Verizon IndyCar Series team Carlin has left their most recent race event, last weekend’s 2018 Grand Prix of Alabama, frustrated after both fo their cars failed to finish the race. Both Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton retired from the race, a disappointing way for the race to end for both drivers after the pair showed decent pace in practice and qualifying.
The British team entered the weekend hopefull for a good result as they made their first start on a traditional road course; an environment much more familiar to them with their European single-seater racing history. The team was also coming off of the back of their first ever top ten finish in the Verizon IndyCar Series, which came courtesy of Kimball the weekend before at Long Beach.
Both Kimball and the team were delighted with that result, but both knew that they had capitalized on drivers ahead having problems and would need to keep working hard to be regularly featuring inside the top ten.
After the three practice sessions at Barber Motorsports Park last weekend, the team were somewhat encouraged that they had made a step forward. The weekend started strongly on Friday, with Chilton all the way up in fourth in the first practice session; just six-tenths of a second off of the fastest time in the session. He would finish the second session of the day just outside the top ten in eleventh place, with Kimball taking twelfth and nineteenth from the two sessions.
Kimball was much more on terms with Chilton’s pace in the final practice session of the weekend on Saturday. He would take thirteenth in the session, a tenth of a second faster than Chilton in fourteenth. Encouragingly for the team, both drivers seemed to have solid mid-field speed in Alabama, with the pair going to swap around positions in the qualifying session later in the day as they secured their best grid positions so far this season: Chilton in thirteenth place, closely followed by Kimball in fourteenth. Max was very close to getting Carlin’s first appearance in session two of qualifying after being pipped by just a tenth of a second by Ed Jones in the first group qualifying stage.
With the team starting right in the midfield, they were hoping to capitalize on the potentially crazy conditions provided by the heavy rain for Sunday’s race to perhaps get both cars in the top ten at the chequered flag. Sadly, this would not end up being the case.
After a strong start to the race, Kimball had worked himself up into eleventh place. However, he wouldn’t stay there long. Ganassi’s Ed Jones appeared to make light contact with Kimball as they exited the penultimate corner, with the impact sending Kimball spinning into the barrier. The impact would break American’s front wing, but more importantly, it damaged the gearbox. The team looked to see if the damage was repairable, but ultimately it was decided that the car couldn’t continue and that Charlie would have to retire.
“The 10 car of Ed Jones just drove into the back of me,” an angry Kimball would say after the race, “The stewards reviewed it and decided that no action would be taken, which I vehemently disagree with. Yeah, visibility was tough out there, but it was tough for everyone. I didn’t run into anyone and no one else ran into me, except for the 10 car. I don’t know what the stewards were looking at, but I’m going to have a discussion with them after the race.
“I’m just disappointed because the Carlin guys know how to run in the wet and they gave me a great car. We were moving up the field a few spots and with the Marco [Andretti] spin, we were able to elevate another spot. We were just knocking on the door of making it into the top 10 and coming out of here in these conditions with a top-10 result heading into May would’ve been really good for the team.”
During the caution for the incident between Kimball and Jones, Chilton would pit for his first stop of the race. A few laps later, the race would be red flagged due to the unrelenting rain, with the remainder of the race being postponed until the next day.
However, Chilton’s race would barely be restarted on Monday. He was due to get back going in seventeenth place, but his car suddenly ground to a halt moments after leaving the pits for the formation lap. After being towed back to the pits, an electrical fault was diagnosed and then repaired by the crew. He would return to the track briefly later in the race, but as he was forty-eight laps down when the rain came out toward the end of the race, the team elected to retire him to spare any potential further damage.
“That was a really unfortunate way for us to end the weekend,” said Chilton post-race, “We were happy with the qualifying effort of the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet and felt like we were making progress, but after the race was red-flagged and everyone was allowed to start on full fuel we knew we were going to have a hard time doing much strategy-wise to move toward the front.
“Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get a chance to see what we could do during the remainder of the race because of an electrical issue that had us stopped on track before the field went green. The boys had it fixed and back out on track, but once the heavy rain picked back up again there was no point in us continuing and possibly tearing anything up.”
The team will be hoping that their next race will yield much greater results for their two drivers. The Grand Prix of Indianapolis will take place on May 12 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix circuit.