Chaves a whisker away from top-10 after competitive, roller-coaster race in Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE – One of the under-the-radar stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series season to this point has been rookie Gabby Chaves with Bryan Herta Autosport.

Chaves had arguably one of his best races this year on Sunday in the ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers, even though the simple stat line of starting 12th, finishing 11th doesn’t scream at you.

But Chaves went from 12th to sixth on the first lap in the No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda, then steadily fell back, but enjoyed a first half dice with past series champions and Milwaukee winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power at various points of the first 100-plus laps.

A video of the start is below:

Chaves’ roller-coaster ride continued and he got as high as fifth in the second half of the race. The final caution flag negated several drivers’ fuel concerns, and Chaves lost a fair bit of track position.

All told though, 11th followed a ninth in Detroit race two and 10th in Texas as his best finish of his freshman season.

“I probably experienced so many things in that race,” Chaves told MotorSportsTalk post-race. “I experienced probably the best start I’ve had, I went 12th to sixth in the first corner. Then I experienced one of the scariest moments going from sixth to like 12th in the next corner, trying to push myself!

“I had a lot of moments out there. I fought hard to make positions, keep my positions. We got a little bit unlucky there with the [last] caution. We were good on fuel. Four weren’t and got lucky. We could have had a top-six, top-seven. We’ll take this and move forward.”

Chaves, who raced at the track twice in Indy Lights, said the IndyCar style of racing at the venerable Milwaukee Mile oval wasn’t too different.

“It was very similar but harder, when you experience the same characteristics behind other cars,” Chaves explained. “Tire degradation is the same feeling. It’s way harder. When you’re behind another car in Indy Lights, you can manage it. It was so rough out there. It was hard to get within three or four car lengths and not feel the suspension is broke. But I enjoyed it. The team pushed itself.”

For fun this weekend and to try to break a recent string of tough luck, several BHA team members – including their eponymous team owner Bryan Herta himself – sported mustaches or other facial hair at the track.

Chaves, only 22 and unable to grow much himself, stuck a joke mustache on his face during the weekend to join in the festivities.

The facial hair was the comedic high point of a fun, and competitive, weekend for one of IndyCar’s two full-season single-car teams.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.