Geico 400

NASCAR does its best endurance racing imitation with Chicago delays

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It seems hard to believe considering the official time of its race was 3 hours, 10 minutes and 56 seconds. But from when the scheduled green flag was supposed to take place for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway and when the checkered finally flew, it was nearly a 12-hour marathon.

The race was supposed to green shortly after 2:00 p.m. ET, 1:00 p.m. CT and local time. The first batch of rain and track-drying caused more than an hour delay before the initial green flag. Then of course, after 110 laps of racing, came the long delay of 5 hours, 10 minutes and 21 seconds before an eventual – and merciful – restart.

By that point in the night, past 10:00 p.m. ET and 9:00 p.m. CT, you wouldn’t blame the competitors, the media, or the fans who had stuck around through the delay for hoping that the race would run 24 or so more laps – to hit the half distance mark of 134 laps – and call it a night as an official day. Yet it was at that point the rain gods held off and the race ran to its conclusion, with several Chasers having issues and Joe Gibbs Racing’s pair of Chase-eligible Toyotas posting a 1-2 finish, led by Matt Kenseth.

The time was past midnight E.T. and 11:00 p.m. CT, and NASCAR had done an equivalent day to legendary 12 Hours of Sebring – except not racing for all 12 hours consecutively as they do in central Florida every March.

You don’t necessarily have the opportunity to appreciate endurance racing, and some of the competitions like Sebring, and like the 24-hour races in Daytona and Le Mans, from a casual NASCAR perspective until you see a day like today take place where it becomes a marathon thanks to adverse weather conditions.

And even so, 12 hours isn’t 12 hours because you have hours of pre-race festivities ahead of the race and all the post-race debrief afterwards.

It’s a very tired NASCAR press corps today, you’d imagine, and should realistically be a day of rest. The NASCAR community has earned it after the last week and a day.

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.