Shell Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston - Day 3

IndyCar: Kimball survives late-race battle, gets Top-5


Teammates Simon Pagenaud and Mikhail Aleshin pulled away late in today’s Race 2 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, but that didn’t mean the conclusion was quiet.

For those jostling for position around the fourth, fifth, and sixth range, it was close-quarters combat around the narrow NRG Park street circuit. And Charlie Kimball was right in the middle of it.

Kimball, Jack Hawksworth, and Juan Pablo Montoya fought each other tooth-and-nail and with it came several close calls.

Eventually, Hawksworth was able to grab third place after Will Power suffered an apparent suspension failure that relegated him to a finish outside the Top 10.

As for Kimball, he held on for fourth place, which is his best result since finishing on the podium (third) in Race 2 of the first 2014 doubleheader in Detroit.

It was also a good recovery from yesterday’s Race 1, which had Kimball collected by Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon in an incident at Turn 9.

“The Novo Nordisk team worked really hard last night to get the car fixed from yesterday’s sort of incidental contact that took us out yesterday,” Kimball told NBCSN.

“…It was pretty tough racing with Juan and the 98 car [Hawksworth] – I really enjoyed racing the 2 car [Montoya] – but at the end, to come home with a Top 5 and finish fourth, I’ll take that for sure. It was wheel-to-wheel and then some.”

As for dealing with the hot, humid conditions throughout the weekend in Houston, Kimball believed he held up well. He also hailed Houston race organizers for addressing the track issues that plagued their event last October.

“It was pretty hot – it’s the humidity that really gets you,” he said. “But overall, I feel really good…I’d be ready to go do it again tomorrow.

“We had a lot of fun. The track’s rubbering in – a lot of credit to the Shell/Pennzoil [Grand Prix of Houston], they did a lot of work since last year and made the track really raceable and a lot of fun for us.”

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.