Cling Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Four NASCAR drivers seek to extend yearly win streaks at Homestead

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Next week’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will conclude the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, and for four drivers, a last chance at a win to extend their number of consecutive seasons with at least one victory.

Denny Hamlin’s is the longest, with a win in each of his seven full-time Sprint Cup seasons from 2006 through 2012. But his 2013 has been a disappointment in every sense of the word, with early season fines and injuries stunting his charge before it ever really got going. His last win came in March 2012, at Phoenix, some 65 races ago. With little else to take as a positive from 2013, a win for Hamlin would be a needed tonic on a frustrating year.

Clint Bowyer can win for the fourth straight year if he takes his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota to Victory Lane in Homestead. While Hamlin’s year went off the rails early, Bowyer’s has just in the last two months after his Richmond spin that set off a domino effect of penalties and consequences to his team, one of his teammates, and the sport as a whole. He still made the Chase but the sting of the spin has cast an unfortunate light on his season. He last won at Sonoma in June, 2012.

Marcos Ambrose took the last two Watkins Glen race wins in 2011 and 2012 so would be least likely to continue his streak; the Tasmanian has never won a NASCAR oval race.

Meanwhile Dale Earnhardt Jr. faces the unfortunate prospect of finishing his fourth season in the last five without a win. Consistent but short of wins on a handful of occasions this year, Junior is fifth in points and seeking a win to add to his Michigan triumph in June, 2012.

Expect each of these four to race just that little bit harder on Sunday to ensure they don’t end 2013 with a donut in the win column, instead doing donuts for a win.

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.