Charlie Kimball is a diabetic, a condition the IndyCar driver manages with a mixture of vigilance, discipline and perspective.
Kind of like the way he handles the horsepower at his fingertips.
Six years after the diagnosis that changed his life and two-plus seasons into a career blossoming right under his feet, the guy who used to wonder if he’d get to do this for a living is now a race winner.
Kimball slipped by Simon Pagenaud with 18 laps remaining then pulled away to win the Indy 200 on Sunday at Mid-Ohio, his triumph validation that the plan team owner Chip Ganassi put in place when he hired Kimball as the third driver on his powerful team remains very much on schedule.
“The last couple years, we got the experience, we built the foundation,” Kimball said. “As a team we’re ready to win.”
It certainly looked like it after Kimball’s crew decided to ditch the initial strategy that asked him to save as much fuel as he could with his No. 83 Honda, figuring two pit stops instead of three would be the quickest route to victory lane.
After a few trips around the tricky 2.258-mile circuit, Kimball knew the only way he could win would come if he punched it.
While top qualifiers Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power and Scott Dixon eased off the gas to stretch their mileage, Kimball pressed his foot to the floor figuring he could make up whatever precious seconds he lost by pitting three times if he just kept the hammer down.
It worked better than he imagined, propelling the 28-year-old to the top of the podium and erasing any lingering doubts he had about whether he belonged in North America’s top open-wheel series.
“Getting the win quiets a lot of voices for sure,” Kimball said. “Especially the ones within myself.”
Pagenaud held on for second while Dario Franchitti took third. Power was fourth followed by Hunter-Reay and series leader Helio Castroneves.
Dixon, who was bidding to become the first IndyCar driver since 2006 to take the checkered flag in four straight races, never threatened and finished seventh.