play a conservative strategy in practice and now I’m exceptionally well placed for qualifying.’
Qualifying was run under the midday sun through the streets of Long Beach and was marred by two late yellow flags. Kimball started the session on new tires and immediately posted quick times. By the time he had put on his third set of new tires, Kimball was ready to post a blistering time. As he headed towards the final few corners of the circuit, the Camarillo native was preparing to record the pole time. However, yellow flags were out and Kimball reduced his speed to ensure the safety of the stricken car and on-track officials. Because the yellow flags came out so close to the end of the session, the checkered flag was thrown meaning Kimball ended up third on the grid.
‘I’m really disappointed by this session. We had the car and the pace for pole position, but for the third race in a row, we got caught by yellow flags,’ explained Kimball after qualifying. ‘But I love this track for passing – last year, I passed at least 6 cars so I’m sure I can make something happen from third.’
Kimball spent the rest of Saturday and early Sunday morning hosting his many supporters, fans, friends and family at the track and showing them around his racing world.
‘It’s such a great opportunity to be able to thank everyone who has supported me throughout my career by hosting them here at Long Beach,’ said the Camarillo, California native. ‘I’m honored that nearly 70 people are here to support me in today’s race!’
As the Indy Lights field headed for the green flag, Kimball made sure he was tucked up close behind pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe. The field poured into Turn one and Kimball maintained his position behind Hinchcliffe, boxing out second place starter JK Vernay. The 25-year-old then held station behind Hinchcliffe, pacing himself as the tires and cars fell off the pace. Two yellow flags and restarts offered Kimball small opportunities to grab the race lead however it wasn’t to be. Kimball crossed the line in touch with the leader but in second position.
‘I’m pleased with second place. I gain championship points on points leader Vernay,’ said Kimball at the podium ceremony. ‘I had the pace there at the end to catch Hinch. I was hoping for lots of yellows or green running the whole way but neither worked out. On the parade lap, I saw of sea of red in my grandstand and I’m glad I could honor my fans with a good result this year.’
Kimball consolidated his second place points position by gaining 5 championship points on leader JK Vernay and extending his lead over third place. His next race will be the Freedom 100 run on the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 27th and 28th. Kimball will fill the time until then appearing for Novo Nordisk at American Diabetes Association Expos in Phoenix, AZ and Seattle, WA as well as a Taking Control of Your Diabetes conference in Raleigh, NC.