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IndyCar’s best team is also by far the worst.
Team Penske has won the lion’s share of the races lately, taking ten of sixteen in 2016 on the way to a championship. That’s one awfully rude lion. The four horsemen of the Penske paradox also have won the last three St. Pete season openers in a row.
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In the twelve year history of the event – not counting Paul “nearly won the 500” Tracy’s 2003 win in CART – Penske pilots have won an astounding eight races. That’s two out of every three on the west Florida streets.
Predictable doesn’t describe the sort of dominance RP’s team enjoys in IndyCar’s initial race. Tedious comes close.
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Which brings us to the worst part of Team Penske. The now retired and wildly unpopular “what’s wrong with Juan?” Montoya won the last two “contests.” Helio’s won three at St. Pete over the course of his lengthy career while Will “Sour Grapes” Power‘s triumphed twice. Clearly, they’re the New England Patriots of racing, but without the supermodel WAGS.
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Making matters worse, the four car super team upgraded in the off season replacing Montoya with Josef Newgarden, who joins reigning champ Frenchman Simon Pagenaud and the rest. For variety’s sake, it’d be nice to see someone other than the Cap’n’s crew in victory lane this weekend – anyone, even a Russian. But we’re not holding our vodka tinged breath.
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Penske’s pole dominance on street courses has also grown beyond tiresome. Mad Will Power usually starts up front on the temporary circuits and this weekend will be no different. That is, unless his Jean Girard lookalike teammate edges him out.
First out of the race will be Ed “too small” Jones, for a variety of reasons. First, he drives for Dollar Dale Coyne. Next, it’ll be the rookie’s first ever IndyCar race. Lastly, the race is held in a concrete canyon better suited to roller derby than IndyCar racing. Which brings us to . . .
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The biggest surprise of the race stems from the track itself, which routinely features underwhelming average race speeds under ninety miles an hour. In other words, they’ll barely be doing interstate speeds. Now THAT’s entertainment. Such hum-drummery is yet another reason to ditch St. Pete and replace it with a proper oval track, like Homestead south of Miami. At least then other teams would stand a chance of winning for a refreshing change.
Picking a Penske to win Sunday is, as the kids say, a no brainer. The only real drama is which Penske pilot to predict. Since Newkid is well, new and Helio’s over the hill, we’re forced to go with the horribly hot, limp hand. Pagenaud’s woeful winning ways will continue Sunday – and that’s the worst of all possible worlds.