Tuesday, February 24, 2015

2015 Verizon IndyCar Team-By-Team Preview: Bryan Herta Autosport

After flirting with possibly not returning as a full-time Verizon IndyCar Series team, Bryan Herta Autosport will return for 2015 but with their third different driver for the season opener in as many years and for the second consecutive year, the team will field a rookie. This year the defending Indy Lights champion Gabby Chaves will be behind the wheel of the #98 Honda for 2015.

2014 Bryan Herta Autosport Review:
Wins: 0
Best Finish: 3rd (Houston 2).
Poles: 0
Best Start: 2nd (IMS road course).
Final Championship Position: 17th (Jack Hawksworth)

2015 Drivers:

Gabby Chaves
The Colombian won the 2014 Indy Lights championship on tiebreaker over Jack Harvey and it has landed him a full-time IndyCar ride. Chaves spent the last three seasons in the Road to Indy system. He finished second to Jack Hawksworth for the 2012 Star Mazda championship and finished second to Sage Karam for the 2013 Indy Lights crown before his breakthrough last year. Last year, Chaves won four races, including the Freedom 100 and had 11 podiums in 14 races including a string of eight consecutive podiums to end the season. Chaves has raced on 12 tracks of the 15 tracks on the IndyCar schedule and he has finished on the podium on 11 of the 12 with the sole exception being the IMS road course. The three tracks Chaves has not been to are NOLA (which will be hosting their inaugural race in 2015), Belle Isle and Texas. His average finish in two Indy Lights season was 3.076.

Numbers to Remember: 0. The number of combined IndyCar victories from the previous 12 Indy Lights champions

3. The number of combined top five finishes by the previous 12 Indy Lights champions in their rookie IndyCar seasons. Alex Lloyd finished fourth in the 2010 Indianapolis 500 and J.R. Hildebrand had his unforgettable second place finish in the 2011 Indianapolis 500 and he finished fourth at Iowa later that season.

3. Of the last 12 Indy Lights champions, only three won IndyCar Rookie of the Year (Raphael Matos 2009, Alex Lloyd 2010 and Tristan Vautier 2013).

Prediction/Goals: I will be honest that it is hard to make any predictions considering we don't know how the aero kit will perform and if one will be head and shoulders above the other. Honda could come out with a far superior aero kit and Chaves could be consistently around the top ten or the Chevrolet aero kit could end up wiping the floor with Honda's body work and Chaves could end up struggling to crack the top twenty. Chaves enters IndyCar with more experience than Hawksworth did last year and his goal should be to finish ahead of where Hawksworth ended up last year (17th in the championship, average start of 15.647 and average finish of 13.611).

Jay Howard
The 2006 Indy Pro Series champion has lined himself up a ride for the Indianapolis 500. Howard will drive the #97 Green1 Honda as a partnership between BHA and CuttersRT. Howard will be making his fifth attempt at the Indianapolis 500. The Brit has only qualified for the race once. In 2008, he was replaced by John Andretti after passing rookie orientation for Roth Racing. In 2010, Howard failed to qualify for Sarah Fisher Racing after withdrawing his qualifying time, a time that would have been good enough to make the field. He would make his Indianapolis 500 debut in 2011 driving in partnership with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He started 20th but finished 30th after completing only 60 laps. In 2012, Howard tried to return to the Speedway with Michael Shank Racing but due to a lack of engines in the first year of the DW12-era, they did not even turn a lap that May.

Numbers to Remember: 12. Jay Howard has made 12 IndyCar starts.

75. As in 75% of Howard's IndyCar starts have come on ovals.

13. As in Howard's best career starting position and best finish. Howard finished 13th in consecutive races at Motegi and Kansas in 2008. He started 13th for the second race of the lone doubleheader at Texas in 2011. The starting line-up for that race was set by random draw.

Predictions/Goals: The goals should be to make the field. If there are more than 33 entries, Howard will be one of the drivers battling not to be bumped from the 99th Indianapolis 500.

The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series seasons gets underway on Sunday March 29th. ABC's coverage will begin at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag at 3:30 p.m. ET.