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.
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.
Mike Conway of England crashes in the third turn in the closing laps of the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 2010,(James Miller / Associated Press)
A burning tire, left, flies toward spectators after a gasoline tank explosion resulting from a crash on the fourth turn on the second lap of the 48th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1964.(Bob Daugherty / Associated Press)
The feet of Salt Walther protrude from his car (77) after a crash during the Indianapolis 500 on May 28, 1973. Walther survived the crash.(Charles A. Robinson / Associated Press)
Swede Savage’s car is in flames after a crash during the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1973. Drivers Art Pollard, Savage and crew member Armando Teran were killed while Salt Walther, somehow survived a frightening, pin-wheeling crash. Savage died more than a month after the race.(Associated Press)
Eddie Rickenbacker, center, signs papers selling the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to Anton “Tony” Hulman Jr., left, as Wilbur Shaw, right, and T.E. Myers look on in Indianapolis on Nov. 14, 1945. Three weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Rickenbacker canceled the 1942 race. The federal government banned automobile racing in July 1942, and when the war ended in 1945, the track was in disrepair. Hulman, a businessman from Terre Haute, Ind., bought the track in November 1945 and refurbished it in time for the 1946 race. His descendants still run the track.(Associated Press)
This 1945 photo provided by Indianapolis Motor Speedway shows the speedway in disrepair. Indianapolis Motor Speedway closed its doors to racing in 1917 and 1918 because of World War I, but it was the closure during World War II that posed the biggest threat to the historic venue. Three weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, speedway President Eddie Rickenbacker canceled the 1942 race. The federal government banned automobile racing in July 1942, and when the war ended in 1945, the track was in disrepair.(AP)
Parnelli Jones, center, celebrates his victory in the 47th running of the Indianapolis 500 auto race in front of the Borg-Warner Trophy on May 30, 1963. Jones can remember his 1963 triumph like it happened last week. “It was just a tremendous thrill,” he said. “You work so hard to get there. I woke up early the next morning and looked in the mirror to make sure I wasnít dreaming. The Indy 500 makes you.”(Associated Press)
Mario Andretti takes the checkered flag as he wins the 53rd running of the Indianapolis 500 auto race on May 30, 1969.(Associated Press)
Andy Granatelli, center left, kisses Mario Andretti after Andretti won the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1969.(Associated Press)
Tony Hulman, left, and A.J. Foyt wave to fans during a victory lap after Foyt won his fourth Indianapolis 500 on May 29, 1977.(Associated Press)
Danny Sullivan, left, spins in front of Mario Andretti during the 69th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29, 1977. When asked for their most memorable moment, several recalled their earliest memories, “The biggest thing I really remember was sitting up in the grandstands of Turn 1, and you are just enjoying the time with my mom and dad and the beautiful weather and watching cars,” said 2006 champion Sam Hornish Jr. “One of those was [Danny] Sullivan spinning and winning it [in 1985]. So that wasn’t bad.”(Associated Press)
Al Unser raises four fingers after winning his fourth Indy 500 on May 24, 1987. Long before he won the Indianapolis 500, Unser was an up-and-coming 25-year-old sprint car driver who had showed up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch his older brother try to qualify. Unser still remembers the feeling of awe when he drove through the tunnel beneath the track.(Mike Conroy / Associated Press)
IndyCar driver JR Hildebrand reacts next to track safety personnel after crashing on the final lap of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29, 2011.Dan Wheldon of England won the race. In a survey of the 27 living winners of the Indy 500, The Associated Press found the 1992 race won by Al Unser Jr. to be the greatest in history. Other memorable races included Little Al’s loss to Emerson Fittipaldi in ’89, Sam Hornish Jr.'s victory in 2006 and the second win for the late Wheldon in 2011.(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)
Marco Andretti, left, his father and car owner, Michael Andretti, right, and his grandfather Mario Andretti talk in the pit area on the first day of qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 on May 10, 2008. Amazingly, the Andrettis have not driven into Indyís victory lane for more than 45 years.(Tom Strattman / Associated Press)
IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon of England, douses himself with milk after winning the Indianapolis 500 on May 29, 2011. The unusual beverage choice, after a race that lasted hours, was embraced by dairy farmers and has become one of the most unique traditions in sports.(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)
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.
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.
“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.
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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