Lucas Oil 150 - Qualifying

NASCAR Trucks champ Crafton “disappointed” with tandem drafting ban

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NASCAR’s decision to ban tandem drafting across both the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series isn’t sitting well with the latter series’ reigning champion.

During today’s CWTS Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona, Thorsport Racing’s Matt Crafton admitted that he was “disappointed” in the move to outlaw the tandem, saying that it enables drivers to “get away from people” on the track.

“But now you’re going to have those packs of 20 trucks,” Crafton said. “It’s going to be crazy to watch, but I think that now you’re going to be able to bump draft, and that’s one of the harder things to do is trying to judge it – ‘Is that guy getting into the corner?'”

“Because when you’re sitting behind somebody, you’re going to hit him and you can’t really judge when you hit them. Because if you’re getting close to them, you can’t judge when you’re getting ready to go in the corner, and if you do hit somebody, it might just start turning the wheel left to go into the corner and you’re going to cause a big wreck.”

In addition to tandem drafting now being outlawed, Crafton and the rest of the CWTS drivers are having to get used to a new body style on their Chevrolet Silverados, Ford F-150s, and Toyota Tundras (the truck that Crafton himself races).

In a nod to the Sprint Cup Generation 6 machines, the new trucks are meant to carry a better resemblance to their street-faring counterparts. Crafton had high praise for his revamped truck in how it raced by itself, but had yet to sample it in a drafting situation.

As for the big picture, Crafton believes that with everybody in the same boat, attaining even a small edge in getting speed out of the new trucks will make a big difference.

“It’s just that way every year, but now that we have the new trucks, it’s going to be ‑ I mean, getting in the wind tunnel, going to test at places we’re going to race, and whoever can get that little step ahead is going to be the team to beat without a doubt,” he said.

“We’ve worked really hard and been paying attention to the wind tunnel stuff and trying to figure out what this thing wants compared to what the [previous] Toyota Tundra wanted.”

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.