Kimball sampling life on the other side of the pitwall
By Marshall Pruett | Published: March 30, 2022
If Charlie Kimball had his say on where he’d be found on IndyCar weekends, it would be inside the cockpit of a Dallara DW12. But with the Californian’s last NTT IndyCar Series race taking place in September at the Acura Grand Prix at Long Beach with A.J. Foyt Racing and no immediate prospects to return to the grid, Kimball has taken a different approach to the sport he loves.
Outside of the three-race deal with Foyt in 2021, Kimball embarked on a new commentary role with NBC Sports in the Indy Lights series, and while that broadcast opportunity continues, he added a new twist at the recent XPEL 375 race at Texas Motor Speedway where he served as Ed Carpenter’s race strategist.
Kimball’s experience dating back to his full-time IndyCar debut in 2011 provides an ECR or any other team searching for a knowledgeable veteran with an interesting option to consider for its timing stand.
“With the Indy Lights broadcasts already there for me, I’ve been looking for other ways to stay involved and have that competitive itch satisfied,” Kimball told RACER. “And having an investment in the result of a car or a team in a mentor or consultant role, a little like what Dario [Franchitti] does at the Ganassi team, appealed to me. He obviously has the Indy 500 wins and championships to offer, but I do enjoy that translation between driver and engineer, engineer and management, driver and mechanic, mechanic and engineer mechanic and management; there’s so many different communication roles within a team that are going about a million miles an hour on a race weekend.
“So I proposed and fleshed out a concept of working as a consultant to bring a perspective and lend some thoughts, with the benefit of my experience, to create progress within a program. And I was talking to Ed Carpenter about it and he said he needed a strategist for Texas because the person they worked with had a conflict. So it started in St. Pete where I went in and did what I called ‘an interview with friends’ where I met with [ECR GM] Tim Broyles and we spoke about mentality and the culture of communication, how calling a race works, how practice and qualifying works, what Ed likes to hear what it doesn’t like to hear, and we decided to go forward for Texas.”
Rather than throw Kimball onto Carpenter’s No. 33 Chevy timing stand on his own, ECR called in its former team manager Derrick Walker to serve as co-strategist.
“For me in my first time in that role, first time on that stand, having Derrick as a backup was invaluable,” Kimball said. “It meant my job was to largely stay out of the way and make strategy calls based on my experience, based on previous races, based on the inherent speed of the car, and who we were racing. And the fact that the 33 car is not a championship, not a full-season contender but could be contending for a win in May, a lot of what we did was getting all of those little headaches, those little challenges out of the way in Texas so that when that car when the 33 car rolls out for the first day of practice at Indy, it’s not cold for anyone, Ed included.”
Kimball isn’t sure if he’ll be back with Carpenter or possibly working with another IndyCar team in the coming rounds.
“It was a one-off event where we’re continuing to have conversations about if there’s a role for me in the future,” he said. “I was really impressed with the team and the organization, especially with its first time running three cars at Texas with a crew that hadn’t done pitstops since last May and Ed hadn’t been in a car since Gateway last year. And you know, he was straight up to speed in practice. So I think that showed really well for them. And as a team, I was really impressed.
“After Texas, I got a call from a different team about fulfilling a strategy and timing stand roll for them for the rest of the year, so I’m still evaluating it because I enjoyed it and I think it would work well. Also, any opportunity that crosses my desk as an option, I always want to make sure that there is a stipulation that it’s secondary to me getting in a seat. If I get a ride, then that takes priority.”