IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball, who drives the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar is living his dream. You might not think someone who was diagnosed with Diabetes 1 at the end of 2007 would be so positive about his life.
But he truly is.
Kimball grew up around racing as his father was a mechanical engineer who designed racecars for the IndyCar Series and the Formula One Series. His father was on the road at racetracks, but when Kimball started racing Go-Karts at age nine, it became a way to spend quality time with his father. Over the years he won seven national Go-Karting Championships.
Kimball was accepted in to the engineering program at Stanford University, but bypassed his admission so he could continue to pursue his dream of being a professional race car driver.
On his 16th birthday, he tested a Formula Ford and fell in love with car racing. He moved to Europe to pursue his Formula One dream and started the journey by competing in the Formula 3 Series, winning two races and three pole positions his first year racing in the series.
He then graduated to British Formula 3, and became the first American to win a race in the series in 11 years.
“Racing in Europe was pretty interesting,” he said. “Few Americans who went over there to race were successful.”
After he won his first race, his competitors said, “You can’t be an American, you go too fast.”
Kimball said it was nice to change some misconceptions Europeans had about American racecar drivers. He won five races that year, set two track records, and was second in the championship.
From there he raced in the Formula 3 Euroseries and the World Series by Renault. It was mid-season while he was driving in the World Series by Renault when he found out he had Diabetes 1 and had to stop racing mid-season.
Kimball went to his doctor for a regular checkup in 2007, and he mentioned to his doctor that he had been overly thirsty lately. Then he found out he had lost 25 pounds within a two week period which he had not even noticed. Kimball had very little knowledge about Diabetes 1. He had had no personal experience with it, nor did he know anyone who had.
He got a ton of support from the Diabetes 1 community, and in 2008, Kimball returned to Formula 3 Euroseries with Prema Fowerteam sponsorship. He finished second in the opening race. He became a spokesperson for DexCom, the company that produces his Continuous Glucose Monitor.
Like a true hero, he has not tried to brush his condition under the rug and keep it private. Instead, he has put his two life passions together, racing in the IndyCar Series and being involved with and supporting the Diabetes 1 community.
“I think it is because I got so much support when I was diagnosed that I want to pay it forward,” Kimball said. “Hearing other peoples stories reminds me that my life is much more than where I finish on the racetrack.”
Kimball won his first IndyCar Series race at Mid-Ohio in 2013.
“It was really rewarding,” he said. “The neat thing is the amount of support I got from the Diabetes 1 community and for me to be able to reward that group of people and my team with my first IndyCar Series win was great. It meant a lot to me. It validated what Chip and the team had done. Bringing in a young driver with Diabetes 1 racing for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing.
Kimball also scored a victory in the Rolex 24-Hour race at Daytona in 2013, with teammates Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Juan Pablo Montoya for Chip Ganassi Racing.
“It’s a completely different racing environment,” Kimball said. “I’d never raced a car with a roof before. Pruett, who has such a storied racing career and has been such a big help to me in the Rolex race and the IndyCar Seriesg, and Memo, a guy I watched race, and Montoya, who is such a versatile race car driver, it was a great experience.”
As far as racing with Diabetes 1 Kimball said, “I wear a continuous glucose monitor during races. It’s part of my data that goes to the team. With an IndyCar you don’t have power steering or power brakes so it’s a lot of physical work. I have two drink bottles in the car with me, water to stay hydrated and orange juice if my blood sugar gets low. I’ve never had to drink the orange juice,” he said.
He prepares for each race starting two hours before the green flag waves.
“I test my blood sugar a few times in those two hours, so that when I get in the car I can focus on racing. It will forever be a learning situation.”
“I do think it is an added challenge because managing Diabetes 1 can be very time consuming,” he said.
As far as how he pays it forward, he does a lot of events throughout the year at the racetracks and away from the tracks. He visits a lot of hospitals and talks to doctors and health professionals and patient support groups, especially parents support groups, to show them how to let their kids with Diabetes 1 realize anything is possible for them.
“It helps give balance to my life.”
Kimball is going to test today, along with 10 other IndyCar drivers at Sonoma Raceway, in preparation for the GoPro IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma, August 22-24. Race fans are invited to the free test session, with testing slated from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fans will be allowed to watch the cars on the track, and enjoy the open paddock. And space permitting, they will be able to attend the driver press conferences. Tickets for the GoPro IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma will also be available for purchase.
For more information on Kimball go to www.charliekimball.com, www.indycar.com/Series/IndyCar-Series/Charlie-Kimball. For more information about the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma go to http://www.racesonoma.com/tickets/gopro_grand_prix_of_sonoma/#tabpackages.