Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon fastest in final Sprint Cup practice at Michigan

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Looks like Jeff Gordon’s car at Michigan International Speedway is as good in race trim as it was in qualifying yesterday.

One day after putting up the seventh-fastest pole-winning lap in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history, Gordon has topped final Sprint Cup practice for tomorrow’s Pure Michigan 400 with a lap at 200.156 miles per hour.

Speeds took a noticeable drop in the final, 55-minute session as Gordon was the only driver to break the 200 mph mark. Earlier this morning, 33 drivers went past that mark in the second Cup practice.

Rookie driver Kyle Larson was second behind Gordon in “Happy Hour” with a lap of 199.695 mph. He was followed by Brad Keselowski (199.137) in third, Practice 2 leader Kevin Harvick (198.812) in fourth, and Greg Biffle (198.835) in fifth.

Yesterday, Larson surveyed his current Chase situation – winless with four races to go in the regular season, but still in position to make it on points if necessary. He believes that he has to make fewer mistakes in order to get the victory that will effectively push him through to the post-season.

“I feel like as a rookie, I still make some mistakes out there,” said Larson, who is 15th in the Chase Grid (+9 points on 17th-place Greg Biffle). “As you can see on pit road, I’ve sped a lot, which is weird because I never sped at all last year. Then just there are lots of little things that could help our chances of winning races.

“We have to put a whole race weekend together, a whole race together, limit our mistakes and hopefully get a win. I think I’m pretty aggressive on restarts and seems like I gain spots on restarts and stuff, just got to get better at everything and I’m sure the wins will come.”

Green flag for tomorrow’s 200-lap race at MIS is scheduled for shortly after 1 p.m. ET.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan – Final Practice Times

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.