98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race-Qualifying

IndyCar: Speeding penalties keep Carpenter, Hinchcliffe from potential win

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Ed Carpenter (pictured) and James Hinchcliffe had their chances at victory in Saturday’s MAV TV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, but both of them were bitten by ill-timed speeding penalties on pit road.

Carpenter, the series’ resident ovalmeister, recovered for a third place finish behind the Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon, while Hinchcliffe came back for fifth.

But both of them shook their heads over the penalties. Carpenter got his following a Lap 103 stop for speeding at pit out, while Hinchcliffe was hit for speeding at pit in after a stop at Lap 141.

“If we wouldn’t have had the pit lane speeding penalty…The pit lane control speed [on the car] didn’t work the whole race,” Carpenter said to NBCSN. “It was just one of those things.

“But it was a great way to finish the year for Fuzzy’s and Chevrolet. Obviously, we wanted a little bit better but there are a lot worse ways this race could have ended.”

The Indiana native can certainly be pleased with how his squad fared in 2014. Before the season started, Carpenter chose to relegate himself to ovals-only competition while giving his No. 20 Chevrolet to Mike Conway for road and street races.

The decision was a stroke of genius. Conway went on to take wins on the street courses at Long Beach and Toronto (Race 2), while Carpenter scored one at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Winning the [Indianapolis] 500 would have been nice, but maybe I’m just getting greedy,” said Carpenter about his team’s season. “It was a great year with Mike picking up the two wins and me getting the win at Texas. It was really good.

“But now we’ve got a lot of work going into the offseason to start building CFH Racing, and come back even stronger next year.”

As for Hinchcliffe, he made steady progress in the opening stints of the race before charging past Juan Pablo Montoya for the lead at Lap 58.

But after pitting on Lap 73, the Canadian was shuffled back to seventh before things got worse for him later. He was able to rally for a Top-5, but didn’t hide his feelings about the penalty.

“What a kick in the [groin],” Hinchcliffe told NBCSN. “It’s one of those things. We had a good car early – obviously, it was bad fast and we drove it to the front.

“We stayed out a little bit too late on that stint and then on the next stint, [they] tried to call me in really late, and I tried to get down and missed the pits and lost a ton of time there.

“Then we got the speeding violation – the brake pedal just went super long coming into the pits and locked up, so it was a couple things stacking against us there.”

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.