Chilton: “Life is to be enjoyed, and I don’t enjoy oval racing”

Carlin’s Max Chilton has spoken candidly about why he has quit oval racing in the NTT IndyCar Series – and why he made Indy an exception.

Chilton: “Life is to be enjoyed, and I don’t enjoy oval racing”

After failing to qualify for last year’s Indianapolis 500, Chilton elected to relinquish the #59 Carlin-Chevrolet for the remaining four oval races of the season, and there were even rumors he would quit IndyCar altogether at season’s end.

However, two weeks ago the 28-year-old Briton announced he would be starting his fifth season in the series, but again running the 12 road and street courses plus the Indy 500 while skipping the other ovals.

Asked if there was a scenario by which he would consider a full-season campaign, Chilton joked: “If I win every race up to Indy! But to be honest, I can’t see that happening…

“I do think we’re going to have a big step forward this year. I’m more motivated than ever to try and get a result. Put it this way, if I don’t get a result, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here, so this is the year to get a result. And I’m desperate to do that. I know I’ve got the ability to do that, I’ve definitely got the skill and the talent to do that and the team has the ability to do that.”

Chilton scored an Indy Lights victory from pole at Iowa Speedway in 2015, before graduating to IndyCar in 2016 with Chip Ganassi Racing, and he immediately impressed at Phoenix, his first oval at this level. He played a starring role in the 2017 Indy 500 by leading 50 laps – more than any other driver – and finishing fourth. However, two weeks later at Texas Motor Speedway, he became one of the many victims of a crash-strewn ‘pack race’, and his form on ovals waned thereafter, leading to his decision last year to quit them, with the exception of Indy.

“I have to be true to my word,” he said. “Life is to be enjoyed and I don’t enjoy oval racing, so there’s no point in doing it. I did it for a number of years, I won on it, I came pretty close to winning the biggest race in the world, but I wasn’t enjoying myself.

“Indy is special… it can change your career and can give your team a better chance, and it’s definitely a different venue. And the thing I like about the 500 is, you’re not just thrown in the deep end. You get two weeks of building up to it, it’s done the right way, you’re methodical about it, and every driver gets two weeks of practice.

“When you turn up at Pocono and you get an hour’s running and it’s just a free-for-all – that’s the stuff I just do not enjoy. Like every driver strapping in and not really wanting to go flat, I just don’t like that. So I’ve given that bit up.

“It’s a pleasure to go back to the Indy 500 this year, fingers crossed we can go a few better than in 2017. But that race I see as a bit different from the others… You are taking dangers, you’re taking risks, don’t get me wrong: it’s the fastest track of the year. But it’s done in the right way. Everyone builds up to it and everyone shows a lot more respect there than they drive at other places.

“Indy’s always a good driving standard, even people who just do the one race there. They treat it with respect. When you go to other races it’s like a free-for-all. These accidents that happen could have been avoided if people just treated [oval racing] with a bit more respect. So that’s the reason why I’m willing to do [Indy].

“But I genuinely love road and street [tracks], that’s what I was brought up doing. Tracks like COTA, that’s my bread and butter; I love fast flowing circuits.

“That’s what I love and you’ve got to do what you love in life.”

Carlin has been in talks with Conor Daly about reprising his role as Chilton substitute, as the American did a fine job for the team on ovals in 2019, and because he is available: Daly's road/street course ride with Ed Carpenter Racing is taken over by team owner Ed Carpenter on the four non-Indy ovals. Daly will drive a third ECR-Chevy in the 500.

Indy 500 2017, and Chilton's Ganassi #8 leads eventual winner Takuma Sato of Andretti Autosport.

Indy 500 2017, and Chilton's Ganassi #8 leads eventual winner Takuma Sato of Andretti Autosport.

Photo by: Scott R LePage / Motorsport Images

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