Monday, 23 May 2011

Diabetes Doesn't Slow Charlie Kimball

Diabetes Doesn't Slow Charlie Kimball

Diagnosed four years ago with Type I diabetes that sidelined him for a year, Kimball is attempting to become the IndyCar Series' first licensed driver with the disease to race in the Indianapolis 500. Extensive research on the disease (including whether others have raced with it) convinced the rookie he wouldn't be affected as long as he followed precautions including glucose-monitoring mechanisms in his No. 83 Dallara/Honda.

Not only has it provided a full-season ride with Chip Ganassi Racing, but an insulin technology sponsor and platform to speak on.

"People who may aspire to be driver, when they're diagnosed, see that door as being closed, and I aim to prove otherwise," said Kimball, 26. "Because you're diagnosed doesn't mean you can't chase your dream and live your passion.

"The modern insulins, blood sugar testing, the monitor I wear, the understanding of the physiology and the science behind diabetes and good glucose control and management means I have better tools than ever before to race cars professionally. All the new technologies in the last 10, 20, years not only have made this possible, I can continue to compete. I want to prove that I'm a racing driver, and diabetes is part of who I am."

Wednesday's misty conditions canceled practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, denying the English-born Californian a chance to gain laps in his Honda, supported by Levemir and Novolog FlexPen, which delivers insulin. His steering wheel features a glucose monitor while the dash features a blood-sugar gauge that his physician and pit crew can access as well. A hydration bladder feeds him orange juice or sugar water.

His car number is an ode to the year that Ganassi, who has won three Indy 500s as an owner including last year, finished a career-best eighth as a driver at the Brickyard. Finally, Kimball's father, Gordon, worked for McLaren, Benetton and Ferrari and helped build engines that won at Indy in the 1980s.

Though weather has slowed Kimball's oval introduction at Indy — he passed last weekend's Rookie Orientation Program — his road course background has helped his IndyCar get off to a solid start. A 10th-place run at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala., highlighted that early-season stretch on road and street courses, and he stands 21st in points, 110 behind leader Will Power.

He enters Indy with the benefit of two title-winning teammates that have won the Greatest Spectacle in Racing — Scott Dixon and defending champion Dario Franchitti— as well as Graham Rahal, son of 1986 winner Bobby Rahal and the series' youngest race winner. That has him confident of earning one of 24 spots in Saturday's qualifying.

"I looked for precedents, and that gave me an indication that I'd be able to do this," said Kimball, who deferred entrance to Stanford to pursue his dream. "For a while my racing was self-centric, but now I'm doing this to make a difference and have an impact."

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