Notes & Quotes: GMR Grand Prix at Indy
Charlie Kimball returns to the cockpit of the Tresiba Chevrolet for the first time since last season’s Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg where he finished eighth. In his eight previous starts on the IMS road course, his best finish is fifth (three times: 2014, ’15, ’16) and his best start is second in 2016. He will also compete in the Indianapolis 500 for Foyt. When not in a car this season, he has been a color analyst for NBC on the Indy Lights Series presented by Cooper Tires. We asked him a few questions…
How excited are you to get back in the race car?
CK: “I could not be more excited to trade in my headset for my helmet. It has been really hard to watch Indy cars race for four races and not be a part of it. This weekend, that’s changed!”
How have you prepped for these upcoming races?
CK: “I have tried to stay in close contact with the team and watch how the races so far this year have developed, in the sense of the set up as well as the competition side.”
Charlie Kimball (R) chats with Team President Larry Foyt at Barber prior to his TV gig.
You won’t get much practice for the GP. Has the car undergone any significant changes in the road course configuration or will you be able to apply what you learned from last year?
CK: “My sense is the car is a solid positive evolution from last year at the Harvest GP. Sebastien’s 5th place at Barber was proof of that. We will continue to work forward this weekend as a team – although I may need a few laps to knock some light rust off!”
The team preps Kimball’s car — which is sporting a new look this year — as Technical Director Mike Colliver looks on.
Aside from winning, what are you most looking forward to and why?
CK: “A more ’normal’ month of May with the best fans in the world at the race track. Being at home for Memorial Day weekend last year was not right and then racing the Indy 500 without fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway made the facility feel soulless. Having fans back for the Harvest GP was the first step in the right direction and now May is back!”
You went to the first four INDYCAR races for a new job as a race analyst for Indy Lights (and at one session of INDYCAR?). How did the TV gig come about?
CK: “I got a call from Kevin Lee and IMSP to gauge my interest and it was a great opportunity to see the sport from another angle. It also gets me to the INDYCAR / Indy Lights races in an official capacity that also allows me to help AJ Foyt Racing when I can!”
Charlie Kimball traded in his helmet for a headset at Barber Motorsports Park where he made his debut as a color analyst in the booth.
Was it your first time or have you done something similar in the past?
CK: “I have done some pit lane reporting previously, but lending analysis from a broadcasting booth is a very different animal.”
You seem like a natural. Have you received a lot of feedback?
CK: “I have had some great feedback – a lot of it from my family! Seriously, the response has been great even as I learn the ropes and hope to get better each and every time. I love racing and love to share that passion with fans watching Indy Lights looking for the next star in INDYCAR.”
Is this something you’d like to pursue once you retire as a driver?
CK: “I am happy to be laying the groundwork for some time in the FAR distant future!”
What is the hardest thing about doing the TV commentating?
CK: “The hardest thing is telling a story that gives an insight into what’s happening in the car or in the driver’s head in a very short discrete timeframe. Plus, all the voices in the headset from the producer, pit lane reporter and the play-by-play caller! Honestly, the team on the Indy Lights broadcasts have made it so easy on me: Kevin Lee, Katie Kiel, Kevin Buchholz (IMSP Producer), Courtney “CT” Terrell (IMSP Director), all the sound and camera crew are pros and make my piece look great.”
How much preparation do you have to do for it? Do you go to all of the teams and interview key personnel? When on air, what are the things you need to be mindful of?
CK: “I spent a lot of time at both Barber and St. Pete talking to teams and drivers because I didn’t have as much knowledge of who was who as I needed to. Also, keeping those conversations going helps me give some real firsthand knowledge on the broadcasts.
What surprised you the most after your first broadcast?
CK: “How fast the race went by!!! After most races when I’m driving, I can remember a lot of details from the event; however, in the booth, I wasn’t sure what I said or how I did until I reviewed the tape and got feedback from the professionals!”
SÉBASTIEN BOURDAIS has made eight starts on the IMS road course and has finished
fourth three times (2014, 2015, 2018). His best starting position was third in 2015.
SB: “Very much looking forward to the Indy GP. Historically, it’s been a very good race for me. We were not so awesome last year in my return, but definitely a place that I very much enjoy, a track that I’ve been fast on before. We’ve done quite a bit of prep work so looking forward to seeing everybody back on track!”
DALTON KELLETT made his INDYCAR debut last year in the Grand Prix. In his three starts, his best finish is 21st and his best start is 25th. He made eight starts in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series. His best start and finish were seventh.
DK: “We’re heading into the GMR Grand Prix this weekend and I’m really excited to be back at Indy with AJ Foyt Racing, the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevy. It’s going to be a great weekend for us, really excited. Obviously, we’re coming off a tough weekend at Texas but the team bounced back – we’re actually racing the same car we raced in Race 2 in Texas, so hats off to the No. 4 and 14 crew mechanics who got those cars patched up and ready to go. We’re going to be hitting the track in road course trim and we’ll be coming your way for some exciting racing this Saturday then we’re right into Indy 500 practice next week so see you there.”
Past Performance: A.J. Foyt Racing’s best start on the IMS Road course is fourth with Jack Hawksworth in 2016 and their best finish is fourth with Matheus Leist in 2019. In both cases, the drivers were in their sophomore year of NTT INDYCAR series competiton.
Last Race: At Texas Motor Speedway, the Foyt team had a tough weekend. In the Genesys 300, Bourdais started seventh (the field was set according to the NTT INDYCAR Series standings because qualifying was rained out and Kellett started 22nd. Kellett finished 18th while Bourdais was rear-ended by Josef Newgarden as they were both heading for the pits. The contact sent Bourdais into the wall and out of the race. Bourdais was not injured and cleared to drive the next day. The team worked until midnight and came in early on Sunday to finish up the repair. A seven-car melee on the start of the XPEL 375, triggered by Bourdais getting rear-ended (again!) by rookie Pietro Fittipaldi, took out both cars which sustained heavy damage. Luckily, neither driver was injured.
The GMR Grand Prix will be broadcast live on NBC Saturday afternoon starting at 2 p.m. ET. Qualifications will be broadcast on NBCSN on a tape delayed basis from Friday night from 6-7:30 p.m. ET. It will be streamed live on NBC Peacock starting at 4:30 p.m. ET. Friday’s two 45-minute practice sessions, starting at 9:30 a.m. ET and 1:00 p.m. ET, will be streamed live on Peacock.