By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
With the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season rapidly approaching, Motorsports Tribune is previewing each of the teams competing on the tour. The site’s IndyCar staff will break each team down, laying out their results from the previous season while previewing the year to come for the organization and their driver(s).
What Happened Last Year: Carlin’s 2017 was a year filled with planning.
After three seasons spent building in Indy Lights – the top ladder of the Mazda Road to Indy – Carlin were prepared to make the leap to IndyCar in 2018, joining the tour in the midst of a transition year with the new aero kits. The organization just needed the necessary resources, team members and a worthwhile driver lineup to justify the move.
The first two would come with time. The last would come courtesy of Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR).
Carlin announced in December the addition of former CGR drivers Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball, giving the team a two-car operation with familiar faces for their inaugural IndyCar tour.
Both drivers have a history with the organization. Kimball competed for Carlin in the early stages of his career, running with the team in both British F3 and the World Series by Renault. Chilton’s connection comes from recent years, with the Briton having competed for the company in his rises to Formula 1 and IndyCar, He has starts for the team in Formula 3, Formula 2 and Indy Lights over the past decade.
2018 Breakdown: Given the reputation that precedes owner Trevor Carlin, his team’s IndyCar success seems to be more of a question of ‘when’ than ‘if.’ Carlin have a decorated past, with titles in British F3, Porsche Supercup, World Series by Nissan, Formula Renault 3.5, FIA Formula 3 European Championship, GP3 Series, GP2 Series and Indy Lights.
But as is true for any new team, Carlin’s debut year will be as much about the experience and data gained as it will results on-track.
The group were able to partake in shakedown tests at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Sebring Raceway in January, followed by their participation in IndyCar’s traditional pre-season open test at ISM Raceway, where the paddock got their first look at the team.
Carlin didn’t stand out in testing, but they avoided any significant issues as they learned about their Chevrolets. Given that the team should be set to begin the year in stride when the IndyCar season kicks off in St. Petersburg
The organization’s two drivers will enter the season with entirely different mindsets.
Chilton arrives at Carlin after a strong sophomore season. The 26-year-old made a significant leap forward in his second season in America’s top open wheel series, riding a strong Month of May to an eight-position leap in the championship standings to 11th. Should Carlin’s equipment prove up to the task, Chilton’s goal for the coming year will be to take the next step and enter the top 10.
While Chilton will look to continue his recent trends, for Kimball the 2018 season offers a chance to reverse course.
Kimball endured a disastrous 2017, failing to crack the podium for the second-consecutive year while struggling with a dreadful 14.4 average finish. The Californian scored his first series pole at Texas Motor Speedway, but four DNFs in the opening nine races made his season an afterthought far before the final race at Sonoma Raceway.
Finding sustained success in the midst of an organization’s first season in IndyCar will be a challenge for both drivers. But if there’s any group that can manage it, history shows that it may well be Carlin.