Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - Day 1

Ganassi, Penske drivers fail to make final round of IndyCar quals


The front of the grid for tomorrow’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is going to look unfamiliar for longtime Verizon IndyCar Series fans.

That’s because not one representative of either Team Penske (Will Power, Helio Castroneves, and Juan Pablo Montoya) or Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Ryan Briscoe) was able to make the Firestone Fast Six in today’s qualifying session.

It marks the first time since the 2005 inception of the FF6 that both of those teams were not part of one.

Dixon was the sole Ganassi man that made the second round and was able to qualify seventh, while Tony Kanaan (13th) and Charlie Kimball (19th) failed to make it out of the first round.

“In the first round the Target car was good and we had good speed in the session I felt,” Dixon said. “We made a lot of progress from yesterday to today, and again from this morning’s practice through to qualifying.

“We have some work to do tomorrow from our starting position, but we will be prepared.”

The Penske camp also had just one guy – Castroneves – make the second round and he’ll start ninth tomorrow. IndyCar points leader Will Power, who won two weeks ago at St. Petersburg, and Juan Pablo Montoya will start 14th and 16th respectively.

However, Castroneves believes that he’ll have a car ready to work for him.

“It’s going to take some strategy to get to the front and I have the man for that in Roger Penske,” he said. “I’m counting on him tomorrow.

“I can’t wait for tomorrow. We obviously want to start in the front, but with the standing start, I feel like we can still be in good position.”

Ganassi and Penske’s fellow “Big Three” team, Andretti Autosport, swept the front row with pole sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe.

But the four other competitors in the FF6 represented four other teams – Sebastien Bourdais of KVSH Racing, Josef Newgarden of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, rookie Jack Hawksworth of Bryan Herta Autosport, and Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

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.