Verizon IndyCar Notes & Quotes: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg


ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – The season-opening round of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2014 calendar is in the books, with Will Power opening the year on top.

Here are some of the other associated quotes and storylines following Sunday’s race. See Saturday and Friday’s notes and quotes linked in this sentence.

  • P2 for Ryan Hunter-Reay equaled a St. Pete best, also achieved in 2009 following a last-minute concluded with Vision Racing. In his usual No. 28 DHL Honda stead for Andretti Autosport, Sunday’s was a little more normal. “It was a good day; a little strange at times. Not really sure where we were at times but we just hung in there position wish and kept pushing 110 percent and just had a good little fight with Helio (Castroneves) there and got by him,” said the 2012 series champion.
  • Third for Helio Castroneves made it three podiums, in three different positions, in the last three Firestone Grands Prix of St. Petersburg (won in 2012, second in 2013). “I will take it. Obviously I started the race, the qualifying was a little tricky for us but I knew I had a very fast car, no question. And I was pushing as hard as I could during the race. Unfortunately, one of the restarts was a poker game with Will. But you know its ok, its good,” said the driver of the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
  • Defending series champion Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud grabbed the other top-five spots; for Dixon, it was a rather nondescript weekend filled with good points, while Pagenaud overachieved after a disappointing qualifying to grab a season-opening fifth place.
  • Polesitter Takuma Sato ended seventh, one spot better than in 2013; this after qualifying one spot better too (2nd/8th, now 1st/7th). Still, a solid points day. “The first stint I had a nice rhythm going but we struggled a bit on the blacks on the next two stints, but we tried hard. It was difficult to gain on the track today. After a great qualifying, we’re a little disappointed with the finish but we came away with some points for the ABC Supply team,” he said.
  • Your big movers on the afternoon? Justin Wilson ended eighth after starting 16th and Josef Newgarden a St. Petersburg-best ninth from 22nd and shotgun on the field. Graham Rahal had a big start too, advancing 10 positions in the early stages from 21st up to 11th; the National Guard Honda driver ended 14th.
  • Sneaky good finishes occurred for Sebastian Saavedra in 11th and rookie Mikhail Aleshin in 12th. Aleshin being top rookie in the results was a bit of a surprise considering Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth’s respective qualifying efforts of seventh and eighth, and Carlos Huertas’ near immediate adaptation despite the late call to drive Dale Coyne’s second car. Munoz ended 17th, Huertas 18th and Hawksworth 21st after being eliminated in a restart accident.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya ended only 15th, but learned a lot in his open-wheel return. “We were just burning up the rear tires with the setup that we decided to run. It was just a little too aggressive. You know, we will learn and pass some people and some people passed us. There are a few things we have to do better but I didn’t feel my pace was too bad there at the end,” said the 1999 CART and 2000 Indianapolis 500 champion.

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.