There’s a new race strategist atop the pit stand for Ed Carpenter this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, and it’s a familiar face to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock: veteran driver Charlie Kimball.
Kimball is serving as co-race strategist for Carpenter’s No. 33 Alzamend Neuro Chevrolet alongside former INDYCAR SERIES team owner and former INDYCAR President Derrick Walker.
With Kimball never serving in this position before, the team brought Walker onboard to serve as a mentor to Kimball as he navigates this new role. On a day where Carpenter qualified 21st for Sunday’s XPEL 375 (12:30 p.m. ET, live on NBC, Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network), Kimball, who has one NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory, thought it was a solid first day of work.
“I felt like it went well. They haven’t fired me yet,” Kimball said with a smile. “I think the lines of communication are the biggest thing and something Tim (Broyles, team president) and I have talked a lot about. In the first session, it went really well. The car ran really cleanly, and the guys did a really nice job not only in building and preparing the cars, but also running it on pit lane. It makes my job a lot easier.”
Kimball said this new role started with a conversation last month in St. Petersburg during the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opener. He offered his services to Carpenter, whom he considers a longtime friend, to find a way to keep himself involved in the sport.
Kimball pitched to Carpenter that he could help with advising drivers Conor Daly or Rinus VeeKay or assisting with marketing and communication efforts. That’s when Carpenter told Kimball he didn’t have a race strategist due to his team expanding to three cars for the ovals this season.
It was a position that made sense for Kimball, who was accepted to Stanford University’s engineering program but declined to pursue a career in racing. That background, combined with his racing experience, makes him a formidable person to devise race strategy.
“Putting that (engineering background) into practice might honestly be the thing I’ve worked on the most for the last couple of weeks,” Kimball said. “What do I say? When do I say it? What does it look like? What have I heard for 11 years? What have I liked (as a driver)? What have I not liked?”
Carpenter, the only owner/driver in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock, said it’s strange hearing Kimball over the radio, but he is liking what he sees, and hears, out of him so far.
“It’s a little weird hearing him talk to me, but he needed something to do and be connected to a team, and we needed someone to call my race,” Carpenter said. “It’s going well so far. Charlie is a really smart guy and very knowledgeable. He’s always been a student of the sport, and he’s going to do great.”
Kimball said for now he’s only serving as Carpenter’s strategist for Sunday’s race. But if it goes well, he hopes to be invited back to the four other oval races Carpenter will compete in this season as Kimball takes a look at what his life after racing might be.
“I’m enjoying it so far,” he said. “There’s one thing I found last year when I wasn’t racing full time – that fulfilment of having a vested interest in a result. Working with Ed, it’s like the No. 33 is my car. I get that same rush and get that same vested interest in the result. It scratches that competitive itch that got me into INDYCAR.”