Dec 17 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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