Crew cleans up Fontana car (Ed Carpenter Racing)

Resilient Carpenter team cleans up car, heads for Houston

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A trailer fire returning from last week’s IndyCar test at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. didn’t defeat Ed Carpenter Racing. Instead, they overcame the adversity that hit them.

Roughly 20 miles west of Flagstaff, Ariz., a rear trailer brake caught fire and all equipment on board was barely saved from going entirely up in flames. As they were outside town, ECR team manager Tim Broyles estimated it took 19 minutes for the fire department to show up, and had it been 10 minutes later, it would have been a total loss.

“We found out about the fire at 4:45 a.m. CDT when we landed in Chicago after the Fontana test,” Broyles explained in a team release. “When we got the first call, the trailer was still on fire. The truck and trailer were quite a ways out of town. So we were very fortunate that we didn’t have a lot more damage than we did.”

The team’s Fontana car received some smoke damage so needed to be repainted and rebuilt. Ed Carpenter said the team has taken just one No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet to Houston for this weekend’s doubleheader.

Support has come from up and down the IndyCar paddock, notably Andretti Autosport, whose truck stopped to help take some of the ECR equipment back to base in Indianapolis. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, which has been sidelined from IndyCar competition since the Indianapolis 500, will provide the trailer, fueling rig, golf cart and a few other items in Houston, according to Broyles.

“It has been a tough week for the ECR/Fuzzy Vodka team, to say the least,” said Carpenter, the defending Fontana race winner. “The trailer fire in Arizona last Wednesday made everything a real scramble to get ready for the Houston race. But I’m so proud of this team and how they came together to get things cleaned up and prepared. Luckily, we were able to salvage a lot of things from the fire. It was a massive cleanup operation for the guys as well as they having to prepare the Houston race car.”

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.