Ryan Briscoe

Final touches being applied to reconfigured road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway


The first test of the reconfigured road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is just two days away – and the track is still being tweaked for completion and to be ready as scheduled on Wednesday, according to a report in Sunday’s Indianapolis Star by writer Curt Cavin.

The inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis takes place May 10, two weeks prior to the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25.

As many as 75 workers toiled throughout the weekend, tweaking things such as sod installation, line striping and even final erection of additional grandstand seating, Cavin reported.

“Really, most of it is cosmetic,” track President Doug Boles told Cavin.

One thing that will not be finished by Wednesday, and it’s understandable given how much would likely be rubbed off by cars taking practice laps, is painting of curbs around the race course.

The reconfigured track layout has five modified turns and a fresh coat of asphalt on the infield.

“It’s a new racetrack, it’s a proper racetrack and the best part about it is it’s inside the world’s greatest racetrack,” Ryan Hunter-Reay told Cavin. “(They’re) letting a bunch of IndyCar drivers go at it, and that’s awesome.

“I feel like a kid. I can’t wait to try it out.”

But Sebastien Bourdais, who won the first Brickyard Grand Prix, has his reservations.

“I didn’t see anything wrong with the old track,” he said. “Obviously the IMS guys thought different, so we’ll just have to give it a fair shot and see how it shakes out.

“But they sure spent a lot of money for that, so it better be good.”

Wednesday’s two practice sessions, a two-hour stint in the morning and a three-hour segment in the afternoon, will be preceded a day earlier when 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve and NASCAR star Kurt Busch will spend much of the day practicing on the fabled 2.5-mile oval at IMS.

Both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s sessions will be open to the public, Cavin noted.

It will be Villeneuve’s first return to Indy since his win there 19 years ago, and Busch will be competing in his first-ever 500, attempting to do the so-called “double” of racing in the 500 in the early afternoon and then heading to Charlotte for that evening’s Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup event.

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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.