Charlie Kimball is a diabetic. A condition the IndyCar driver manages with a mixture of vigilance, discipline and perspective.
Kind of like the way he handles the horsepower at his fingertips.
Six years after the diagnosis that changed his life and two-plus seasons into a career blossoming right under his feet, the guy who used to wonder if he’d get to do this for a living is now a race winner.
Kimball slipped by Simon Pagenaud with 18 laps remaining then pulled away to win the Indy 200 on Sunday at Mid-Ohio in Lexington, his triumph validation that the plan team owner Chip Ganassi put in place when he hired Kimball as the third driver on his powerful team remains very much on schedule.
“The last couple years, we got the experience, we built the foundation,” Kimball said. “As a team we’re ready to win.”
It certainly looked like it after Kimball’s crew decided to ditch the initial strategy that asked him to save as much fuel as he could with his No. 83 Honda, figuring two pit stops instead of three would be the quickest route to victory lane.
After a few trips around the tricky 2.258-mile circuit, Kimball knew the only way he could win would come if he punched it. While top qualifiers Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power and Scott Dixon eased off the gas to stretch their mileage, Kimball pressed his foot to the floor figuring he could make up whatever precious seconds he lost by pitting three times if he just kept the hammer down.
It worked better than he imagined, propelling the 28-year-old to the top of the podium and erasing any lingering doubts he had about whether he belonged in North America’s top open-wheel series.
The moment for the goal Ganassi set out when he brought on Kimball three years ago happened with less than 20 laps to go.
Kimball surrendered the lead to Simon Pagenaud when he ducked into the pits for the last time, then tried to erase the deficit when Pagenaud went in for his final pit stop.
Pagenaud managed to exit pit lane with the lead, then held off a hard-charging Kimball, sending Kimball briefly into the grass.
The triumph only proved temporary.
Kimball remained right in Pagenaud’s rearview and slipped by at the end of the long straightaway nearing Turn 4, then had little trouble the rest of the way, a move he called “50 percent momentum and 75 percent commitment.”
The remainder of the top five wasn’t in sight as Kimball zipped by the finish line to continue Ganassi Racing’s dominance at arguably the most difficult road course on the schedule.
Pagenaud held on for second while Dario Franchitti took third. Power was fourth, followed by Hunter-Reay and series leader Helio Castroneves.
Matt Hagan raced to his fourth victory of the year to extend his Funny Car points lead, beating Bob Tasca III on Sunday in the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Washington.
Hagan, the 2011 Funny Car champion, powered his Dodge Charger to a 4.171-second run at 294.75 mph. Tasca, seeking his first win in nearly a year, slowed to a 5.324 at 164.81 in his Ford Shelby Mustang.
Hagan also outran Alexis DeJoria, Johnny Gray and Courtney Force en route to his ninth career win. Morgan Lucas won in Top Fuel, and Vincent Nobile won in Pro Stock.