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Carlin Team Ahead of Schedule with Strong Start to First Month of May

Trevor Carlin imagined this dream for years, and now that he’s in the final stages of preparing his first two cars for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on Sunday, the 55-year-old British team owner admits the experience has exceeded his expectations.

“To be honest, I’m pretty blown away by the whole affair,” Carlin said. “Coming to Indianapolis for the ‘500’ is like starting a whole new championship again, the way the cars are, the routine, the history, what’s needed in trying to keep up with the regulations. It’s been pretty daunting, but we’re starting to enjoy it.

“As a whole team, we’ve got a lot of English guys on the team who have only ever watched the Indy 500 on TV. To be standing there on pit lane with 350,000 people around us is probably going to be one of the most special moments in our lives, I imagine. I’m super, super excited. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

Verizon IndyCar Series veteran Charlie Kimball will start his eighth “500” from the 15th position in the No. 23 Fiasp Chevrolet. Max Chilton, who led 50 laps in last year’s race, will roll off from the 20th position in the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet.

After being widely successful in several European series with 30 championships and nearly 400 wins, Carlin made the jump to running two cars for a full Verizon IndyCar Series season. It helped that Kimball and Chilton, who have raced for Carlin before, were available after not being retained when Chip Ganassi Racing downsized from four cars to two.

“It’s been a blessing because they’ve both been here. They both know the track,” Carlin said of his drivers. “The good thing is I know they’re not going to go out there and wreck the car pushing for a lap time that’s not achievable. At the end of the day, Indy is all about the car, and the drivers have got to lead us in the right direction. They’ve done a great job. They’ve both been fantastic.

“We have a program, and they’ve worked with us and they’ve stuck with us. We’ve made some mistakes, but we’ve fixed those. I’m really encouraged. Hopefully we can bring both cars home to the finish in the ‘500.’”

Carlin has helped cultivate the careers of several other drivers in Sunday’s field — reigning series champion Josef Newgarden, defending “500” winner Takuma Sato, 2017 series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Ed Jones, Robert Wickens and Jack Harvey.

Team owner Carlin has tried to stay true to what has worked for him in the past in steadily getting acclimated to the series, being patient and making incremental progress.

“That’s how we’ve done everything since we started,” Carlin said. “We started out as a one-car Formula 3 team 19 years ago. We did everything step by step, and it’s worked really well for us so far. We’ve won 30 championships and nearly 400 races.

“We’re very patient, calm and professional. I’m sure if we can keep that philosophy going in IndyCar, then we’ll get some success eventually. The competition, as you move up the ladder, it gets super tough. To be taking on (team owners) Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi and Michael Andretti is pretty tough.”

Kimball is 18th in the points with a team-best 10th at Long Beach. Chilton is 20th in the points with his best result 16th in the INDYCAR Grand Prix.

When Carlin started racing in Indy Lights three and a half years ago, the ambition was to eventually race in the Indy 500. He thought that might take five to 10 years.

“I’m super excited that we’ve done it so quickly,” he said. “Now our next mission is to stay in the championship and be doing the Indy 500 for the next 20 years. We’ve made it. We’re in the race. Our next target goal is to win the race. Step by step.

“We’re under no illusions. We’re going to fight for the victory, but we want to do is a respectable job. You never know: You might get a lucky break. We don’t have the ultimate pace that (pole sitter) Ed Carpenter and the Penske guys have to win the race with outright pace. That puts us back into the scenario where (team owner) Dale Coyne does so well, where you do alternative strategy. If things roll our way and we ended up with two cars in the top 15 or top 10, that would be a massive success for a brand-new team at the Indy 500.”

Carlin admitted qualifying was “nerve-wracking” and was relieved when both of his cars were safely in the field.

“After Bump Day, that’s when I knew we had made it, then the icing on the cake was qualifying 15th and 20th (on Sunday),” he said. “I felt very proud. I look at all the cars ahead of us and I think, ‘Oh my God, we’ve still got so much to do.’ Then I look at all the cars behind us on the grid and think, ‘Wow, what an amazing job this bunch of people have done to beat all these guys in a fair-and-square qualifying session.’”

He knows his drivers understand it’s imperative to be patient in a long, 200-lap race on the 2.5-mile oval.

“I’m so glad we haven’t let everybody down,” Carlin said. “We’ve done a respectable job. We’re here to take our time, learn the process and do the best we can. It’s been a pretty damn good start, I have to say.”

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