Fontana Finale Race Review: Mea Culpa Edition

Allow us to begin with a mea culpa, as congratulations are in order for Will Power. He didn’t blow the finale as we predicted, but rather triumphed to win the IndyCar Championship in fine fashion. He did not melt down, embarrass himself or his homeland of Australia, or go berserk – much less stark raving lunatic mad – on live television as we envisaged. He performed brilliantly and proved us utterly wrong. Good on you, mate. Finally, we assure all our readers once and for all he’s perfectly sane.

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Photo from foxsports.com.au

IndyCar’s finale Saturday night delivered an action packed and thrilling conclusion to a compact 2014 campaign. Seems like it just began at St. Pete the other weekend, doesn’t it? The race entertained the sparse looking crowd, settled the championship and provided the eleventh different winner in eighteen races, which ties the record. Thankfully after Aleshin’s terrible crash in Friday night’s practice it remained safe throughout with only a single caution brought out late by Hunter-Reay’s spin, and he deftly managed to avoid the wall and competitors.   

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Photo from ap.org

The pre-race was a drawn out affair lasting over an hour and recapping the entire season, including each race winner, interviews with three quarters of the field and a full points rundown. It was disappointing there was no Miller grid run (our favorite!) in all that programming and despite its length the pre race show still seemed somehow rushed. There was the usual comic relief during the build up when viewers couldn’t hear the command to start engines due to a dead mic. Happily they were fired anyway and we could hear the two-seater’s mic. By the way that’s the last two races in a row where we’ve heard from the contest winner, which surely must be a record.

When the green flag finally flew on the rows of three the action proved intense with three and four wide passing through the corners. There was near constant battling at speeds over 215 mph throughout the field most of the night. The 500 miler was another exceptionally clean race as it seemed like the Russian’s destructive accident twenty four hours earlier had put the fear of God into the drivers. Long stints of green flag racing ruled and other than Huertas’s very unusual retirement due to illness for Coyne (when’s the last time you remember that occurring? we’re currently investigating the matter) neither engine reliability nor debris on track became an issue as some had feared. In fact every other car besides Coyne’s finished the lengthy race.

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Photo from racing.ap.org

Starting second to last and remaining there initially, Power steadily advanced through the field and even led the race at one point. He finished ninth which was enough for the championship as Helio led too, but then drew a costly penalty for a rules violation. Committing an uncharacteristic mistake, he swerved late off the track entering pit lane which is a no no. After being penalized – they actually did penalize Team Penske – Helio’s race was effectively over as he struggled to stay in contact with the leaders and finished 15th.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Unfortunately Pags lost a teammate the night before and wasn’t a factor in the championship battle or race. Going seven laps down after experiencing early problems the Frenchman never recovered. Sam Schmidt did give a positive update on Aleshin’s health during the broadcast and mentioned looking forward to having him back in the car again next year, both good signs.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Power shed tears of joy after finishing the race and winning his first championship after three straight years as runner up. “I can’t believe I won it,” he said emotionally afterward. We can’t believe it either, Will, we really can’t. At the front Tony Kanaan finally broke through taking his first win of the year and with his new team Target, which celebrated three late victories after a rather slow start in its 25th anniversary year.

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TK’s teammate Dixie rallied to second and remarkably finished third in points with a late race and season surge. Carpenter ran solidly on track despite a pit lane speed violation advancing to finish third in his swansong effort with ECR before the merger. His future teammate Josef Newgarden started second but quickly dropped back, finishing a disappointing tenth to end a somewhat frustrating year for the young driver. Juan Montoya “you know what I mean?” capped off a strong comeback to the IndyCar series with a fourth place result while Hinch and Sato both performed well to round out the top six.

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Photo from sfhracing.com

Obviously we absolutely adore Auto Club Speedway and the exciting racing IndyCars routinely display there. SoCal saw a thrilling 500 mile extravaganza as advertised and we’re looking forward to next year’s race already. In the meantime IndyCar fans all must endure a long off season with Will Power as Champion, our newly crowned IndyCar King. We fear it’s going to be an extremely down under reign.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

 

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Race Day Rumblings: Frightening, Fun-tastic Fontana Finale Edition

In a scary accident Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin spun low below the white line in turn 4 during practice last night and collected Charlie Kimball. Aleshin then made solid contact with the wall and was seriously injured. The catch fence sustained major damage as Aleshin’s wheel tore a hole through it. It was a nasty crash for the young comrade, who suffered serious injuries to his ribs, chest and shoulder and was also concussed. He’s in serious but stable condition this morning in the hospital. His car absolutely disintegrated and in the process tore up other cars as well as the facility.  He’s very fortunate he’s not more badly hurt. 

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Photo from usatoday.com

Kimball reports he’s sore but all right. Marco was also involved, spinning to avoid the damaged cars. Due to the miscue, there will be one less starter in tonight’s race as Pagenaud loses his teammate in his championship debut. This helps Power in the points race as he moves up a starting spot from 21st to 20th.

Apart from the speeds, another safety issue at Auto Club Speedway is the debris, dust and sand on the Cali track. Ryan Hunter-Reay tweeted out a picture of his helmet after testing earlier this week and its face was sandblasted. This after less than 500 miles. He and other drivers have expressed concerns about visibility and having enough tear offs for the 500 mile race. The debris and sand are also a concern for the cars themselves, as radiators took a tremendous pounding last year and a number of cars retired with engine problems, particularly the Hondas. It’s a long endurance race tonight and it will be interesting to see if engine reliability has improved over last year.

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Photo from Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Twitter feed

Welcome to Power’s breakdown, which is already in progress. He completely botched qualifying nearly wrecking his chariot and as a result starts second from last. As reported here, last week’s earthquake put the kibosh on his addled mind, or what’s left of it, and the effects are evident.  He’s toast and the only question is how epic his meltdown tonight will be. We’ve predicted it’ll be on a grand scale, must see tv, “New Hampshire times ten.”

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 Photos from indysportscrew.com and dailytelgraph.com.au

That will make it Helio’s night for the chamionship and it would be his first IndyCar Series title in decades of racing, surprisingly. Helio’s deserving, an engaging personality and will be a good representative for the series. In a long shot, we also predicted Takuma Sato to win one more time for AJ Foyt. That surprise pick is looking better after qualifications as Sato will start fourth from the inside of the second row.  While the pressure’s on, he’ll certainly have a great shot at it as they take the green flag tonight on the west coast. It’ll be an entertaining, wild ride under the lights for the finale – and that’s good as gold.

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 Photos from usatoday.com and speedsport-magazine.com

Why Takuma Sato Must Win in Fontana

Predicting Takuma Sato to win only the second race of his major league career (and that’s counting F-1) in the finale at Fontana Saturday night may seem like lunatic fringe stuff – we all know you’re out there. After all, he’s had no success on the ovals since joining IndyCar full time in 2010 and extremely limited success overall. However there are some very compelling reasons as to why Takuma must win in Fontana. The most obvious of them all is simply to keep his ride next year with AJ Foyt Racing and in IndyCar period. In that sense, having been booted from F-1 after nearly a decade driving and never cracking the top five, the 37 year old is driving for his racing life.

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Photo from lotusrace.com

Taku raced three IndyCar races as a rookie in 2005 to no avail, but began his career in earnest in 2010 with KV Racing and the woefully under-powered Lotus. This was after a fruitless seven year stint in F-1 with Bernie’s multi-billion dollar circus. Eventually he left KV to drive for Rahal Letterman Racing, but still found no success. Taku showed flashes of promise and led a couple races including 31 laps at Indianapolis, but tended to crash out struggling to finish. In 2013 to the surprise of many he joined AJ Foyt Racing and had to adjust again to a new team and to the abrasive, iconic Texan. At first his career continued to languish as he still sought his breakthrough win.

Takuma settled in quickly as the 2013 season progressed while AJ Foyt Racing also was settling in with a new boss, as son and former driver Larry Foyt assumed more of the racing responsibilities from AJ. The results soon showed as Taku took the ABC Supply car to his only big league victory at Long Beach in 2013. He followed that up in the next race at Sao Paolo with a solid second place finish in a wild, rain soaked race.

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Photo from speedsport-magazine.com

Since then though it’s been more famine than feast. Taku’s best efforts this year have come in a fifth place finish in the second race at Toronto and a then an impressive fourth last week at Sonoma. He’s won two poles in 2014 and raced well at a few tracks, but still struggled to finish races. He’s over due for a top two finish this year and in picking him to win the finale we’re going for the gusto.

Last Sunday’s 6.0 earthquake in Cali was something the Japanese driver could relate to, as natural disasters are something his countrymen are certainly familiar with. After the catastrophic quake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, Sato promoted the recovery charity for Japan on his car and did much good work in the global efforts to aid his stricken home nation. On Sunday Taku sustained damage to his car in the first lap melee at Sonoma but soldiered on smartly to a top five. It’s almost as if the quake woke Sato from his slumber and there is some discernible momentum there.

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As for A.J,  Lord only knows how much longer his patience with Taku will last or how long he’ll be with us in this racing world. The first four time winner of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, Anthony Joseph Foyt was born in January, 1935 in Texas. A hellion as a youth and arguably the best race car driver of all disciplines to ever have wheeled around a track, AJ is a legend in his own time. Having witnessed his final races at Indianapolis in the early 1990s and seen the man in action, this author vividly recalls the crowd’s appreciation, respect and adoration for Foyt. The awe fans held him in was apparent.

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Photo from espn.go.com

AJ’s also had countless surgeries, accidents and even encounters with killer bees and survived them all. In short, the man’s a 78 year old walking brush with death, fortunate to be alive as we are fortunate to have him. But the years of counting on seeing his smiling face on pit lane are slipping past. The legends of old are slowly dying off, as always and must ever be. We at IRR hope fervently that AJ lives to see many more Mays at Indy. But we also hope he gets to enjoy one more trip to victory circle before he slips off track to the great pit lane beyond. We’re predicting Taku has one more great performance in him to ensure that happens.

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Photo from toledoblade.com

 

 

Ten Reasons to be Fond of the SoCal Finale

1. Big, bouncy, beautiful ovular racing.

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                                   Photo from ap.org

2. Proximity to Los Angeleez, according to The Stranger a place “high in the runnin’ for laziest worldwide.”

3. Hot Hollywood offspring like Ireland Baldwin.

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               Photos from gotceleb.com and dailymail.co.uk

4. It’s too far to drive, so there’s no guilt over not attending the race.

5. Celebu-tards like Gwyneth Paltrow.

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                                      Photos from dailymail.co.uk and fitsugar.com

6. Many more beaches than Louisiana.

7. Earthquakes!

8. Better weather and less sand than Dubai.

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                Photo from usatoday.com

9. It’s where the Dude abides as well as resides.

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                            Photo from dailycaller.com

10. It’s slightly less third world-y than Brazil.

Predictions: Fontana Finale Championship Edition

Expect the racing to be outstanding on Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. It almost always is as the track’s perfectly designed for IndyCars. Fontana’s an Italian place name with a gritty steel town history. It’s changed drastically over the last several decades and come Saturday night it’ll be known for two types of speed. The 220 mph speeds of IndyCars are perfectly legal though, and much better for you as long as you’re only spectating and not too close.

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Photo from ap.org

The season title is on the line and kudos to the series for another down to the wire year with the championship. In addition to being exciting to watch, it’s further evidence of the parity the league enjoys and the new Dallaras have brought to racing  over the last three years. Of course without race control’s reticence to penalize Team Penske again this year, we’d probably have another contender or two for the championship. The engine manufacturers also have performed well with Chevrolet taking the title again and Honda taking another Indianapolis 500 in May.

Realistically, it’s a battle between the two Penske veterans, Mad Will Power and the ever-ebullient Helio Castro Neves for the million dollar championship prize. IRR predicts it will be Helio who takes home the crown for the Cap’n’s first ICS title in nearly a decade, amazingly. This occurring after Power blows his lead, his race and his stack all in one glorious meltdown. Think New Hampshire times ten.

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Photo from indysportscrew.com

Here’s IRR’s exclusive scoop. For the unstable member of the Penske stable, Sunday’s earthquake sent Will kicking and screaming across  the proverbial edge. As we’ve documented here extensively, he was already teetering on it and Sunday’s 6.0 rumbler finished off his last remaining nerve. In addition to looking forward to Power’s meltdown, Helio’s experience and magnetism will shine through to make the difference Saturday night and beyond. That’s a positive for IndyCar. After all, you don’t want a mad man as your spokesman.  

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Photos from dailytelegraph.com.au and usatoday.com

As for the 500 mile race itself that’s another matter entirely. Somewhat unique to motor racing the result of the grand finale may be completely independent of the championship. Therefore multiple winners may well emerge Saturday night, a race winner and a points winner. Many factors go into the final race of the year for the teams. Drivers are auditioning for other opportunities, attempting to pad their career stats and even looking to keep their rides. Teams evaluate their crews and drivers’ performance in the finale closely, all with an eye toward improving next year.

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Like previous season finales in IndyCar, all bets are off. It’ll be a wild and entertaining ride, guaranteed. Both Hunter-Reay and Ed Carpenter are oval aces and Montoya’s been hot lately so any of them could win. Same can be said for Dixie and TK who’s been close most of the summer.

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But for the season finale in SoCal, that’s all too safe and tame for us at IRR. We’re going with a nostalgic surprise winner – one last win for the King of IndyCar – and some other astounding calls. They certainly can’t hurt our season averages and besides it’s the last opportunity of the year.

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Photo from toledoblade.com

% correct in previous 5 races

Pole Winner – Helio Castro Neves or Tony Kanaan                                               20%

Race Winner – Juan Pablo Montoya or Takuma Sato                                            20%

First Out of Race – Will Power or Sebastian Saavedra                                          20%

Biggest Surprise of Race – Carlos Munoz or Mikhail Aleshin                                  0%

Fontana Finale Foreshadowing (in Fine French Fashion)

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Photo from sfhracing.com

For hard core oval track racing fans, The Scheduling Gods this year blessedly provided three 500 mile race holiday weekends: Memorial Day at Indy, the Fourth of July at Pocono and summer’s bittersweet swansong in southern California. Therefore, we offer sacrifices of ethanol, oil, carbon fiber and rubber out of appreciation to those upon Mount Foyt-lympus. We’ve been looking forward to Fontana since July and in some ways since last fall.

Auto Club Speedway is a wonderfully wide, steeply banked two-mile oval built by The Cap’n Roger Penske as a sister track to Michigan, which by the way must return to the schedule. In the meantime, we’re fortunate to have Fontana as the finale and anxiously anticipate a season ending stem-winder of a race under the lights. All this while trying not to let the leaks about next year’s schedule harsh our ovular buzz.

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Photo from ap.org

Purposely built for IndyCars atop the site of an old steel mill that helped in America’s WW II effort, Fontana usually provides for highly entertaining, edge of your seat racing. Plentiful three-wide passing should be the order of the evening Saturday in SoCal, barring the possibility of the big one striking the area between now and the race. We kid our cool Californio readers and note that the thousands upon thousands of ex-Californians we’ve met who’ve moved to the Midwest seem like nice enough folks generally. Plus, SoCal’s not only where the Dude abides, but also resides (“high on the list of laziest places world-wide“). 

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Photo from dailycaller.com

The main focus of the coverage this week will be on the championship battle with Power, Helio and Pags all still eligible for the one million dollars and the IndyCar tiara and scepter. Well it should be, as it’s been one hell of a season long race. We wish two-thirds of the contenders all the best. 

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Photo from autosport.com

As underdog aficionados and ones ourselves, we’re going full Francophile for the finale, hoping against a Pags’ championship debut debacle. “Never surrender!” shall be our adopted battle cry for the week, as fellow fans of the fast Frenchman – from Frere-Jacques to Francois – form up to fete the famous frog.  

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If the Frenchman retreats during the fight, then hopefully it’ll be Helio who takes the championship since all our favorites are out of it. Somebody’s going to do it for The Cap’n eventually, so it might as well be the longest tenured driver he has. We’ve come to appreciate the ever-ebullient Castro Neves realizing the old adage “if you can’t beat them, don’t root against them.” Obviously we’re not rooting for Mad Will Power (see “Ain’t Penske Ashamed, Will Power’s Insane”) while risking the ire of our own beloved mother in opting out. It’s best to avoid that booby hatch.

We simply can’t bring ourselves to pull for the crazed cream puff-eared crank, not even for dear old mum. Undeniably, the Aussie’s about as stable as a two legged chair on an ice rink. To quote him after Milwaukee, “I love winning on ovals! I love winning on ovals!” Here’s to hoping fervently that he doesn’t win on the massive D-shaped oval. 

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

Another “fun-tastic” feature of the finale in Fontana is that it isn’t just about the points battle, but also winning the 500 mile race itself. In fact the race winner easily could come from outside the top three and often does. Hunter-Reay and Eddie Carpenter are always formidable oval racers with a shot to win on the big tracks, as are the Target cars piloted by thirty-five time winner Dixie and the always affable Tony Kanaan who nearly won Pocono. Let’s not forget Montoya who actually did win Pocono and had this to say prior to Sonoma: “Awful, like awful. Like my shit . . . was shaking. It was bad.”

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Photo from usatoday.com

The racing Saturday night could well be the best of the year and sets up an epic finale. It’ll be a terrific ending to the season and hopefully leads to another highly entertaining year for 2015. Provided that neither the silly season nor the aero-craze get too far out of hand. In that event, the staff here will be forced to personally intervene on the fans’ behalf. Never fear – IRR’s here!  

 

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Sonoma Recap: Rockin’ Race Review

To our pleasant surprise, Sonoma provided glimpses of real IndyCar magic on Sunday afternoon. Even a blind racetrack can find a decent race once in a while. Racing broke out after an earthquake jolted the area overnight, Will Power inexplicably remained un-institutionalized and Sebastian Saavedra somehow received another series start. Hats off to Scottie Dixon who stealthily stalked the leaders most of the afternoon to take the win. It’s only his and Target’s second win of the year, but thirty-fifth of “the ice man’s” impressive career.

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It threatened to be another Power-from-the-pole snoozer like we’ve become accustomed to at Bored to Tears Point, but acts of God have a funny way of changing things up. The race was very much like a six foot long sub sandwich – good at first, then there’s the long middle part but boy is it exciting to finish.

It started with a first lap pile up that saw Hinch spin for about the eighth time of the weekend and collisions involving Helio, Sato and others receiving damage in the corner. The accident was precipitated by Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais who like the others continued on until the wild finish. A skittish Bourdais later tangled with his teammate (two Sebastians come together!) and finally with Will Power on the last lap ending up in the wall. Helio’s race would be at the rear of the field and he’d soon be joined by teammate and championship leader Mad Will Power, a massive mistake adding some unexpected drama to Bored to Tears Point.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

Power controlled the race and pulled away under largely green though dusty dry conditions. Nearly halfway through the race however, he uncharacteristically spun coming off of a corner in traffic, losing the lead and the race and dropping to twentieth. Like Helio he continued on for points sake, but wouldn’t be a factor in the outcome. This put the race up for grabs and led to an extremely entertaining though jarring finish. Less Power means more drama at tracks like Sonoma.

As they dashed to the finish line behind leader Scott Dixon, cars raced all over the track, bumping and grinding and several even running out of gas. It proved to be a finish worthy of the quake rattled weekend, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud filling out the podium in fairly close fashion. Conway who led the race for Ed Carpenter Racing ran out of gas and coasted across the line before stopping on course.

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Bourdais was driven into the wall as they came banging three wide to the line with Power finishing tenth despite some controversy with his final placement. Sato comported himself well finishing fourth and Montoya charged back coca crazed style to a fifth place finish after also starting in the back. There was another brief yellow brought out during the middle portion of the race by Coyne’s Carlos Huertas who stopped on course. We predicted Huertas as first out, as well as Power on pole but missed with winners RHR & Montoya who fell just short.

The race sets up a grand finale for the championship as usual in IndyCar. With no contrived chase system like other series, IndyCar consistently has championship drama through the final race of the season. The double points Fontana offers as a 500 miler makes it a three way battle between the Penske duo Power and Helio and remarkably Frenchman Pagenaud for Sam Schmidt. Fontana will make for a thrilling conclusion to what’s been an entertaining season.

The coverage of the race by NBCSN although with the B team was colorful and competent, as usual. We just wonder how much they get paid to call the area “beautiful,” as unless you really like dusty brown, Sonoma just doesn’t do it aesthetically. Sam – you know – did all right as a new announcer, Townsend’s tolerable and PT’s ok for a Canuck. Leigh Diffy is preferred over his stand in, though. We particularly loved finally getting to see Courtney Force on camera. Damn, Graham needs to lead more races.  


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Photo from examiner.com

Earthquake Quotes –  

“Man I thought it was all over. I didn’t think we’d have the race. Oh my God – such a shock. I thought I was gonna die-uh.” – Will Power

“Not what you want. Man, it was amazing. I never knew we had that. Man, wow, that was the scariest thing of my life.” – Helio Castro Neves

“It was exciting – first earthquake ever.” –  Simon Pagenaud

“Yeah it was crashing and banging and stuff flying across the room.”  – Mike Conway

“The building was swaying so much. It was pretty big.” – Graham Rahal

“It was weird, man, I’d never been through an earthquake.” – James Hinchcliffe

“Awful, like awful. Like my shit- my, the bed was shaking. Anything in the bathroom went to the floor. It was bad.” – Juan Pablo Montoya

Race Day Rumblings: Earthquake Edition

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Photo from stanford.edu

It’s been an unusually unsettling morning for the IndyCar series. A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck overnight in the Sonoma, CA area. Reports of power outages, fires and damage are coming in this race morning. Effects on the track and today’s race remain to be seen. If there were to be a postponement or even cancellation of the race it would be a first for the IndyCar Series – cancellation due to earthquake. It’s one of the inherent risks in racing much less ending the season in Cali where numerous fault lines are found. It’s all oddly reminiscent of the 1989 quake during the World Series in San Francisco.Check back for updates.

There are already rumors of damage at the track and of a race cancellation today. The epicenter reportedly was six milesouthwest of Napa, very near the track at Sonoma. No injures have been reported, although fires and infrastructure damage will make today’s race highly unlikely to occur. Reports of aftershocks and widespread though moderate damage are coming in as the sun rises over Cali.

There’s still no word from IndyCar. Why the delay and why remain silent during this disaster? Wildfires are a growing concern as the state’s already taxed emergency resources will be stretched thinner. Is there any way a race can be held today in the midst of such chaos?

Preliminary reports from Sonoma Raceway state there is no damage to the facility. These reports don’t include the surrounding area’s infrastructure damage, however. Finally at 9:00 am central time the IndyCar website is reporting the races will go on today as scheduled. After a delay, it’s a remarkable turn of events in California. 

A cancellation of the race today would be huge for the championship, taking points away from Power almost certainly and making the double points 500 mile finale in Fontana even more crucial to the title race. 

If the race does eventually occur – and that’s an increasingly large if – the question is can Power win from the pole? It’s happened three of the last five years at Sonoma and Power’s done it twice in a row in 2010-11.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

There haven’t been any major silly season news updates at Sonoma this weekend, unlike Milwaukee where SFH & Carpenter announced a merger for next year. Perhaps they’re saving it up for the Fontana finale, or maybe the earthquake will shake things out. 

Can Sato keep his ride at AJ Foyt Racing? Larry said he needed “a strong finish” to the season but he starts 20th today. The results this year have been disappointing. 

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How long will Saavedra last at KVSH? It’s been another very difficult year for him and the team and Sebastian hasn’t been close to a win yet in multiple seasons.

Can Target get back on track? Dixon’s won at Sonoma and starts third while Briscoe and Kanaan begin fifth and eighth respectively. The team needs a strong race. Will Briscoe keep his streak of finishes alive this year and keep his ride for next year?

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Will AA’s up and down year continue? Their best qualifying effort was from Hinchcliffe in fourth, followed by Munoz and Hunter-Reay in 9th and 10th. They’ve seemed lost as of late and Hinch spun repeatedly on Saturday. 

Josef Newgarden starts second and has been strong this season. Reports are out this morning that he’s extended his contract with SFHR (soon to be CFHR) through next year. 

Will JPM be able to storm to the front and become a factor today? A penalty in quals (“Over the line!”) has him starting 19th next to Sato. It’ll be a challenge for Montoya to pull off a coca crazed charge to Cartagena from that far back in the field, but he should be fun to watch.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Instant Reaction to Sonoma Qualifying

Apparently JPM was “OVER THE LINE!” One of our picks to win will be starting in the rear. 

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Hinchcliffe makes top six – impressive and surprising after quals spin. Newkid quickest into fast six! Briscoe making a showing with Helio, Dixie and Power in finals. SeBass 7th, TK starting 8th. Our other pick to win RHR starts 10th. 

Mad Will Power’s been seemingly toying with the field and he’s performed well winning multiple times at this track. Will it hold up against the young American’s charge?

Helio does some plowing of a field leaving the track through a corner and ruining his chances at pole. He’ll start sixth. Power goes off track in same spot but remains in the pole position. NewKid starts 2nd, Dixon third. Mad Will Power said you need to start top three at Sonoma to win – we’ll see after the winery crawl Sunday. 

Newkid post quals quote: “I’m happy, but . . . you don’t want to be second.” Perhaps a harbinger of change for the Tennessean next year?

Eleven Ways to Improve the Race Experience at ‘Bored to Tears Point’

Because we’re “you know” all about solutions. 

1. Install sprinklers and off track shortcuts throughout the race track.

2. Jan Beekhuis acting as chief wine steward as well as race steward.

3. Pre-race wet t-shirt competition.

4. Beux Barfield in clown makeup doing tricks and juggling.

5. A smiling Sam Hornish, Jr.

6. Two free bottles of wine with admission.

7. More Wives & Girlfriends tv air time both pre- and post-race, bikinis optional (though strongly encouraged).

8. Robin Miller’s grid run blindfolded on a segue scooter.

9. Mandatory 2 lap “interest” yellow flags every 15 laps.

10. One lap head start for the back half of the field. 

11. Winery crawl commencing at 8:00 am race day and lasting through the green flag.