INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. and BOGOTA, Colombia — Story by Race Chaser Online Open Wheel Correspondent Ryan Kent Jr. – Performance Motorsports Network Audio – Shawn Gritzmacher photo —
At just 21 years old, Gabby Chaves has a racing resume that anyone his age would love to have.
His fast pace of learning and success in a diverse series of cars despite his young age proves why he’s looking to take the next step to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2015. Although Chaves doesn’t currently have a ride finalized for 2015, the 2014 Indy Lights champion is quite excited after winning the 2014 championship.
Despite the anticipation of the move up, however, Chaves has been appreciative of some down time to reflect on his season.
“It’s definitely been nice to be able to just take a step back and relax a little bit and enjoy sometime with my family and all of my supporters and everyone that has been a part of my public success and my career,” Chaves said to Race Chaser Online during a recent episode of Motorsports Madness. “It was a good season — I’m very glad we won the championship and I’m looking forward to using that momentum in 2015 as well.”
Looking back at Chaves’ 2014 season, the Belardi Autosport driver claimed four wins — including a photo finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Freedom 100 — the same race that he lost in a four-wide photo finish at the line a year earlier by the tip of his front wing.
“Up to this point in my career it has been the most meaningful victory of my career yet,” Chaves said of the Freedom 100 victory. “Coming so close the previous year (2013) and losing in basically the last 50 feet of the straight before the finish line to then come back the next year with the right mentality and putting everything on the line to win it — it just doesn’t get any better than that.”
To watch how Chaves celebrated in victory lane was something else in itself — you could feel how much it meant to the young gun just by looking at his expression. The Colombian has been a major ambassador for the Mazda Road to Indy and is another example showcasing why the IndyCar ladder system has been as good as it has the last several years.
That finish at the line in Indianapolis was just as close as the championship fight. Chaves ultimately lost the final tally in 2013 to teammate Sage Karam, but after bringing a new mindset and heading to Belardi Autosport, he was ready for battle in 2014 and came out swinging. His four wins and steady momentium all year long won him the championship on not one, but two tiebreakers over Englishman Jack Harvey at the final race in Sonoma.
“It was harder than it looked from the outside,” Chaves laughed. “To be honest it’s super nerve racking, a lot of pressure, a lot on the line and a lot at stake. When you think about it to take everything we did throughout the year and then to come down to the last race and to finish tied in points and have to go to a tiebreaker was just unbelieveable.”
After clinching the championship, Chaves now hopes to use the $750,000-plus in scholarship money that he earned to bring his 2015 aspirations into an IndyCar.
“It’s going great, I don’t have anything confirmed yet but I can say that we’re getting really close to making something happen,” Chaves said of his talks to land a ride. “We’re actually pretty close to getting something done for the whole year. I have a scholarship ($750,000) and I intend to use it. I’m feeling pretty positive about it.”
Chaves has conducted two offseason tests with Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports and Bryan Herta Autosport. The young Colombian is heavily linked to the No. 98 BHA seat for the 2015 season.
“It was awesome; I got in the car and it really didn’t feel like it was my first time driving it,” said the Colombian-American driver. “It was a great day and I learned a lot about the car. I just felt right at home and it was a great feeling. Then to come back later a few months after and do it again there were some different comparisons there, but it was really helpful.”
During his test with Schmidt, there were two Schmidt-Peterson cars and four Chip Ganassi Racing cars in attendance. However, the end result may have surprised a few people.
“Out of the two days, we set the fastest lap time overall so we were very comfortable and very happy,” Chaves said.
With the new battle ahead for Chaves, the young star is shining brightly for now. Whether that star continues to shine in the Verizon IndyCar Series, however?
That remains to be seen.
Listen in to an extended cut of Race Chaser Online’s conversation with Chaves during a January episode of Motorsports Madness: