Red Bull GRC enters heart of stock car country for season’s 5th event

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After Tanner Foust emerged as the victor of a riotous final in New York, the beat goes on for Red Bull Global Rallycross this weekend with a trip to The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway – known for being the home of the World of Outlaws’ World Finals.

The GRC contingent will race on an eight-turn layout that, naturally, leans toward dirt as the dominant surface. The only pavement areas of the course are at the starting gate and outside Turns 3 and 4 of the Dirt Track’s clay oval.

“It is going to be absolutely insane this year at Charlotte,” driver Steve Arpin said recently to the series’ web site. “The big thing last year was we all got flat tires because we were driving so hard on around a rough and rutty dirt track, but we got new tires this year so that is not going to happen, so we will go even harder yet.

“That track is so wild, you have all the banking in Turns 1 and 2—we are wide open all the way through there – we literally jump over the race track, literally over the wall, then jump back in on the other side.”

Andretti Autosport has won three of the four races so far this year, but Nelson Piquet Jr. of SH Racing Rallycross holds the championship lead by 35 points over Andretti pilot Scott Speed.

Speed finished right behind Foust in New York, but a post-race penalty knocked him down to ninth in the final results and helped give Piquet his points advantage going into Charlotte.

But Piquet has worked hard to get to where he is at this point of the season; his three consecutive podium finishes in the No. 07 Ford Fiesta ST are proof of that.

Another key storyline for this weekend is the return of Brian Deegan, who we last saw in Austin at the X Games. In last year’s Charlotte event, Deegan finished on the podium – one of his 11 career podiums in GRC, which is good for second all-time in series history. He’ll be driving the No. 38 Rockstar Energy Drink Ford.

You can watch the final of Red Bull Global Rallycross Charlotte tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. ET on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra for your online or mobile device.

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.