Auto Club 400 - Practice

Kevin Harvick crossing into snakebit status after Fontana tire woes


Kevin Harvick has been the most consistently competitive of the four Stewart-Haas Racing drivers so far this season. But ever since his victory earlier this month at Phoenix, Harvick has been left wanting for results.

In Las Vegas, he was a threat to win until his car suffered a wheel hub failure. Then at Bristol, a possible Top-5 result went out the window when his oil line broke with 50 laps to go – making him one of many lap leaders to find trouble in Thunder Valley.

Unfortunately for “Happy,” things didn’t turn out any better on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, where he saw another great run brought down by bad luck.

Harvick was holding steady in the Top 5 early on in the Auto Club 400 until his left-rear tire went down on the No. 4 Jimmy John’s-backed Chevrolet. To make matters worse, the tire then disintegrated enough to inflict noticeable damage to the car’s left-rear quarter panel.

Subsequent repairs sent him all the way to the back of the field, but Harvick’s car didn’t lose its pace and he was already back within the Top 5 as the race crossed the halfway mark.

But on Lap 139, Harvick was victimized again by a second left-rear tire failure that did even more damage to the car. This time, Harvick fell three laps off the pace through repairs, and was only able to make one of those laps up before finishing 36th at the checkered flag.

“It’s kind of the same story as the last few weeks,” he said. “We’ll have a really strong run going, and something happens and we don’t get the finish that we deserve. It’s really frustrating.

“I’m proud of the effort that the guys on this No. 4 team put in every week. It isn’t for lack of effort. It’s just unfortunate situations or part failures that have us trending in the wrong direction.”

The three consecutive poor results have sent Harvick from fourth in the championship following his win at Phoenix to 25th, at 97 points behind new leader Carl Edwards.

Still, that Phoenix triumph – which just about ensures him a chance to race for a title in the Chase – and his overall competitiveness should keep him from losing too much sleep.

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.