AJ Allmendinger dominated much of the first half of Sunday's race at Sonoma, but pole-sitter Jamie McMurray was scored the leader at halfway. (Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Pole-sitter McMurray leads halfway in Sprint Cup race at Sonoma

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Pole-sitter Jamie McMurray is the leader at halfway of Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Jeff Gordon, who leads all drivers at Sonoma with five career wins there, is running second, followed by Kevin Harvick in third.

AJ Allmendinger has dominated much of the first half of Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, but has fallen back to fourth position.

Allmendinger had led 37 of the first 55 laps in the 110-lap event.

Allmendinger, who is seeking the first career Sprint Cup win for both himself and JTG-Daugherty Racing, led the first 21 laps before yielding the lead to Harvick.

But Allmendinger rallied back to regain the front of the pack spot several laps later.

Michael Waltrip Racing is seeking its third consecutive win at Sonoma, with Clint Bowyer winning there in 2012 and Martin Truex Jr. (now with Furniture Row Racing) doing so in last year’s race.

Bowyer was fifth at halfway, followed by Kurt Busch and rookie Kyle Larson, who won the K&N race on Saturday at Sonoma, was running seventh.

Marcos Ambrose, favored by many to win the race, is running eighth.

Brad Keselowski got spun early when he pulled in front of Kyle Busch, but admitted over his team radio that it was he who made a mistake and had no issue with Busch.

Speaking of Team Penske, Keselowski complained over the team radio early about the setup on his Ford Fusion, prompting crew chief Paul Wolfe to get exasperated and tell his driver that the only way to fix the issue would be to bring the car into the garage.

Casey Mears is having handling issues after the front end of his car was crunched after being hit from behind by Clint Bowyer and pushed into the back of another car.

On Lap 31, Landon Cassill – the only driver to do the weekend double (raced Saturday in the Nationwide Series race at Road America and then in Sunday’s Cup event at Sonoma) – lost his motor, bringing out a full course caution.

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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.