Max Chilton enters this weekend’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway following a fourth-place finish last month at the Indianapolis 500.
Ahead of Saturday night’s event, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver spoke with Popular Speed’s Ashley McCubbin about his thoughts entering the weekend, his season so far, and more.
Popular Speed: What are your thoughts going into Texas Motor Speedway this weekend?
Max Chilton: Looking forward to it. It’s always an action-packed, fast race. I haven’t driven this new layout and we have very little practice before qualifying. So it’s going to be a quick turnaround to learn the new layout, but it looks better for racing and smoother. I can’t wait to try that tomorrow afternoon. It’s pretty hot here, the crowd is always good and there’s the big Hoss TV – it’s a good event and a nice coming back to an oval after Indy.
PS: How would you evaluate Chip Ganassi Racing’s oval program right now?
MC: I think we’re doing pretty well after changing engine manufactures over the winter when this year we had a lot less testing with the new rules as you’re not allowed to do a lot of testing. To be leading the championship with Scott (Dixon)’s car and also see Ganassi right up there in NASCAR, the team is doing remarkably well. I am having a better year than I was last year in the points. I think Tony is a bit back due to catching some bad luck, bu as a whole we’re doing well with changing engine manufactures. We’ve had a lo of success with Honda in the past so I had no doubt that we’d get there and to be leading the championship already with one of our cars is huge.
PS: What are your thoughts on your season so far?
MC: Pretty good. You can always wish for more but I’m well ahead in the points to where I was this time last year. I finished fourth at Indianapolis and led 50 laps, which put me in the top 100 in laps led of all drivers that have completed in the Indy 500 so that’s pretty good. But I can’t complain finishing fourth compared to where we were last year. It’s a remarkable achievement. I just hope we can keep the momentum going forward. We’re having a good year on the 8 crew. We’ve changed some of the personnel, and it seems to be working pretty well.
PS: Looking ahead to July, what are your thoughts on Toronto?
MC: Toronto is a track that I’ve only ever raced at once and that was last year, and they made a big change with the pit complex. It’s a very tight track. It doesn’t really suit my driving style, I have to admit, but the city itself is great. The drivers that have been going there for many years love going back there. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it a bit more this year than I did last year. I enjoy the city – the people are great. Honda has a big presence in Toronto so it’s great to have all their guests there. It’s great meeting them all. It’s also good to watch the different types of racing that go on there.
PS: What’s the biggest challenge to being successful in Toronto?
MC: The biggest challenge is the change in track surface between the backstraight and then the really old, bumpy streets. A lot of street circuits in North America could do with re-surfacing as it helps. It’d be nice if they could re-do a lot of it. I come from Formula 1 where they have mostly new tracks, so it takes getting used to the bumps. But we raced in Detroit last weekend. They’ve done a lot of work there to smoothen it – about the half the track now, which is nice. The drivers weren’t complaining. But Toronto, it’s a very skilled track. If you can be quick around there, you’re very technically strong in the car because there’s no run-offs, very bumpy, lots of blind corners, and actual fast corners considering it’s a street circuit.
PS: How did you get your start in racing?
MC: I got my start in racing in go-karts when I was eight or nine years old, which is pretty much the standard route in racing. I worked my way up in single seaters – British F3, GP3, GP2 and then Formula 1. Then I went to LeMans, followed by mainly the Indy Lights program. Then went onto to do Indy Car this year and last year. But it’s crazy to think that I’ve been doing single-seater racing for a decade now, but it’s a great experience and I’ve learned a lot from it.
PS: What’s the biggest thing that you learned last year in your rookie season?
MC: I think experience. People seem to do well have been doing it for many years. You need the experience. I’m trying to learn as quickly as I can, but I think it’s mainly experience. You can put a lot of time and effort in, and the more time and effort, the quicker you learn. But there’s a point that you need experience more than anything. You look at Helio Castroneves and he’s been doing this for 20 years and had six top-twos in the Indy 500 so it shows the experience is key.
With a full season of IndyCar competition under his belt, Chilton will look to improve on last year’s 15th-place finish this weekend.
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