There’s a new race strategist atop the pit for Ed Carpenter this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, and it’s a familiar face in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock: veteran driver Charlie Kimball.
Kimball serves as co-race strategist for Carpenter’s No. 33 Chevrolet Alzamend Neuro alongside former INDYCAR SERIES team owner and former INDYCAR President Derrick Walker.
Since Kimball had never held this position before, the team brought in Walker to serve as a mentor to Kimball as he navigates this new role. On a day when Carpenter qualified 21st for Sunday’s XPEL 375 (12:30 p.m. ET, live on NBC, Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network), Kimball, who won an NTT INDYCAR SERIES, thought it was a solid first day on the job.
“I felt like it went well. They haven’t fired me yet,” Kimball said with a smile. Tim (Bryles, team president) and I talked a lot. During the first session, it went very well. The car ran very cleanly and the guys did a very good job not only in building and preparing the cars, but also in the pit lane. It makes my job much easier.
Kimball said the new role began with a conversation last month in St. Petersburg at the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opener. He offered his services to Carpenter, whom he considers a longtime friend, to find a way to stay involved in the sport.
Kimball told Carpenter he could help advise drivers Conor Daly or Rinus VeeKay or help with marketing and communications efforts. That’s when Carpenter told Kimball he didn’t have a race strategist due to his team expanding to three cars for ovals this season.
It was a position that made sense for Kimball, who was accepted into Stanford University’s engineering program but declined to pursue a career in racing. This background, combined with his racing experience, makes him a great person to design a racing strategy.
“Putting this (an engineering background) into practice honestly might be the thing I’ve worked the hardest on in the last two weeks,” Kimball said. “What do I say? When do I say it? What does it sound like? What did I hear for 11 years? What did I like (as a driver) What didn’t I like?
Carpenter, the sole owner/driver of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock, said it was strange to hear Kimball on the radio, but he likes what he’s seen and heard from him so far.
“It’s kind of weird to hear him talk to me, but he needed something to do and be connected to a team, and we needed someone to call my run,” Carpenter said. “It’s been going well so far. Charlie is a really smart and very capable guy. He’s always been a student of the sport, and he’s going to do really well.
Kimball said he was only Carpenter’s strategist for Sunday’s race so far. But if all goes well, he hopes to be invited back to the other four oval races that Carpenter will compete in this season as Kimball takes a look at what his post-race life could be like.
“I’m enjoying it so far,” he said. “There’s one thing I found last year when I wasn’t racing full time – that fulfillment of having a vested interest in a result. Working with Ed is like #33 is my car. I get the same rush and I get the same vested interest in the outcome. It erases that competitive itch that got me to INDYCAR.