Carlin joined the rest of the NTT IndyCar Series field in their first race weekend ever at Circuit of the Americas this past weekend for the INDYCAR Classic. Rookie driver Patricio O’Ward made his debut with Carlin in the NTT IndyCar Series recording his second top-10 finish in only his second career INDYCAR start (Sonoma 2018 – ninth). Max Chilton was on-pace to join his rookie teammate in the top-10, but fuel issues and untimely yellows forced the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet to finish one lap down.
After an impressive qualifying effort by O’Ward, the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet started the 60-lap race in the eighth position with teammate Chilton narrowly missing out on advancing into the top-12 by a thousandth of a second placing him in the 13th starting position. The field took the green and made it through the highly anticipated first turn cleanly. O’Ward and Chilton held onto their starting spots of eighth and 13th through the first lap and O’Ward had jumped up to sixth by the second lap.
Nine laps in, Chilton was brought in for fuel and red tires with teammate O’Ward right behind him on Lap 10. After rejoining the field, O’Ward made some exciting passes around veteran driver Graham Rahal and Chip Ganassi Racing newcomer Felix Rosenqvist to work his back into the top-10. The rookie moved back into the sixth position before pitting for fuel and red tires on Lap 24. After losing a few positions after the team’s first pit stop, Chilton worked his way back up through the field to 16th before coming in on Lap 25 for his second stop of the day. During Chilton’s stop, it was discovered that the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet had run out of fuel and needed to be restarted before rejoining the field. The lengthy pit stop caused Chilton to go one lap down.
O’Ward was back in on Lap 42 for fuel and tires before the field went yellow for the first and only time of the day for an incident between the No. 5 and No. 10 cars. Chilton was called back into pit lane under yellow to top off on fuel, but because pit lane was still closed the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet had to take the restart from the back of the field. Before going back to green, O’Ward was called in for fuel and tires and Chilton came back into pit lane again for a full-service stop to finish out the race. The field went back to green on Lap 49 with O’Ward taking the restart in fifth and Chilton in 22nd. Over the next 11 laps O’Ward battled to stay in the top-five, but he was forced to go into fuel saving mode with only five laps to go making it impossible for him to hold off contending cars behind him who were not saving fuel. O’Ward was able to take the checkered in eighth to record his second top-10 finish in the NTT IndyCar Series and teammate Chilton was able to make up a position and finish in 21st.
The young rookie O’Ward summed up his top-10 run, “I think it was a pretty good race for us. We ended exactly where we started (eighth) and didn’t go backwards, so I’d say that was a successful day. We ran a pretty clean race and we were right on pace, but after that yellow came out we needed one more lap under yellow to be able to push as hard as we wanted to. I was having to save a lot of fuel to make it to the end, so it was just impossible to keep Marco and Takuma behind me coming full power. I know the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet had a top-five finish in it today and even though we couldn’t make it happen, it’s nice to know that we have the pace and can be fighting up front with the veteran drivers. Huge congrats to Colton. I’m really happy for him – I know this means a lot to him.”
A frustrated, but optimistic Chilton added, “Another long day at the office for us. It was just an extremely unlucky day for the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet. We lost a few spots right out of the gate and then we had a very long pit stop trying to get the car going again after running out of fuel. It just wasn’t our day at all, but I’m a big fan of the track at Barber so I’m looking forward to hopefully finding a little bit of luck and coming out with a good result.”
The Carlin INDYCAR team will be back on track at Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday, April 7th for the 2nd round of the NTT IndyCar Series.