Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

TUSC: Westbrook, Bird, Gavin, Winkelhock top final day of Roar test

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Richard Westbrook took the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP to P1 overall and among the Prototype class in Sunday’s final run of testing in the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

Westbrook logged a lap of 1 minute, 39.748 seconds (128.484 mph) in the No. 90, which he’ll share with full-time teammate Michael Valiante and Mike Rockenfeller for the Rolex on Jan. 25.

Altogether, it was a much better time at Daytona for SDR, which avoided disaster in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship tire test this past November at the track. During that session, Westbrook got airborne after suffering a tire failure at high speed but, thankfully, walked away from the incident.

“That was the worst possible start for our 2014 campaign,” Westbrook said in a statement. “Ironically, it’s helped turn everything around. Now, we’ve got a brand new car, the guys are on top of it, and I’ve got two great teammates.

“It’s still early, but we had a fantastic, trouble-free test and a nice car. Daytona is a fantastic place to drive when you have a nice car.”

Sam Bird continued to set the pace in the Prototype Challenge category. After topping the PC charts on Saturday, he did it again Sunday with a lap of 1 minute, 42.704 seconds (124.786 mph) in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsports ORECA FLM09.

In GT Le Mans, Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin was fastest on Sunday with a time of 1 minute, 45.915 seconds (121.003 mph) in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R. However, in regard to the entire weekend, that wasn’t enough to supplant Nick Tandy of Porsche North America, whose lap of 1 minute, 45.564 seconds on Friday was the fastest GTLM lap throughout the Roar.

Marcus Winkelhock and the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS was today’s fastest in GT Daytona, posting a lap of 1 minute, 48.462 seconds (118.161 mph). Another of the No. 45’s co-drivers, Spencer Pumpelly, had logged what would be the best GTD time all weekend on Friday (1:47.981/118.688 mph).



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.