Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wednesday Wrap-Up: Bryan Herta Autosport's 2015 Season

The second Verizon IndyCar Series team we will review is Bryan Herta Autosport. For the third consecutive season, BHA had a different driver behind the wheel of the #98 Honda. The team improved from 2014 but still have a way to go before becoming a contender in IndyCar.

Gabby Chaves was the top rookie in 2015
Gabby Chaves
The 2014 Indy Lights champion Gabby Chaves graduated to full-time IndyCar competition in 2015 and came out as the 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Chaves. The Colombian didn't make waves in 2015. He was consistent but rarely broke into the top half of the field. However, the one positive thing for Chaves was he didn't tear up much equipment, if any at all. He was running at the finish in 15 of 16 races and his lone retirement was when his engine expired with four to go at Pocono when he was having his best race of the season and running in the top five. He finished tied for most races running at the finish of with Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marco Andretti. Chaves completed the second most laps in 2015. The only driver to complete more than Chaves' 2,211 laps was Ryan Hunter-Reay, who completed 2,218 laps. The one downside is while Chaves was finishing all these races; he only finished on the lead lap 10 times, tied for 13th most.

To highlight Chaves' consistency, hear are his finishes in the first seven races of the season: 17th, 15th, 16th, 16th, 15th, 16th, 18th. Two of the first seven races he finished a lap down at and those were the abbreviated races at NOLA, where Chaves famously spun off, got stuck in the mud and got out after a push from a friendly businessman who just happened to be walking by, and Belle Isle 1. In Belle Isle 2, Chaves' ability to keep his nose clean paid off as he finished ninth after Will Power, Hélio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden all had trouble. The following week at Texas, Chaves beat the likes of Power, Simon Pagenaud and Sage Karam straight up on the racetrack as those three faded as the race went on.

The rest of the second half of 2015 was quiet for Chaves. He scored his best starting position at Milwaukee, where he started 12th and finished 11th after hanging around the top ten all race. Mid-Ohio he finished 12th and came home 11th at Pocono after his engine failure but before that he led the first laps of his career and the 31 laps he did lead were the second most led in the race behind only Josef Newgarden.

Gabby Chaves' 2015 Statistics
Championship Positions: 15th (281 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 2
Laps Led: 31
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 0
Fast Twelves: 0
Average Start: 19.571
Average Finish: 14.437

Chaves has a lot of room for improvement but he doesn't need to improve in the major area of bringing the car home in one piece. While Sage Karam showed more flashes than Chaves, the one downfall to Karam is he found the barrier on a few occasions. Karam was flashy and had great runs at Fontana, Iowa and Pocono but poor finishes at St. Petersburg, Milwaukee and Mid-Ohio caused Karam to have a worse average finish than Chaves.

All signs point to Chaves returning to Bryan Herta Autosport in 2016 and I think that would be beneficial to both him and the team. He knows the people at BHA and the team knows him. If anything, Chaves is to BHA what Newgarden was and kind of still is to CFH Racing. When Newgarden was hired by Sarah Fisher before the 2012 season, he was just off an Indy Lights title and he showed flashes but didn't score a top ten as a rookie. In Newgarden's second season he improved and finished on the podium at Baltimore, the following year he scored another podium and this year Newgarden turned into a race winner and finished in the top ten of the championship for the first time in his career. If Chaves and BHA can mirror what Newgarden and CFH have done, then the team could find themselves as a contender on a regular basis.