AP Photo/John Force Racing, Elon Werner

NHRA drag racing superstar John Force goes on vacation — at a dragstrip, of course

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John Force is your classic workaholic.

Even when he’s on vacation and supposed to be resting and relaxing and taking things slow, the record-setting 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ never stops working.

Force was on vacation with his family last weekend in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, a prelude to his upcoming 65th birthday on May 4.

Wife Laurie, who has been married to drag racing’s biggest superstar for more than three decades, has learned to tolerate her husband’s often OCD ways.

John isn’t just hands-on when it comes to running his multi-million dollar organization, he finds it next to impossible to be away from things for even the shortest period of time.

Like on vacations.

Between trips to the beach or shopping, Force was on the phone every day with John Force Racing president, fellow drag racer/teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight.

But when Force found out there was actually a dragstrip on the island, St. Croix Motorsport Complex’s Caribbean Dragway, well, you can kind of figure out the rest.

After all, this IS John Force, workaholic and raceaholic we’re talking about.

Force went out in search of the place and, even though he didn’t climb into a race car when he got there, his part of the vacation picked up (while Laurie’s part likely dropped down) when he heard and saw car after car making a pass down the quartermile.

“I had the best time at the greatest little race track in the middle of the ocean,” Force said in a team media release. “I was invited by (track owner) Gary Thomas to come watch the races at Caribbean Dragway and Laurie and I had the best time. It took me back 30 years as soon as I saw all the racers there.

“It was a nice facility and everybody was great. They watch us on ESPN and they love the NHRA. There were so many families out there. It was a great afternoon and I could see the international future of drag racing.”

It was hard to tell who was enjoying themselves more, Force or local drivers that he posed with for photos, signed autographs or just basically did what Force does best: talking – and lots of it.

We all know how serious Force takes drag racing, and it was pretty obvious the local racers in St. Croix take it that way, as well.

“They rained out on Saturday and they were going to run until 4 o’clock in the morning to finish the race on Easter Sunday,” Force said. “There were all sorts of race cars represented and it was just cool to see racing on my vacation.

“I have been on the phone with Robert (Hight) about every day and it was relaxing to just get to a race track. It gave me a new energy and I am excited to get back to Texas and go after a win in Houston (in this weekend’s Spring Nationals).”

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.