Charlie Kimball's second-place finish in the Honda Indy Toronto was a career best result, and also represented the second consecutive 1-2 finish for American drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series. He was elated as he discussed the race with the media afterward.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I wasn't going to make the point it was an American 1-2 since we're in Canada! It was a long, fun day, to be honest. I love racing here because it's a great event. The fans are awesome. You can feel that in the car.
From the start we had a really good car, making spots up. I think we put ourselves in a good position setup-wise and strategy-wise. Qualifying, I missed the top six by like a 10th, so we had a couple extra sets of tires to play with. That came into play toward the end of the race.
I made a move on Graham (Rahal) knowing we were pitting that lap hoping I could clear him and just help myself out a little bit getting into pit lane. Ended up not working out. Sort of bounced off the tire wall to be able to keep going. The four guys that went by me, I thought, 'Oh, man, I'm going to have to pass those guys again.'
We came into the pits, put new reds on, then the yellow fell our way with the pits being closed. It worked to our advantage, for sure. But we had the car to be able to run really competitive lap times and save enough fuel so the end of the race we were able to be super quick and make the mileage we needed.
A lot of credit has to go to the team. The whole Chip Ganassi Racing organization this weekend has been fast. I think we learned a lot from each other. At the end of the day the car was quick."
Q: Mr. Bourdais didn't think quite so highly of that last incident. He was quoted saying that you didn't deserve a podium finish. Can you talk a little bit about what happened on that in Turn 1?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think everybody was in a bit of a tight spot there because they didn't sweep. We were all in the marbles coming through the last corner, at least those of us that tried to pair up and get offline, get next to the cars ahead of us.
Sebastien (Bourdais) got a good run and followed Ryan (Briscoe) to the outside. I used the draft and the overtake button, caught up, went down the inside, and Mike (Conway) steamed up the inside of me. I didn't think there was room without using the pit lane for Mike to get up inside of me.
He made the move. When we got to the apex, he made contact with my sidepod. Because I'd been forced to go through the marbles, I slid out, and Sebastien on the outside wasn't even wheel to wheel. It was to the point where he was starting to fall back behind me. I thought he was backing out of the move to set up for Turn 3.
I was reasonably surprised when he came around and he was still stopped there. I think that's more a function of the restart and trying to do a two-wide restart after such a long green run without working on the marbles.
I think Race Control and the drivers' association need to discuss with five laps to go, trying to finish under green, maybe we go for a single-file restart instead of sweeping two-wide, because that way we can have a race, give ourselves an opportunity to go racing. I don't think it's safe to ask the drivers to attempt a double-wide restart without sweeping the marbles.
I think that incident, both in Turn 1 and 3, was more a function of that than anything else.
Q: How do you measure the importance of this finish for your career?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think one of my favorite quotes is, somebody asked a team owner what his best race win was. He said, The next one. So today is important, yes. It's good for my confidence. It's good for the team's confidence. I think we're building both car and driver together, have the foundation built, now it's time to get the results.
But it's all about moving forward and learning from here rather than relying on this to continue to keep my career moving. Second's good; a win's better.
Q: At the Ganassi team meetings, what is it going to be like to be the best guy in the stable for a week or two?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I'm not sure that I would call myself the best guy in the stable when I'm measuring up against champions like Dario (Franchitti) and Scott (Dixon). We're going to get to Edmonton and I'm still going to be learning from them. In fact, I'm going to be looking through their data this weekend to see what I can learn coming back for next year.
We weren't quickest in all the practice. We didn't qualify on pole and we didn't win, so there's still improvements to be made. I think it's going to feel good, don't get me wrong. It feels really good to have only been beaten by one guy. There's still one part of me that is really angry that I got beat by one guy, got this close to a win and finished second.
It's going to feel good. The fact that both Chip and Mike Hull are big proponents of the expansion, championship-caliber racing management, stuck around to congratulate me, were so impressed with my lap times, fuel saving, doing what I needed to do when I needed to do it, meant a lot to me as an inexperienced driver.
Q: You've had some of your critics questioning whether you've been deserving of this ride over the last year. Do you feel this is vindication for you?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think the modern racing driver is more than the guy that just gets in the car. It's an evolution of the last couple years. It takes more than driving to become an IndyCar driver.
Gone are the days when drivers show up Friday morning and go home Sunday night. We're all integral to our partnerships, commercially, in motorsports. We're as much champions in the boardroom as we are on the racetrack.
I think the results on the racetrack, I've tried to follow Chip's lead. He has so much experience winning championships. Last year he sat me down and said, "How many races have you done?" I said, "Five." He said, "How many do you want to do?" I said, "Forever." You've done five. You want to do 500, you have a long ways to go.
Last year the focus was experience and laps and finishing races. This year is starting to build on that and get results in the second half of the season. We're starting to show that. Being in a position for the team and I to grow together is a lot of credit to Chip and Mike and Mitch Davis working together to collaborate into one four-car team.
Q: What does it mean for IndyCar and its fan base to have Ryan Hunter-Reay be on this roll and to have Americans finish 1-2 here?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think it's fantastic. I think I've always been a proponent that, yeah, being an American will help me in my younger career to get a drive.
Sure, I'll use it. At the end of the day I want to be beating the best if they're from Mars or America. At the end of the day it's about winning against the best. I think you're seeing that.
Ryan is on quite the roll. The fact that Graham finished second at Texas earlier this year, the American drivers are starting to show well. I think that's more an indication of us as drivers and less an indication of our nationality.
Having said that, I think it's great for the fan base. It's very much a North American championship. I'm going to enjoy rubbing it in Mr. Hinchcliffe's face that I finished second in his hometown, because we're pretty good friends and train together. I might point out that my blue shoes worked really well for me today.
Q: Can you talk about the pass from fourth to second there.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: It wasn't simple, no. I'd gotten a really good run out of Turn 1. I knew that (Simon) Pagenaud and (Tony) Kanaan were backing up to me. They were having to save more fuel than me. We were taking better care of the red tires. Both of them had been – Pagenaud for sure had been in Q2 in qualifying and had run a set of reds. He was on used reds. Kanaan was sort of slowing pace-wise saving fuel.
I got a really good run out of turn one. Thought of going to the overtake button. I only had 23 seconds left. I have to save it. If we have a shootout at the end of the race, I'm going to need it. We'll just settle in, let him burn his tires off, and run here and see what happens.
I could see him when he took the button. He's going for T.K. he got a really good run on Tony through the inside. Tony is king of the late breakers. The fact that Simon wasn't alongside when they went to the brakes means that Simon had to brake really late.
I braked as late as I could, and I thought that neither of them were going to make the corner. I turned in, hit the concrete patch, put my foot down, and my Honda drove past them. They were both locking wheels, knocking off each other trying to stay out of the wall. I just kind of ran it clean and got the thing spooled up.
Once I had clear air, the understeer I was fighting went away and my lap times could drop and I could hit a better fuel mileage. My engineer was telling me, You're getting what you need fuel mileage. You're catching Hunter-Reay. You don't have enough laps to go after him. You're four seconds ahead of the 77. Take care of the tires in case we got a restart. That proved to be the case.
Q: How much has your public awareness level gone up since your sponsor started doing the commercials?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: It's been significant this year, I think. That's as much a growth of the partnership with the prime-time commercials, the sort of traditional media work that I do, as well as just momentum building from last year. It's more significant now than it ever has been. I'm very fortunate that I'm able to reach a broader audience with my message. That's important to me.
Tuesday I was in Orlando, Fla., doing a defensive driving course for young people with diabetes. The fact that I could get in a car and teach them how a professional driver with diabetes races with diabetes, teach them some tips and tricks for the road as far as avoiding incidents, being heads up, it's fortunate for me – and very fulfilling at the same time.