Marco Andretti

Pocono IndyCar Update: Andretti out in front at halfway mark

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Marco Andretti has maintained his weekend dominance so far in the first half of the Pocono IndyCar 400, but Triple Crown contender Tony Kanaan has been able to stay toward the front of the field as he seeks to continue his quest for a $1 million prize.

Kanaan is currently half a second behind Andretti at Lap 80 of 160, followed by championship leader Helio Castroneves in third, Simon Pagenaud in fourth, and Scott Dixon in fifth.

IndyCar’s first race at the “Tricky Triangle” since 1989 began inauspiciously when front-row starter James Hinchcliffe wiggled in Turn 1, then spun and slammed hard into the wall. The Canadian fan favorite, who won the series’ most race at Iowa Speedway, limped out of his car but after his release from the infield care center, he told ESPN that he had merely banged his knee inside the cockpit.

“The car just snapped loose on me,” said Hinchcliffe. “We went a bit aggressive on setup because we had an understeering car all week, and we didn’t want that in the race – maybe we overstepped it a bit; I’m not quite sure. We’ll have to go back and take a look.

“It’s really unfortunate. It’s a 400-mile race, so to go out on Lap 1 is just devastating.”

Andretti gave up the lead when he pitted under green at Lap 30, but regained it when the rest of the field cycled through their own stops. Ryan Hunter-Reay managed to leapfrog Kanaan for second when they pitted together on Lap 32, making for an Andretti Autosport 1-2 as the focus turned to disposing of lapped traffic.

But Hunter-Reay’s strong run was ended as he pitted along with Andretti on Lap 61. Takuma Sato, coming in from fourth on the track, locked up his tires while trying to slow down and skidded into the back of Hunter-Reay’s No. 1 car.

“Sato just ran into me,” Hunter-Reay spat over his team radio as the yellow flag came out. “What an idiot.”

To his credit, the former Formula One driver admitted fault for the crash, saying he “misjudged” the entrance to pit road.

“I was trying to kill speed but I was in the middle of the corner and I lost the back end and slid into Ryan,” Sato told ESPN.

Shortly after halfway, Hunter-Reay and his machine were spotted rolling out of the Pocono garage and will likely return to the track in an attempt to salvage championship points. But his incident with Sato will still likely impact his bid for a second straight IZOD IndyCar Series title; he had entered the day just nine points off of Castroneves in the standings.

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.