David Ragan celebrates his win two months ago at Talladega.

David Ragan gunning for another Talladega triumph

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David Ragan is still getting props.

With the help of his Front Row Motorsports teammate David Gilliland, Ragan was able to beat the odds and deliver the team’s first Sprint Cup victory in a green-white-checkered finish back in May at Talladega Superspeedway.

And with respect to Brian Vickers’ own unlikely triumph this summer at New Hampshire, Ragan and Gilliland’s 1-2 finish may wind up as the most surprising race outcome of the NASCAR season.

Front Row’s victory over the NASCAR powerhouses resonated among many fans as a classic underdog tale. And that’s why months after that wild Talladega night, Ragan continues to hear from those that witnessed it.

“I get it a lot,” Ragan said in a release from Ford while preparing for his return to the 2.66-mile oval this weekend in the Camping World RV Sales 500. “Obviously, a couple of weeks after the Talladega win that was what most everyone talked about, but even six months later I still get fans, friends and guys on the team who relive that day and that moment.

“That’s good because there are a lot of struggles in the world of Sprint Cup racing. Your winning percentage is not anywhere near 50, 40, 30 percent, so it is a tough sport and it’s fun to go back and relive that moment, and it’s neat that a lot of people were watching that evening and enjoyed the win as much as we did.”

Earlier this morning, Front Row announced that both Ragan and Gilliland would return to their camp in 2014 and help continue the team’s progress toward becoming a regular contender.

The Talladega win was certainly a milestone in that progress, and Ragan considers it an even bigger victory for himself than his first career win for the much bigger Roush Fenway Racing in the 2011 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

“Both wins were incredible days and big wins, and even the top teams that have won hundreds of races and championships over the year, they still are really, really pumped up when they win a Sprint Cup race,” he said. “But I think [Talladega] will always mean more because it was [Front Row’s] first win.

“This is a building organization with a lot of potential for the future and they’ve only been around for a few years, so to get that first win you’ve got to start with one before you get to two before you get to three, so that’s something that you’ll always remember.”

But while it’s clearly fun for Ragan to reflect on these past memories, he certainly wants another Talladega trophy this weekend. And he knows that in order to get back to Victory Lane at NASCAR’s biggest track, he’ll need to keep out of trouble.

“We know that if we play our cards right, if everyone executes their job with no mistakes, we’ll have a shot to win again,” he said. “But it’s easier said than done. Talladega is a very, very hard track to run 500 miles at with no mistakes.

“Even if you do that with no mistakes and you have a shot to win, it’s hard to do it, but it can be done and we’re looking forward to going back for sure.”

It’s been said that lightning never strikes twice. But Ragan and Front Row will do all they can to make it happen on Sunday.

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.