Silly Season ’17: A Succinct Synopsis

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Penske pared back, Ganassi got leaner, Rahal redoubled and Foyt became even less relevant. Perhaps the greatest concern – apart from the second rate schedule – is the car count for 2018.

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After yet another IndyCar title thanks to Josef Newgarden’s pivotal piloting, Penske’s crew will consist of only three cars for the first time since 2014. At 42 the ever popular Helio Castro-Neves finally has been put out to pasture, where presumably he can climb all the fences he wishes. The formidable trio of Pags, Power and Newkid will carry the Cap’n’s colors in the upcoming campaign, easily remaining the odds on favorites nearly every weekend.

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Not one to be outdone when it comes to downsizing, the Chipster Continue reading

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2017 IndyCar Season Review

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The series’ recently concluded campaign proved predictable – at least to us – and lacked both a sense of rhythm and any real rivalries. While having its moments, overall 2017 missed out on the excitement and drama of previous years.

This season’s highlights included breathtaking oval racing at Pocono and – to a lesser extent, thank you Tony Kanaan – Texas. Even the racing at Gateway was much improved over the last time they visited a decade ago and an additional oval on the schedule – no matter how inadequate its layout – is welcome change.

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Lowlights involved beyond tedious racing at the usual suspects like Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen and the season finale at Sonoma. Even St. Pete was a stinker this year and as usual the Indy Grand Prix was nearly unwatchable. Iowa‘s daytime race – as opposed to the superior night races of years past – earned the biggest flop award, with Phoenix a close second in the balloting. Iowa Speedway already announced a Sunday date in early July, meaning it’ll be another day race next year.

Easily the most absurd moment of the year was f-ing F1 invader Fernando Alonso being gifted the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award over Ed Jones, or “The Great Hardware Robbery,” as we termed it. This was closely followed by Alo’s team owner Michael Andretti’s brief flirtation with Chevy after winning the last two 500s with Honda and Sam Schmidt beginning to mimic Andretti’s dumb Indy 500 decisions.

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The most shocking moment by far Continue reading

IndyCar Watkins Glen Predictions and Prognostications: Glen Scotty Glen Boss

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Expect real estate – and points – to change hands fast this Sunday at the Glen.

Our special prediction for the race is so much fuel saving and strategizing that you’ll think methanol allotments are the good leads from “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Frankly, we’ve never understood why that film’s so highly regarded by some – and feel precisely the same way about Watkins Glen.

Like the movie, last year’s last minute return to upstate New York was a snoozer – and not just because of the steady stream of paid Verizon plugs uttered by drivers, either. Scott Dixon ran away with it – enjoying a 16 second margin of victory – at a road course so similar to Mid-Ohio it’s beyond redundant. Did we mention it’s very much like the worst course on the schedule yet?

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“Third prize is, you’re fired.”

Speaking of leads, pole sitter Will Power sure blew one last Saturday night, didn’t he? Oh well, at least he didn’t crash on the parade lap. Instead of picking Power again for his seventh pole of the campaign however, we’re going with Dixon. He won from pole last year over Josef Newgarden – sound familiar? – and excels on unwatchable permanent road courses like few others. It’ll only be Dixie’s second P1 award of the season, which with only a single win has been as disappointing as Alan Arkin’s paltry performance.

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“The leads are weak.”

First out of the race will be Continue reading

IndyCar Bommarito 500 Predictions and Prognostications: Nostalgic Edition

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What’s old is new again this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park as times gone by suddenly take on renewed relevance.

It’s been so long since IndyCar raced at Gateway more announcers have won there than drivers. The truly colorful Paul Tracy won the inaugural race in 1997 and talkative Townsend Bell took the checkers in the Indy Lights race in 2000. It’s just too bad Brian Till didn’t race – for more reasons than one. Helio Castro-Neves, who won the last race held there in 2003, is the only current driver to have done so. He did it in a Toyota.

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Juan Montoya won the race in 2000, but he’s only a test pilot at present. It’s interesting to note several current drivers were in diapers for PT’s win. Only two others apart from Helio have ever raced there: Scott Dixon and Tony “past expiration date” Kanaan. Interestingly, Dixie struggled in his only start there finishing 15th, while TK managed a second place showing in four starts.

Our special prediction is there’ll be lots of Sebastien Bourdais coverage as the Frenchman returns to the car for the first time since his injurious accident at Indy. His rapid recovery and return to racing is remarkable, but Continue reading

IndyCar Bommarito 500 Preview: Escape From East St. Louis

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Little known fact about John Carpenter’s classic 1981 “Escape From New York” – it was filmed in East St. Louis. Turns out the burned out husk of a city had the perfect post-apocalyptic look for the director’s dark, dystopian vision of a future big apple/prison. That, and of course it was cheaper than filming in NYC. Now IndyCar’s set to return to a place that made even Snake Pliskin demur.

It’s been a decade and a half since the series graced the greater East St. Louis area, and with good reason. IRR staff attended the last race held there in 2003 and it was so off puttingly boring that by three quarters through we felt an overwhelming urge to escape. Indeed, it was so bad that we vowed never to return – unless substantial track improvements were made.

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Photo from gatewaymsp.com

During the race long lull, the bizarre all male musical number from “Escape” sprang to mind for some reason. This could be explained by the fact that the thrilling Tomas Scheckter was on track that day. He finished fourth.

Surrounded by land fill mountains of garbage, Gateway Speedway’s environment isn’t exactly Barber-esque in its beauty. Then again, scenery doesn’t make the racing, tracks do – which leads us to Gateway’s biggest problem. [Insert repetitive thumping synthesizer bass line here.]

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The mile and a quarter track’s situated Continue reading

IndyCar ABC Supply 500 Race Review: ‘Clit Stop’ Edition

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IndyCar at Pocono pleasantly lived up to its exquisite oval racing reputation, as one of the most exciting races of the year unfolded Sunday afternoon. Will Power won his second 500 miler in a row at the thrilling triangle, impressively overcoming a lap deficit after his Penske crew were forced to change out a damaged nose. He bested his teammate Josef Newgarden by half a second, while Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi overcame adversity of his own to score a podium finish.

The race featured non-stop jaw dropping action with cars going six and seven wide right from the start. An incredible forty two lead changes took place among ten different drivers, including former winner Scott Dixon who led a quarter of the race. Indy 500 winner Rossi led forty four laps, but encountered a fuel knob issue in the closing stages. Power took the lead when Marco pitted on lap 191 and never relinquished it, swerving low and high to keep the white hot Newkid at bay.

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There were only three cautions all day, the first of which was brought out after Coyne rookie Esteban Gutierrez brushed the wall ending his day. Continue reading

Toronto IndyCar Predictions and Prognostications: Ill-Tempered Edition

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Soaring temps and a third rate track in a nation of second raters have our blood boiling.

Canada’s lone race on IndyCar’s schedule is one too many, making us especially ill-tempered and downright salty this week. Our special prediction of the weekend is that come Sunday evening following another disastrous so called race north of the border you’ll find yourself in an irritable mood, too. Then – to top it all off – there’s those entitled, over officious border agents to negotiate on the way home.

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Pole prediction perhaps means less at Exhibition Place than most road courses, as the winner’s come from P1 a third of the time lately – the exact same fraction as those winning from eleventh starting position. The other two winners over the last six contests started fourth and fifth, so in wild and wacky Canuck land clearly anything can happen – just look at their juvenile Premier. That’s why we’re going with Graham Rahal snagging his second pole of the season – and only the fourth of his career. He’ll edge Penske’s “Mad” Will Power, angering almost no one.

First out of the race – and this is where our Canuck hosts begin to get hot under the collar – will be hometown boy James Hinchcliffe. Hinch was recently dubbed a “megastar” of IndyCar by the Canadian press, whatever that is. He’s already suffered three DNFs this season and now all of a sudden has a new teammate. Due to all this, unfortunately his temperament won’t be improving come Sunday. Neither will that of his throngs of fans, so be extra vigilant when leaving.

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Our biggest surprise of the race will be the result of Continue reading

Iowa IndyCar Race Review: ‘Like The First Time’ Edition

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For one driver, rumors of his series demise proved as motivational as his pre-race quote was prescient.

Forty two year old Helio Castro-Neves won his thirtieth IndyCar race Sunday at Iowa Speedway after being asked by Robin Miller if his remarkable twenty year career were coming to a close. “We just gotta make sure we not only win this race, but win the championship,” Helio answered with characteristic panache. It proved predictive, at least partially.

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J.R. Hildebrand matched his best career finish in second, recovering strongly from a Saturday practice crash for Ed Carpenter. Three time Iowa winner Ryan Hunter-Reay advanced a dozen spots to steal a podium for formerly dominant Andretti Autosport. Pole sitter Will Power and Graham Rahal, who disparaged other drivers’ “courtesy” as being “awful” afterward, rounded out the top five.

The Team Penske fixture led over two thirds of the race for his first triumph in fifty four races, or over three years of futility. Continue reading

Iowa IndyCar Preview: A 7/8s Mile Slice of Heaven

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Among the dwindling oval tracks remaining on the schedule, Iowa Speedway routinely puts on some of the most riveting racing of the entire year. You could say it’s the nearest thing to IndyCar bliss outside Circle City and Texas.

The Iowa Corn 300 has witnessed some unforgettable moments in a decade of IndyCar racing. Ed Carpenter and Sage Karam’s confrontations in 2015 – both on track and post race – top our list. We termed the race at the time “Sage Gone Wild,” seemingly a breakout moment for the young Pennsylvanian. Perhaps it was his angelic features that drew us in, if not his devilish driving.

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Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Now Sage is relegated to one off status at Indy, and unfortunately won’t be racing at Iowa after finishing 28th in the 500 this year. At least the other half of the duelin’ duo, owner/driver Carpenter, will be driving (as if that’s any consolation). We do have an idea for a new arch enemy for Ed to do battle with, however.

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Speaking of which, could Iowa turn into another TK induced crash fest like Texas? Tempers still smolder in the wake of Wisconsin, where Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan characteristically blamed Alex Rossi for his most recent crash. Continue reading

Detroit Grand Prix Race Review No. 2: Graham ‘n Sham Edition

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Ragin’ Graham Rahal did the undoable – a Detroit dual double – driving a danged ol’ Honda right through Chevy’s front yard. Twice. Meanwhile Hoosier hot head Conor Daly called the only potentially exciting element of the race, the red flag stoppage with three to go, “such a sham” and “all for show.”

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The angry A.J. Foyt driver continued, Tweeting “to get driven into the wall with one to go after our best race is just sad.”  It’s unclear who made contact with him and ABC certainly didn’t bother to show it, but the young legacy finished twelfth behind Helio, TK and Munoz.

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Once pole sitter Sato got out of the way about twenty two laps in, it was a battle between Saturday’s winner and newcomer Josef Newgarden. Continue reading