Sonoma Finale Race Review: ‘Damn It, Man!’ Championship Edition

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In a result few outside of Chip Ganassi‘s Star Wars bar scene inner circle saw coming, Kiwi Scott Dixon won both the Sonoma GoPro Grand Prix and the IndyCar championship Sunday, his third win of the year and fourth title of Dixie’s storied career. It was thanks in large part to Team Penske and Juan Montoya‘s monumental collapse. Leading since St. Pete it was Montoya’s title to lose, and he did so in spectacular fashion. Banging into and spinning team mate Will Power who was leading the race on the first restart, Montoya damaged the nose of his own car and threw the championship away in a single turn. JPM had enjoyed a substantial points lead going into the finale – thirty four over Rahal and forty seven over Dixon – but thanks to this epic brain fade finished second in a tie breaker on wins.

Aug 30, 2015; Sonoma, CA, USA; Pit crew for IndyCar Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya bring the car to the grid before the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

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The first half of the contest was fairly humdrum and typical of a Sonoma race as Leigh Diffey himself admitted in the latter stages. From pole Power sped away from the field and dominated the race until Montoya foolishly punted him. It being a Penske affair, of course no penalty was forthcoming. The first caution was a questionable flag for Filippi who hit  nothing but was supposedly slow on course. This was the beginning of race control rearing its ugly heads though, and unfortunately it would have an effect on the outcome. For the first time in months they penalized drivers during the contest with drive through penalties including one for Sebastien Bourdais who hit Graham Rahal from behind, spinning him out and costing him any chance at the title. Rahal angrily confronted Bourdais afterwards on pit lane, saying “Good job . . . you knew exactly where I was going and you drove like a f___ing d__k! ”

Graham Rahal, right, and Charlie Kimball (83) compete during the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma auto race Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) ORG XMIT: CAER108

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Josef Newgarden ran well in second but Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud parked it on pit road obstructing the young American’s exit from his pit box. Continue reading

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Sonoma Finale Predictions and Prognostications: Rock ‘n Roll Edition

It’s been a trying week so let’s get right to the good stuff – our rip roarin’ Jimmy Page inspired crystal balling, of course. This week’s special prediction for IndyCar’s final race of the season and Championship decider is that there’ll be no driver-rattling, frightened-it’s-the-big-one, Fred Sanford-type earthquake hit Sonoma this year, at least not hours prior to the green flag like last visit.

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To quote Juan Pablo Montoya on 2014’s rockin’ act of God who come to think of it sounded a bit like Redd Foxx, “Awful, like awful. My shit . . . was shaking.” And since there’ll be no rockin’ and rollin’ pre-race – or probably during the race at all in “So Mind Numbing Sonoma,” thank you Indycar schedulers – we’ve supplied an excellent musical selection of our own choosing. Thought it’d be appropriate to have England’s greatest rock band provide it this week.

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Like a hot poker up the pee hole, picking Power for pole pains us plenty. Prognosticating “Mad” Will to prevail in anything just seems crazy and wrong. Moving right along first out of the race will be rookie Stefano “reckless-er than Andretti” Coletti, who seems to have trouble keeping his KV machine in one piece, whether it’s in practice or a race, on an oval or a crappy road course. In other words, Coletti doesn’t rock.

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The biggest surprise of the race and arguably the season Continue reading

Sonoma IndyCar Finale Preview: Determined Joy Edition

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The show must go on as the old saying goes and in this case the race must take place. IndyCar’s season finale will occur on Sunday and as we move on from the tragic loss of Justin Wilson we do so saddened and humbled, yet also grateful and appreciative for the decade of racing we all had rooting for him. JWil was a true gentleman and talented racer who made the world a better place; it’ll be a poorer, less joyous world without him.

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We hate to say it but the trajectory IndyCar’s been on lately we wouldn’t be surprised if either massive wildfires engulf the entire track this weekend or – and also God forbid – the big one finally hits California and breaks the whole kit and caboodle off into the sea, or possibly both. One seriously wonders what the formerly Golden state did to deserve such luck, until remembering Hollywood, Simi Valley, Charlie Manson, Watts, Willie Brown, Napa Valley, Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, The Gover-nator, Riverside, and on and on and on.

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But barring such calamities or the intervention of political villains, there’ll be a champion crowned at the end of it all – funnily the race winner almost always gets overshadowed by the champ at the conclusion of the finale –  and like him or not we’re starkly faced with the fact it’ll be the last IndyCar race until at least next spring. So by God we are resolutely determined to enjoy it. Justin would have wanted us to and as we were all rudely reminded this week, one never knows when it’ll be your last race.

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The Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma Continue reading

Pocono Race Review: Tragedy in Pennsylvania

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Ryan Hunter-Reay crossed the finish line first for Andretti Autosport at Pocono Sunday evening, but there were no celebrations and no confetti in a subdued victory lane. His team mate Justin Wilson had already been airlifted to the hospital and as yet no one at the track knew his status. It was the strangest scene after a race in memory as a pall hung heavily over the gathered crowd.

Wilson was hit in the head by debris from Sage Karam’s car, which disintegrated when he spun and hit the wall while leading the last portion of the race. Karam injured his right foot in the wreck, but he got off lightly compared to Justin. Slumped forward in the cockpit, Wilson was clearly already knocked unconscious as the car hit the inside wall and came to a stop. Today Wilson remains in a coma in critical condition. Sadly Justin passed away Monday night. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Englishman’s family.

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The incident isn’t dissimilar to the case of F-1 driver Jules Bianchi, Continue reading

Pocono Qualifications: Instant Reaction

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Helio Castro Neves wrested the forty fifth pole of his decades long IndyCar career away from his team mate Simon Pagenaud Saturday at Pocono Raceway. He did so at over 220 miles per hour and then proceeded to hoot and giggle girlishly in the post qualifications interview. Team Penske swept the top three spots with “Mad” Will Power on the inside of row two in tomorrow’s five hundred mile race, while CFH Racing’s Josef Newgarden and championship contender Graham Rahal –  the quickest Honda – round out the top five.

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Fourth Penske entry and points leader Juan Pablo Montoya encountered a problem on his first lap, drifted up the track and lifted off the throttle. He qualified poorly as a result, starting nineteenth. When asked about his bobble in an interview Montoya replied, “It’s racing.” A big thanks to Paul Tracy, who guaranteed Montoya would be a contender tomorrow thereby jinxing him utterly. This along with Juan’s screw up in quals makes our prediction look better and better. Curiously, JPM declined interviews all day before qualifications, though not with IRR. We didn’t request one.

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Charlie Kimball who’d been quickest in practice spun and crashed during his qualifying run  Continue reading

Pocono Predictions And Prognostications: Problems Edition

Our problem – one of about 500 of them – is that after nearly a month off our powers of prognostication are really rusty. It’s a good thing our picks have been weaker than an IndyCar penalty all year or else it could’ve been a real problem. Perhaps a month off’s exactly what was needed and everyone can just get back to racing at Pocono problem-free. Yeah, right – at this point IndyCar’s about as problem-free as the drug-addled punk rockers the Sex Pistols.

LONG POND, PA - JULY 6, 2014: The Verizon IndyCar Series Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco race is held at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA on July 6, 2014 (2014 pixelcrisp)

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In honor of “NASCAR‘s Tricky Triangle,” we’ve a series of special predictions, though they’re probably problematic for fans of the artistry on wheels that is IndyCar – you’ve been warned. Tragically it’ll most likely be the series’ last trip to Pocono, like Fontana, at least for a while. Sigh. Befitting the mood of the occasion, in their first on track meeting since Iowa Sage “Wildman” Karam and Ed “The Finger” Carpenter won’t tangle with each other again or even make unkind gestures. It’d be just too juicy and beneficial for a series that has so many problems it doesn’t seem worthy of a good break.

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Despite his prowess in 500 milers, Team Penske championship leader Juan “You Know” Montoya will encounter problems during the course of the marathon race and fail to repeat at Pocono. This’ll present Graham Rahal and other title contenders with a golden opportunity at Long Pond before heading into the season finale. Looks like it’s not the Cap’n’s year, as even Penske isn’t immune to Pocono’s plentiful problems.

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Another problem for Pocono Continue reading

Pocono, You Know: ABC Supply 500 Preview

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Great Jules Goux’s ghost  are we glad to get back to some good old IndyCar oval track racing. This season’s oval finale ABC Supply 500 will be run at Pocono Raceway Sunday afternoon and in our view it can’t get here quickly enough. After a three week layoff, anticipating the exciting, side by side racing IndyCar generally displays on ovals is a given, although so you know Pocono’s a bit roval-esque for our particularly refined racing tastes.

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A technical track, Pocono’s a tri-oval with different banking in each of its three unique corners – a triangular shaped track and a really odd duck. Turn one was modeled after the old Trenton Speedway, two after Indianapolis Motor Speedway and turn three after the flat Milwaukee Mile. Apparently they couldn’t think of a track for a fourth turn. Drivers and teams must make compromises in their setups to navigate each corner smoothly, although there’s usually at least one corner the car doesn’t like. Clearly “NASCAR’s Tricky Triangle” as it’s irksomely billed isn’t your typical oval, don’t you know.

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You know IRR’s definitely jazzed about another 500 mile IndyCar race, but at the same time sad that it’ll be the last until next Memorial Day weekend, especially in the wake of Fontana’s loss. From what we’re hearing, ticket sales had better improve ASAP in northeastern PA or else it may be the last 500 miler – or IndyCar race of any distance – at Pocono. Tragically it may truly be “NASCAR’s triangle” after this weekend. That is at least until a certain head we’ve requested comes in, you know.

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Sadly like many IndyCar races at NASCAR owned and controlled tracks, Pocono – which is privately owned, despite its billing –  Continue reading

Bring Us The Head of IndyCar’s Mark Miles

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The latest horribly disappointing news out of IndyCar this week nearly made us lose our heads. With the announcement that the series will not race at Fontana in 2016 – the scene of this year’s instant classic 500 miler – we were morbidly reminded of the 1974 Sam Peckinpah revenge fantasy, “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.” Sadly we at IRR aren’t in a position at the moment to offer a million dollar bounty for a head – not even in 2015 dollars – although we have got about a million reasons why Miles must go.

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So in a parodied way (in case any law enforcement officers happen to be reading) we proclaim, “Bring us the head of IndyCar’s Mark Miles.” We’re demanding his head for the following crimes against IndyCar and its fans, planning to send a few volleys over the net with it since Miles loves tennis so much. In some particular order, here are the top reasons we want Miles’ head delivered on a platter. For FU@%ING up Fontana, one of the top tracks for IndyCar in the country, thank you very much.

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For flying aero kit pieces that injure innocent paying fans. For a road course heavy “festival type atmosphere” schedule chock full of hum-drum racing. For a three week, momentum killing gap in the 2015 schedule. For NOLA.

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For the ongoing erosion Continue reading