DETROIT – Max Chilton is fresh from what he called “the greatest win of my career” as he heads to this weekend’s NTT IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.
Well, perhaps the British-born racer’s finest performance on ice, anyhow.
Chilton, who pilots the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet in the NTT IndyCar Series, drove to victory on a slippery makeshift track on center ice at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Tuesday night during the second-period break of the host Red Wings’ NHL game with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Chilton was in the Motor City to help promote the upcoming Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, the only doubleheader weekend on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule, set for May 31-June 2 at Belle Isle Park. Chilton teamed with lucky local Red Wings fans to navigate the icy track to win the Chevrolet Pedal Kart Race on Tuesday.
As the anchor driver for his team, Chilton left the opposition in his icy spray dust to capture victory. Smiling after attempting a burnout on the ice, he declared: “Unbelievable car control. The kart was moving around on the ice. I did a Scandinavian flick into the corner and even had enough time to showboat with a handbrake turn. The Chevrolet did a fantastic job.”
In fact, it was the 27-year-old Chilton’s first race on ice and his first time at an ice hockey game. He attended with his artist wife, Chloe, who was celebrating her birthday. The couple, who met as children in England, were married two years ago.
Chilton’s night in Detroit was made more special when he was presented a No. 59 Red Wings jersey embroidered with his name by former Red Wings great John Ogrodnick during a pregame TV interview. Chilton gave the burly ex-left-winger a racing helmet in exchange.
“I love watching ice hockey,” said Chilton, who is in his fourth NTT IndyCar Series season and second with Carlin. “It’s fast like Indy car (racing). You have to be fast, aggressive and determined to succeed in both sports.”
The jersey Chilton wore for the evening proved fortuitous. Red Wings left wing Tyler Bertuzzi, who wears No. 59, scored the first two goals of the night in a 4-1 Detroit win. By assisting on another goal, Bertuzzi became the first player in franchise history to record three or more points in four straight games.
Chilton could relate, somewhat. Though racing has dominated his life since he started in go-karts at 10 and graduated to the British Formula 3 Championship in 2009 by age 17, the Englishman played field hockey as a kid.
“I got to the county level in field hockey,” said Chilton. “It’s very different to ice hockey. We don’t have the padding, facemasks and fighting. We play with a round ball and stick on grass. It is tough, though.”
After finishing 21st and 16th in the first two races of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, Chilton is determined hit back at this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
“Barber is one of the best tracks (on the schedule), in my opinion,” said Chilton, whose best finish in three previous Barber races was 12th in 2017 when he drove for Chip Ganassi Racing. “It’s what I’m used to – Barber is fast, flowing and smooth. It’s a little bit small, but that makes the racing even better. You have to do a ballsy lunge down the inside of one of the fast corners to get through. It’s like the Augusta of golf – well groomed.”
Chilton says he’ll be also looking for stout performances in June at the “Dual in Detroit,” the NTT IndyCar Series portion of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix weekend.
“Belle Isle is cool,” he said of the demanding 2.35-mile temporary street course constructed on the island park in the Detroit River. “It’s a very physical and pretty bumpy circuit. After the doubleheader, you have to make sure you visit the dentist and have him check your teeth.”
Chilton is also excited that his team has formed a partnership for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge with McLaren to assist in getting Fernando Alonso up to speed in his bid to win the race and become just the second driver to capture the Triple Crown of motorsports with triumphs at Indy, the Monaco Grand Prix and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Just awesome,” Carlin said of having Alonso as a pseudo-teammate. “Hopefully, Fernando does well in the 500, but hopefully he doesn’t win it, because that’s the race I want to win.”
Tickets for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama are available at barberracingevents.com. Sunday’s race airs live at 4 p.m. ET on NBSCN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
Tickets for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 are available at IMS.com. The race airs live at 11 a.m. ET Sunday, May 26 on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
Tickets for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix are available at DetroitGP.com. NBC will broadcast both races beginning at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2.