Kyle Larson

‘The other Kyle’ continues run as most consistent driver in last 4 Sprint Cup races

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Pop quiz: What Sprint Cup driver has two top-fives and one other top-10 finish in the last four races?

Brad Keselowski? Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Jimmie Johnson? Jeff Gordon? Kyle Busch?

If you picked Kyle Busch, you were kind of half-right.

Hard as it may seem to believe, Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson has been the hottest and most consistent driver in the series since Bristol four races ago.

He finished 10th at Bristol, second at Fontana (also won the Nationwide Series race there that same weekend), 27th at Martinsville and rallied back for a fifth-place showing in Monday’s rain-postponed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

And in doing so, not only was he the top-finishing rookie of the race, the driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet jumped four spots in the Sprint Cub standings, climbing from 19th to 15th.

If the Chase for the Sprint Cup were to start tomorrow, Larson would be in the field of 16. Think about that.

Larson is doing so well of late, that all he’s missing is his first career Sprint Cup win. And even though the series is going to the uber-difficult Darlington Raceway this coming weekend, Larson has just the right amount of talent and moxie to win at the so-called “track too tough to tame.”

“I think so,” Larson said when asked if he thinks he’s ready to win in NASCAR’s marquee series. “I feel like we’ve been a top‑10 car most races.

“We were good at Bristol, good at Fontana, good here. I think if we just keep keeping ourselves in contention, things will work out late in the races or we might have a dominating car one day and get our first win.

“I feel like right now it could come at a 1.5-mile or a little bit bigger track (Darlington is 1.366 miles around). Hopefully that comes soon because there’s a lot on the schedule.”

Larson might have finished a bit higher Monday – maybe fourth or even third – but wasn’t able to get any forward movement following the final restart.

“I’m happy we didn’t lose any spots,” Larson said. “A little bit disappointed we didn’t gain any because we were on four fresh tires.

“The 24 (runner-up Jeff Gordon) and 55 (fourth-place Brian Vickers) had two and beat us. All in all, a pretty good day. Going on to Darlington, a track I really like, and try to do even better.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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.