By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio — Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton have driven the last couple of seasons for Chip Ganassi Racing and after moving to Carlin for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, the duo have had an uphill battle to climb with a new team.
As part of being a new IndyCar team, Carlin has an extra few days of testing and they used a day at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course ahead of the Honda Indy 200, working to gather a baseline to help them move further up the field.
Chilton was first and Kimball was fourth in the late stages of the first practice session before both respectively fell to 16th and 20th out of 24 cars. The duo ended the second session a bit further down in 17th and 23rd, respectively. However, time spent testing with a new team does help get a baseline setup for the weekend to get good speed but speed needs to be in every session.
“I think our race pace this year is reasonable for where we are,” said Chilton. “But the thing we’re lacking is qualifying pace and qualifying pace realistically, unless you’re super fast, sets your weekend. Because we don’t have the experience, we tend to not qualify well and then that’s sort of your weekend done unless you have a bit of luck like Charlie did in Toronto.
While the testing last Tuesday can help, Chilton noted that the team will test at all remaining venues except for Pocono.
As for Kimball, he earned a fifth place finish for Carlin at Toronto, the team’s first top-five and actually led a lap during the race. He’s heading back to the track where he scored his first IndyCar victory in 2013 and laid out what the test gave them.
“The nice thing with testing is that means that when we get to that first session of the weekend, we already have the basics down,” said Kimball. “We have the basic ride heights, gears, aero balance, tire pressures, things like that and then we’re just starting to refine so it means that we’re closer to a solid starting point when we start the weekend.
“But at the same time, when there are 22 other cars out there putting rubber down and all the different series, you have to be prepared to adapt and adjust when you get down to the race weekend.”
Kimball’s progress has helped push Carlin further up the grid at the end of the race but a slow start to the season has him in 16th place in points. However, that doesn’t stop the expectations from coming in.
“I think every time we come to the race track our expectations and our goals at least are the same,” said Kimball. “I think we’ve made real progress this year as a team, you’ve seen it week in and week out, finishing at Toronto, that was our third top-10 in the last five races so it bodes well, but at the same time we have more to go.”
Verizon IndyCar Series practice on Saturday begins at 10:00 a.m. ET with qualifying at 1:35 p.m. ET. The Honda Indy 200 will be on NBCSN at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.