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.