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Gateway prepares for NASCAR return in 2014

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With the Camping World Truck Series heading for Gateway Motorsports Park next season, NASCAR racing will be back in the St. Louis region, which spawned the likes of the Wallace brothers (Rusty, Kenny, and Mike) and Ken Schrader.

A successful event could put Gateway on the list to “move up” and eventually re-gain its spot on the Nationwide Series calendar, which it held from 1997 to 2010 (the last year seeing two NNS races at the track) before it was shut down by former owner Dover Motorsports. But first thing’s first.

“We are re-introducing stock car racing to the area,” NASCAR vice president of racing operations Jim Cassidy told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this weekend. “The first step in doing that is bringing back the trucks and making it the biggest and best event we can.”

Now under the care of Curtis Francois, Gateway has been growing over the last year thanks to Francois’ renovations to the tune of $11.5 million. He entered a lease for the track in 2011 and then bought it outright this past spring.

Since taking control of Gateway, Francois has lured back the NHRA and now has been able to do the same with NASCAR. He told the Post-Dispatch that he expects the local community to support the CWTS event and “a new Gateway.”

“The fans in our region deserve great racing and the NASCAR truck series brings great racing,” Francois said. “We’re doing everything at the track to make it relevant in updating the facilities and to provide a great fan experience.

“…We’re certainly talking to a lot of [local business] people this year that we weren’t talking to last year. I do believe that the reason is they can see and feel the energy that’s at the track. We’re getting great feedback from the business leaders.”

Tickets for the Gateway 250 on June 14, 2014 go on sale this Friday.

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.