Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix - Day 2

IndyCar Driver Review: Mike Conway

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With the IndyCar season in the books and a limited amount of news to come since the season finale at Fontana, my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and are taking a look back at the 2013 season just past. Chris and I each ranked our top 10 drivers and some of the biggest stories; now we take a look back at the field driver-by-driver.

P23 despite making only seven starts, the quiet but talented Mike Conway…

2013 SEASON PREVIEW (Long Beach signing)

Mike Conway

  • Teams: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Dale Coyne Racing
  • 2012: 21st Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 4th
  • 2013: 23rd Place (7 Starts), 1 Win, 1 Pole, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 78 Laps Led, 11.1 Avg. Start, 9.7 Avg. Finish

DiZinno says: To some, Conway’s IndyCar reputation – fairly or unfairly – took a hit after he opted to withdraw from racing on ovals at Fontana last year. So it was great to see him turn up at Long Beach in a third Rahal Letterman Lanigan car, with a one-off crew, and promptly remind everyone what a silent ninja assassin he is on a street circuit. His Firestone Fast Six appearance didn’t come good in the race due to mechanical gremlins, but he’d made an impact. Dale Coyne rang him for Detroit, where Conway delivered a stunning but dominant drive in Race 1 for the win. He got picked up for the other doubleheader weekends and finished second to Dixon in points in those six races (263 to 180). The “super sub of the year.”

Estrada says: Conway’s run of street course cameos in 2013 had a few star turns along the way. From popping off a Firestone Fast Six run at Long Beach to his tremendous double-podium weekend in Detroit, the quiet Englishman made his share of noise. But let’s not forget the doubleheader in Toronto. He earned a pair of seventh-place finishes, but he came from 20th on the grid in Race 1 and then even further back in 23rd for Race 2 – that’s 29 positions gained on one of the wilder street courses on the calendar. Is it any wonder that Ed Carpenter’s bringing him on as the road racer for his No. 20 car next season?

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.