Carl Edwards - AFLAC Car

Revitalized again, Edwards looks to go back-to-back

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After breaking a 70-race winless streak last week at Phoenix, Carl Edwards will try to make it two in a row this afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Prior to his Phoenix triumph, Edwards’ most recent win had been on Vegas’ 1.5-miler back in March of 2011. Even with the new Generation-6 cars now in the equation, one assumes he stands a good shot today at keeping up his newfound momentum – which he credits to his new crew chief, veteran Jimmy Fennig, and his entire No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing team.

“I believe the ingredients we have right now, the pit stops are fast, Jimmy Fennig’s experience, the cars seem to be running really well, the engines are fast,” he told The Charlotte Observer’s Jim Utter this weekend. “I think all of those things are good for this season.”

“Cousin Carl” has done well at Vegas in his career with two victories and three top-5 finishes in eight Sprint Cup tries. But his Roush Fenway squad as a whole has had quite the tradition of success in Sin City.

RFR won the first three Cup events at the track, with Mark Martin claiming the inaugural win in 1998 and Jeff Burton going back-to-back in 1999 and 2000. Then Matt Kenseth added two more Vegas wins in 2003 and 2004, which were followed by Edwards heading to LVMS’ Victory Lane in 2008 and 2011.

Here’s some more impressive statistics. RFR has won seven of the 15 Cup events at LVMS, and in its 68 Cup starts there as a team, its drivers have finished in the Top 10 53 percent of the time. It has placed at least one driver in the Top 10 in each of Vegas’ Cup events and multiple drivers inside the Top 10 in all but two.

With all that said, it’s easy to see why Edwards would be confident of his chances today.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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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
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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.