Perhaps Max Chilton was the favorite to win the 101st Indianapolis 500 in the final 50 laps in May. Or maybe it was only a matter of time before it slipped through his fingers.
“It wasn’t my day,” Chilton told Frontstretch. “But I look back at it with pride and joy.”
Despite coming up short in the world’s biggest race in May, Chilton received praise for his aggressive maneuvers for the top spot. More importantly, he gained a hefty level of confidence heading into the second 500-mile race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, this time Pocono Raceway.
“If we can do something similar to [Indy], I’d be over the moon,” he said. “I learned from Indy that it’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish.”
Qualifying was a hit-and-miss session for the Brit, who ended 10th on the time sheets, mid-pack in a field of 22 cars for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500. However, with plenty of passing opportunities on the table, Chilton looks to build off Indianapolis with his added experience.
“Certain corners here are designed like Indy, Turn 2,” he said. “But, the unique thing here is that every corner is different, so actually you’re adjusting your tools more than you are at Indy. It’s very busy. It’s more about race tactics and being confident in the race that you can do the passes where you need to.”
In his second IndyCar season with Chip Ganassi Racing, the ex-Formula 1 driver is slowly improving behind the wheel of his No. 8 Honda, notching five top-10 finishes compared to only two in all of 2016.
The improvement has been particularly blatant on oval tracks, leading in his last three races with top 10s coming in two.
“I don’t really feel that overly confident,” he said. “But experience is paying off. Maybe it suits my style. The only race I’ve won in North America is an oval race, so maybe it’s in my blood.”
Sitting 11th in the championship standings entering Pocono, Chilton is six markers behind James Hinchliffe for ninth and only 10 points behind CGR teammate Tony Kanaan in eighth. Barely cracking the top 20 in points one year ago, Chilton knows his improvement has far to go beyond 200 laps at Pocono.
“I feel more confident with more laps,” he said. “It’s like anything, the more you do in sport, the better you get. I can always improve, you can be a five-time champion and still be learning. Still lots to learn.”