From a tentative start to the year, rookie Kimball has started to show his mettle in later races. (BELOW) Rahal scored a brilliant second in the rains of Sao Paulo.
“I wasn’t ready to use all the
resources given to me until
midseason. I was overwhelmed”
A lot of people would say, ‘Yeah, but you’re a Ganassi team,’
but still it truly is a first-year team.”
The statistics reflect that. Rahal’s best finish is second,
Kimball’s ninth. At times, they’ve had pace. At other times,
they’ve missed. Not until later in the season have the two cars
been consistently at the front, something Kimball credits to the
newly found cohesion and confidence of the people involved.
“It’s hard to get a team off the ground with all the effort
that goes into it,” Kimball observes. “Having said that, where
the team has reached so far is very impressive. I wasn’t ready
to use all of the resources given to me until about midseason.
I was so overwhelmed with the amount I was learning and the
learning curve process. Now, as the personnel have started to
jell and as the information is starting to flow, we’re seeing
improvement all the time. That’s just going to build a stronger
foundation for the future.”
Initially, the relationship between big brother and young
brother was tenuous, with a quite loud No comment when Rahal
was runner-up at Sao Paulo in May while his Target teammates
spun their way to fourth and 12th. Then there was more
tension midseason between Dixon and Rahal (inadvertently
made public) at Toronto. The satellite team – housed in a
different building, comprised of only a handful of former
TCGR employees, and a completely separate entity from the
big team – wasn’t always seen as family by the folks in red.
But if, at the start, “sharing” was a dirty word, now it’s part of
the routine, and both teams benefit. The driver who benefits most,
though, is Kimball, who stepped into one of IndyCar’s best
operations as a rookie. Fourth in last year’s Firestone Indy Lights
championship is, for now at least, his résumé’s high point.
“The information sharing between
teams is starting to get a lot better,”
Rahal says. “We’re starting to trust each
other a little bit more. Charlie is in a
very rare situation. He’s a rookie who’s
come into the best team in the sport.
The expectations of him are very high,
both from fans and those in the team
because he’s come into such a great setup.
“People need to take it easy on him a
little bit, because he’s still a rookie and
there’s a lot to learn. If you look at me,
yes, I’ve been here a while – although if
you’re comparing it to Scott and Dario,
there’s still a lot for me to learn, too.
Charlie’s pretty fortunate that he’s got
two guys who are champions and Indy
winners on his side.”
Kimball relishes the opportunity to
learn, but has yet to accept how long it
can take to accumulate results that
reflect the progress he’s making.
MULTIPLE TROUBLES IN 2012
Will Ganassi be the only multi-car team next year?
Briscoe is on edge with Penske, nobody
is signed yet at Target Chip Ganassi
racing (although all are expected back),
only Tony Kanaan is secure at KV
Racing Technology, and Danica Patrick’s
departure may or may not leave a fourth
car available at Andretti Autosport.
Again, it comes down to sponsorship.
“We’re going to continue to do what
we’ve always done at Chip Ganassi
Racing, which is rewind the clock,” says
Ganassi team managing director Mike
Hull, referring to TCGR’s tradition of
operating with one-year contracts.
“We’ll continue to work during the
off-season to make ourselves better
for next season.”
Is it possible that the driver
currently sixth in the IZOD
Team Penske is struggling to find
sponsorship for Ryan Briscoe’s No. 6
car (BELOW) for next season, so the
guy who nearly didn’t make it back to
Roger Penske’s three-car lineup in
2011 could be out for ’ 12.
IndyCar Series standings (with
far better numbers than one of his
teammates) might be looking for work
in the off-season?