Shell And Pennzoil Grand Prix Of Houston

After Saturday crash, Sunday’s better for Hinchcliffe in Houston

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Normally a cheerful guy, James Hinchcliffe was anything but after he failed to get out of his grid spot and was then hit from behind by Ed Carpenter off the standing start of yesterday’s Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.

Hinchcliffe wouldn’t divulge what happened during the incident on Saturday, only noting that he knew what the issue had been. But following Sunday’s Race 2, he was back to his happy self after notching a podium finish – his first since winning at Iowa Speedway seven races ago – with a third-place run.

“I’m really glad this was a doubleheader and we had a chance to redeem ourselves,” Hinchcliffe said after his fourth podium of 2013. “Obviously, yesterday didn’t go – I’m not gonna say ‘not go quite as planned’, it didn’t go anything close to planned. It was a solid race.

“We started eighth, picked some guys off, some guys had problems, but at the end of the day, when we cleared some cars, we had decent pace – not quite up to the par of Scott [Dixon] or [race winner] Will [Power], who were the class of the field for sure, but when you’re keeping guys like Justin Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais behind you on a street circuit, you’re doing something right.”

Like many, however, his thoughts were with Dario Franchitti, who was taken to a local hospital after he was launched into the Turn 5 catch fence following contact with Takuma Sato during the final lap of today’s race.

When Hinchcliffe was asked to describe making his way through the aftermath of the incident at the end of the race, he said it was the biggest debris field he had seen in a crash since what he called “that race in 2011” – a seeming reference to the massive, 15-car incident that took the life of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two years ago.

“It’s never what you want to see,” Hinchcliffe said of Sunday’s crash. “You know how fast that part of the track is. It’s bumpy and we’ve come completely sideways over some of the bumps there.

“I don’t want to say it was a matter of time before somebody got it wrong – obviously, those were two guys racing side-by-side – but it’s almost not even hard to have a single-car wreck in that corner, which should be a pretty straightforward, flat-out piece of race track. It definitely keeps you on your toes, and to get that kind of speed, to launch into the air, it’s not what you want to see.”

Hinchcliffe then expressed his relief that Franchitti would be alright – and his own belief that the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner would “fight on.”

“He’s come back from worse, that’s for sure,” he said.

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.