Cleveland's 2015 IndyCar Connection

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Surrounded by multiple Maseratis, a bright orange McLaren, a Rolls Royce that refuses to be categorized into a single “type” of automobile and a yellow Porsche that is as equally beautiful as it is blinding, is not a bad way to spend a Friday morning – particularly when it’s being done on Millionaire’s Row. Collection Auto Group, recently rebranded as Bernie Moreno Companies, presents the foreign & luxury car lineup every year at the Cleveland Auto Show and it’s a not-to-be-missed exhibit of lavish vehicles for attendees.

I spoke with Bernie about the past year of sponsorship that Collection Auto Group had with Bryan Herta Autosport and inquired whether that would continue this season. I received a resounding yes from him, as he went on to tell me how he is originally from Bogota, Colombia and the extra connection that gives them, since this year’s IndyCar driver for BHA, Gabby Chaves, is a fellow Colombian! You can expect to see the Bernie Moreno Companies logo on the #98 Honda during regionally local (to Ohio) race weekends in 2015.

Chaves is a Verizon IndyCar Series rookie this season. A big reason he was able to secure a full season ride this year, in addition to his obvious talent and admirable drive, is the $750,000 scholarship that he earned as the 2014 Indy Lights Champion. On IndyCar Media Day last month, Chaves was very openly excited about being a part of an IndyCar team – his genuine reaction to the whole experience was refreshing and I think he will develop a very large and loyal fan following because of that sincerity:

“We worked very hard to secure this deal.  I’m just very happy to be here.  Can’t thank anyone in the team enough, everyone involved in making this happen.  I’m just very grateful for this opportunity.“

Gabby Chaves is all smiles as he emerges from the IL-15 after testing at IMS - September 2014
Gabby Chaves is all smiles as he emerges from the IL-15 after testing at IMS.

Chaves acknowledged the importance of the driver development program that IndyCar has in place, stating, “You’re preparing yourself by racing with the most competitive guys there is at that level. You’re racing at all the tracks you’re going to be racing if you get to IndyCar. It’s definitely where you want to be to take that next step.” He believes in it so much, that he was the most recent graduate of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder to assist with testing of the new Dallara IL-15 that makes it’s premiere in St. Petersburg, FL over an Indy Lights doubleheader weekend later this month (March 28th & 29th). Chaves piloted and gave feedback on the new race car this past September at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on the famous oval.

Chaves has been sure to stay busy throughout the IndyCar offseason, both on and off the track. From the warm weather of Florida and co-piloting the Delta Wing during the Rolex 24 to the chilly winter of Indianapolis and appearing with other Verizon IndyCar drivers at an advance screening of the Will Smith film, Focus. The film (which is currently topping box offices across the country) features IndyCar DW12’s and the NOLA Motorsports Park which will host the open-wheel series from April 10th – 12th.

Stay tuned to MTAF Wheels all week for continued coverage of the Cleveland Auto Show, courtesy of Damien Bowman and yours truly. We’ll take a look at the show’s connection to racing and give you our perspective on the vehicles worth checking out – sometimes only as eye candy and sometimes as a realistic option for your next ride when you’re ready to purchase.

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