Quaker State 400 - Practice

Kyle Busch up and down on 1.5-mile tracks this season

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When it comes to the intermediate tracks this season, Kyle Busch has been either at the front of the field or behind the pit wall.

On home turf, “Rowdy” finished fourth at the first 1.5-mile oval of the year in Las Vegas and then scored the win at the next mile-and-a-half at Texas. But his last two runs on this type of track have ended in calamity; a crash with Joey Logano relegated him to a 38th-place finish at Kansas and in last month’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, Busch’s engine let go, saddling him with another 38th-place result.

However, Kentucky Speedway represents a great opportunity for him to reach another peak on the mile-and-a-halves. He won the inaugural Cup race there in 2011 and led 118 laps in last year’s Quaker State 400 before finishing 10th. He’s also won at Kentucky in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, as well as the lower-level ARCA stock car series.

“I like running here at Kentucky – why I run well here, I don’t know,” he said on Thursday. “It’s an interesting race track and it’s certainly challenging and tough, and it brings out the better drivers…You have to have a good-handling race car around here on the bumps, but you can detune the speed of your race car to get over the bumps better and slow your car down, which is not very good.

“You have to find the happy medium of that and I think [crew chief] Dave Rogers does a really good job of being able to help me with that as well as just being able to keep the speed in the car.”

Busch’s crew chief has his own winning pedigree at Kentucky as well. Rogers called Joey Logano’s 2008 and 2009 Nationwide victories there when the young driver was still with Joe Gibbs Racing; the former victory was Logano’s first triumph in NASCAR’s No. 2 series.

Tonight’s race will mark the end of a tripleheader weekend at Kentucky for Busch, who finished fifth in last night’s NNS race and third in Thursday night’s Truck event.

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.