Milwaukee IndyFest - Day 2

Team Target Ganassi pressing on through trying days

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With Team Penske breaking through at Texas and Will Power scoring his first podium of 2013 at Milwaukee, the onus is now back on Target Chip Ganassi Racing to deliver the results it’s been accustomed to in the IZOD IndyCar Series: winning.

It was another tough day at the office for Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti Saturday at the Milwaukee Mile, despite both drivers recording top 10 finishes in the same race for only the third time in nine races this year.

Dixon has done the best job of performing damage limitation despite never quite having the setup on his No. 9 Target Honda. He related after Milwaukee, when he finished sixth and never ran in the top five, that there’s still much more work to be done.

“I think we went down a road earlier in the year and now we’re just trying to regroup and find our way,” he said after the race. “Maybe we’re lacking confidence in our changes with the car but we’ll work hard and get better. We had a good day but went back and forth on some things. We had understeer in the middle of the corner and the car snapped coming off. We had a bit better car then we showed. I got ran wide on the restart by (Tony) Kanaan and didn’t quite agree with it but then again what can you do.”

Franchitti recovered to eighth place after starting 23rd thanks to an engine change. With the field as close as it is, it’s difficult for teams with such a good amount of engineering and crew talent to have their strengths highlighted if the setup isn’t quite there. It’s not as though Franchitti’s forgotten how to drive or engineer Chris Simmons has lost his magic touch. Still, the way the series has evolved this year was an interesting point Franchitti raised in his post-race quotes.

“Obviously we didn’t have a great qualifying effort and then we took the engine change penalty before the race,” he said. “We started in the back, made some good progress, but it was difficult to pass. The guys made good calls to keep me in the hunt but keeping the car pointed straight was a challenge. To pass people was very tough. The cars are so close, so the series might be a victim of their own success right now. We need to start allowing something to differentiate when guys get it right and wrong.”

Their teammate in the Novo Nordisk CGR car, Charlie Kimball, fought an ill-handling race car to 17th.

Dixon is now fifth in the IZOD IndyCar Series point standings with 221 (78 points behind leader Helio Castroneves), while Franchitti holds on to 10th with 192 and Kimball is 13th on 175.

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.