Charlie Kimball’s breakthrough IndyCar Series win has been celebrated throughout the world of open-wheel racing since Sunday, but he wasn’t the only first-time winner within the No. 83 Ganassi Racing program at Mid-Ohio.
As congratulations streamed in for Kimball from his fellow drivers and the fans in attendance, his race engineer Brad Goldberg received just as much praise from crews and engineers up and down pit lane.
His career has paralleled Kimball’s in many ways, as the two one from California and one from Indiana came into the series together in 2011 as unknown commodities, with no experience in their new jobs, and had everything to prove.
Kimball’s journey from being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to becoming and IndyCar driver has been chronicled many times, while Goldberg, a soft-spoken Hoosier, has remained under the radar, quietly working away to move up the engineering ranks within Ganassi operation.
Goldberg took a non-traditional route on his way to becoming race engineer on Kimball’s Novo Nordisk-sponsored Indy car, starting as an assistant engineer with the team’s Target cars before leaving open-wheel for sports cars as he switched to Ganassi’s Grand-Am Rolex Series program in 2010 (RIGHT). Once he’d developed his craft in the Daytona Prototype category, Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull saw a perfect opportunity to re-route Goldberg, placing him in the team’s new G2 IndyCar outfit to look after Kimball.
“We work really hard here to not provide means for only lateral growth, but to give upward mobility in our company,” Hull told RACER. “Brad’s a good example of how a person can be mentored to grow in our company, and it also helps that we have multiple programs in our organization so a guy like Brad can hone his talents and grow from the Grand-Am series into IndyCar.”
According to Goldberg, his story within the Ganassi team has roots dating back to his teenage years, making Sunday’s win the perfect validation for his chosen career path and the faith that Hull placed in him.
“I remember in high school, we had the National Honor Society,” said Goldberg. “When you get ready to graduate, they said, ‘What do you want to do?’ And I said, I want to be a racecar engineer.’ True story. That was 1998. Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis, Ind. And to think where I am today, it’s all down to those I’ve learned from at Ganassi.
“[Engineers] Julian Robertson, Chris Simmons, Eric Bretzman; they’re the ones who got this program going. It really is one team and I owe those guys so much because I’m learning from some of the best engineers in the world. I’ve been with Chip Ganassi for 11 years now and it’s because of this kind of environment that we can go out and win with any one of our cars.”
For those interested in becoming an IndyCar engineer like Goldberg, there’s no defined route to take or formula to follow. There’s also no guarantee a career like Goldberg’s will materialize, but his story should inspire anyone at the bottom of the ladder wondering if they can make it to the top.
“Yeah, I first got started in racing in the Skip Barber Racing School as a mechanic,” he explained. “It wasn’t as an engineer, it was just having a passion for racing and wanting to work in the sport, so I got my start there. Any guy that’s crewing on a car in the SCCA or wherever; those were my roots, that’s where I started from.
“I know it’s hard to see how it’s all going to work out when you’re at a local event and don’t know how you’re going to move up to the next series and the one after that, but if that’s your dream, if that’s the direction you want to go, you can absolutely get here. I am that guy.”
As IndyCar rookies, Kimball and Goldberg showed glimpses of promise in 2011, and again in 2012, but something has changed in 2013. The duo has made a significant leap this season, producing seven top-10s which has the No. 83 driver tied for seventh in points with James Hinchcliffe.
Arriving at that success with Kimball, as Goldberg shares, has been aided with time and a number of unique bonds that bring them closer than most drivers and engineers.
“One instance for myself, and everybody talks about overcoming adversity, is my father passed away when I was nine years old,” he said. “When you’re the only male in the family, you have two choices: you can fold or move forward. You can fight for what you want or give up. When Charlie was diagnosed with diabetes, he could either fight for what he wants or give in. Those troubling times define who you are and they defined both of us.
“And also, in a roundabout way, I’m medically diagnosed as pre-diabetic. It runs in my family type 2 diabetes. Charlie really has to pay attention to what he eats, how he exercises, and I was told that if I didn’t change my lifestyle, I’d be using insulin for the rest of my life. 100 pounds later and seven half-marathons later, I’m having to go through many of the same things Charlie’s experienced. That’s brought us together.
“I know how certain foods affect our blood sugars. He’s 28, I’m 33, we’ve both come from technical backgrounds, we’ve both been fighting the same physical type of condition. We’ve had to make similar choices in life, make similar adjustments, and it’s really helped us to work as close as we do.”
Now that he and Kimball have joined the elite group of race winners in the IndyCar Series, maintaining that form will be the next great challenge for the entire No. 83 operation.
“Now that everybody knows you can win, you have to be sure every person is spending that extra few minutes here and there to make sure you’re giving it the best you have,” he added. “The focus absolutely changes. Time will tell if we can add more wins, but I can say that the guys on this team are excited to put a car together to go win every race.
“And the expectation has shifted. If a top-10 was a good result before, or a top-5, we’ve proven to ourselves that we can win. Now we know winning is something we can rightfully pursue every time out with Charlie, and I really think winning last weekend will elevate everyone within our team. It’s great to be going through this process right now, I’ll tell you that.”