Max Chilton was a visible blend of proud and relieved on Saturday when he earned Carlin Racing’s best start of its rookie IndyCar season by securing sixth on the grid at Mid-Ohio.
The Briton’s first visit to Firestone’s Fast Six qualifying round was the most impressive performance during qualifying as teams set the starting order for the Honda Indy 200, and it came at a perfect time, halting a five-race slide where Chilton qualified 17th or lower.
According to the 27-year-old, testing at the idyllic road course last week certainly played a factor in being able to start directly behind reining IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden.
“I’m over the moon. It’s amazing for a new team. Having a test day makes a world of difference. Luckily we were here last week testing. The test went pretty decent. Not everyone is here, so you don’t know how to exactly compare to yourselves,” he said.
“The car was decent. Yesterday we thought we lost something. This morning we felt we weren’t a million miles away. I literally focused on getting everything out of the car. We didn’t change much between sessions, just fine-tuning it. Then we got through to obviously our first-ever — not only our first Fast 12, but our first Fast Six. That was amazing.”
Fully aware that a breakout qualifying session won’t guarantee a strong race result, Chilton took a realistic view of what lies ahead on Sunday.
“It’s amazing how qualifying can change your whole weekend and shift the momentum heading into the race on Sunday,” he said. “While where you start certainly doesn’t guarantee where you are going to finish, qualifying well does make a huge difference, especially for a new team like us.
“If we can just keep it clean tomorrow, I will take care of the No. 59 Chevrolet the best I can, and hopefully, we will come through with a great result for Carlin and Gallagher.”