|Max Chilton enjoying IndyCar|
Max Chilton is halfway through his rookie campaign in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and our pre-season Rookie of the Year pick is fitting right in amongst the paddock writes Brittany Frederick of The Examiner.
Ganassi's up and comer spoke with IndyCar Examiner ahead of this weekend's race at Road America and discussed how he is taking to American open-wheel racing.
"I've really enjoyed it," enthused the UK native. "It's more competitive than people perceive it. It's great racing, that's the thing about it. By having sort of a one-make series, I know there's the Chevy and the Honda thing, it makes the racing a bit more unpredictable. It's better for the fans. It's a great championship to be a part of.
"The [Indianapolis] 500 blew me away. That was a championship on its own, basically," he added. "It's an amazing event. People told me it was going to be big."
While he appreciates being part of the IndyCar community Max also knows that comes with membership in an elite roster of racers and he told us that he's not quite happy with the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet's performance in the first part of the season.
"Indy we did a pretty good job. We came in 15th which for a rookie is pretty decent. I think we did a good job there," he told us. "But Detroit, there was a big accident [in Race 1] which I couldn't do anything about that. And then the next day we rebuilt the car, an accident happened in front of me and I think the car just spun out on me and we ended up in the back. That was really frustrating."
But he's optimistic about the remainder of the schedule. "I think the next one [at Road America] is going to be very good," Max continued. "I'm looking forward to racing in Napa Valley; I love that part of the world. It's a good track and it's the last of the year. I'm looking forward to that and hoping we can get some good results."
Fans are certainly expecting him to post those results given that he's driving for Ganassi, one of the top-tier organizations in IndyCar. Yet he said that working with that big name behind him hasn't added pressure to an what's been an already high-profile rookie run.
"I've come from Formula One, which you don't get much more pressure than that," he explained. "They've given me a good car. They've got a lot of experience…I'm in a good place. I think pace-wise, we're getting there and the second half of the year is where we can start turning things around."
"I've got amazing teammates," he continued. "I'm surrounded by good teammates; they're all willing to help out a lot. There's some very talented drivers in IndyCar, and that's why it's great to be racing against them."
He's also part of a burgeoning first-year driver class that's really taken the bull by the horns in 2016, whether it was Alexander Rossi winning the 500 or Conor Daly continuing to push his way up to the front of races. Asked to give us his evaluation of IndyCar's newest additions from the inside, Max said that he believes they're all on the move.
"I think it's been pretty level actually," he reflected, pointing out how quick the No. 8 was leading up to the month of May. "Conor in my opinion is not really a rookie; I'm not really paying attention to Conor. Rossi's the main one [to look at] and I think we're pretty level. He's way ahead in the championship but I think pace-wise, I'm doing pretty well and I definitely think we're doing a good job."
While the media speculation continues to swirl around whether or not Rossi will return to Formula One once the calendar ends, Max isn't so sure that his fellow F1 transplant is going anywhere. "I think Alex will probably do it again," he said of whether Rossi will stay with IndyCar. "With him winning the 500 anything can happen. That was an amazing achievement and I don't know what he plans to do.
As for his own future: "I have to focus on what I have to do now," he concluded, "before I think about what to do next year." Brittany Frederick/The Examiner