Assessing risk management one of Max Chilton’s goals for May

Photo: IndyCar

INDIANAPOLIS – You don’t finish your first 25 Grands Prix in a row without proper risk assessment, and it’s a strategy that Max Chilton in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet has taken over to his opening races in the Verizon IndyCar Series, as well.

The month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a different animal and requires a similar amount of understanding how to build up pace and confidence through the days of practice and qualifying, prior to competing in the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

In working with Ganassi this year and particularly this month, Chilton has access to three-time ‘500 and four-time series champion Dario Franchitti along with his ace engineer Brandon Fry, who’s helped other first-year drivers through the process at IMS.

As the 25-year-old Chilton related, knowing how to assess what risks to take and embrace his inner George Costanza is one of his early goals this May.

“Without tempting fate too much, I am sort of a risk manager,” Chilton told NBC Sports. “Hence why I set the record I did in F1. I don’t think it can’t be beaten. It could be matched. No driver’s ever done that.

“Here, it’s crucial you’ve got the time to build up to it. Let’s face it – if I didn’t have Dario and didn’t have a team that’s so good, I’d be in a riskier position.

“He says we’ll never take downforce off without (also) doing tires. You don’t need to rush it along there. We’ve got two or three more days of running before qualifying. It’s important to make sure that you risk manage building up to it because when it comes time to an oval qualifying session, you’re gonna have to just go for it.”

Franchitti, who turns 43 today, is impressed with Chilton’s early approach to IMS.

“For any rookie coming to Indianapolis it’s always a daunting proposition,” Franchitti said. “He’s got the right temperament for it. He likes structure. The car itself, the inside of the car and the handling of the car fascinates him! I can relate to that.

“He’s impressed me so far. We’re trying to tell him the Indy 500 and weeks leading up to it is almost as much a mental game as anything else. So, far he’s handled it very well.”

Chilton also expressed thanks with Fry’s feedback and interaction with Franchitti.

“Brandon is sort of a calm, solid engineer,” Chilton said. “He gives you the car that you can trust it. Him and Dario completely bounce off each other. He gives me the engineering side of it, and Dario just tries to extract as much out of me as possible. He knows it helps. I can’t honestly pick a better person to be working with. I’m quite fortunate.”

Chilton impressed many during his first IndyCar oval start at Phoenix International Raceway – if anything, he could probably afford to feel disappointed with seventh.

Having had the baseline of some Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires running here last year, although he didn’t start the race owing to a fuel leak, he still described the adjustments he had to make stepping up to IndyCar here.

“You can obviously sense the speed is greater. The Lights car has a lot less downforce,” he said. “I know come qualifying when we’ll trim out, we’ll feel it moving around more. I felt the Lights car moved around a lot more.

“You have to drive it completely different because the speeds are greater, the rate and turn-in points are different. I’m really glad I did that last year because I wouldn’t have had that baseline I did previous.”

Wednesday was an interesting day for Chilton as he did a bunch of full-tank runs and completed 125 laps, second-most in the field only to fellow freshman Matthew Brabham.

“Anytime I’m running here, in traffic, you’re learning a lot. I was getting frustrated out there, I’m not gonna lie,” Chilton admitted.

“But it was good, because it made me realize there is a lot more to learn about timing a pass and having the right setup. I felt I was too comfortable in the corners and couldn’t move in a straight line. There’s just lots to learn.”

Fellow rookie Spencer Pigot’s accident on Wednesday was something Chilton took note of but didn’t appear to phase him too much.

“Yeah it makes you realize it can bite. But I want to avoid it all costs,” Chilton said. “He didn’t seem to do anything wrong. He seemed to turn in at the right point. He didn’t go too low below the white line.”

Has Chilton had that “holy cow!” moment as yet?

“I had a couple today!” he said. “Yeah, you follow a car, and the car isn’t turning, and the wall comes up on you very quick.

“You’ve gotta learn to appreciate this place, but not be afraid of it.”

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s


After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

Rider Power
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points

The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

Rider Power
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage