After being diagnosed with diabetes in 2007, Kimball has persevered.
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 5, 2013) — Charlie Kimball finally got the breakthrough victory he's been waiting for since that dark day in 2007 when he had to decide whether he should continue driving.
He won the first IndyCar Series race of his career, a start-to-finish green-flag run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
His first victory in 45 IndyCar starts also validates Chip Ganassi's decision to keep him as the team's third driver alongside Indianapolis 500 winners and series champions Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon.
Kimball passed Simon Pagenaud with 18 laps remaining, a recovery after sliding into the dirt in a here-I-come attempt that took three more corners to complete on a challenging road course. He did it in a backup car after wrecking his primary in practice Saturday.
Pagenaud held on for second. Franchitti was third, followed by Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Dixon's bid to win a fourth straight race never materialized. He finished seventh.
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Kimball was a promising American race car driver in Europe when in 2007 he became ill. He couldn't explain it, and it took doctors time to diagnose it: Type 1 diabetes.
"I remember that day being pretty dark," he said."Today's pretty bright."
In between were many moments of fear, doubt and frustration.
"It was the fear of not understanding," he said.
The son of a Formula One engineer kept his focus and never let limitations restrain him, and that's been his message as he's represented Racing with Insulin, a national campaign.
Kimball, a 28-year-old Indianapolis resident, speaks on the subject as often as he can, so much so that even among IndyCar's fan base he's known as much for diabetes as driving the No. 83 Honda.
Charlie Kimball earned his first IndyCar win in his 45th start, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Kimball, who needed to get stronger last offseason and did, wasn't asked about the doubters he once had. But he spoke to them.
"Getting a win quiets a lot of voices, for sure, especially voices within myself as a driver," he said.
Kimball was in fifth place when it became apparent he couldn't win with the pace he had. Strategist Brad Goldberg opted for a change: Three pit stops rather than two. Kimball did the rest, winning by 5.5 seconds.
The disappointment was that his family, other than girlfriend Kathleen, wasn't there to celebrate. His sister had a wedding in California; his parents were overseeing the harvesting of avocados they grow.
IndyCar extended the length of the annual race at the technically demanding 2.258-circuit by five laps this year, hoping it wouldn't turn into a parade where the winner is determined by who massages the best fuel mileage out of their cars.
Hunter-Reay and Power tried to make it happen anyway. Hunter-Reay nearly matched the track record during qualifying Saturday but eased off the gas a bit after the green flag dropped Sunday, hoping to only need two pit stops to cover the 203-mile race.
Kimball went the other way. Hammering down through each of the 13 turns forced him to use more fuel, but he made up the difference by consistently clocking faster laps than Hunter-Reay and Power.
Dixon came in as the hottest driver in the series thanks to victories in Pocono and a weekend sweep in Toronto last month. His bid to become the first open-wheel driver in a North American series to take four straight checkered flags since 2006 never happened. Dixon failed to make a serious bid for the lead and spent the last few laps battling with a charging Castroneves for sixth.
Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 champion still searching for his first season title, managed to keep Dixon behind him to slightly pad his lead in the standings. The Brazilian will take a 31-point lead over Dixon heading to Sonoma on Aug. 25. Defending champion Hunter-Reay is 65 points back in third.
Contributing: Associated Press