Enlarge /. Charlie Kimball, driver of the # 4 TRESIBA / AJ FOYT RACING Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NTT IndyCar Series GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 3, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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Like most of us, 2020 for IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball is not going according to plan. Here in July we should be in the middle of the season. However, the sport did not wave the green flag until the beginning of June and started a shortened 14-race season, which – hopefully – ends in Florida in October. It promises hard work for the drivers; Without power steering and with high cornering loads, an IndyCar needs more muscles than most racing cars.
"The challenge of driving an IndyCar is that it produces 5,000 pounds of downforce at 200 mph. I have 750 horsepower under my right foot and I have no power steering, no power brakes. Plus the adrenaline and physiological response to the competition means that my average heart rate during a race is between 150 and 170 beats per minute, "he said to Ars when we spoke recently. And don't forget – an IndyCar race can take well over three hours if it's something like the Indy 500.
The best way to stay fit is to race a lot, but the extended off-season has obviously made this impossible. But Kimball believes he is better prepared today than in March when the original season opener was canceled.
"Honestly, I think I'm in better shape now, or at least as good as St. Pete (Rsburg, Florida, where the first race should have taken place, but now the final will take place instead)," he told Ars Many IndyCar drivers are based in Indianapolis and told me that his regular gym started renting equipment so drivers could work out at home, as a nationwide order to stay at home was likely. Long bike tours continue, but are now static. Virtual team trips are organized online.
Kimball during testing on the Circuit of The Americas on February 12th, 2020. I took this picture mainly because today is July 4th and there are huge stars and stripes in it.
Chris Graythen / Getty Images
Being fit enough to drive an IndyCar would be a challenge for many, and Kimball has the added complication of being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes over 12 years ago. In fact, he seems to have found a way to use it to his advantage.
"I think I am a better athlete because of diabetes because I listen to and train on my body, I feel it. I am very conscientious in preparing my body. And that means filling it up with the right diet and my blood sugar to control numbers, my insulin doses, my hydration. My training and physiology are also very different from those of other riders. If I can adapt this training because of my diabetes and understand the effects on my body, I can really continue to be the best possible athlete "he told me.
This means working together with an endocrinologist and an exercise physiologist as part of a fitness program. "Because it is not the first lap that counts, but the last lap to be able to use this opportunity physically at the end of the race," he said.
This approach to using physiological data continues once he's in his racing car, with data from his continuous glucose monitor (a Dexcom G6) just another variable in his telemetry feed. "The sensor transfers to a display and this display is actually plugged into the data system of the car. So on my electronic dashboard I have speed, lap time, oil pressure, blood sugar, water temperature … and the nice thing about it, once it's in it, is this Not only can I see the electronic system, but the engineers can also see it on the timekeeping stand, "he said.
Kimball also uses its physiological data in a manner similar to how telemetry from the car is analyzed by engineers after each race. "At the end of the event, we can export it and run a report to continue learning what the ideal blood glucose levels are and how I need to exercise, how to manage my diabetes to continue to perform better," he said.
"We have included all of this information, as well as my insulin doses and meal time, in a regression analysis that my sports physiologist creates. It ranges from Vegas winning chances to pit stop times to weather conditions and race track type. The average G-force loads and creates windows with glucose areas that we have worked with my endocrinologist and that I want to run. My perspective has always been that I don't want to be a driver with diabetes, I want to be a competitor and a race winner and someone who fights for good results and proves that diabetes is you don't have to brake, "said Kimball.