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Californian Charlie Kimball seeks first Indianapolis 500 win

Charlie Kimball
IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball, in No. 83, leads a pack of cars through a turn at the Indianapolis 500 last year.
(Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

It’s a dream Charlie Kimball plays in his head over and over. The Camarillo native has just captured the Indianapolis 500, and he imagines what it’s like indulging in the traditions accorded the winner.

“Dreams of milk in Victory Lane, dreams of the wreath, dreams of coming back first thing Monday morning and getting that photo [of being] bent over kissing the bricks,” Kimball said.

If last year’s race proved anything, Kimball’s dream might become reality Sunday in the 100th running of the event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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In the closing laps last year, as Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power battled for the win, Kimball was right behind them, ready to pounce if they made a mistake.

They didn’t, as Montoya won and Power settled for second. Kimball placed third, his best finish in five tries at the Indy 500. Earlier in the race, he led for 10 laps.

“He’s had pretty good years here,” said Chip Ganassi, Kimball’s team owner. “He’s knocked on the door.” Kimball starts 16th in the 33-car field Sunday.

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Kimball, 31, has Type 1 diabetes, and he depends on insulin made from his primary sponsor, Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company. His car is equipped with a continuous glucose monitor.

The newest version of the insulin “lasts in your body for 42 hours,” so Ganassi changed the number on Kimball’s car to 42 from 83 for Sunday’s race, Kimball said. The stock car of Kyle Larson, one of Ganassi’s drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, also is 42.

This is Kimball’s sixth year in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and the sport has been waiting to see better results from him.

In 89 career series starts, Kimball has won only one race, at Mid-Ohio in 2013. So he remains “under the radar,” Ganassi said, especially on a team that includes former Indy 500 winners Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan.

But Kimball said he remains confident that an Indy 500 win is within his grasp.

“We are one of 33 people in the world that will be on the starting grid for the Indy 500,” he said. “How cool is that? It just gives me goosebumps thinking about it.”

Bell’s strong start

Speaking of Californians, Townsend Bell qualified fourth for Sunday’s race, a notable achievement because the Indy 500 typically is Bell’s only IndyCar race of the year.

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It will be his 10th Indy 500 start; Bell’s best finish was fourth in 2009. The San Luis Obispo native also races other types of cars and is a part-time racing analyst on television.

Bell, 41, arrived at the Brickyard this year with new sponsorship from California Pizza Kitchen and qualified with an average four-lap speed of 230.481 mph in a car prepared by the Andretti Autosport team.

“I have a car that can win the race, and I have a great team,” Bell said. “I’m ready for Sunday.”

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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Twitter: @PeltzLATimes

 


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