Notes & Quotes: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
Charlie Kimball will compete in the Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend in the No. 11 Tresiba Chevrolet, marking his return to the NTT INDYCAR Series competition for the first time since May. Born in England (when his father Gordon worked in Formula 1 as an engineer), Kimball grew up in Camarillo, Calif. (about 75 miles north of Long Beach) and attended the race as a child. He last competed in the Grand Prix in 2018 when he finished 10th, his best finish to date at his home track. We asked him a few questions…
What does it mean to you to be able to race at Long Beach (why is the track so special to you)? “It’s really special. Being at the Long Beach Grand Prix and not racing in 2019 was a huge motivator to put a program together with AJ Foyt Racing to be a full-time driver in 2020. And then with the pandemic, not getting to the West Coast at all last year was tough. So I am excited to be back in the car racing for A.J. Foyt in front of the Southern California INDYCAR fans.
“It feels like coming home for me because it’s not only getting back in a race car but being back in Southern California where I’m from. I remember going to the race and being on the outside of the catch fencing and waiting in line for the autographs of the drivers, and now to be on the other side of the catch fencing, it’s that much more special. It’s a great way to finish out the 2021 season.”
How have you prepared for this event? The street races like Long Beach are noted for being physically demanding. With the aeroscreen increasing the heat in the cockpit, the physicality of the race has also increased. How have you prepared for that? “I have been training all season with PitFit Training and despite not having any races planned, I trained as if I was in the car every weekend. I am looking forward to the physical challenge of hustling an Indy car through the streets all weekend! As for the heat, heat training and preparation has been a part of the PitFit programming for years and it has really paid off with the addition of the Aeroscreen.”
Even though you haven’t been racing as much this year you have been at the races in several capacities…can you speak about that? “I seem to have been busier on race weekends this year than if I was in the car every weekend! I have been broadcasting the Indy Lights races live on Peacock all year alongside Kevin Lee and Katie Kiel (and Georgia Hennebery since Katie went on maternity leave!). I have been adding my perspective to the AJ Foyt Racing team where and when I can, and at a few races this year, I have been on the radio during the races to Sébastien Bourdais in the No. 14 car helping navigate traffic on starts and merging out of pit lane!”
Do you think it will help you this weekend—allowing you to stay current on the competition? “Being around the paddock all year and watching the on track activity from a different vantage point will help me gauge what is happening during the sessions and when I’m on track. Having that feel and perspective has broadened my experience base when I’m in the cockpit.”
What do you think of the competition level in INDYCAR these days? “INDYCAR has never been more competitive. The lap times are incredibly close and there are at least 12-15 cars that are capable of success each and every weekend. That means you have to make as few mistakes as possible to be competitive each weekend.”
Will the fact that no one has been there with this car (with the aeroscreen) make it a more level playing field? “It may help level the field some, but I have a lot of confidence in the AJ Foyt Racing street course set up. After Sébastien and I both finished in the top-10 at St. Pete last year, I know we can be fast!”
What is the key to getting around the Long Beach circuit? “The most important part is having a car you can trust- the balance doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be consistent. Knowing you can consistently drive right next to the concrete barriers pays off in lap time all weekend.”
Novo Nordisk has been your sponsor since your Indy Lights days. How has the relationship with the company impacted your life? “Working with Novo Nordisk has been incredibly rewarding. Not only have they supported my dream within racing, but they have been great partners in telling my story to the whole diabetes community. I know we have made a difference in the lives of people with diabetes, and I can’t wait to continue that story this weekend at the Long Beach Grand Prix!”
Kimball Fast Facts: Age 36…Born in Chertsey, England while his father, Gordon, worked in Formula 1 as an engineer…grew up in Camarillo, Calif. where his family still owns an avocado ranch…lives in Indianapolis…married to Kathleen, has two children, Hannah and Gordon…Made history by becoming the first driver with diabetes to win an IndyCar race—Mid-Ohio in 2013. Won the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. Still holds track record for qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway with speed of 222.747mph set in 2017.
DALTON KELLETT (No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet) will be competing at Long Beach in an Indy car for the first time; he never raced there in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series.
Kellett: “It will be my first time racing and driving on this track so I’m excited to be turning some laps there in an Indy car. It is definitely one of the crown jewels on the INDYCAR circuit so it should be a fun weekend. I personally love street courses, and I think we have our best road course performances on the street courses this year, so looking forward to getting back on the city streets. And what a better place to end the season than on the streets of Long Beach, California! It’ll be super fun and can’t wait to wrap things up and have a strong finish.”
SHE SAID YES! Kellett proposed to his beautiful girlfriend Nicole Westra in Napa Sunday evening. Westra is an occupational therapist and has been at Kellett’s side since his Indy Lights days. It is a big year for Kellett who purchased his first home earlier this year in Indianapolis.
STEM Talk: Kellett will address 150 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) students from the Long Beach Unified School District on Friday in the Long Beach Convention Center prior to practice. Inspiring students to pursue STEM careers is a personal passion of Kellett’s. Since 2018, the Canadian driver has worked with Ten80 Education’s National STEM League (NSL), as their brand ambassador. The NSL is an international K-12 engineering design competition using remote-controlled cars. He supports the teams, representing them in INDYCAR and engaging with them at their competitions and through online learning materials.
Kellett Fast Facts: Age 28…Born in Stouffville, Canada…lives in Indianapolis; bought his first house there in May, 2021…Graduated from Queens University with a degree in Engineering Physics…Brand spokesman for Ten80 Education’s National STEM League…Enjoys rock climbing, backcountry skiing, camping, playing guitar, cooking and golf.
SÉBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet) has raced at Long Beach 14 times and finished in the top-10 in seven races. He won three straight races (2005-2007) and the pole twice (2006 and 2007), and finished on the podium in 2004 (3rd) and 2017 (2nd). Bourdais’ best finish in 2021 is fifth (Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham and World Wide Technology Raceway/Gateway in St. Louis).
Bourdais: “Very excited to go to Long Beach. Obviously, a track where I’ve had a tremendous amount
of success. I very much enjoy the layout, the atmosphere, the people and just have a lot of really good memories and very recent ones too. Got a podium there not so long ago and have been competitive many, many times—pretty much every time I’ve been there so looking forward to that last race and last Californian weekend.”
Bourdais Fast Facts: Age 42…Born in LeMans, France…lives in St. Petersburg, Fla. …Married to Claire, has two children, Emma and Alex…Ranks sixth on INDYCAR’s All-time Wins list with 37 victories and ranks seventh in career poles with 34…Ex-Formula One driver (2008-09)…Won 12 Hours of Sebring this year; has won Rolex 24 at Daytona overall (2014) and Petit LeMans…Finished second overall in 24 Hours of LeMans and won in the GTE class with Ford in 2016.
Past Performance at Long Beach: Sébastien Bourdais is a three-time winner of this event (2005-2007) and a two-time pole winner (2006-07). Dalton Kellett has never competed at Long Beach and Charlie Kimball’s best finish is 10th in 2018, the last time he raced there. AJ Foyt Racing’s best finish came in 2013 when Takuma Sato won after starting fourth, also the team’s best start. The team has four more top-10 finishes.
Last Race: At Laguna Seca, Bourdais finished 14th after starting 21st. Kellett finished 23rd after starting 27th.
A.J. Foyt stopped by the Stevenson Hotel in Monterey this week and met second-generation owner Craig Smith. The Foyt crew stayed there this past weekend. A.J. stayed there 58 years ago when in town to compete in the sports car race at Laguna Seca in 1963 (he finished second). In fact, Smith’s father told him that A.J. was their first customer! Smith has been managing the hotel since 1984, explaining that he loves dealing with his clientele.
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be broadcast Sunday, Sept. 26 on NBC starting at 3 p.m. ET. Qualifying will be broadcast on NBCSN on Saturday, Sept. 25 starting at 3p.m. ET. The practices and qualifying will be streamed on Peacock.