Indy Car racer Charlie Kimball is the latest addition to the Rudy Project Brand ambassador team. Like our other athletes, he’s all about speed and performance, and knows the value of performance eyewear when there is no margin for error. Welcome to the team, Charlie!
Charlie wears Rudy Project sunglasses on and off the track, and sports his RaceMaster road helmet while on his bike. We caught up with him for a Q&A right after the race season started.
- What brought you to racing? How did you get started?
I’m the son of a racing engineer, so my first memories involve a race track! I started racing go-karts at age 9, as a way to spend time with my dad when he wasn’t working. But soon I started collecting trophies and got more serious about it. For my 16th birthday, my parents gifted me a test day in a formula open-wheel car… a real racing car! My dad says he could see my smile through my helmet after just one lap. I deferred entry into Stanford University’s engineering program and instead spent some time racing in Europe. I returned to the States in 2009 to work my way up the American open wheel ladder system. In 2011, I began my rookie year in the IndyCar Series and competed in my first Indianapolis 500; then in 2013, I scored my first race win. Seven years later, I’m still as passionate as ever and always working hard for my next victory!
- What do you think people don’t understand about the athletic demand of IndyCar racing?
I think it’s hard for the general public to understand the physical demands of IndyCar because their only point of reference may be driving the family minivan to work. While it can seem like we’re just “sitting down” all day, it’s tough to demonstrate how the G-forces, downforce levels, braking and lack of power steering physiologically affect our bodies the same way as any other performing elite athlete. We don’t have time outs in IndyCar—our heart rates are at about 90 percent of max while racing, for up to three hours at a time. And when we’re driving at speeds close to 230 mph, inches apart from competitors, there is no margin for error.
- What kind of cross training do you do?
I work with a motorsports-specific trainer at PitFit Training, typically five mornings per week. In the afternoons, we might go out on a group road cycling ride or a trail run. We really need a mix of both strength and cardiovascular work to be successful on the track. We’re holding on to a car with our arms, shoulders and neck but we need the cardio fitness for the long stints in 100-plus degree heat. During the off-season, I spend more time outdoors, hiking and mountain biking. My two favorite vacation spots are the mountains in the winter, for snowboarding and cross-country skiing, and the lake on my boat in the summer, for wake surfing. I can only take a day of relaxing on the beach before I’m ready to do something active!
Since my diagnosis in 2007, I’ve been lucky to work with fantastic doctors, nurses and nutritionists to find out what works best for me both in my every day life and at the track. Most of the work happens before we even arrive at the race track. I’m very aware of what I eat and how it’s affecting my body. During a race weekend, I’m extra diligent about checking my numbers and carb-counting my pre-race meals. It’s all about the prep so that once I strap into the car, all I have to think about is driving fast!
- Why is eyewear important for you and your pit crew?
Safety is a top priority in IndyCar, and the pit crew members are exposed to just as many dangers as drivers. They’re out on pit lane, with no real protection from a fast-moving race car. During a race, their focus is performing a pit stop in eight seconds or less. That means there is no room for distractions—my crew chief facing the sun head-on while waving me into the pit box, or a tire changer worried about the fit of sunglasses under his helmet. With Rudy Project products, we know we can eliminate those distractions and focus on a safe, quick pit stop.
- Why is Rudy Project an ideal partner?
Rudy Project as a brand lines up perfectly with my goals and approach to racing. Just like in IndyCar, they are obsessed with the small details—getting their product just right for their customers, really focusing on a high level of craftsmanship. In every Rudy Project piece, it’s clear they’ve thought about every aspect of an athlete’s needs, from safety to fit and quality. It’s their focus on engineering the best product possible that I can really relate to and appreciate. Oh, and they look awesome too!
- After the first race of the season – how do you feel? What are your goals?
For the first time in seven years, I’m racing with a new team, Carlin. But it’s more of a homecoming, as I had lots of success racing with them in Europe. It’s all about new beginnings. This is the team’s first year in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and especially with the new aerodynamics, there are so many things to learn. We’ll make mistakes this season. But that’s okay—we’ll learn to not make that same mistake twice. Carlin has a fantastic open culture for any one on the team to be able to give feedback, chime in with new ideas or just ask for help when needed. Our goal is simple: to win. Everyone in the organization is competitive and one hundred percent determined to do what it takes to be in victory lane.
Photos Courtesy of CK Racing and Chris Bucher Photography