Charlie Kimball isn’t the most decorated IndyCar driver going today. He has one win in 125 starts.
But Kimball is one of the most inspiring drivers, chasing his dreams and reaching the highest level after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
Kimball thought his racing days may be over before they really began when he first heard of the diagnosis in October 2007, but he’s since competed in eight Indianapolis 500s and will be running his ninth open-wheel race at Texas Motor Speedway in Saturday’s DXC Technology 600.
"He is a great story of overcoming an obstacle that is a problem for a lot of people in this country," TMS president Eddie Gossage said. "It’s very inspiring. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you have to look at him and that should push you. He’s a winning race car driver.
"So you’ve got to be proud of any athlete that is overcoming a steeper hill than most. He does it well."
Kimball, 33, was last year’s pole sitter at Texas, but ended up finishing 21st. He had three consecutive top-10 finishes from 2014-16.
Kimball is with a new team this season, Carlin Motorsport, and is starting to make some strides. He is coming off his best finish – eighth – in the second race last weekend at Belle Isle.
The Star-Telegram caught up with Kimball coming into this weekend’s race –
You won the pole here last year. Does that give you confidence coming in despite the disappointing finish? "Last year's pole was pretty special to get my first pole like that, at a super speedway with new asphalt, with new profile of Turns 1 and 2. The mechanical problem in the race meant we didn't get the race result, but we knew the speed was there. It was encouraging and exciting to give my crew the pole. Highest of highs to win the pole to lowest of lows with the mechanical issues during the race."
What did you think of the new track design at Texas? "As a series, we're probably all still learning and learning how that race track needs to be raced. Last year, it caught everyone off guard how much grip it had and how close the racing was. This year, the temperatures are going to be higher, so I think that's going to really affect track temperature and affect grip. It puts a little more back in the drivers' hands. It's going to definitely be a drivers' weekend."
Novo Nordisk has been a long-time sponsor for you and now you’re running under its brand name Tresiba. How important is that relationship for you? "They're a wonderful partner and I always say, 'My partnership started with Novo Nordisk before they had any idea who I was. My relationship with them started the day I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2007. It's a fantastic confidence boost for me because they see value in what i do on the race track and what I do off the race track.
"Thursday morning, I'm going up to Camp Sweeney in Whitesboro. I will be going and talking to the counselors and medical staff and sharing my story about living with diabetes and how I manage what I do in the race car. Being able to connect with people like that is inspiring to me."
Is it always motivating being a role model for Type 1 diabetics? "It definitely means a lot to me. I feel very fortunate to be able to represent the diabetes community on the race track. I take that responsibility very seriously. It's a whole community of people that have diabetes and are managing it and facing the same challenges that I do every day.
"Being able to go out and be successful on the race track, it's added a lot of balance to my life. If I finish first or finish 21st, the fact that I am out successfully competing is such a victory for people out in the diabetes community."
What is your message to those affected by any sort of chronic condition? "There are a lot of challenges that people face, not just managing diabetes and health conditions. So being able to have something that motivates you to overcome that challenge and live your dreams is been really important.
"For me, life makes sense at 200 mph. That's where I want to be -- in the race car competing."