A year of frequently fantastic on-track action ended with 10 different winners from 19 races, a worthy champion, a heart-warming result in the Indy 500 and…yes, some troubling incidents, too – mainly, but not exclusively, off-track.
The fact that the “500” winner finished outside the top 10 in the championship compelled us to extend our more in-depth assessment, and 11 seemed such a weird number…so we went for the top 12 finishers in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series. In the coming days, Marshall Pruett will do a mop-up of the almost-made-its, which include winners such as Takuma Sato and Mike Conway, as well as drivers who grabbed runner-up places, such as Graham Rahal, James Jakes, Simona de Silvestro and Josef Newgarden. For now though, Robin Miller, David Malsher and Marshall Pruett are counting down the dirty dozen. Today, it's…
9th – CHARLIE KIMBALL
Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara-Honda
Best finish – 1st, Mid-Ohio
Best qualifying – 5th, Barber, Mid-Ohio, Fontana
Robin Miller writes
Fair or not, in motorsports a driver usually gets pegged with an instant critique: fast, good, reckless, clueless, smart, average or over their head. The first year and a half of his IndyCar career, Charlie Kimball seemed to be somewhere between run-of-the-mill and field-filler. He was a nice kid with a good story about neutralizing Type 1 diabetes and they didn't come any more likeable. In the racecar he wasn't a hazard, nor was he a threat to run up front – just part of the scenery.
But, when he passed two cars in ONE CORNER at Toronto on his way to second place in July 2012, it made you pause for a minute and wonder if maybe he packed more punch than originally thought. And in 2013 he answered that question. Not only did Kimball score his initial victory at Mid-Ohio, he went from an afterthought to a threat and that's a long drive in this series. That win at Mid-Ohio was good strategy combined with a flat-out sprint and he led 46 laps to hold off Simon Pagenaud.
Yet the most impressive thing about the 28-year-old Californian was his improved pace and racecraft. Three times he qualified in the Fast 6 and three other times it was top 10 as he and engineer Brad Goldberg clicked. A fourth at Barber, ninth at Indy, seventh at Detroit, second at Pocono and sixth at Toronto and Baltimore elevated Chip Ganassi's B team to even footing with the Target twosome at many tracks.
But nothing illustrated Kimball's progress like the season finale at Fontana. He qualified fourth, ran with the big dogs all night (led 22 laps) and blew up while among the front runners late in the race. He also banged wheels a couple times with Helio Castroneves while battling for the top spot and never backed down in an effort to help his teammate secure the championship.
“It was a good year and I was proud of my team,” said Kimball after rushing to congratulate Scott Dixon. “I think we opened some eyes this season and I can't wait for 2014.”
Novo Nordisk's diabetes medicine makes it possible for Charlie to compete and its sponsorship made it possible for Charlie to get into IndyCar. But in 2013 it went from a feel good story to a real good story.