NHRA Auto Racing

Danica who? Women already winning NHRA races


While much focus and ink has been drawn to Danica Patrick’s pole position and eighth place finish in this year’s Daytona 500, on the other coast two women have already opened the year in Victory Lane in the NHRA.

In her second season, John Force’s daughter Courtney (right) led off the year with a win in the Funny Car division in Pomona, Calif. The win was Force’s second, after her first win in her 15th career start last year at Seattle. Courtney’s 24 and her 26-year-old sister, Brittany, is a rookie in the Top Fuel dragster category this year.

Always outspoken, John Force told AZCentral.com leading up to last weekend’s race in Phoenix that the Danica discussion is overdone.

“I get that Danica got the pole is a big deal, but it is not like she delivered the baby Jesus,” he said.

While the Force daughters progress in their years, Pro Stock also has a female winner so far in Erica Enders-Stevens. Her breakthrough season came a year ago with four wins and a career-best fourth place finish in the final points standings. She won her class at Phoenix last weekend.

“Coming off the season we had last year and starting the way that we did this year, it was kind of a gut check in that we wonder if we can ever get it done again,” Enders-Stevens said. “ But our guys proved that they can pick up where they left off, and I’m excited.”

In the NHRA, success for female drivers is nothing new. Shirley Muldowney paved the way with a legendary career that included three Top Fuel championships (1977, 1980, 1982). Angelle Sampey has also won NHRA titles in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. Melanie Troxel is one of only 14 NHRA drivers to have won in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.

The two Force daughters follow in the footsteps of their older sister Ashley Force Hood, who was a race winner in Funny Car and has since stepped out of the cockpit to focus on motherhood.

The NHRA races next in Gainesville, Florida from March 14-17.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
Leave a comment

MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.