Charlie Kimball: I had to prove to Target Ganassi teammates what I could offer

Kevin C. Cox

Charlie Kimball is the most recent race winner in the IZOD IndyCar Series and its most recent first-time winner as well. In an exclusive interview with SB Nation, Kimball discusses his relationship with the Target Chip Ganssi Team and why he is finally getting recognized as a teammate to Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon.

SB Nation: We just came back from a weekend in Connecticut watching the NASCAR Modifieds -- open-wheels of a different kind. Have you ever driven a Modified?

Charlie Kimball: I haven't but as a driver I would love to drive anything. There's not a lot that I wouldn't want to drive at this stage of my career if given the opportunity.

SBN: Has the excitement faded from your win at Mid-Ohio?

CK: We're still enjoying it. But at the same time, we've got to look towards the next race and find ways to extend that momentum heading into Sonoma and the rest of the season. But for sure, it was great to get a win for these guys because they've worked so hard for us this season.

SBN: Parity has been the name of the game this year so it's been difficult to win on straight speed. Has it been frustrating to have the speed but not always the right strategy?

CK: I don't know if it's frustrating but you're right about the parity. If you get it a little bit wrong, set-up or strategy wise, you don't fall from seventh to 10th, you fall from seventh to 15th and that speaks to the competition level we have right now.

There have been nine different winners this season and four first-time winners so you have to get everything right.

SBN: But doesn't it feel random to have races decided by guesswork rather than speed?

CK: Well that's part of racing and there's a benefit too in that it opens up our options. We can hedge the teams' bets by having Dario (Franchitti) and Scott (Dixon) run one option and have us run the other to ensure that our teams have a better chance to win.

And if one strategy appears to be better served, we can switch everyone to it for the sake of the team.

SBN: You seem to have better synergy with the Target teams this year. Are you communicating better now in your third year?

CK: It's a growth process. I think we're just making more efficient use of the data that we're sharing. I don't know if that's a matter of having three sets of data now instead of three or just making better use of our resources but I do think it's been easier to read data from three cars.

We worked together well in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Scott (Pruett) and Memo (Rojas) and that's extended into the IndyCar season. That was a cool experience and I feel like it built a relationship.

SBN: I think Pocono might have been the first time that I've publicly heard Dario and Scott call you their teammate. Do you feel like you've finally earned your place as a Ganassi driver this year?

CK: You can't just jump into a situation like Dario and Scott have had together and expect to have that kind of communication and contribute to the team right off the bat. I've had to be resilient and prove to them all that I have to offer because ultimately, it's about results and this year we've started to get them.

SBN: So do you feel like you've become a teammate that can provide something to the big picture at Ganassi Racing as a whole?

CK: Yeah I do. And it comes back to the results. You can't underestimate how long it takes to build a relationship that says they can trust me. I've spent a lot of time learning from them and now I have to be responsible in how we build on that.

SBN: Is that one of the reasons Ganassi has been so strong in the second half? You look at Dario's slow start -- and your fast start -- and I can't help but wonder if they've relied on you more for support.

CK: The three of us have been able to try some different things in our approach and share what we've learned this year. We've certainly been able to give back more this season and that's a sign of productive growth in our team -- an evolution.

SBN: Could that success signal a return to four cars at Ganassi and a second at your shop in Brownsburg? Would you welcome a teammate?

CK: I really think so. Again, I'm not sure if having three cars has made it easier to read data this year but I think we're working so well now that we could sustain a fourth car. At the end of the day, that is above my pay grade and that will be Chip and Mike's call but I'd certainly welcome it.

I have faith in their ability to decide what is the best fit.

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