Graham Rahal and Courtney Force (AP Photo/Larry Papke)

John Force to teach Graham Rahal how to drive Funny Car?


NHRA Funny Car driver Courtney Force and IndyCar driver Graham Rahal are mulling over the idea of switching rides for a day, according to Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star.

Force is still trying to decide if she’ll go through with it, but Rahal is gung-ho to hop into a nitromethane-burning Funny Car.

But there’s one caveat: Rahal will have to go  through the John Force School of Drag Racing – Force, of course, being the 16-time NHRA Funny Car world champ and also Courtney’s father.

“I told (Rahal) he’s going to go through what we call ‘Funny Car 101,’ ” Force told Cavin. “I’m going to tow him around the parking lot like I did with (my) girls. ‘Here’s a chassis, get in it.’ No firesuit, no helmet.”

Basically, Force wants Rahal to learn how a Funny Car feels, handles and steers – even though it’s designed to do one thing best: go straight.

“These things are an animal, and they’ll eat you alive in second,” Force said of Funny Cars. “You don’t have time to think; you have to feel it.”

Right now, the plan is to have Rahal get behind the wheel of Force’s car after the season-ending NHRA Finals in Pomona, California, which will also be after the season ends for the Verizon IndyCar Series, as well.

In addition to letting Courtney drive his open-wheel IndyCar, Rahal also wants to put her dad behind the wheel.

Forget it, says John Force.

“I went to Buck Baker’s (road racing driving school), and I was in the Long Beach Grand Prix celebrity race (in 1993); I’ve done all that,” Force told Cavin. “I stay in drag racing because I know what I do. Besides, I told Rahal that if I crash one of his dad’s Indy cars he’s going to make me pay for it.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
Leave a comment

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
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.