Kasey Kahne

Charlotte Update: Kasey Kahne strong early on

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Kasey Kahne and the entire Hendrick Motorsports posse have had a robust first half in tonight’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Pole sitter Jeff Gordon led the first 26 laps of the night and went to pit road as the leader following an early yellow. But a decision to go with four tires caused him to drop back to eighth for the restart, while Kasey Kahne was able to ascend to the front for the Lap 30 restart.

However, Gordon didn’t falter as badly as Kyle Busch, who was forced to make a second stop under the caution because of loose lug nuts on his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He was forced to restart from 35th spot, but quickly began made up ground when the race went back to green.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. quickly took the point from his teammate Kahne, but a piece of trash on the grille triggered a rise in temperatures for Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevy. On Lap 44, Kahne re-took the lead, giving Earnhardt a chance to draft him in an attempt to knock the debris off.

But he wasn’t quite able to do the job until he had conceded both second and third to Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson respectively before the Lap 50 mark; Earnhardt finally got rid of the debris after running up toward Johnson’s rear bumper.

Truex’s stop on Lap 69 began a cycle of green flag service for the field, which ended with Kahne getting the lead back, Truex in second, Earnhardt in third, Johnson in fourth and Gordon in fifth.

An engine failure for Mark Martin brought the yellow out again shortly after Lap 80, triggering stops for drivers such as Truex,  Kevin Harvick, Kyle and Kurt Busch, and Brad Keselowski – who was forced to return after he left with the jack still attached to his car.

Earnhardt once again popped ahead of Kahne off the restart at Lap 91. Also taking advantage was Kyle Busch, who had already climbed back up to 14th after his ill-fated first stop but then vaulted an additional eight positions off the restart to sixth.

Kahne, though, would not be shook off by Earnhardt, and on Lap 96, he passed him again for P1. The Hendrick foursome of Kahne, Johnson, Earnhardt and Gordon stayed up front, running 1-2-3-4 up to Lap 126 when Kyle Busch passed Gordon for fourth as the latter was slowing down to get to the pits.

Another round of stops under green flag conditions were beginning at that point, and Kahne would give up the lead to pit on Lap 130 – only to get it back on Lap 135 at the end of the cycle. Kyle Busch rose to second behind Kahne and ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.

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.