By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor
Carlin were one of many organizations that struggled through the first race of the doubleheader weekend weekend at Belle Isle Park. But on Sunday the group rebounded with the best performance of their young Verizon IndyCar Series existence.
Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton each tallied their best finishes of the year in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, lifting Carlin to new heights and giving the 2018 newcomers momentum as they head into the final race of a five-week grind at Texas Motor Speedway.
Kimball led the way for the team, earning an eighth-place finish that came as a bit of a surprise after the veteran’s 21st-place qualifying effort earlier in the day. The Californian’s 13-place advancement from his starting position was second only to seventh-place finisher Tony Kanaan (+15) on the day – an impressive feat that Kimball credited to his No. 23 team.
“I’m really proud of the resiliency of this Carlin team,” he said. “We didn’t get the job done all that well this morning in qualifying, but we had a nice clean race, good solid pit stops, and a really good strategy.
“It felt like I raced pretty cleanly and we had good pace in clean air, which helped us get good mileage when we needed to. I’m just so happy for the No. 23 car guys for getting a top-eight finish today.”
Slotting in three positions behind Kimball to give Carlin two finishers in the front half of the field was Chilton. One day removed from his best qualifying effort of the year (10th), Chilton rose from a disappointing 17th-place qualifying effort in the wet to take the checkered flag in 11th.
The effort was Chilton’s best result since his eighth-place run at Watkins Glen International in 2017.
“We had more pace today than we had yesterday and the team had really great stops every time we came in,” Chilton said. “I think I did the best mileage that I’ve done in my entire career by them telling me the fuel number and me sticking to it.
“Unfortunately, Charlie (Kimball) got me in the last stint and then I was in the marbles and was passed by a few others. We then had their pace and got one back, but it dropped us just out of the top 10. This has been a positive afternoon for the team as a whole, though, and we’ll concentrate, moving forwards, on getting both cars in the top 10.”
The runs were easily the best of each driver’s season. Kimball’s result was a two places better than his 10th-place run at Long Beach early in the season, while Chilton’s 11th-place run was a five-position improvement over the finish of 16th he’d secured in the INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
After a difficult debut to IndyCar, Carlin left Belle Isle with confidence and momentum earned with two solid results. The organization will try to carry that speed forward to Texas, where Chilton and Kimball have each tallied top 10s in recent seasons.