Mar 28 2011

Charlie Kimball’s Big Move to IndyCar

Published by under diabetes,healthcare,travel,worklife

Yesterday was the IndyCar series opener in St. Petersburg, Florida and the first race that Charlie KImball ran in the big league series.  I’ve written before about him developing type 1 diabetes while he was racing in Europe and how my wife worked with him to manage his diabetes in the race car well enough to combine with his talent to drive into the premier US open-wheel auto racing series. The race was won by Ganassi teammate Dario Franchitti.

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Charlie squeezing into his seat before the race

Having safely driven through a crash-fill start today Charlie worked up to 11th place before he had an unplanned connection with the turn three wall after a pit stop. The Indy Light series, where he raced the prior two years doesn’t have pit stops, and the high-speed action of changing tires and refueling was one of the many new challenges in this race. He learned the hard way today how much he can push the car with the mixture of cold tires, a full tank of fuel and racing adrenaline.

The race was run on a mix of city streets and an airport runway at a track familiar to Charlie from his Indy Lights experience. That series served as a great training ground for his move into IndyCars. There is a list of important changes that Charlie needs to master, but the race environment is very familiar.

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Pre-race fist bump with proud racing engineer father Gordon Kimball

One constant is the trackside presence of his father Gordon who serves as Charlie’s low-key manager while maintaining an active motorsport engineering and avocado-farming career. Charlie’s mother and girlfriend often join them at the track as well.

This was my first time at the St. Petersburg race, but the street course track felt familiar to the Long Beach race last year. Unlike the transition from minor league baseball to the pros where there are different stadium sizes and crowds, the Indy lights and IndyCars series are run on the same tracks on the same days.

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Charlie talking in his pit control center after qualifying

In many ways this felt like Charlie’s third year in the greater IndyCar series instead of being a rookie a new racing world.  The encouraging part about the day was how well he performed while on the racetrack. He stayed out of early trouble as other drivers took themselves out through crashes plus he made on-track passes.

The rookie mistakes, like the one he made today will pass and he will progress to finishing races and being a competitive force while being an ambassador for diabetes.

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

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@MarkHarmel

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Dec 17 2010

The Insulin Powered Indy Car

UPDATE: Charlie Kimball signed with championship winning IndyCar team Chip Ganassi Racing. “Charlie Kimball orchestrated one of the biggest rookie IndyCar driver signings in recent history”, says Speed’s Marshall Pruett.

There are those that say that the reason fans watch car races is to see the crashes. I was always more interested in the racing – and now that I know a driver I certainly didn’t like to see Charlie Kimball upside down on the track like he was at Chicagoland Speedway last week.

CharlieChicago The Insulin Powered Indy Car

This was a crash I didn’t want to see

Fortunately the cars are built with a strong driver’s cockpit and Charlie walked away with only memories of a “wild ride down the backstretch” and some soreness. (You can see the wild ride just before the 3 minute mark.)

A better memory is watching Charlie celebrate his second place finish in Sonoma the previous week.  It was an exciting race, one that we thought could have been his first Indy Lights victory.

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Better to see Charlie Kimball celebrating his second place finish than upside down

The Sonoma track is a wonderful winding road course with elevation changes that I was able to experience first hand in a pace car ride piloted by Charlie where he alternated between rocketing through the turns and turning his head to chat with passengers in the back seat. We knew we were in for a ride as we entered the car and Charlie told us not to worry about the odd burnt brake smell emanating from the Honda Accord.

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Charlie with his full attention on the racetrack

This pace car ride was only part of a dream weekend in Sonoma that started with dinner at the Andretti winery. We sat one table over from the owner, legendary driver Mario Andretti as well as having the opportunity to chat with team owner Michael Andretti. An added bonus was the front row seat to the introduction of all the Andretti Autosport drivers that include Michael’s son Marco, Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Charlie’s Indy Lights teammate Martin Plowman.

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One of the few times my wife wasn’t grabbing Charlie’s continuous glucose monitor

I got this combination up close and back-stage view to world of racing when my wife Anne Peters became Charlie’s diabetes doctor (more of the back story in a previous post). This opened up the winery dinner, pace-car ride, plus viewing the races from a mix of the hillside Andretti team hospitality compound and down in the pits. A bonus is socializing with the Kimball family, team sponsors and getting special tours explaining the similarities and differences of the Indy Lights and Indy cars by team mechanics.

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Charlie Kimball is a spokesman for diabetes on and off the track

Amazingly much of this is possible because of Charlie developing type 1 diabetes three years ago. He is now a leading inspirational athlete that speaks at a number of diabetes events about how he controls his blood sugar during the race and generates press attention as the series travels from racing circuits across the country.

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The final good luck fist-bump before qualifying

In the end, once the novelty of a driver with type 1 diabetes wears off what will matter is how well Charlie does on the track. He is currently 3rd in the driver’s standings and is gunning to move up to a major-league Indy team next year.

Charlie finished 6th in Kentucky on Saturday and the final race is in Homestead, Fl on Oct. 2nd. The Indy Lights qualifying and races can be viewed on-line at http://www.indycar.com/fil/.

I know that I’m enjoying the ride.

To see how Charlie manages his diabetes you can watch this WGN report that was produced at the Chicago race that shows where he stows his glucose increasing orange juice and how his continuous glucose monitor works.

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

On Twitter:

@HarmelPhoto

@MarkHarmel

Now on Facebook

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Nov 18 2009

drive fast – stay healthy with type 1 diabetes

Update: AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport Signs Charlie Kimball to 2010 Firestone Indy Lights Lineup. This was the strongest team in the series in 2009 and should lead to a good 2010 for Charlie.

Parade Magazine talks about Charlie Kimball racing with diabetes and our shared “Charlie’s Angels”.

I’m excited to have my own driver racing at Indianapolis this weekend. Now Charlie Kimball wasn’t always my driver. He was a recent discovery – or more precisely he discovered my wife to become his diabetes doctor. The Camarillo resident was over in Europe racing in the Formula 3 Euro Series when he was hospitalized after becoming ill in England. He had developed Type 1 diabetes and consulted with my wife, Dr. Anne Peters. She has worked with other top athletes with diabetes including Olympic swimmer Gary Hall, Jr.

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Intense focus before his qualifying run at the Long Beach Grand Prix

She worked with him first on managing his diabetes to stay healthy and then progressed to helping him manage his blood sugar while driving. In addition to gauges that monitor his car’s performance you can see his continuous glucose monitor mounted on his steering wheel. The condition that once threatened to end his racing career has now helped him to land major sponsors as he returns to racing in the Indy Lights Series. He even has a new green Levemir paint scheme on his #35 car.

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In the middle of his steering wheel is a Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor

The second race of their season was on the streets of Long Beach and I was able to tag-a-long with his “race doctor” and visit with him back in the racing trailer and be in the pits as he prepared for his qualifying runs and the race. Sitting with his friends and family in the stands it was thrilling to watch him come down the long straightaway and picking off car after car in the 1st turn passing zone. It was very different than my normal NASCAR fan behavior of rooting for a good race, unlike the die-hard fans of Jr. Nation that cheer for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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Getting ready for the race

This Friday (May 22nd) Charlie will race at Indianapolis –  the most important track in America. As he quotes in his blog, “I have been to ‘big’ races all over the world- Monaco Grand Prix, Macau Grand Prix, Long Beach Grand Prix, a Moto GP race. I have even been to qualifying at the 500 before, but being a part of the whole ‘Month of May’ is a totally different experience.”

To learn more about Charlie you can read his blog and follow him on Twitter.

Charlie also has been the talk of the healthcare blog and Twittersphere after he sent out the first branded tweet under his @racewithinsulin moniker. There was a bit of an uproar at first that has died down to an official review of FDA guidelines on how pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers can use social media.

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

@MarkHarmel

 drive fast   stay healthy with type 1 diabetes

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