Chaves Remains Undefeated — But Doesn’t Lead the Points

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

042608a
There was very little breathing room, from green to checker, in both Skip Barber National races at VIR. This is race one: Josef Newgarden (86), Felipe Polehtto (47), Fabio Orsolon (63) and Stevan McAleer (57) are heading into One on lap four. At this point, race winner Gabby Chaves hasn’t even broken into the top 10 yet.

ALTON, Va. (April 26) – He’s only 14 years old, but Gabby Chaves has won every BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda race he’s entered this year. But the young Colombian doesn’t lead the points standings. How’s that? There have been four SBN races but Chaves missed one – race two, at Sebring in March – to run an FBMW race at Malaysia in front of the F1 crowd. The Skip Barber National ran rounds three and four here at VIR with the Grand-Am Rolex Series and Chaves won both races, each a nail-biter from start to finish.

At VIR, if you’re fast and you know how to work and time the draft, huge leaps up the order are not unheard of, thanks to three flat-out sections and the Skip Barber F2000’s Handford Device. In race one on Friday, Chaves started 18th (gearbox problem in qualifying) but after just five of the race’s 10 laps, he was up to third. While Chaves was slicing up through the field, up front was a terrifically entertaining battle between polesitter Fabio Orsolon (his second pole of the young season), Josef Newgarden, Stevan McAleer and Felipe Polehtto. Forget who was officially leading across the line at the end of each lap; it was changing two, three, even four times every two minutes. (Lap times were in the 2:07s, about 2 seconds quicker than usual thanks to BFG’s new g-Force R1 slicks.)

With the order dizzyingly different every lap, you just knew it would come down to the last lap. And it did. Leaving Oak Tree, the well-respected double-apex righthander that leads onto the looooooong back straight, McAleer was leading, Chaves locked onto his gearbox, Newgarden third. McAleer was a sitting duck and sure enough, Chaves popped to the outside of McAleer, at the same time that Newgy popped to the outside of Chaves. So what we had was three-wide as the trio neared Turn 14, a difficult downhill righthander with a tricky braking zone. Newgy was out front by a half-a-car length, Chaves in the middle, McAleer inside. Chaves wisely gave it up – and watched as McAleer slid into the side of Newgy as everybody turned-in. Off Newgy and Mac went, both now on a long, fast ride in the grass – and still racing each other, by the way – as Chaves, Polehtto, Mark Bumgarner, Chris Holmes and Orsolon all took advantage. It was good, hard, very exciting racing. Exactly what one would expect from hungry, talented kids, some not even shaving yet…

McAleer nipped Newgarden at the line for sixth (by one one-thousandth of a second), followed by Gustavo Linares, Lee Carpentier and Hamilton Smith, rounding out the top 10. Peter Tucker was the Masters winner, coming home 13th.

Race two was equally frenetic. No, wait, that’s wrong… it was even more dramatic. We had a 10-car pack the entire race, with drivers going from first to fifth and back to first – on the same lap. More than once the front of the field looked like they were on the pace lap, at three times the speed, as it was side-by-side-by-side-by-side… well, you get the idea. It had the same players – Newgarden (poleman), Chaves, McAleer, Polehtto, Orsolon, Holmes – but added to the mix were Daly, Duerson, Connor De Phillippi and Tyler Schaal. Oft times, the leader out of T17 was not the leader across the line, while that guy was not the leader into One. And yet another driver was the leader out of One. Nuts.

Suffice to say, it was anybody’s race as the last lap started. McAleer somehow held on to the lead from the exit of One up to Oak Tree. But Newgarden and Chaves blast-drafted past heading up to 14. And everybody stayed on the road. Now it was a hair-raising ride down VIR’s ‘‘Rollercoaster,’’ Newgy leading, Chaves glued to his gearbox, McAleer third. Chaves backed off a bit, then got a brilliant run through the complex. Rocketing out of 17, Chaves popped to the inside of Newgy and it was a drag race to the line. Would it be Newgy or Gabby? Across the line, Gabby grabbed the win by a nose (.082, to be exact).

‘‘In yesterday’s race, I saw Josef was better than me through 15 and 16,’’ Chaves said after the race, ‘‘so that’s what I worked on in the warm-up, to get through there at least as well as him. And it worked.’’

McAleer, Polehtto and Daly rounded out the top five, all less than a second behind Chaves, followed by Holmes, Duerson (up from 13th), De Phillippi, Schaal and Hamilton Smith. Orsolon finished 12th, behind Carpentier, after a high speed trip through the tulies in 17 on lap nine.

So there you have it. Chaves has won all three of his SBN starts, but Polehtto, with 121, still has the points lead, thanks to two more solid finishes. Newgarden (106) has leapt from seventh to second in the standings, while Chaves has gone from 12th to third. Next up is daunting Mosport mid-June, where none of the top runners have ever been before.

Results, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda

April 25, 2008, round 3 of 14, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
Virginia International Raceway, 17-turn, 3.27-mile road course
(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (18) Gabby Chaves, Colombia, 10 laps, 90.746 average mph
2. (3) Felipe Polehtto, Brazil, 10 laps
3. (9) Mark Bumgarner, Philippines, 10
4. (8) Chris Holmes, England, 10
5. (1) Fabio Orsolon, Brazil, 10
6. (5) Steven McAleer, Scotland, 10
7. (2) Josef Newgarden, Henderson, Tenn., 10
8. (12) Gustavo Linares, Venezuela, 10
9. (16) Lee Carpentier, New Canaan, Conn., 10
10. (10) Hamilton Smith, West Hartford, Conn., 10
11. (21) Tyler Schaal, Sioux Falls, S.D., 10
12. (7) Conor Daly, Noblesville, Ind., 10
13. 1M (17) Peter Tucker, Dallas, Texas, 10
14. (4) Connor De Phillippi, San Clemente, Calif., 10
15. (23) Eoin Ryan, Ireland, 10
16. (11) Dale Kistler-Collins, Thornton, Colo., 10
17. (13) Dex Tuttle, Charlotte, N.C., 10
18. 2M (20) Dom Bastien, West Palm Beach, Fla., 10
19. (24) Nick Tonkin, Port Coquitlam, B.C., Canada, 10
20. (19) Victor Pedrosa, Brazil, 10
21. (6) Marcio Pasaneli, Brazil, 7 (accident)
22. (22) Blake Kreiger, Orono, Minn., 6 (accident)
23. (15) Hayden Duerson, St. Petersburg, Fla., 3 (accident)
24. (14) Victor Carbone, Brazil, 1 (vibration)

Race length: 10 laps of 3.27-mile road course for 32.7 miles
Time of race: 21 minutes, 37.248 seconds
Conditions: Sunny and hot
Margin of victory: 0.639 seconds
Lap leaders: Orsolon 1; Newgarden 2 – 3; Polehtto 4 – 5; Newgarden 6 – 8; Chaves 9 – 10
Cautions: None
Fastest qualifier: Orsolon, 2:07.169 / 92.570 mph
Fastest race lap: Bumgarner, 2:07.069 / 92.643 mph, lap 4

April 26, 2008, round 4 of 14, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
Virginia International Raceway, 17-turn, 3.27-mile road course
(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (3) Gabby Chaves, Colombia, 10 laps, 90.903 average mph
2. (1) Josef Newgarden, Henderson, Tenn., 10 laps
3. (4) Steven McAleer, Scotland, 10
4. (2) Felipe Polehtto, Brazil, 10 laps
5. (5) Conor Daly, Noblesville, Ind., 10
6. (9) Chris Holmes, England, 10
7. (13) Hayden Duerson, St. Petersburg, Fla., 10
8. (10) Connor De Phillippi, San Clemente, Calif., 10
9. (6) Tyler Schaal, Sioux Falls, S.D., 10
10. (12) Hamilton Smith, West Hartford, Conn., 10
11. (8) Lee Carpentier, New Canaan, Conn., 10
12. (7) Fabio Orsolon, Brazil, 10
13. (14) Mark Bumgarner, Philippines, 10
14. (17) Gustavo Linares, Venezuela, 10
15. (21) Victor Pedrosa, Brazil, 10
16. (15) Eoin Ryan, Ireland, 10
17. (24) Dex Tuttle, Charlotte, N.C., 10
18. (20) Dale Kistler-Collins, Thornton, Colo., 10
19. (19) Marcio Pasaneli, Brazil, 10
20. (18) Nick Tonkin, Port Coquitlam, B.C., Canada, 10
21. (23) Victor Carbone, Brazil, 10
22. 2M (22) Dom Bastien, West Palm Beach, Fla., 10
23. 1M (11) Peter Tucker, Dallas, Texas, 10
24. (16) Blake Kreiger, Orono, Minn., 3 (accident)

Race length: 10 laps of 3.27-mile road course for 32.7 miles
Time of race: 21 minutes, 35.005 seconds
Conditions: Sunny and hot
Margin of victory: 0.082 seconds
Lap leaders: McAleer 1 – 2; Chaves 3; Newgarden 4; McAleer 5; Chaves 6; McAleer 7 – 9; Chaves 10
Cautions: None
Fastest qualifier: Newgarden, 2:06.246 / 93.246 mph
Fastest race lap: Bumgarner, 2:07.500 / 92.329 mph, lap 2

2008 Skip Barber National points standings after 4 of 14 rounds, top 15 drivers:
1. Felipe Polehtto, 121
2. Josef Newgarden, 106
3. Gabby Chaves, 105
4. Fabio Orsolon, 103
5. Conor Daly, 95
6. Hayden Duerson 89
7. Stevan McAleer, 81
8. Hamilton Smith, 77
9. Tyler Schaal, 65
10. Mark Bumgarner, 63
11. Marcio Pasaneli, 63
12. Nick Tonkin, 62
13. Dale Kistler-Collins, 61
14. Chris Holmes, 60
15. Lee Carpentier, 58

042608b
The race one podium: P3 Mark Bumgarner (l.), Gabby Chaves (c.) and second-place Felipe Polehtto (r.).

042608c
Race two: The run from the exit of 17 down to One was a constant draft-fest. This is Fabio Orsolon (63) ”leading” McAleer (57) and Polehtto (47).

Photo by Brian Boyle

042608d
Chaves (c.) makes it three-for-three in his SBN starts. Newgarden (r.) is now second in points, while McAleer (second from left) went from being outside the top 15 in points to seventh. Far left is Masters winner Dom Bastien. The pretty girls just showed up out of nowhere…

Photo by Brian Boyle

Rick Roso

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