Exclusive Q&A: Chip Ganassi Racing driver Charlie Kimball

Robert Laberge

In an exclusive interview with SB Nation, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams driver Charlie Kimball says he was wowed by Dario Franchitti's retirement and explained how he believes the team will rebound without him.

SB Nation: It was finally announced that Tony Kanaan would move over to the Target car while Ryan Briscoe would join you at Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. You worked with Ryan during at Indianapolis in May. Is he coming back to Ganassi the ideal scenario in regards to continuity and chemistry?

Charlie Kimball: I think it's always an advantage to have another driver's perspective and experience to draw from, and now with Ryan and Tony on board along with Scott and me, it just adds to that data pool. I enjoyed working with Ryan last May; I think we both tend to be analytical and process feedback in a similar manner. I look forward to building on that teammate relationship with him and TK.

SBN: What was your immediate reaction to the Dario Franchitti announcement and what has he meant for your career thus far?

CK: "Wow" is probably the best way to explain my reaction. Of course every driver has to leave the cockpit at some point but I don't know if I fully expected the announcement at that time. Dario and I really started to gel last season, and of course coming into a team like Ganassi, he was a big help to me as a rookie. With his experience and passion for the sport, I was definitely lucky to work alongside him for three years.

SBN: The last time the Brownsburg team had two entries, it was a struggle for both you and Graham Rahal. Is Ganassi in a better position now to expand or was it always a matter of just having the right personnel in place?

CK: I think last season the entire No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen team really developed into one that is capable of wins and podiums; it was definitely the right mix of people and of course a lot of hard work. Really, the only distance is physical between the two Ganassi shops in Brownburg and Indy.

Last year we figured out the best way to have all three entries working together (from engineers, to crews, to team managers) both at the shop and at the track, and I think that positive environment will only grow as we expand to four cars.

SBN: Do you expect the parity from recent season to continue and is it in your best (or worst) interest for the rules to open up with aero kits and the like?

CK: As we have more and more time on track with the DW12, either with testing or race weekends, teams are obviously going to have more chances to develop the cars. But even with that said, it's still early on with this model and I'm still expecting plenty of competition in 2014. It will be interesting to see what teams do as far as aero kits in the next few years; opportunities for innovation are good for the sport, teams, drivers, and fans.

SBN: Indianapolis announced that the apron is returning to IMS and Jeff Belskus says it will primarily be used by stock cars but will the Indy cars be able to use it as well?

CK: The pros and cons of using the apron are likely above my pay grade, but with or without it, the Indy 500 is always going to be an exciting race to watch. I'm sure we'll all be watching to see how NASCAR uses it for the first time.

SBN: I feel like you have a lot of momentum heading into next season -- are you feeling that way as well?

CK: For sure. We had a good year in 2013--with one race win, 10 top-10s, and improved qualifying sessions. Looking back, I think I would have judged it a great year if we could have secured that win in Fontana. But all in all, Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing really came together as a team this past season, and we'll be working hard to continue that in 2014.

SBN: Is IndyCar still a viable end destination for younger drivers or has it become a stepping stone to what some would consider a higher series in Formula 1 or NASCAR?

CK: You don't get a mix of ovals and road/street course racing with this level of competition and speed anywhere other than IndyCar, and I think that's why it has remained a popular choice for so many young drivers. Having a source like the Mazda Road to Indy to cultivate talent is valuable to IndyCar and its future.

SBN: How do you feel about the condensed schedule? In addition to a campaign that has doubleheaders on select weekends, you now have fewer off-weeks during the season itself. Does the possibility of fatigue concern you?

CK: I think if you'd ask any driver, any one would say that we'd love to have a longer schedule next season. However, it doesn't limit the quality of the racing at all. I'm not too concerned about fatigue; as professionals, we train throughout the off-season and are conditioned to adapt to double-headers and back-to-back races weekends. With the proper prep and recovery, it's just a part of the job.

SBN: Now that the off-season has been extended to roughly six or seven months, does this open the door for you to try your hand at running some United SportsCar or NASCAR events?

CK: I 'm really focused on the 2014 IndyCar season and making the most of it at the moment. We'll have to see what opportunities come up next year and go from there!

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