Charlie Kimball has earned Carlin their best finish yet in the Verizon IndyCar Series after taking fifth place in Sunday’s 2018 Honda Indy Toronto. The American driver went from twentieth on the grid to earn the British team the highest finish of their debut season so far, a significant boost for the team who has struggled so far this year.
Heading back to Saturday’s qualifying session, it was a disappointing result for Kimball and Carlin. Every session saw the track get faster and faster as time went on due to the track drying after persistent light rain. Both Kimball and team-mate Max Chilton would be eliminated from the running in the first session of qualifying, with Charlie stating that he had lost out as he was the first to see the checkered flag, meaning that everyone behind him had better track conditions to work with. Chilton would qualify in eighteenth place, with Kimball further back in twentieth place.
“…we unfortunately just caught the checkered flag first, and with the track rubbering in and getting faster every lap, we lost a few tenths, which could’ve made the difference in where we ended and advancing to the second round.” said Kimball after qualifying, “Regardless of how it ended, it was a great learning experience for the team…”
In Sunday’s race, things went much better for Kimball. The race was action packed right from the word go, but a particularly decisive phase came after lap twenty-eight when a caution came out. Andretti Autosport‘s Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both lost their front wings and were forced to pit for repairs. On the restart, Josef Newgarden took himself out of the race lead when he hit the wall.
The carnage was not over, either, as a multi-car pile-up at turn one took a few drivers out of contention. Kimball was able to avoid the affected drivers such as team-mate Chilton as well as Will Power, Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais and others and was thus well inside the top ten.
In the latter stages of the race, Kimball’s pace in #23 Carlin Chevrolet was good enough that he did not lose the ground that he had gained, despite being mixed up with drivers and teams who may have been expected to be much faster. In fact, Kimball was even beginning to chase down James Hinchcliffe for fourth place toward the end of the race.
In the end, Kimball would take the chequered flag in a superb fifth place. Prior to last weekend, Carlin and Kimball’s best result had been an eighth-place finish in the second race of the Duel in Detroit, with a further two tenth place finishes back in Long Beach and at Texas Motor Speedway. Fifth place is a fantastic result for Carlin in their first year of IndyCar racing and it is a major shot in the arm for the team heading into the final five races of the season.
After the race, Kimball praised his Carlin team for all their efforts to get the car running as well as it was. He also stated that they entered Toronto with confidence due to a great setup that was derived from what they ran on the streets of Detroit.
“I’m just really proud of the Carlin guys,” Kimball said post-race, “They fight and work so hard, weekend in and weekend out. They’re the first ones here in the paddock in the morning and the last ones out at night.
“We struggled a little on Saturday, but on race day we were able to bring it. We showed up in Toronto with a great foundation from Detroit Race 2, a top-10 car, and we were able to make it a little better this weekend. The No. 23 crew had two fantastic pit stops – that second stop was just rock solid.
“To be able to come out with a top five, leaning on fourth at the end, was a great way to cap off the weekend. Really pleased to bring home Carlin’s first top-five in the Verizon IndyCar Series and my first top five of the season.”
It was a less pleasing result for Kimball’s team-mate Chilton. As mentioned previously, Max was caught up in the mid-race pile-up at turn one, when he was rear-ended by Graham Rahal. The damage was significant enough to end the race for the #59 Chevrolet. Max will have been disappointed by the outcome, especially considering where his team-mate finished, as he has yet to finish inside the top ten in 2018.
Carlin will be hoping that they can get both of their cars running in the top ten at the next round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, the 2018 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. The race will take place on Sunday, July 29.