ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Charlie Kimball can rest a bit easier tonight.
The 32-year-old Californian put together a complete race to score a season-best finish of sixth place today in the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America.
Plagued by a myriad of issues throughout the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series campaign, Kimball has endured five finishes outside the top 20. Perhaps most notable came two weeks ago in the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, when he won the Verizon P1 Award and led 26 laps before a mechanical failure ended his night just 41 laps into the race.
With only a pair of eighth-place finishes entering today, the driver of the No. 83 Tresiba Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing looked relieved more than anything after the race.
“Yeah, it was a great race,” Kimball said.
“It’s always a fun race here in Elkhart Lake at Road America. It’s so good to be back. I noticed on the parade lap how many people are here and the campers. It’s just such a great energy, and the race showed it. I mean, there was a lot of good passing, wheel-to-wheel racing. I felt like I ran really well with everyone all day.”
Some teams and drivers used different strategies for the 55-lap event on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn permanent road course. Starting from 10th, Kimball pressed from the drop of the green flag and took on the more-popular three-stop strategy that helped him to the lead on Lap 43 during a sequence of pit stops.
He came up just short of a top-five finish, however, in a duel with Team Penske’s Will Power, but took consolation in Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon winning the race in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda.
“The first two stints, we had really good pace and pretty good fuel mileage, but that third stint I don’t think I managed the used (Firestone) alternates quite as well,” Kimball said. “That’s how I lost that fifth spot to the No. 12 car, and then at the end of the race they just had better pace than we did. We’ve got a little bit to learn.
“The No. 9 car, man, Scott is so good; (driving in) clean air and making fuel (mileage) and he can just disappear up the road. Congrats to those guys. Overall, I’m just really happy for the guys to have a trouble-free weekend. Positive result.”
Kimball hopes the disappointing finishes are in the rearview mirror and is excited about the circuits coming up on the schedule, especially Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – the site of his only Verizon IndyCar Series win in 2013.
“Having three engine failures, an oil leak and a bunch of different stuff, it’s been a really rough year,” said Kimball. “So, solid, clean races is what I think we got to do ’til the end of the year.
“I feel really good about the next stint of races. Iowa is very mentally tough and Toronto can be really challenging in finding the grip and gaining lap time, but traditionally we seem to do really well there as a team.
“Coming from Toronto and going to Mid-Ohio, that’s what I always look forward to.”
The Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway is next on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Single-car qualifying airs live on NBCSN at 3 p.m. ET July 8. Coverage of the 300-lap race on the swift 0.894-mile oval begins at 5 p.m. July 9 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.