Geico 400 - Qualifying

Penske Power: Logano, Keselowski top Cup quals at Chicagoland

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After being put on probation for the rest of the year by NASCAR, Penske Racing delivered a message of its own by sweeping the front row for Sunday’s Chase-opening GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Chase contender Joey Logano (pictured, right) will roll off from the pole position after posting a lap at 189.414 miles per hour around the 1.5-mile oval, just ahead of teammate and defending Chicagoland race winner Brad Keselowski (pictured, left), who turned in a lap at 189.248 mph.

Earlier today, NASCAR announced that both Penske and Front Row Motorsports would be on probation until Dec. 31 thanks to radio communications between the two squads during the closing laps of last Saturday’s race at Richmond International Raceway.

That decision was overshadowed by NASCAR’s other edict that came this afternoon: Making Jeff Gordon a part of the Chase as a 13th driver. Logano, who has defended his place in NASCAR’s post-season stretch, didn’t have much to say about Gordon being added to the Chase field.

“It isn’t my decision who is in the Chase and who isn’t,” Logano said this afternoon. “I drive the race car and NASCAR makes the call they feel is right. All I really care about is that this Shell Pennzoil Ford is in the Chase and we have a shot at a championship. Anything outside of that, I don’t really care.”

As for Keselowski, who will be unable to defend his Sprint Cup title of one year ago after failing to make the Chase, he’s looking forward to showing that he and his team are still very much competitive.

“It was a decent lap for sure and the Penske cars – we have put a lot of effort into this weekend and getting the Chase started off on the right foot,” Keselowski said. “I wish we were a part of it, but it shows the speed we will have. I look forward to the next 10 weeks and putting some wins on the board.”

In all, seven of the now 13 Chasers will start from inside the Top 10 for Sunday’s race: Logano from the pole, Kasey Kahne from fourth, Gordon from sixth, Greg Biffle from seventh, Carl Edwards from eighth, Jimmie Johnson from ninth, and top seed Matt Kenseth from 10th.

As for the other Chasers: Kyle Busch will go from 12th, Kurt Busch from 16th, Kevin Harvick from 17th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. from 18th, Ryan Newman from 20th, and Clint Bowyer from 24th.

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.