One of the highlights of the podium celebration at Mid-Ohio came during Dario Franchitti's interview that went out over the public address system.
When asked about the win by his teammate, the cheeky Scot let rip the private nickname he and fellow Target driver Scott Dixon have been calling Kimball for more than a year, referring to the Californian as “Charlie Murphy,” the former cast member of one of this writer's favorite shows.
“I think Dix had been watching The Chappelle Show and he called him it once…then Charlie didn't seem to like it, so of course, we called him ‘Charlie Murphy' even more!” Franchitti told RACER. “And he is so the polar opposite of Charlie Murphy!”
In true veteran form, Dario and Dixon saw Kimball wasn't keen on the nickname and seized the opportunity to annoy him with it whenever possible. Kimball, who ranks as one of the nicest, most straight-laced members of the IndyCar community, would be wise to buckle in and get used to the hazing.
Franchitti adds: “He keeps saying ‘this is not going to become a thing'…and we say ‘too late!'”
Don't get it? Check this out: http://www.comedycentral.com/video-clips/iuegla/chappelle-s-show-true-hollywood-stories – -rick-james-pt – 1
Coming off a dominant month of July where Scott Dixon claimed three consecutive victories for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team, it would have been a safe bet to pencil the Kiwi in for four in a row at Mid-Ohio, but it was Kimball's turn to help, extending the team's winning streak to four.
Ganassi's unbeaten streak now runs from Pocono on July 7 to Mid-Ohio on Aug.4, and if it can win at Sonoma on Aug.25, the team could go two full months without suffering a loss.
(Ganassi will need to add wins at Baltimore and Houston to equal the six-race streak it set in 1998 when it claimed every CART win from Gateway on May 23 to Toronto on July 19.)
The most recent streak, which must have felt like a fantasy to the team earlier in the year, has come as a result of the well-documented change in damper development that took place prior to Pocono. That change, which was made to get a better handle on Firestone's drastically different 2013 road and street course tires, has the Ganassi organization on a tear as the season winds down.
Since Pocono, the finishes being recorded by the three Ganassi drivers have been nothing short of ridiculous. Dixon: 1, 1, 1, 7. Franchitti: 3, 3, 4, 3. Kimball: 2, 21 (DNF), 6, 1.
If there's one item to track for Sonoma, it's the pace of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power. RHR dominated the first natural terrain road course of the year at Barber, taking the pole and win, and had the pole and potential pace to win at Mid-Ohio before the two-stop strategy got in the way.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see him out front at Sonoma, and Power has been the class of the field there for the past few years, giving him a decent shot at the win. Barring another wonky strategy deal that shuffles the running order, earning five in a row at Sonoma could be the toughest challenge so far for the Ganassi team.
NUT PUNCH FOR TK
Coming off a pair of 24th-place finishes, Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan finds himself idling when he needs to be riding a wave of momentum. The 2004 IndyCar Series champion entered the Toronto double-header sitting fifth in points, fell to sixth after crashing out of the second race and took a massive tumble to 10th at Mid-Ohio.
Kanaan's weekend didn't start off on a bad note, but setup issues made the car nearly undriveable in qualifying, leaving him 20th on the grid. He'd move up to 12th by Lap 64, but after an issue with the right rear suspension surfaced during his last stop, the No. 11 Sunoco Chevy was forced out of the race moments after returning to the track.
It was just the kind of weekend his KV Racing team couldn't afford to have – not while the Brazilian is in a contract year and looking for the best option in the paddock.
“It wasn't our weekend,” said an understated Kanaan after the race. “Nothing seemed to go our way. We just have to put this behind us and move on to Sonoma.”
Kanaan's teammate Simona De Silvestro, in contrast, had a trouble-free event, qualifying ninth and finishing 11th.
WHERE THE HELIO DID HE COME FROM?
With a lot of ground to cover in the race, Helio Castroneves went for a front-loaded tire strategy that shot the points leader from 14th to sixth.
The three-time Indy 500 winner was one of only three drivers (along with Luca Filippi and Ed Carpenter) to use a full allotment of Firestone Reds before making the mandatory run on the slower Blacks during the final stint.
By employing that strategy, Castroneves had maximum grip to carve through the field, using Reds from lap 1 to lap 66, and by the time he made his last stop and took on Blacks, he'd climbed to fourth. He fell back to seventh while sitting on pit lane, but improved to sixth and held that position for the rest of the race.
“In those circumstances, we debated on the tire choices, and I said to Roger [Penske] I wanted to use the Reds like we did,” HCN told RACER. “He said, ‘OK, but if it doesn't work, it's on you…' which I thought was pretty funny; he didn't say it in a bad way, but I like it that that.
“We work together and we come up with different ideas and he let me go with this one. But I knew if it didn't work, they'd be looking at me pretty bad…”