2014 IndyCar (Media Day): IndyCar - Charlie Kimball
An interview with:
CHARLIE KIMBALL, NO.83 NOVO NORDISK CHIP GANASSI RACING CHEVROLET, met with members of the media and discussed expectations for 2014 season, relishing his win at Mid-Ohio, going back to four car team and CGR and other topics.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Charlie Kimball Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Rasing. You're not as gregarious as James Hinchcliffe, but if you are shy or retiring, does that make you a bad person?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: No. I think there are certain drivers with bigger personalities. Part of it is I think my upbringing has never been real outspoken. I've always tried to be pretty quiet.
Growing up my dad always had a saying, I will inevitably screw this up, But, It's better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than open it and confirm the fact.
I think I've always tried to live by that and as much as possible let whatever it is I'm doing, be it on the track, young at school, on the tennis court, let my driving do the talking for me.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for Charlie.
Q. Charlie, do you have any special memories of savoring the win in the off-season?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Definitely. You get more of a chance to let it soak in, for sure. Funny enough it was more of a poignant moment that I enjoyed most was looking back on that day, the podium ceremony. I guess it was Wednesday or Thursday after Sonoma, the week after the next race, I got an envelope from the team with all of Floyd's photos from Mid-Ohio. It was his last race before he passed on. For me it was very special.
For me having that vision of him pushing through the crowd to get to Victory Circle to congratulate me, it brought home how special that was, to share that win with Floyd, everything he's done, not just for Chip, everything he's done, all the drivers. Every time at the track he would pull me aside asking me how I was, how my family was at home, knowing that racing is important, but it's not everything.
Having caught my breath after Sonoma, looking back at that, that was very, very special.
Q. You do have a sense of humor with the videos.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: We had fun. I felt like I got swept along with that. When you put James in front of a camera, couple with Josef and Will, maybe it's because Will is from the other side of the world, the humor comes out. We had fun doing those. James, JR and I did a video about who we were because we kept getting mistaken for each other.
It was a lot of fun. I hope at some point we'll be able to do more of those because I think the opportunity to show our personalities, show our colors outside of a racecar, out from under a helmet, is really helpful as a series, and also for us as drivers.
Q. How different is the organization going to be without Dario there?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think it's impossible to replace same with same when you come to someone like Dario as a driver. Tony brings a lot of different skills and a different personality, as does Ryan. I think going back from three to four cars will change the organization maybe more than what losing Dario as a teammate will.
Having said that, I think I will always miss having Dario as a teammate and competitor because of how much he helped me in the first three years, what his being involved in the team, being able to talk to meant. But gaining him as a mentor, assistant to the team, as a coach, he is invaluable.
Pull out another arcane saying here. He used to say, Just because I taught you everything you know doesn't mean I taught you everything I know. So having him as a coach, maybe he helped more than he did as a teammate because he's always at heart a competitor.
Q. Now that he's not in the driver's seat, it's only been a short time, but what has he been able to do in this short time outside of the car that has helped you?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: He has such a fresh perspective, having so recently driven the car, this iteration of the car. While he hasn't driven the Chevrolet we're running this year, he has a fresh perspective on what the racing is like. Being such a student of the sport, he understands the history and development of that. Just that wisdom coming to bear, the three test days we've had, four even before Christmas, he was there, so having those four days with him lending advice has been huge.
He has a good relationship with Brad, my engineer. Brad was the assistant engineer on the 10 car. They can talk data. He knew what he did in the car. Comparing that to what I'm doing, as he said, it's filling out my toolbox for the year. As things change and develop throughout the year, we'll be able to go through that toolbox and rifle and, for lack of a better analogy, pick the right tool for the job.
Q. In the test sessions you've been fairly fast. Do you feel you've made a large step with the victory last year? In your career you've had a good progression, maybe moved up to the next level?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I'd like to think so, for sure.
I think being part of the 1-2-3 at Pocono, not riding on the coattails, being second, not third, beating Dario - and any time you beat Dario, it's very confidence-building. Getting that victory at Mid-Ohio, not having had the experience, go there and get the victory, and get the win by going fast, not catching a yellow at the end, but winning by outright speed cemented my confidence level for sure, took that next step.
All the way along Chip's advice has been to build the foundation for a long-term career, not one year flash in the pan. Try to build a one-way street, so when I take that next step I stay there. I think that's helped.
Going away at the end of the season, having a little downtime, doing a lot of work with the Novo Nordisk allowed me to reflect on that and know coming into this season we've prepared as a team and we know we can win because we've done it. That lays the groundwork to have a great year.
Last year was good. Two wins would have made it great. We didn't get that opportunity at Fontana. To get that opportunity coming into this year is what we're aiming at.
Q. You mentioned why you think it's important for fans to see who you are with the helmet off. Talk about why you think that's important.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think as drivers it's easy to only know us by our car number or only know us by our car colors or our sponsors. With me I think maybe it's a little different because I have such a connection to Novo Nordisk and the insulin they make.
But for fans to have that connection to a driver at a personal level, no matter what car number they're in, what paint scheme they have, what suit they're wearing, what race series they race in, you create a fan. When you create a fan at a personal level, you create a fan for life.
Q. You talked about what you learned from Dario. What have you learned from watching Dixon every day?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: More than he'd like, not as much as I'd like.
Having Scott to learn from, he's so very good at so many things. He's been with Chip Ganassi Racing for so many years, he's young as far as long-term career length. He's going to be a competitor for a long time.
Any day I feel I can get within a couple of 10ths of him on a test or race day, I know I'm doing a good job because that will be the benchmark.
As much as he's taught me how to do things in the racecar, drive style, technique, fuel saving, he's a master at that, he's taught me as much out of the car about how to handle myself, be a member of the team, develop and build the team, and also in the public eye, handle the media, handle the challenges and pressures of being a full-time IndyCar driver and a successful one.
A little bit back to the previous question. I've tried to lay the groundwork so when I take that next step, I'm prepared for it, all the things that come with it, not just the on-track success, but all the additional elements that are part and parcel of that off the racetrack.
Q. The St. Pete track, talk about how it starts off the season.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: It's incredible we get the opportunity to race at St. Pete to start the year because it is a crown jewel in the series. It's a little bit like coming back to the first day of school. While you see some teams and drivers at different test days throughout the years, Media Days like that, the physicals in Indianapolis, it's the first time you're there all together with the team and crew members. Inevitably you have friends on different teams, throughout the paddock.
To be in an environment where the weather is good or great, compared to the weather in Indianapolis this year, to a city that really embraces the Grand Prix, that has such a level of enthusiasm and excitement, really enjoys having us in town, it's awesome. It's really nice to start that way and keep that momentum building that whole year off that first springboard.
Q. This is your first opportunity since the season ended to now be with a new engine manufacturer. At the end of the season the engine manufacturers can go back and make changes. Can you talk about whether you noticed a difference.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I've driven a Honda engine for three years in IndyCar before switching to Chevy. I've had three days with Chevy. It's difficult to delineate all the differences, I'd say.
One of the things is while I've only had three days, it's been a lot of fun 'cause it is a transition period. It's not just unbolt an engine, slide another one in. There's electronics packages, so many mechanical parts and pieces to make it work. The transition has been pretty painless and very seamless. To be able to jump in the car the first day, do as many miles as we wanted, getting used to it, has been surprising, but also very, very nice.
Working with the guys from Ilmor, Pratt & Miller Engineering, GM and Chevy, getting a chance to go to the Detroit Auto Show as a member of the Chevy family was neat. Gave me goosebumps to see the championship-winning car and engine from NASCAR as well as from IndyCar with the same badging, bowtie, knowing I would get the chance to wear that bowtie all year, it was pretty cool. It definitely gave me goosebumps and a level of excitement I didn't expect coming into the year representing the Chevrolet brand.
I think it's going to be a lot of fun. The transition has been largely seamless, but there's still some work we need to do as a team. As I said, the whole back half of the car is different.
Q. I'm not sure exactly how this works out on a race weekend, but from what I know from the outside, Ganassi, when you had four cars on the team, you and Graham were on one team, then you have Dario and Scott Dixon together. From what you've said in the past, the data is there for everybody to share. Last year you went to a three-car arrangement, now you're going to a four-car arrangement. How does it work on a race weekend? Will you and Ryan Briscoe sit down with your engineers in a group or each driver does their own things with their engineers?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: You touched on it a little bit. Last year with three cars, that integration into more of a one-team mentality, it's always been an open-book policy, those resources, both engineering and drivers, crew members, all of that, have been available to all of us, all three, four drivers. Last year the integration was maybe a little smoother because there were only three data points, it was quieter.
I think the single best definition of teamwork I've ever seen is the number of crew guys in a tiny Mid-Ohio sports car garage rebuilding a car after I crashed in practice so I could go out for qualifying and qualify fifth. It didn't matter what color shirts they were wearing, they were all in working on the car getting it ready to go.
We rolled onto the 10 setup pad and rolled straight out for qualifying. I think that one-team mentality built very strongly last year and is something that will continue this year.
I don't know sort of how it will all work. I think that the four of us drivers, engineers and assistant engineers will all debrief together at some point. I think that will be very helpful in that we'll be able to hear what other people are thinking and pick up something maybe we weren't expecting.
As I said, that one-team mentality has only gotten stronger over the last couple years and will continue to get stronger. One of those things is getting the 83 car to a race-winning operation where we can contribute. Rather than just draw resources, we'll be able to give something back.
THE MODERATOR: Charlie, thank you.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Thank you.