As part of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series’ rookie class, Charlie Kimball has been one of the new generation of drivers to watch this year. The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing rookie has come on strong in his last two races, with a sharp P11 at Mid-Ohio, followed by a Top 10 finish in New Hampshire. As he prepares to compete at this weekend’s Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, the 26 year-old American racer spent some time answering questions for an INDYCAR Nation interview:
Charlie, thanks so much for your time. It seems like it’s been a rollercoaster of a season for everyone so far. How do you feel the learning curve has been in moving from Firestone Indy Lights to the IZOD IndyCar Series?
CK: I am making big strides each and every time I get into the car. Having qualified inside the top-10 at the last two races I am proving that I have been building the foundation for a long successful career in the IZOD IndyCar Series. The two years in Firestone Indy Lights has shortened the learning by at least half- especially on the ovals!
-As a rookie, what’s been the biggest overall adjustment you’ve had to make?
CK: The biggest thing for me to adjust to this year is the amount of additional commitments I have outside of the race car. The time needed with the team, series and sponsors is more than I had before and learning to manage my time has been a challenge.
-Right now, you’re in third place in the Rookie of the Year standings. Is that something that’s on your mind as the season progresses?
CK: I am definitely focused on closing the gap to the Rookie of the Year leader. One of my goals at the start of the year was to win Rookie of the Year, both at Indianapolis and for the Series. Having fallen short of that particular goal at the 500, I will do everything I can to take the fight for Rookie of the Year down to the last race.
-How’s the partnership with Novo Nordisk going?
CK: The partnership with Novo Nordisk is going great. With their help, I have been able to reach a broader audience to inspire and prove that diabetes doesn't have to slow you down. Also, through the sales representatives across the country, I have been able to share my story with doctors, patients and families.
-As an athlete with diabetes who’s been successful in managing it, do you hear from diabetic fans at all about what that means or represents for them?
CK: Especially during the month of May, I had so many people seek me out to tell me their diabetes story. It really brought the importance of the partnership with Novo Nordisk home to both Novo Nordisk and me. I get a lot of emails and messages through my @RacewithInsulin twitter encouraging me and telling me how much I help them.
-Which single moment of the season has really stood out in your memory so far?
CK: The single biggest moment of this season was driver introductions at the Indianapolis 500. I am biased, but I think that is the most incredible moment in sports for an athlete. Gives me goose bumps just remembering!
-Of the courses still to come on the schedule, which are you most looking forward to, and why?
CK: I am looking forward to racing at Sonoma where I had a second place finish in Indy Lights last year. Also, I can't wait to see the new street circuit in Baltimore. Racing downtown and right by the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards should be an amazing feeling.
-OK, time for the lightning round, where we find out a little more about you...
Favorite TV show? CK: Chuck (got to meet Zachary Levi a couple years ago- went all super fan....)
Favorite car? CK: 1969 Mustang fastback (or my Acura TSX V6- for a California boy, the heated seats are awesome in winter!)
Favorite Indy 500 tradition? CK: Celebrating our Armed Forces and thanking them for sacrificing so that we can continue to live free.
Favorite vacation spot? CK: The Beach in the sun, or a mountain to shred on a snowboard in the cold!
Favorite snack? CK: Clif Bar Junior
Favorite sport (outside of racing)? CK: I’m a big Dodgers fan. Baseball on a fine summer's evening is pretty special.
Which INDYCAR drivers might we find you hanging out with? CK: Hinch, my teammates, and JR Hildebrand.
Finish this sentence. If I couldn’t race, I’d want my job to be….
CK: A fighter jet pilot!
-Lastly, looking ahead to the remainder of the season, where do you see your team’s progress, and what can we look for from Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing and the 83 car for the rest of the year?
CK: As we close out the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series, I expect to continue my forward progress and momentum. I am shooting to keep qualifying inside the top-10 and shoot for a top-5 in the races. The whole Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing crew is really gelling and working well together. If we get some luck, look for us on the podium!
Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-updated INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate.