Kevin Harvick/Tony Stewart

NASCAR’s 2013 Sprint Cup Homestead goodbyes

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Several drivers will be changing teams or facing an uncertain future in the sport after Sunday’s Ford Ecoboost 400, the season finale for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Here’s a brief look at what they’ve accomplished in their runs with their current squads:

Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing (2001-2013)

Harvick leaves the only Cup team he’s ever known. He’ll start his 466th and last race with RCR on Sunday third in the points, and seeking back-to-back wins to close out his 13-year run. He has 23 career wins and one on Sunday would tie the most he’s achieved with the team in a single season (5 in 2006). Harvick has twice finished third in the points (2010, 2011) with RCR.

Kurt Busch, Furniture Row Racing (2012-2013)

No Cinderella story in the Chase, but the fact Busch has taken the Denver-based operation to another level and raised its stature in the garage is no small accomplishment. A best finish of second in 41 starts and in 2013, his only full season with the team, has 11 top-fives and 16 top-10 finishes. He has recovered from his career wilderness.

Ryan Newman, Stewart-Haas Racing (2009-2013)

Newman will start his 180th race for SHR before both Harvick and Busch join the team in 2014. The Indiana native has three Chase berths and four wins in his tenure; he carried the team this year with Tony Stewart’s injuries costing him his season and with Danica Patrick learning the ropes in her first full-time season.

Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip Racing (2010-2013)

It’s been four methodical seasons for Truex and MWR; never great, but progressive improvements over the last two years in particular. His 144th and last start with MWR comes after one prior win (Sonoma this year) and a myriad of bad circumstances that have seemed to conspire against him in 2013.

Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Racing (2004-2013)

One of NASCAR’s all-time class acts and great quotes, Burton signs off his 10-year run at RCR with his 338th start for the team this weekend to make way for Newman’s arrival. His four wins were achieved from 2006 through 2008, the latter year of which he was a bona fide title contender before fading to sixth at year’s end.

Juan Pablo Montoya, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (2006-2013)

He’ll start his 253rd and final, for now, NASCAR Sprint Cup race with EGR and the word “unfulfilled” probably the best descriptor of his NASCAR career. The open-wheel ace has never truly starred in NASCAR except for a handful of races; two road course wins and one Chase appearance all he has to show in his seven full seasons.

Mark Martin, Stewart-Haas Racing (2013)

Martin’s possible final act in Sprint Cup – it’s hard to say for sure as Martin is NASCAR’s equivalent of Brett Favre – has been a good one. Martin served as a mentor and team developer at Michael Waltrip Racing before moving to SHR to fill in for the injured Tony Stewart. He’s run partial seasons since 2005, save for three Hendrick years from 2009 through 2011. Is this finally the end?

Bobby Labonte, too, has already signed off at Phoenix. There may be others from some of the smaller teams, but this is a big list of those leaving their current seats before 2014.

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.