AVONDALE, La. – Say this much for Indy Lights champion and Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Gabby Chaves’ Sunday at NOLA Motorsports Park: it was entertaining.
But unfortunately for the driver of the No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda, a 15th-place result stung a bit considering he was racing the eventual race winner, James Hinchcliffe, at the time of his off-course excursion on Lap 16.
Chaves, who started 17th, was ninth with Hinchcliffe 10th on Lap 12, before Hinchcliffe pitted on Lap 13 and Chaves a lap later on Lap 14. Chaves crossed the line in 13th on Lap 14 with Hinchcliffe two spots behind him in 15th.
“‘Hinch’ already had a lap on warm tires, and he was behind me. I wasn’t even defending my position,” Chaves explained to MotorSportsTalk post-race.
“He went around the outside and had plenty of room to give me. But he came down across and hit my front wing and I spun. Then I got caught in the grass, and there was nothing I could do.”
Given the rain made the grass akin to a swamp, Chaves got stuck. He received assistance from a corner worker to get back going, but then stopped on track once back on the racing surface.
The only problem was, that the local corner worker’s assistance was “unauthorized,” per an IndyCar spokesman to the AP.
It also spawned at least a couple memes on Twitter (second meme, as created by @PandaBoogaloo, was picked up elsewhere), and it was the first of six cautions that littered the remainder of the 47-lap race.
Here’s the video of the push back onto the track:
If nothing else, Chaves could at least take solace in another day of learning, and surviving his first rain race in IndyCar in basically one piece.
“We had pretty good pace. Obviously we made pretty good passes, going through the field,” he said.
“It’s kind of funny the guy we had an incident with won the race. So we were in contention for something!
“It’s just a matter of getting the experience and seeing what the strategy is to stay clean out there. A lot of times, it’s out of your control.”