Combining the words “IndyCar” and “leadership” in the same sentence goes beyond oxymoronic – it blasts into “Total Recall” territory (the good one with Arnold, not the remake). Put another way, the likelihood of sound decisions coming out of 16th and Georgetown is roughly equivalent to the chances of getting some water to go with that bourbon on your next visit to the red planet.
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Derrick Walker still hasn’t been replaced as President of Competition months after his resignation, there’s no announced schedule for 2016 and the interminable six month off season has only just begun. The sport’s been hemorrhaging fans, forgetting its own past and merely managing to limp along. Mark Miles was supposed to be the savior; instead he’s proven to be a dud. Otherwise, things are going well – no disaster to see here.
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In fairness it’s not all doom and gloom, just largely. Positives include competitive racing most of the season, an uptick in viewership Continue reading →
Hinch’s Comeback: After four months off convalescing outside of the car, lucky to be alive Canadian funnyman James Hinchcliffe returns to his SPM machine this week for testing at Road America in Wisconsin. The Mayor of something or other nearly lost his life due to a “dagger through the bottom of the seat” in his crash at IMS in May, losing copious amounts of blood and undergoing multiple surgeries. After the trying ordeal Hinch is thankful he’ll be back behind the wheel of his car. We’re glad the crazy Canuck’s back, too and hopeful he avoids further surgery for at least a few months.
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Newgarden Stays in Troubled Marriage: For at least another season, Josef Newgarden will stay put at CFH Racing after agreeing to a one year contract extension. The young American had a terrific season Continue reading →
Tired of the Pope’s visit yet? Us too. Writing about the Pope of IndyCar proves difficult however without at least mentioning Roger Penske’s majestic reign. With more wins than any team owner and more money than God, Penske’s Papal presence in the sport and over a great many fans fortunately doesn’t affect us in the slightest. IRR is in fact unafraid to point out painful truths – even at the risk of heresy – and report that it wasn’t the best season for Pope Penske. His Holiness’ IndyCar efforts fell well short of infallible.
Penske’s supposedly sainted drivers gave the Pontiff even more reason to be ashamed this season, as if Will Power weren’t already enough. Power and Montoya’s utterances at Fontana were distasteful, unbecoming and wrong. There were also the bitter intra-faith squabbles, like when Helio and Power took each other out in Detroit‘s second race. In the season finale at Sonoma the expanded four car team couldn’t crack the top five, failing to attain another championship – and their lofty goal.
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Juan Cardinal Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 before humbly screaming into his headset, “Yes! So Bad! That’s how you do it!” In the end however he failed Continue reading →
Sam Schmidt’s team – we’ve no idea who this Peterson fellow is – endured a severe reversal of fortunes after a moderately successful 2014. The seemingly snake-bit SPM dealt with a host of issues apart from having two brand new drivers – the Two Jameses, Hinchcliffe and Jakes – as well as humpback Hondas. The poorly performing team failed to overcome devastating injuries, spectacular wrecks and more than their fair share of rotten racing luck. The group regressed this season and received low marks as a result.
Their tough year started quickly at St. Pete where a perfectly healthy team couldn’t crack the top fifteen, a harbinger of the season to come. Canuck funny man Hinchcliffe won at swampy NOLA – where one stop was enough – before being gravely wounded during practice for the Indy 500. His injuries at IMS resulted from a one hundred and twenty five G-force collision with the wall due to the failure of a right front suspension part.
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Upon impact, a suspension arm penetrated the cockpit, striking him in the thigh and gouging his artery. Schmidt likened it to “a dagger through the bottom of the seat.” Suffering extreme blood loss, Hinchcliffe Continue reading →
A tremendous effort by “Son of ‘Stache” and for the most part his crew earned the single car team high marks. RLL underwent a maturation from last year to this, growing into a certified championship contender. Improving three full letter grades, Rahal made the biggest turnaround in the entire paddock. This follows a dreadful season, another winless campaign and loss of a major sponsor. The diminutive team pulled off quite an achievement, especially considering it was all accomplished with Honda – and without a mustache.
The series’ latest all American star – at least since Josef Newgarden in April – Graham won at both Fontana and Mid-Ohio, prevailing in the former with a fuel hose attached to his car for a portion of it. Certainly it can be said that he won at one entertaining race track, anyway. In fact he nearly triumphed in several more races coming within a whisker of doing it, finishing second both at Barber funnily enough and the Grand Prix of Indy – the 500 it isn’t.
The oft overlooked team upped its performance thanks to its fickle yet fast Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais. They had reason to celebrate this year, as well as reason for concern. The vino intake of owner Jimmy Vasser – dressed above as a burglar – alone makes this the most wine loving team on the circuit, and that list includes several winery owners.
Bourdais had a solid season, winning the rust belt races in Detroit and Milwaukee – the latter because he got high – and contending for wins elsewhere. Tenth in points, he turned in four top fives and eight top tens, running at the end of fourteen races. These eye catching results include a fourth place finish at the GP of Indy and fifth at Toronto. Bourdais now owns thirty four major open wheel victories in his long career, tied with Al Unser, Jr for seventh on the all time list. Wine and cheese, indeed!
It’s no wonder Coyne and chaos have become synonymous in the series, as the casualty rate among his crewman approached Chickamauga levels. Dale Coyne had quite possibly his worst year ever and that’s saying something. One incident of hitting a crewman on pit road is too many, two is a real problem. But four wounded team mates is a travesty and deserves serious sanction. The series’ most dubious owner is ultimately responsible for this rank amateurism and must be held to account.
Three races were marred by three Coyne drivers hitting four Coyne crew members in the pits. At least they were all friendlies who were bashed. Italian Francesco Dracone started it at NOLA, sliding hotly into a wet pit box and violently upending his crewman. During the Indy 500 the crew sent Aussie driver James Davison out of his pit and into fellow Coyne jockey Pippa Mann’s path. This caused Davison to crash into two of his team’s primary pilot Tristan Vautier’s tire changers, sending one to the hospital with a leg injury. The ugliness repeated itself yet again in the classic at Fontana, where Frenchman Vautier nailed his left front tire changer while coming wildly into the pit box.
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Obviously both the drivers and the crew shared in the calamitousness, but it’s ultimately on the owner whose name is on the transporter. Here’s the problem: Continue reading →
Team honcho and toad lookalike Chip Ganassi took a tumble recently celebrating another IndyCar championship, injuring himself in a cycling accident and busting his collarbone. Just imagine Chip on a bike! He’ll be fine, though previously we’d thought the idea of a fish riding a bicycle was amusing, but that’s nothing compared to a toad. CGR’s top gun Scott Dixon won his fourth championship at Sonoma in a dramatic conclusion to a somewhat perilous season. As longtime readers know, anyone who can beat Team Penske is all right in our book. Plus, there’s Scott’s lovely wife Emma who’s worth a few extra credit points by any measure.
After its usual slow start the team showed much improvement after the mid season report card starting with Texas, where Dixie did Dallas definitively. He’d won Long Beach earlier in the year, but neither he nor the team had any further luck until venturing deep into the heart of the metroplex. In Target’s twenty sixth year in the sport – though at a diminished level – Dixie delivered the goods yet again. In addition to his three wins and two poles, Dixon had seven top fives, twelve top tens and was running at the finish in an impressive fifteen races out of sixteen.
For Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing it was an almost Dickensian tale of two seasons, which is altogether fitting because until this year they were two teams. Josef Newgarden performed brilliantly in a break out year scoring his first two career wins, while by contrast Italian Luca Filippi and especially Ed Carpenter who platooned in the #20 car performed rather poorly.
Newgarden had an outstanding year, winning in fine fashion at both Barber and Toronto – where Filippi finished second – and scoring his first ever pole position at Milwaukee’s Methuselah Mile. In his best season yet, the young Tennessean came in seventh in the championship with five top fives and nine top ten finishes. He was running at the finish in thirteen out of sixteen races and remember, one of those DNFs was when Ed crashed him out at Fontana.
In ten starts on road courses, Filippi managed twenty first in the championship with the one top five and four top tens. Not having Ed to dodge helped, Continue reading →
The odd little one car team piloted by Gabby “Pat” Chavez had an indeterminate year considering the many challenges they face, including a dearth of funding, resources and experience – but boy, have they got spunk! The unisex twenty two year old Colombian earned Rookie of the Year awards for both the Indy 500 and season, a feat not accomplished since 2006 when Marco accomplished it. With a less than famous name, we certainly hope Pat’s career results are better than Marco’s after a decade in the sport.
In some ways Herta’s Honda regressed slightly this year compared to last, when rookie Englishman Jack Hawksworth at least scored a podium finish at the forgettable Houston “track,” coming in third behind Pags and Aleshin in the totally unnecessary second race. While other sports joke about playing in a parking lot, IndyCar disgustingly does it – sometimes twice in the same weekend. [Audible groan.]
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But back to the guy er, um driver in question, Gabby. In addition to other accolades, we’re pleased to announce Chavez is the winner of our 2015 Bruce Jenner/Caitlyn Jenner Gender Bender Award, or the BJCJGBA. Continue reading →