Matt Kenseth

Matt Kenseth still winless but takes over Sprint Cup points lead

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A solid third-place finish on Sunday for Matt Kenseth enabled him to move to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings after previous leader Jeff Gordon faded late to a 15th-place result.

Going into next weekend’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway, Kenseth – who is still winless in 2014 – is up by by two points on Jeff Gordon (one win, Kansas) in the standings.

Kenseth wasn’t nearly as dominant on the day as eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson, but still had one more chance to catch him thanks to a late restart with four laps to go.

He lined up on the outside of Johnson for the restart, but spun the tires on his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota as Johnson went on to his ninth career win at Dover International Speedway.

“It was good, I mean, I thought the 48 (Johnson) and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) had us all day,” Kenseth said. “The 24 (Gordon) at times — all of the Hendrick cars were strong and Brad (Keselowski) got up there at the end.

“We had a good Top-5 car. I did an awful job on that last restart. Just got spinning the tires too much and the best car won. We just need to be a little bit better.”

Prior to that critical restart, Kenseth dodged a bullet on Lap 222, when rookie Alex Bowman hit the wall after a tire went down on him.

Coming up on the scene, Kenseth didn’t know if Bowman would slide down the track or stay up by the wall. In a split-second decision, Kenseth went high and narrowly squeezed through the wall and Bowman’s wounded Toyota.

“He blew a tire or something and I saw him blow a tire, and I was kind of running the middle and I didn’t know where he was going to go,” Kenseth said of the situation. “So I hit the brakes and locked up the left front (tire) and then I didn’t have any steering when the left front was locked up.

“Yeah, that would’ve looked pretty stupid to drive up and go through the back of him.”

Kenseth also survived a late run-in with Clint Bowyer after the aforementioned restart to give his team their eighth Top-10 finish in the last nine races.

Until Kenseth can break through for a win, he’ll need to stay as high up in the points as he can for now. But considering how consistent he’s been in the first half of the regular season, one figures that he’ll be taking a checkered flag soon enough.

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.