Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - Day 2

What to watch for: IndyCar at Long Beach

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Can Dario Franchitti turn it around?

The four-time IndyCar champion and three-time Indy 500 winner (pictured) has had a rocky start to his season, but nobody’s going to count him out. He secured a much-needed positive moment yesterday by taking the pole on his final lap of qualifying, but now he has to convert it into a solid result that can start his long climb back up the standings. There’s still time for him to play a role in the championship, but his margin for error is slim at best.

Where’s “Winning Will”?

As competitive as Will Power has remained, it still bears noting that he hasn’t won in the IZOD IndyCar Series since his victory last season in Sao Paulo, Brazil. That’s a stretch of 13 races and considering how tough the overall field is in the series, he’ll have to find a way to get back to Victory Lane soon in order to put himself back into the title hunt (he sits eighth in points). Luckily for Power, he’s the defending champion at the Beach and starts third this afternoon.

Conway rides again

Mike Conway, who stopped his full-time IndyCar career prior to last year’s season finale due to being uncomfortable racing on ovals, has returned to the series this weekend and has been fast in a third Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car. He was second-quickest in Friday’s combined practice sessions and then cracked the Firestone Fast Six on Saturday, winding up fifth on the grid. The Englishman is a prior winner at Long Beach (2011, Andretti Autosport) and he’ll want to prove that he’s still got what it takes to win in North America’s top open-wheel series.

Turns 1 and 9

These are the two main passing zones on the legendary street circuit. Starts and restarts will be especially exciting as the drivers mimic an Oklahoma land rush down Shoreline Drive before going into the left-hand Turn 1. But T1 is also well-known as a trouble spot — just ask Josef Newgarden, whose attempt to pass Franchitti there on the opening lap of last year’s race ended in the tire barriers. Turn 9 is a righty that emerges after another long straight on the course and begins a tricky sector of corners that culminates with the famous Turn 11 hairpin.

Watch today’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach online or on your mobile device.

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.