Roller coaster days for Dixon, Wilson, RHR Sunday at Long Beach

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As part of a Teen Cancer America press conference Sunday morning in Long Beach, Honda Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Justin Wilson and Ryan Hunter-Reay were joined by ex-Honda man and defending series champion Scott Dixon as they were all set to support the Roger Daltrey’s organization.

Good times, a good cause, and happy quotes:

Wilson: “I think we have some pretty excited team owners. I know that for sure. Dale is quite excited to have Teen Cancer America on the car for this event. It means a lot to everyone. I think it’s a fantastic cause. We were all talking about it earlier and it’s definitely something we can work on and it’s an understanding. The more we understand, the more we can do.”

Dixon: “It’s an honor to meet someone like Roger (Daltrey) but I think it’s more of an honor to see a person like him become interested and lend his support for such a great cause. For me, I’ve been working with CANTeen in New Zealand for so many years and there’s a gap in the healthcare system. There are so many changes going on for teens with their hormones and trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. Cancer is something that is pretty tough for anyone fighting it is something that we believe in. Cancer as a whole is horrible and there are so many causes that are fighting it.”

Hunter-Reay: “It’s great to have everyone here and pushing in the same direction in the fight against cancer.  It’s great to have Roger at a Verizon IndyCar Series event and to get Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the front stage. He doesn’t have to be here. He’s here on his own accord pushing the fight against cancer and the promotion to help these people who face such an ugly fight. We’re all here doing the same thing.”’

And then the race happened. Dixon contacted Wilson going into Turn 8, and RHR’s passing attempt on Newgarden at Turn 4 made emotions run high. Here’s the polite version of the official post-race quotes, as distributed by INDYCAR:

Dixon: “It was a tough situation for the Target team to be in there leading at the end and not make it. We ended up being about a half of a lap short on fuel and didn’t get a break with a yellow flag. We could have stayed out and tried it but then we would have risked running out of fuel and wrecking the field. I feel bad for the accident with Justin Wilson. I didn’t expect him to be there on the outside so I will go talk to him. Not the day we wanted but we’ll regroup and be ready for Barber.”’

Wilson: “The team did a fantastic job all day, had great pit stops, we had the fuel to make it to the end, we were making great fuel mileage under the yellows and great fuel mileage on track, and had a fantastic restart. I had a couple of looks, tried to go down the inside in turn one and got blocked, which is fine, he moved first, I went to the outside and got squeezed on the outside. I was like ‘hang on a minute.’ Then coming out of five the same thing happened. He [Dixon] chose the inside so I took the outside and nearly got put in the wall then so I did the old switchback out of six climbing the hill to seven and then to eight Scott had the inside but he wanted the outside as well and I got sandwiched between him and the wall, bent both sides of the car and the end of our day. I just feel for the Boy Scouts of America guys. We worked so hard, had fantastic strategy. We gambled and could make the mileage and we should have been at least on the podium. I think we are there and we have got what it takes. We have some great people and the car runs flawlessly and we are out there trying to win races. It is just frustrating when something like this is taken away from you.”

Hunter-Reay: “We had a strong car and (Josef) Newgarden came out of pit lane and I knew he was on cold tires. He was really struggling to get up to speed through Turn 1, and then through Turn 3 he had some wheel spin so I went for it. I started to back out because he was closing the door – I could have waited a little later, maybe that’s my fault but at the same time I had at least a half a car up along sides of him so I went for it. If we had given each other a little bit of room we both maybe would have gotten through there. It’s down to me to make the pass I guess, I’m not sure… a lot of people say that was my fault. I made the decision at that split second, when he had some wheel spin, to go for it knowing that I was on hot tires. That’s the type of driver I am, I go for it. I feel bad for everybody involved. Obviously it was a bit of a bottle neck there, and it got others involved that didn’t deserve to be involved and that’s what I feel really bad about. But thank you to DHL and Honda; the 28 car was so strong today… just very, very disappointed. I’ll look at it again, but a racing driver, when he’s in the moment, and he sees a chance to go for it… I went for it because I want to win the race.”

Wilson was more candid to Autosport’s Mark Glendenning, dropping expletives to describe the move. Considering Wilson is one of the nicest drivers in the paddock, for him to go off the deep end as he did in this piece speaks volumes about the level of frustration he was feeling.

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.