Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

Scott Dixon’s runner-up streak at Barber snapped with 3rd-place showing

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Well…at least it wasn’t second place, again.

Prior to Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon had finished second in each of the series’ four races at Barber Motorsports Park outside Birmingham.

Dixon finally broke that streak Sunday, but not in the way he wanted to. Instead of moving up to the top step of the podium, he took a step down it by finishing third behind the Andretti Autosport duo of winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti.

The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver felt he had a fairly smooth race but that tire wear proved a factor in his inability to keep up with the two Americans at the front.

“Our biggest trouble [Sunday] was burning up the front tires, whether it was the wet tires or the Firestone reds,” Dixon said. “We seemed to lose rotation after about six or eight laps. Huge credit to Team Target – we made most of our positions up in the pit stops.”

Dixon was still able to turn in the fastest lap of the race, a 1:09.2995 on Lap 54 (three laps after his final stop of the day on Lap 51), despite the issue.

But the tire matter wasn’t the only thing that bothered him about Sunday. He had a particular gripe with Helio Castroneves for what he saw as jumping a restart during the event.

“I think there was the second restart or third restart where Helio jumped the start, which seems to be typical of him, which is frustrating because he doesn’t seem to get a penalty for it,” he said.

Castroneves would finish 19th after a rough race that included him being penalized for pulling into Justin Wilson’s pit stall during a round of stops under yellow on Lap 22.

Dixon also didn’t care much for the decision to go to a timed race. Due to a weather delay of several hours, the race was shortened to one hour, 40 minutes; instead of the originally scheduled 90 laps, the race wound up going 69 laps.

“I think it changes strategy a lot and you’re constantly chasing that window,” he said. “Then ultimately, you finish on a caution, too, which is also a bit of a bummer for the fans. In the future, hopefully, we can find a way around that.”

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.