Indianapolis 500 - Qualifying

A.J. and Larry Foyt have family team at top of IndyCar

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Larry Foyt may be earning praise for his management of the team that bears his father’s name. But he makes sure to keep four-time Indianapolis 500 champion A.J. Foyt 100 percent involved in its direction.

“Believe it or not, I hardly make a decision that we [both] don’t go over,” Larry said on Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Our working relationship has really been awesome. When I first came in, when he made the announcement that I was going to be team director, I didn’t want to just jump in and be the boss’ kid [and] come in and change everything. I really had to get back into an IndyCar mentality. I wanted to analyze the team, see what we were working with.

“As I’ve learned over the years, every year he’s given me a little bit more leeway to do things the way I’ve wanted. I think we’ve become a more engineering-based team, kind of what modern IndyCar racing is. It has changed a lot over the years.”

It was Larry that was the catalyst for the team’s signing of driver Takuma Sato, with A.J. mentioning that his son was “doing most of the talking” on that effort. So far, the decision has paid off handsomely with Sato’s victory at Long Beach last month (the first in over a decade for A.J. Foyt Racing) and a place atop the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings going into this weekend’s “500.”

“I think we knew he was a good race driver,” A.J. said about Sato’s hire. “He did a lot of testing for Honda way back yonder on road courses. [We were] kind of looking for a guy that could play both parts, ovals and road courses…He does give you good feedback. [He] and the engineers work very close. I think that’s really been successful for us.”

As for the chances that he, Rick Mears and Al Unser are joined by either Helio Castroneves or Dario Franchitti this weekend as four-time winners of the “500,” A.J. said he wouldn’t be surprised to see “a six, seven, eight-time winner” of the race one day with the current technology being used.

However, he also wondered how Castroneves and Franchitti would fare in the equipment he raced with in the past.

“They’re good race car drivers with the equipment they’re in, [but] they need to get in a roadster with cement tires and see how good they stick in a corner,” A.J. said, earning some laughs from his audience.

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.