Trey Canard. Photo courtesy of Honda/LAT

Supercross’ Trey Canard samples Honda IndyCar simulator (VIDEO)

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The Monster Energy AMA Supercross bike series made its way to the Midwest this past weekend, heading to Indianapolis. KTM rider Ryan Dungey won Saturday night’s race at Lucas Oil Stadium.

As part of the weekend, in a cross-promotion between IndyCar and Supercross, Honda organized a get-together with one of its Supercross riders, Trey Canard, and two of its IndyCar drivers, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, at the home of its Indianapolis-based IndyCar simulator.

Canard has been unable to race this year due to injury but the Oklahoma native is on the mend and should be back shortly on his No. 41 Muscle Milk Honda. But he did get a chance to sample the simulator while in Indy, running at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, to provide him a shot at driving a piece of four wheeled-machinery.

“It’s different because you’re not using your whole body. Having to control the whole feel (of the car) between your two hands is definitely different,” Canard told MotorSportsTalk. “We’ve all driven different road cars before, and we’ve all had a steering wheel in our hands at some point. It’s really fun. You feel the whole car moving underneath you, and turn it. It was awesome.”

Pagenaud’s pointers as Canard suits up. Photo courtesy of Honda/LAT

Before Canard’s pair of runs, Pagenaud and Newgarden offered up some notes and pointers. Once they saw Canard actually take the reins of the simulator, the two rising IndyCar stars were impressed.

“He just did a great job. He impressed right away on the second lap,” Pagenaud said. “He had a squirrely moment since he was not used to a steering wheel in his hands. But knowing how tough it is to catch it. He improved lap after lap, was aware of the environment, and knew how to exploit it. On a bike, there’s not much in the way of braking. Overall, he was very impressive and up to speed quickly.”

Canard described how he improved from his first session to his second one.

“First off I’ve never experienced anything like that before, having the downforce,” he said. “My first one I had a really hard time with the braking. I broke at an angle rather than straight. I would come into the turns with using too much track. In the car, you learn quickly you have to brake straight, and then turn. The downforce is the thing I was able to deal with better the second time out.”

Newgarden provides pre-run lowdown. Photo courtesy of Honda/LAT

For Newgarden, having the chance to see a Supercross rider tackle an IndyCar was a cool thing to see. The Nashville native is a fairly big Supercross fan and tries to watch as many races as possible.

“It’s a super fun sport,” he said. “It’s extremely competitive and it’s actually very similar to IndyCar, where there are a lot of guys who can win every weekend.

“I love dirt bikes; they’re really cool vehicles. I’ve always wanted to be a part of it, but I’ve never driven anything on 2 wheels. Maybe the fantasy of it is why I like it.”

Newgarden did a good job of providing some behind-the-scenes shots via his social media accounts, as did IndyCar. More on this will likely come later this week.

UPDATE, Thursday, 9:45 a.m. ET: We have video! The topic shifts from simulators to scarves.

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.