Phoenix Race Review: Single Handed

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Photo from twitter.com

J.R. Hildebrand gave fans someone to root for other than those paradoxical Penskes in a flawed though mildly entertaining show in the desert.

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Photo from edcarpenterracing.com

Simon Pagenaud and the Penskes prevailed going away as the first oval and night race of the year looked like 2016 in microcosm. Thankfully there were other stories, or rather a single other story, on NBCSN. If we heard about it once, we heard it a thousand times. Hildebrand‘s comeback race from a broken hand at Long Beach – requiring “a plate and eight screws” as Paul Tracy read from a card – saw him finish an impressive third. It was Ed Carpenter Racing‘s best result in some time and a remarkable feat by the team’s shorthanded newcomer.

We couldn’t help but think of the sound of one hand clapping during the race, as the crowd looked sparse on television and the Saturday night time slot is challenging for ratings to begin with. After seeing the start though, maybe that’s not all bad.

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The race began embarrassingly with a first lap caution as Mikhail Aleshin lost it and spun in turn two collecting Marco, Rahal, Chilton and Bourdais – Hondas all. Continue reading

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Phoenix Predictions and Prognostications: Sponsors Needed

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Several high profile drivers and teams remain without solid sponsorship for the season’s first oval race – a big deal around here – including the previous winner. As true IndyCar racing arrives with Saturday night’s fiesta of fast in Phoenix, it’s the lack of big, big money that rightfully has some fans concerned.

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Image from digital journal.com

Empty sidepods are less than desirable, especially when they adorn a super team that sometimes tends not to finish races and another that barely cracks the top ten (except for Dixon). Scott enjoyed the thirty ninth win of his storied career last year in the desert, yet three races in still hasn’t found a permanent replacement for the dearly departed Target. How 100th Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi’s car remains a blank slate is equally incomprehensible. In the spirit of ovular optimism, our special prediction is that this dearth of signage on quality competitors won’t last long.

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Speaking of money, Helio Castro-Neves Continue reading

Phoenix Preview: Unabashedly Unapologetic Edition

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Following last year’s race at PIR drivers sounded like United Airlines after dragging a paying customer kicking and screaming off a flight. While it wasn’t that traumatically awful of a race – no fans were bloodied, broken or concussed, at least – IndyCar better have learned its lessons and get it right on Saturday.

The issue was down force levels and the series can be excused somewhat since it was returning to the track after over a decade hiatus. Next generation, aero kitted cars – soon to be done away with, thankfully – and other variables contributed to the disappointment. Scott “podium” Dixon won going away last year in a so-so race under the lights. No one likes a yellow finish, though. Thanks, race control.

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Image from youtube.com

Unabashed in our adoration of IndyCar oval track action – the highest form, fastest and most entertaining of all racing – we at IRR favor Wild Bill’s (as portrayed by Jeff Bridges) approach: “I DON”T apologize!” It’s also solid advice never to touch another man’s hat, or in this case, helmet. Taking to ovals like Hickock to whiskey, cards and whores, we’re cautiously optimistic that they will provide, as Dixie put it, “a better show” this time around. After all, patience isn’t a limitless virtue.

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Son of ‘stache Graham Rahal Continue reading

Barber Race Review: PSI Edition

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Young gun Josef Newgarden turned what could have been another hum drum, Penske win from pole into a fairly memorable, exciting race – for a motorbike track.

It was Will “Sour Grapes” Power’s race to lose and he did, handing the newest teammate his first win for the Cap’n and failing to crack the top twelve for the fifth consecutive race. A cut Firestone was the culprit, or rather the hero of the day. Power slowed inexorably, giving PSI an entirely new meaning.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) and Long Beach winner James Hinchcliffe tangled at the start, leading to a third lap caution as RHR’s damaged front wing littered the track. Dale Coyne’s rookie phenom Ed Jones suffered damage due to the debris ruining his day, as well.

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During the initial melee the aged Tony Kanaan gambled and lost, though his Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon advanced to third and remained firmly in contention all day. Continue reading

Barber Predictions & Prognostications: Alonso’s Cherry Edition

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Fernando Alonso’s IndyCar cherry is about to be popped in Alabama, and it’s going to be messy for Andretti Autosport.

The former champ and soon to be f-ing F1 invader will be attending his first ever race on Sunday. If as reported he thinks he’s racing with “the least power ever” now in an F1 McLaren Honda, then just wait until the Spaniard’s in an AA Honda come May.

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Image from twitter.com

Our special prediction of the race is that Fernando will feel his first time’s somewhat awkward and painful. Join the club, as many of us feel the same way particularly when watching a race at Barber. After all, it is a frickin’ motorbike track. However, we’re certain that at thirty five Alonso won’t publicly admit it.

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Our pole prediction is similarly agonizing, Continue reading

Barber IndyCar Preview: The Barber of Seville

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Fernando, Fernando, Fernand-o!

The announcement during the off week that Fernando Alonso will be running in the Indy 500 was the biggest news item since another f-ing F1 invader won the 100th 500 as a rookie, running out of fuel and coasting to the finish.

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Reportedly the Spaniard in question will be at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend to watch his first Indy style race in person. It’s just too bad his initial experience won’t be at a better track. A former F1 champ, Alonso unquestionably brings some star power to the states. However, we prefer to focus on those drivers who actually will be driving this weekend rather than merely spectating.

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Happily some drivers will be working Sunday rather than vacationing, albeit with less attention than Alonso, which brings up several questions. Continue reading

Other Spaniards We’d Like to See at the Indy 500

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Photo from Bauer-Griffin Online

Following the announcement that F1’s Fernando Alonso will be competing in the 101st Indianapolis 500, here are some other famous Spaniards we’d enjoy seeing Memorial Day weekend.

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Photo from Getty Images

Topping the list is the lovely and talented Penelope Cruz, for obvious reasons. She’d add some real old world style to a distinctly new world event.

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Who knew Elsa Pataky was Spanish? Or an actress? Continue reading

Long Beach Race Review: Jones-ing Racing

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IndyCar rookie Ed Jones is stunning the racing world with an unprecedented career start.

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Sure, comedic Canadian James Hinchcliffe won his fifth career race and second for Sam Schmidt. And yes, Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais finished second and leads the points after two races. Josef Newgarden scored a podium in only his second race for Penske coming home in third, while our pick Dixie finished a disappointing fourth. It’s also true that Frenchman Simon Pagenaud raced from last to fifth after receiving a penalty in qualifications. But none of that’s really the point.

Rookie Ed Jones turned in the drive of the race, moving up seven positions to finish sixth and making the top ten for the second consecutive outing. It was only his second IndyCar race and after a tremendous beginning the youngster now sits seventh in points.
The 2016 Indy Lights champ not only drives for Dale Coyne Racing, making his accomplishments that much more special, but also is off to an astounding start to his IndyCar career.

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Born in Dubai, UAE Jones is Continue reading

Long Beach Predictions & Prognostications: Environmental Edition

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Prepare for a festival of fuel saving in sanctimoniously green California – but do fuel economy and racing really mix?

The word most commonly invoked in describing the Grand Prix of Long Beach is “atmosphere,” a catch-all term meant to capture the partying, sites and sounds of the decades old ocean side event. An atmospheric problem for IndyCar is that none of this translates very well to television. Still another is the typically dreadful racing there of late, which leaves fans looking a bit green around the gills.

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Now for the special prediction of the Grand Prix, which concerns that pesky Penske paradox. The PP reared its ugly head last year when Pags won a real snoozer, apart from some drama over a blown call from race control. Happily last year’s amphibian outrage won’t recur, and the winner will be somewhat less green.

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In twin victories for middle aged people everywhere, Helio won the pole the last two years running after Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) claimed it in 2014. Notwithstanding, our pick is Continue reading

Long Beach Preview: ‘We Don’t Need No Stinking Blend Lines!’

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The Miss Long Beach Grand Prix Pageant is arguably the best part of the entire event.

IndyCar’s idiotic full lunar cycle hiatus following the season’s first race comes to a close in SoCal Sunday. Problem is, the last time the series visited Long Beach a controversial and unpopular non-call handed the race to a controversial and unpopular Frenchman. Which begs this question.

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Simon Pagenaud flouted the rules for pit exit, ignored the blend line and swerved in front of Scott Dixon – who was at speed on the racing surface. Race control issued only a mere warning and Penske’s frog benefitted, going on to win the season championship. Paraphrasing a bandit in John Huston’s classic film ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,’ “Blend lines?! We don’t need no stinking blend lines!”

While 2015 winner Dixon wasn’t pleased with the non-call or second place, his gorgeous wife Emma absolutely went off, Continue reading