Verizon IndyCar Notes & Quotes: GP of Indy Thursday

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Along with the rest of Thursday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis Verizon IndyCar Series posts, here’s some thoughts from the paddock on day one of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend, via quotes distributed by INDYCAR:

  • Consider Scott Dixon, fastest on Thursday, pleased with how the track works: “The cars are on a knife edge. The straights are so long that you’re trimming the car out to levels that I think we’ve only seen once before in Brazil on a street course with another really long straight. That there makes it tough, the window of being on the edge and going for the quick time is uncomfortably small, but it’s a lot of fun. You’re constantly chasing the track, and the conditions, today it is very windy, tomorrow it might open up and rain, and then for the race, I hope everyone comes out for that, but I like it. They did a hell of a job with this track.”
  • It was a mixed day for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as Graham Rahal’s No. 15 National Guard team went one way and Oriol Servia’s No. 16 went the other. Rahal’s won out – P6 versus P23. “We’re getting it into a better zone, and definitely more competitive. I’m proud of these guys for keeping their heads down and getting it done. There is still work to be done but its work to be done coming from sixth (in afternoon session) versus coming from the back which is a good change for us,” said Rahal.
  • Servia may not have been happy with his setup, but he was happy with the improved details even just last week’s open test. “They have done a good job finishing all of the small details. They painted the curbs and they look great. It’s funny how just a little bit of color and aesthetics change the whole feel. They’ve painted the curbs in three different color tones which look really nice. I’m sure the fans are going to like it and they will look great on TV,” he said.
  • Charlie Kimball (right) and Ryan Briscoe, 11th and 17th in practice two, were both happier with their days than the times indicated. “We made some huge steps forward from practice one to practice two. The speed was there in practice one, but we just didn’t quite get the lap time we wanted,” said Kimball. Added Briscoe, “I’m pretty happy with how today went. I mean our lap time doesn’t really show how good of a day we actually had. We did some race prep when the track was getting faster so we probably missed putting together a fast lap time when the track was at its quickest.”
  • Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya said the weather conditions drastically changed the complexion of the track. “The track was pretty hot today, so we had to change the car over a little bit from what we had in the test session last week. Last week was frigid compared to what we have for conditions today. We spent the first session just trying to figure out what we needed because it was almost like starting over. I felt we really gained a lot in the second session,” said JPM, who ended practice two in 13th, just ahead of teammate Helio Castroneves.
  • James Hinchcliffe ended best of Andretti Autosport’s five drivers in P5. “Solid first day, I guess. This is a tricky track to set up for. It’s kind of the trim wars right now out there on figuring out what the right downforce level is. The weather’s changing a lot, the track’s still changing a lot, so at the end of the day, we’re pretty pleased to have the United Fiber and Data car in the Top-5,” said the Canadian.

More tomorrow with practice three and qualifying.

Thursday IndyCar post round-up:

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.