(Photo courtesy NHRA Motorsports Museum.)

New exhibit at NHRA museum traces drag racing evolution

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After nearly 18 months of redesign and expansion, the National Hot Rod Association Motorsports Museum recently opened one of its most ambitious and interactive displays ever.

The Pomona, Calif.-based museum (on the site of the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds), now in its 16th year of existence, recently debuted “Gallery of Speed,” which tells the story of drag racing from its early days to the present time.

“It’s not just an exhibit but a new learning experience that offers a unique look into the fascinating world of hot rodding and motorsports,” museum executive director Larry Fisher told Louis Brewster of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. “We will tell the stories of the great American hot rod, and those who built and raced them, in a new light.

“We will not only celebrate the cars but the people, the engineering, the science and the sheer audacity of those who pushed the limits in pursuit of speed.”

The exhibit presents a number of different elements, including the first car to hit 235 mph (Art Chrisman’s land-speed racer from 1952).

There’s also a mural of the adjacent Auto Club Raceway, which hosts the NHRA season opening Winternationals and season ending World Finals.

“This is awesome, I’m impressed,” Funny Car driver Ron Capps told Brewster. “I’ll have to let people know how cool this is.”

The museum was begun by NHRA founder Wally Parks in 1998, with the overall theme of “Dedicated to Safety.” Parks passed away nine years later at the age of 94, but the museum has become a living legacy to him, the evolution of the drag racing culture in Southern California and how large NHRA drag racing has become as a professional sport.

“It’s an exhibit Wally Parks would be proud of,” said longtime museum curator Greg Sharp. “We wanted to develop a new approach to learning about the history of hot rodding, motorsports and the individuals who influenced American car culture.”

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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.