By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Charlie Kimball was one of two drivers who failed to qualify for the 105th Indianapolis 500. He hasn’t been back in an Indy car since, but that’ll change this Sunday at Long Beach, Kimball’s home circuit.
Driving the third AJ Foyt Racing entry, the Camarillo native told Motorsports Tribune Thursday this weekend will symbolize a proper end of a crushing Month of May.
“It’ll be nice to close the loop a little bit on the Month of May because not qualifying for the Indy 500 definitely hurt,” said Kimball. “Putting that behind me will be really helpful to be back in a race car in 2021. Especially, here at Long Beach. An incredible event we all missed last year. For me especially, being from Southern California, this feels like home.”
Between not making the 33-car grid four months ago to this weekend, Kimball has kept himself busy. While not behind the wheel of the No. 11 Chevrolet, the 36-year-old has called Indy Lights races alongside Kevin Lee.
Therefore, he’s seen first hand the incredible title battle involving Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas and Linus Lundqvist all season. While that’s been exciting for Kimball, the heart of racer always remained.
“Sometimes it’s hard to watch race cars and not being in a race car. But at the same time, being able to contribute to the Indy Lights broadcast and watch that championship battle has been fun all year,” Kimball explained. “I’ve enjoyed talking about it. Working alongside Kevin has given me a great insight and great perspective to what broadcasting is and how the professionals do it so well.”
If there was one thing Kimball enjoys about working with the NBC Sports broadcaster, it’s his wealth of knowledge. Not just in racing, but sports as a whole.
“He loves sports and knows a lot different sports and facts,” Kimball on Lee. “He always find a way to get a good nugget of information to pull from drivers, teams, cities and events. Something to talk about sometimes when there’s a caution or things are a little quiet on track.”
With Indy Lights not having its final race until the standalone at Mid-Ohio next weekend, Kimball’s focus goes back to his race craft.
“I can’t think of a better event to crown a champion than Long Beach. The way the series is growing with sponsorship, teams and cars. 28 entries this weekend. It’s a great place to do it,” said Kimball. “I’m looking forward to it resuming to its natural calendar spot in April next year. At the same time, after what’s been a strange 18 months, I’m glad for it to finish here. I’m excited to be in the No. 11 car.”
As a result of having three Foyt cars, Kimball’s feedback will be key as it brings 50% more data to full-time drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Dalton Kellett. Based on the squad’s street course setup, Kimball is confident about what to expect at Long Beach.
During last year’s finale at St. Petersburg, Kimball and Bourdais finished inside the top-10. Even this year at St. Pete and later Detroit, Bourdais and Kellett had noble runs.
“The foundation is good. Hopefully, we can continue to develop it and make progress,” said Kimball.
Temperatures are expected to be around the mid-to-high 70s. With the race being run in late September than in the traditional spring, Kimball felt it’ll be a little different but there’s a catch.
“The nice thing about California is that Pacific Ocean tempers all the high temperatures. It keeps things pretty moderate all the time,” Kimball commented. “I’m so glad we’re able to do it in September, a little later and warmer. The Aeroscreen definitely changes the driver cooling options, but IndyCar has done a good job keeping us safe and healthy.”
In eight Long Beach starts, Kimball’s most recent result of 10th in 2018 is his personal best.