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Carlin Must Keep Lower Profile

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While the timing of a move to the Verizon IndyCar Series seems perfectly set by Trevor Carlin for 2018, following a revision of the Dallara DW12 for the new year, it is a danger to become too ambitious.

Although the squad’s two pilots Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball have a combined nine full seasons of service in North America’s premier open-wheel division, the returns have been somewhat of a mixed bag. Chilton has only enjoyed limited success in his first 33 race appearances, topped off by a fourth-place outing in this year’s Indianapolis 500. Kimball meanwhile, has managed ninth or better four times in the same event, yet outside of that has only a single win on his resume at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2013.

Another potential roadblock is what could be badged as an okay, but lacking Chevrolet engine choice. In 2017, only Team Penske was able to consistently good outputs in all 17 events. Ed Carpenter Racing and A.J. Foyt Racing, on the other hand, were rarely ever able to match the Captain’s charge and often suffered outclassing by a majority of the Honda runners, especially on road courses.

Of course, there are a few things that on the upside that could ease the transition.

The financial backing the team will enjoy from Gallagher Investements and Novo Nordisk, who followed their chauffeurs from Chip Ganassi Racing this offseason, should put them in a position to go after top mechanical and engineering talent before the season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida. This dwarfs in comparison the war chest fellow 2018 freshman entrant Juncos Racing currently has to offer in its partial schedule plan for reigning Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Kyle Kaiser. It also puts them right on par with full-time first timers Harding Racing and its driver Gabby Chaves.

Secondly, the pairing of drivers selected each has previous ties to Carlin. This will be the third go-around for the Englishman, having joined forces with the squad in British Formula Three and GP2 in Europe. Chilton also represented the organization for two years in Indy Lights. Meanwhile, Kimball spent one campaign with the group, contesting the 2005 British F3 championship. While Carlin has yet to saddle up in IndyCar to date, the familiarity between club and pilots again will aid the expected growing pains.

Still, while IndyCar’s Jay Frye has opened the door to increasing the size of the full-time grid to where the biggest squads do not necessarily have to field four cars or more to keep the lineup at a decent amount, the ability to cut it against the seasoned organizations is a tough challenge.

With the new car and several pieces that have been connected in years prior, do not immediately place Carlin (or Harding) in the IndyCar cellar just yet. While Team Penske should continue to fly the flag as the best of the bunch in the “Bow-Tie Brigade,” Carlin stands a good chance to take number two honors in the pecking order. For example, while the new kids on the block come into IndyCar with seasoned veterans and backers, Foyt and Carpenter have their question marks.

Foyt does feature a former Indy 500 champion in Tony Kanaan, but of course, the Brazilian has shown a regression in skill outside of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The Texans also include a rookie in Matheus Leist, who faces a steep uphill climb in his circuit debut. Carpenter also has concerns in that Spencer Pigot lacks in race miles on ovals and the team has yet to name a replacement for the boss on road courses.

Carlin could also find itself outlasting a few of the lower Honda rungs too. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports features two inexperienced hands in Jack Harvey, and Robert Wickens and Dale Coyne Racing could regress follow an above expectations 2017 output.

Either way, whether in success or failure, smart money says that keeping the hopes under control in year one could allow a team like Trevor Carlin’s a great chance to flourish as IndyCar enters a new decade in three years time.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

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Matt Embury

An auto racing writer for over five years, Matt Embury's interest in auto racing was influenced from his father's side of the family. His first recollection of live racing attendance was in the early 1990s watching winged sprint car action at Butler Motor Speedway in Michigan with his uncle and dad.

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