Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr

Luhr, Graf secure fourth straight win in ALMS

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Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s duo of Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf continued their dominance of the American Le Mans Series today, securing their fourth consecutive overall victory with a triumph in the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

The team basically went unchallenged throughout the 2-hour, 45-minute race in Ontario, with Luhr, the ALMS’ all-time wins leader, taking the checkered flag in the No. 6 HPD ARX-03c after entering the cockpit with one hour remaining in the event.

“Klaus did a long first stint and I just had to bring it home, so it’s very, very tough to keep your motivation and concentration,” Luhr said after the race on ESPN. “But we managed it. It’s another good day for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing – the boys really deserved it and it’s a good birthday present for Klaus.”

With Luhr and Graf burying their competition in the P1 class, the big late-race battle turned out to be in the GT class, where a pair of classic American muscle car brands, Corvette and Viper, fought it out for top honors.

Tommy Milner (co-driver: Oliver Gavin), in the No. 4 Corvette C6 ZR1, and Dominik Farnbacher (co-driver: Marc Goossens), in the No. 91 Viper GTS-R, battled tooth and nail along the 2.46-mile circuit in the final moments. But in the end, it was Milner that came out on top by less than three-tenths of a second over Farnbacher.

“I knew after that yellow flag [with 54 minutes left] that we would be nose-to-tail for a while,” Milner said of his pursuer. “I got through traffic a bit better than he did, but right at the end, I got the worst of traffic and he was right on me. That last lap, he was quick in [Turn] 8 there and I was either going to spin or take the lead, so I just threw it in there and it stuck, and here we are – P1.”

In the P2 category, Marino Franchitti secured a win for himself, co-driver Scott Tucker, and Level 5 Motorsports in the No. 551 HPD ARX-03b, ahead of their Extreme Speed Motorsports rivals, Scott Sharp and Guy Cosmo, in the No. 01 HPD entry.

Prototype Challenge went to Colin Braun and Jonathan Bennett in the No. 05 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09, while the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche team of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil reigned supreme in GT Challenge.

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.