IndyCar News Week in Review: Karmic Wheels Edition

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New Winner Newgarden: Twenty four year old American Josef Newgarden took his first IndyCar win in fifty five races at Barber last Sunday to the joy of many race fans. Seems as though the racing gods were smiling upon him in Bama. Graham Rahal advanced from eighth starting position to second for an all American 1-2 finish. The race was highly entertaining as Barber shocked many with its raciness, let alone its result. It was a popular event and both Josef and Graham deserve some good karma.

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99th Indy 500 Approacheth: There’s been some Greatest Spectacle in Racing news since our last Week in Review. Continue reading

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IndyCar Nailed It At Barber

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No one saw it coming at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday, not even first time race winner Josef Newgarden himself. “It’s just been such a long time coming trying to do this. I can’t believe now is when it happened.” Newgarden wasn’t the only one who was pleasantly surprised. After the most exciting and entertaining race in months, it soon became clear there was an even bigger story that had just unfolded beyond a successful event. The fourth year driver’s triumph for his fledgling, freshly merged team is still reverberating throughout the IndyCar paddock.

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As truly deserving as Newgarden and CFH Racing were of the win, the race outside Birmingham offered drama and intense action throughout the field. Three wide racing, aggressive passes and minimal mistakes made it the most enjoyable race in recent memory. New faces at the top of the podium – highly thought of American faces, at that – made for an especially refreshing change. There’s no denying IndyCar nailed it at Barber.

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Like all epic IndyCar races, it had something for everyone. Graham Rahal drove like he was possessed by Ray Harroun in his charge to second. Continue reading

Barber Race Review: Wow, Were We Wrong

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Almost incredibly, a real live IndyCar race broke out for the first time in six visits to the amazingly gorgeous and beautiful facility outside Birmingham. Tennessee’s native son Josef Newgarden prevailed, making co-owner Sarah Fisher exceptionally happy. She’s stuck by him for four years and it finally paid off on a day Newkid’s dad not only made the broadcast, but also called him a “bad ass” on live television. Newgarden’s benefited greatly from his team’s switch to Chevy this year and it showed. When you’re seeing three wide racing at Barber – not to mention ten lead changes – you know it’s going to be an unusually entertaining race. It was one of those magical Sundays in IndyCarland that keep we fans coming back for more.

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The race didn’t start out that magically however, with a Penske front row for the fifth consecutive race and the TCGR cars lurking nearby. But also there at the front of the field and largely overlooked was young Josef Newgarden, who’d had a decent season already and started fifth. The twenty four year old would hang tough all day and eventually take the lead for good as his competitors had penalties, pit issues and other problems to contend with in addition to CFHR’s road course ace. Newgarden proved too stout for the field, cruising to his first IndyCar victory in fifty five races and providing his team with its coveted first win.

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Graham Rahal turned in the drive of the race, steadily storming to the front for a second place finish after starting eighth. Continue reading

(That Was) Qualifications? Instant Reaction

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Either IndyCar’s qualifying rules need to be clarified in the event of rain or NBCSN’s Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Steve “Whoa!” Matchett need to do a better job of communicating them. By the way, we’d also appreciate more screen time for Kelly Stavast and less for Marty Snider. As usual, race control was fighting last week’s war, overly concerned with cars impeding traffic when that wasn’t the issue at Barber Saturday.

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For the second time in four races rain affected qualifications – or maybe it didn’t, we’re still not quite sure. Lots of live radar shots set the discombobulated tone for the session and conflicting, confusing messages from the commentators about rain, lightning and new procedures didn’t help matters. Capturing the atmosphere as well as possible Marty actually said late in round two, “Yeah, it’s definitely almost raining at this point.”

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Championship leader Juan Montoya struggled mightily, failing to advance to the second round and as a result will start fifteenth. Continue reading

IndyCar Barber Predictions and Prognostications: Bike Wreck

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The less said about the Long Beach edition of predictions the better. Happily we did at least accurately foresee that no fans would be grievously injured by flying aero kit debris. With only one caution all race, that proved to be prescient. Unfortunately little else we published was as Montoya managed only second. That’s why they call it prognosticating, after all.

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The series heads south for a visit to Alabama and we can confidently predict repeated references by commentators to the “beauty” of Barber’s “gorgeous facility.”  While that assessment may be accurate, it certainly doesn’t mean the track provides entertaining racing, because it doesn’t. Little passing and strung out fields are hallmarks of IndyCar on this motorcycle track in the woods, and this year’s race will be no different.

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Don’t expect many cautions at Barber either as teams are still short of parts like $20,000 front wings, particularly KV Racing. Thank you Stefano Coletti. With numerous driver changes taking place already this season – at Coyne, Ganassi, and Coyne – the pilots will be on their best behavior again on Sunday. Continue reading

Power’s Feeling The Pressure

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Will Power‘s had a dubious start to the 2015 IndyCar season. Outshined by his team mate JPM at St. Pete, James Hinchcliffe – deemed not good enough at Andretti Autosport – in a swamp and most recently Scott Dixon and eighteen others out west, Power’s undoubtedly feeling the pressure of Penske perfection. After all, this is the IndyCar Series Champion we’re talking about, not some talentless ride buyer or legacy with a name. Power’s an Aussie racing icon for goodness sake, though like the iconic Sydney Opera House his best days may be behind him.

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Now in his eleventh year in big league racing, Power turned thirty four in March. That isn’t particularly old for racing, even in the artistry on wheels that is IndyCar. His team mate Helio Castro Neves turns forty in May and TCGR‘s Tony Kanaan will be forty one in December. They’re but two recent examples of longevity in IndyCar racing. Legendary iron man AJ Foyt started an incredible thirty five consecutive Indy 500s during the sport’s heyday. Regardless of age, Power’s been in a Great Australian Bight sized slump lately – a decline that could definitively demonstrate he’s no Helio, much less AJ.

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The prodigious Power has twenty four wins and forty six podium finishes in his 142 race career, equaling a gaudy 17% winning percentage. That’s the highest average in the series. By comparison, Continue reading

Barber IndyCar Preview: A Very Veiled View

Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park and Vintage Motorsports Museum opened to little fanfare in 2003 as the nation went to war. The 16 turn, nearly two and a half mile undulating road course allowed for Scott Dixon‘s track record of 124 miles per hour in 2013. We’ll soon see if the injurious, reinforced and ill-advised aero kit experiment allows drivers to top Dixon’s mark. Sadly and for a variety of reasons, that’s likely to be the most exciting part of the entire weekend.

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Barber was designed by Alan Wilson, the same guy who designed NOLA – last mention, we promise. The track was designed for and used primarily by motorbikes, while sports cars and Porsche’s North American driving school also utilize the facility. Oddly, the track has no grandstands at the start/finish line offering only a very veiled view of arguably its best parts.

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Known as a “beautiful” and “scenic” circuit in the woods outside Birmingham, the permanent road course may be visually pleasing but it’s not a good fit for IndyCars. Continue reading

Race Review, Long Beach: Quite a Reach

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New Zealand’s Scott Dixon triumphed for the first time in nine tries in his storied career at the Long Beach Grand Prix. Surprisingly, the Target driver’s best previous finish and only top ten at the track nearest his homeland was a 4th place in 2010. It’s the “Ice Man’s” thirty sixth IndyCar win putting him fifth all time behind Al Unser and Michael Andretti, whose records are both well within reach. Dixon passed Castro-Neves during pit stops as Helio hesitated waiting for Tony Kanaan to enter his pit box directly in front, and then opened up an insurmountable lead.

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The Penskes swept positions two through four with Helio, Montoya and Pagenaud, the former two battling it out to the very end. TCGR’s Kanaan took fifth, followed by KV’s Sebastian Bourdais and CFHR’s Josef Newgarden in 7th. Marco Andretti rebounded at Long Beach with an 8th place finish and top Honda after starting 10th. His team mate Carlos Munoz finished ninth while Sebastian Saavedra came in 10th in his first race back since a disappointing 2014. Penske’s 2014 Champion Will Power struggled all weekend, starting 18th and finishing twentieth after stalling on pit road. Hoosier Conor Daly jumped into the Coyne car as a late substitute and raced from 21st to 17th, making the biggest gain of the race.

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Fan reaction was split in regard to Long Beach, which is an improvement compared to the overwhelmingly negative reception the first two races enjoyed. Continue reading

Long Beach Qualifications: Instant Reaction

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A study in contrasts to last week at NOLA, there was qualifying yesterday that actually counted – a real plus for both the fans and series. Under sunny skies, before a decent crowd and with no controversies to speak of from race control, the three knockout rounds went off without a hitch. That is, except for recent race winner Hinch.

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At the end of the first knockout qualifying round the Ganassi boys hindered Hinchcliffe, at least in his view. Continue reading

Where’s Beekhuis Been?

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Everyone’s favorite everyman, IndyCar pit reporter and minor celebrity Jon Beekhuis had caught our staff’s attention previously – he’s undoubtedly an intriguing, elusive character in IndyCarland. Now his unexplained absence from television has once again caught our attention.

Missing from broadcasts since St. Pete, Beekhuis has been nowhere to be found. This is odd, Continue reading