Photo: IndyCar

Chilton emerges P6, mixed in among veterans on Watkins Glen grid

Leave a comment

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – The top five on the grid for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ penultimate round, the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen presented by Hitachi (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN), are all 35 years of age or more and debuted in IndyCar at least a decade ago (from 1998 to 2005), if not earlier.

Then there’s rookie Max Chilton, the Formula One veteran in his maiden IndyCar campaign, who was the only one of the young bucks to break the trend of experience at the top of the grid and will roll off sixth on Sunday at Watkins Glen International.

Chilton, who’s wearing a James Hunt throwback tribute helmet this weekend, turned in his best road or street course performance of the season to end sixth in qualifying. It’s his best start on a road or street course this year, supplanting seventh place at the similar, picturesque Road America when he felt as though he was hindered by traffic and just missed advancing.

The Chip Ganassi Racing Teams quartet of cars has been strong all weekend and three of them made it through to the Firestone Fast Six, with Scott Dixon continuing his weekend pace for pole and and Tony Kanaan in fifth.

The driver of the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, meanwhile, noted how much he’s got on with the 3.37-mile circuit that bares a strong resemblance to many of the classic road courses he raced in F1.

“They haven’t been here in recent years, but they’ve got plenty of experience here, and it makes everything easier,” Chilton said. “I already felt more at home coming to this track just because it’s such a fantastic track. It matches or has a lot of similarities to my favorite circuit, Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, so it’s just fast, flowing, undulating very picturesque track, and I think everything together with Gallagher giving me a good car, it just came together.

“It wasn’t easy. It was definitely — I was surprised how close it was for such a big track, so there’s still a lot that could have gone wrong. Also we didn’t really know whether the red or the black was going to be quicker, and actually there wasn’t much in it anyway. Yeah, we got it all together, and it was nice to get a solid qualifying result together.”

While the qualifying for Chilton’s been respectable, his race results haven’t yet measured up. His Road America race went awry when he ran out of fuel at one point. His best result on a road or street course this year is 14th on two occasions, Long Beach and the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

“This circuit just stood out to me, and Road America is more what I’m used to, the faster flowing, especially here the lovely smooth surface. I’ve been brought up with nice tracks, so it’s a bit of a shock to the system when you come to bumpy surfaces. It was nice to drive here with a smoother circuit. Yeah, circuits do suit certain drivers, and this suits me like Elkhart Lake. The fast flowing corners I just prefer.

“It paid off today, as well, like it did in Road America. But the Road America race went awfully badly, so hopefully we can change that tomorrow.”

Polesitter Dixon praised Chilton’s performance.

“It’s good to see Max doing well. I think it’s definitely an eye-opener, I think, coming to the Verizon IndyCar Series, and especially if you’re a rookie,” Dixon said.

“You don’t get much additional time. You don’t really get many additional tests. It’s an extremely steep learning curve, and I think road courses like here at the Glen, he’s probably more used to as opposed to a bumpy street course or low-grip tracks that these cars are pretty tricky at.

“For me it’s been great to see him have a consistent weekend, a weekend that you can now see he’s getting confident in the car. Haven’t got to chat to him too much. I think all four cars have been pretty similar on setup actually, so it’s been a nice weekend for a lot of us to run in the same direction and hopefully keep moving in that way.”

Todd LeDuc advances two positions in Monster Jam Power Rankings

Leave a comment

Neil Elliott held onto the top spot in the Monster Jam Power Rankings, but he has a new driver sniffing his exhaust as Todd Leduc advanced two positions to second this week.

The Stadium Series Green continues to hold the advantage in the Power Rankings with Elliott topping the chart, Morgan Kane in fourth, and Ryan Anderson eighth, but there is an equitable distribution among the other series throughout the field.

Notably, Leduc and his Monster Energy truck in the Stadium Series Red closed the gap with a 38-point overall victory at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. Leduc achieved his win through consistency, pocketing the overall without winning a single individual event. Leduc’s best session was a second-place finish to Mike Vaters II in Overkill Evolution by .001 points.

Meanwhile on the West Coast, Elliott rambled on. Elliott won his sixth skills challenge in seven contests so far. That contributed to his 35 points for the event at PETCO Park in San Diego and allowed him to hold onto the No. 1 slot in the Monster Jam Power Rankings.

Colton Eichelberger also held station. Third last week, he entered the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on a mission in the Triple Threat Series Central. He topped the event points in all four events with timed race wins in each session, ATV race wins in three of the four, three wins in the speedster obstacle course, two freestyle wins and one win in the donut competitions.

MORE: Ryan Anderson and the anatomy of a Monster Jam freestyle run

Morgan Kane and Grave Digger had a rough night. He was ousted from the racing event in Round 2 by Max-D and Elliott. He failed to win either of the other two competitions of the night and ended with 29 points, which was a distant third to Ryan Anderson’s Son-Uva Digger (37) and Max-D (35).

Brandon Vinson moved up to the fifth position with three wins in the Triple Threat Series West. During the weekend he earned seven session wins, including a sweep of the speedster obstacle course and two victories in the two-wheel skills challenge.

Tom Meents debuted on the Monster Jam Power Rankings in 10th by winning the overall in back to back nights of the Stadium Series Yellow. The Saturday show can be seen Feb. 22 at 11:30 p.m. on NBCSN (click here for streaming). The highlight of Meents’ weekend were race wins on Saturday and Sunday, defeating Coty Saucier in a Monster Energy truck on Night 1 and Eric Swanson in Obsessed on Night 2.

Power Rankings

1. Neil Elliott–same
2. Todd LeDuc–up 2
3. Colton Eichelberger-same
4. Morgan Kane–down 2
5. Brandon Vinson–up 1
6. Tyler Menninga–up 1
7. Coty Saucier–down 2
8. Ryan Anderson–same
9. Linsey Read–up 1
10. Tom Meents-new for 2020

Upcoming TV Schedule (All showings on Eastern time on NBCSN)

Oakland: February 22 (Saturday); 11:30 p.m.
Miami: March 1 (Sunday); 12 a.m.
Jacksonville: March 9 (Monday); 6 p.m.
Detroit: March 21 (Saturday); 11 p.m.
Las Vegas: March 28 (Saturday); 7 p.m.
Santa Clara: April 11 (Saturday); 7 p.m.
Philadelphia: April 17 (Friday); 2:30 p.m.
Denver: April 25 (Saturday); 6:30 p.m.
Monster Jam World Finals Racing: May 9 (Saturday); 5 p.m.
Monster Jam World Finals: May 19 (Tuesday); 4 p.m.
Monster Jam World Freestyle: May 20 (Wednesday); 12 a.m.
Monster Jam World Finals: June 20 (Saturday); 2:30 p.m.