The Indianapolis 500 always seems to bring equal parts joy and heartbreak, and unfortunately for Charlie Kimball, Last Chance Qualifying brought the latter.
The driver of the No. 11 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet failed to break into the field of 33. With roughly five minutes remaining, he peeled off pit road for a second attempt. Pushing every ounce of his machine, he delivered an opening lap of 227.988mph, then followed with 227.554, 227.502 and 227.295 for a four-lap average of 227.584.
In the end, that pace left him behind Simona De Silvestro, who clinched the 33rd and final spot of the Indy 500 with a combined speed of 228.353mph. When looking at the overall performance, which included a first attempt at 227.811mph, Kimball is unsure what more the team could have done.
“We don’t know,” Kimball told RACER. “We don’t have that answer yet. If we did, we’d have done that for today, but I think we’ve got to go back. We have some questions that need answering and once those get answered, then we’ll figure out what went wrong and what went right and learn from it. At the end of the day, we executed. We had everything in our control, and we executed. There is zero fault I can find in any of those crew guys’ efforts, anyone from A.J. Foyt Racing. So, we’ll look back, we’ll learn. We’ll be better because of it.”
This was the first time Kimball was thrust into a battle for a last row spot at Indy. In the preparations for the day, he saw the entire organization come together in an effort to give him the best possible opportunity against the four other Last Chance competitors.
“The amount of different crew shirts from the A.J. Foyt stable working on that No. 11 Tresiba Chevrolet last night was impressive,” Kimball said. “Getting it ready, try and find everything we possibly could to get out and get the job done today. I can’t and won’t fault their effort. They did a great job. We changed everything but the chassis and the engine, and at the same time we still have the same speed delta we had all week. It just hurts. And it hurts for those guys as much as for me.”
The conditions changed tremendously from Kimball’s first run to his second as the track temperature cooled from its mid-120F down to 116F. While there was a noticeable difference, the actual challenge was the inability to cool the engine between attempts as Parc Ferme rules were in play after drivers made the first attempt.
“There was a little more grip,” Kimball said, who finished third in the 2015 Indy 500. “The car was sliding a little bit less than the first run, but with the heat soak in the engine, you never get quite the same horsepower and it’s so hard to do a second run without a couple hours to come back to the garage and just get everything cooled down and get ready to go.”
Asked how he felt about the Parc Ferme rules in play during Last Chance Qualifying, Kimball was reserved but admitted the opening run was his “best shot.”
“Everyone plays by the same rules,” Kimball. “We knew going in that our first run was going to be our best shot. We had one bullet and we had to execute on that — we did, and it wasn’t enough. So, I walk out of here with my head held high.”