Sonoma Season Finale Race Review: S&M Edition

Racing at Sonoma through the years has often been painful to watch, and the season finale was no different. Admittedly, there were a few moments of pleasure along with hours of punishment.

Scott Dixon clinched his fifth championship Sunday in dominant fashion, totally overshadowing Ryan Hunter-Reay who abused the competition from pole in IndyCar’s final race at the dungeon like track. In a curious move by the series’ sole broadcast partner, NBCSN viewers missed an eventful start due to preemption by a NASCAR crash and delay at Vegas. Of course it proved to be one of few interesting segments of the day, and for fans it really hurt.

As Hunter-Reay led the field to the green his teammate Alexander Rossi suffered a brain fade typical of his youth and inexperience. Entering turn 1 the championship contender inexplicably ran into the back of teammate Marco Andretti, damaging his front wing and right front tire and all but eliminating his title hopes. Rossi would battle back and almost make it interesting by the end, but couldn’t surpass Dixon’s maturity and experience.

Cars quickly strung out single file as normalcy returned to Sonoma. Continue reading

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Sonoma Season Finale Predictions & Prognostications: A Frenchman, A Kiwi & A Mexican Walk Into A Wine Bar . . .

bar scene sonoma IRR

With season’s end in sight, so too are the soon to be crowned champ, race winner, first to exit and – thanks to IRR’s amazing powers of prognostication – various other hilarity inducing outcomes.

The special prediction not only for the season finale but also for the last IndyCar race at Sonoma – at least for a while, considering this series’ schizophrenic schedule one never says never – is that the place won’t be missed. At all. Rather, the so-called racing there‘ll be about as sorely missed as a severe wine hangover.

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Our pick for pole is Will “not so super” Power, again. It’ll be his fifth of the season and fifty fifth pole of his career. He trails only Mario Andretti’s mark of 67 poles on the all-time list and could well break it in the future – especially if his competition continues their joke like qualifying efforts. Power topping Mario, A.J., or any of the other greats in IndyCar annals strikes us as being in incredibly bad taste.

First out of the finale will be one of Harding Racing’s multiple rookie entries. Our pick is Indy Lights champ Patricio O’Ward in what will be his first career start for the upstart outfit. The 19 year old Mexican impressed in the junior series, winning over half the races and poles he contested and finishing every one. With struggling Harding however, expect that run to come to a halt Sunday – quicker than a south of the border street burrito races through whomever’s dense enough to eat it.

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Photo from fabwags.com

Biggest surprise to IndyCar fans Continue reading

Portland Race Review: Cluster Edition

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing had quite the day at the Portland Grand Prix, with one driver in victory lane and the other ripping the racing, the stewards and the series. Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato scored another victory, while his teammate Ragin’ Graham Rahal was along with several others caught up in another frightening first lap pileup that for once was no fault of his own. However, his scathing criticisms of blatant incompetence in race control had us grinning from ear to ear.

After qualifications but prior to the race, two Andretti Autosport teammates who factored largely in the outcome poignantly diverged in their assessment of the place. And after eleven years away, why not? Ryan Hunter-Reay praised the braking zones as portending engaging racing, while his teammate Alexander Rossi said flatly, “we all know it’s hard to pass here.” In the long run, Rossi was the more correct – though less lucky – on the day.

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Once the green flag flew, Rossi sped around Josef Newgarden for second, with RHR gaining too, until trouble struck. In the back Simon Pagenaud initially encountered problems going off track, followed by fellow Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais. Then the latest frightening first lap crash occurred due to contact between rookie phenom Zach Veach and James Hinchcliffe in turn 3. Hinch spun, causing a trailing Marco Andretti to spin and roll backwards over Hinch’s car, flipping upside down in the process. After Pocono, it was the last thing anyone wanted to see, although Portland’s configuration – specifically the chicane – invites it. Remarkably, and once he was turned right side up, Marco jumped out of the car unscathed, though covered in dirt. He spoke of being “really lucky,” and of his head being “on the ground,” thanks to Rahal hitting him from behind.

Ganassi’s potentially soon to be ex Ed Jones was victimized in the incident and out of the race, his helmet scarred from the crash. Hinch’s car was repaired and he was able to get back out, though many laps down. Another victim of course was the aforementioned Rahal, who made his feelings on the accident crystal clear. “It was a cluster. . . . Oh yeah, Veach – I mean come on now, give him some room. There’s no room there at all … So it’s just wrong, and then the officials take no action, which is typical of our officiating crew. It’s disappointing.”

Driver Marco Andretti was involved in a four-car crash Sunday at the start of the Portland Grand Prix at Portland International Raceway.

Image from oregonlive.com

Included in the carnage was championship leader Scott Dixon, who Continue reading

Gateway Race Review: Sour Grapes Power Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

Despite early domination by Scott Dixon, Team Penske’s oval-hating specialist Will “Sour Grapes” Power prevailed by 1.3 seconds over Alex Rossi before promptly calling out the competition in truly classless manner. Instead of celebrating in victory lane, Power pointedly tore into Dixon’s driving, gratuitously and repeatedly ripping his highly-regarded rival.

The best news in months arrived shortly before the green flag flew, as an update on Robert Wickens’ health status was released by his team. SPM’s bulletin revealed Wickens is now off the ventilator and breathing on his own for the first time since the accident at Pocono. The welcome news instantly lifted the spirits of the nice-sized crowd outside East St. Louis, as well as those of the drivers.

Photo from indycar.com

Dixon and Rossi led the field to the green and immediately Rossi dropped back as cars went three wide into turn one. Power and Josef Newgarden simultaneously moved around him in a Penske sandwich as they chased down Dixie. Back in the pack Sebastien Bourdais’ car got loose in between two other cars, hitting the wall and bringing out yet another caution before the first lap was complete.

The restart came on lap 8 as drivers held their positions throughout the field. Continue reading

Gateway Preview: Awake and Alert Edition

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

2018’s final oval track race will be held Saturday night outside St. Louis. With only three races remaining in the season and the title chase intensifying, the fast cars under the lights will be fascinating to watch, particularly coming less than a week after Robbie Wickens’ horrific, injury sustaining crash at Pocono.

IndyCar’s return to East St. Louis last season saw Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan crash on the parade lap before the race had even begun. Then, on lap one, Will Power spun and crashed collecting Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato. It was yet another of those kind of starts. On his championship run, an alert Josef Newgarden bravely bump-passed his teammate Simon Pagenaud for the win with thirty laps remaining. Newkid’s victory in Illinois was his third out of the last four races, and Pags wasn’t pleased.

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Photo from indycar.com

Prior to last year, IndyCar hadn’t raced at Gateway Motorsports Park in fourteen years – a race IRR staff attended, but weren’t thrilled about. Continue reading

Pocono Race Review: A Speedy Recovery

Considering another comically amateurish start followed by a devastating, injurious crash on lap seven, the fact that the remaining able-bodied drivers somehow managed to put on a decent show at all is remarkable. Particularly in light of Robert Wickens’ unknown medical circumstances, which remained a complete mystery for a full hour before his consciousness was announced. The full extent of his wounds still isn’t known.

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Photo from cbc.ca

After a two hour delay for cleanup of the massive debris field plus repairs to the fence, Alexander Rossi drove his NAPA car right up to the wall and to its limits, proving himself yet again the swiftest over 500 miles.

NBCSN’s pre-race included shots of Marco’s Palace and lots of Robin Miller. In other words, it was gaudy and odd. Another laboriously slow, bunched up start to the race from pole sitter Will Power saw Ragin’ Graham Rahal immediately run into Spencer Pigot’s right rear at the back of the field and bring out a caution. Along with the winner we predicted a crash-fest, and it sure started out that way. Power typically blamed Scott Dixon – who was deep in the field! – flashing graphs and pleading that he only did what he was told. Rahal was penalized for the first lap incident and it’s clear he needs to work on his starts, his qualifying – or both.

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Photo from indycar.com

Rossi quickly passed Power for the lead on the lap seven restart. Behind them Wickens tried to get around Ryan Hunter-Reay in turn two Continue reading

Pocono Predictions and Prognostications: Promises, Promises

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Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 promises to be powerful viewing as both the final 500 miler and penultimate oval track race of the season.

The special prediction for Pocono entails another exquisite exhibition of open wheel racing on an oval track, we promise. Last year’s race was a highlight of the season, and as we noted in our preview the Pocono show’s actually gotten better and better through the years. A caveat to this prognostication is that there’s always the potential IndyCar, still learning the “new cars” after eight months, could screw it up with its ever changing rules and regulations.

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Pick for pole position is Continue reading

Mid-Ohio Race Review: This Frenchman’s On Fire!

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Pole sitter Alexander Rossi’s victory for Andretti Autosport was never really in any doubt, as is so often the case at Mid-Ohio, although NBCSN’s superb coverage (on CNBC) of Sebastien Bourdais’ Napoleonic battles from deep in the field made it at times almost seem like it. Demonstrating how Sunday really wasn’t his but rather SeBass’ day for swiping an amazing eighteen positions going from last to sixth, the Indy 500 winner celebrated his race win by embarrassingly high-siding and stalling his NAPA car on track’s edge while attempting, unsuccessfully, to cut donuts.

During pre-race both Rossi and Josef Newgarden mentioned the lack of a morning warm-up, highly unusual for IndyCar. Already putting everyone in the paddock on edge were a string of chaotic practice and qualification sessions, with umpteen incidents and cars leaving the terrible track. Under this foreboding atmosphere, of course the race proceeded under ninety straight green flag laps – though it wasn’t without its incidents.

Rossi and Will Power led the bunched up field to the start, with several drivers back in the pack nearly making and then, in fact, making contact. Rossi’s trudging pace from pole, or what Paul Tracy called a “dirty move,” was reviewed but Continue reading

Toronto Race Review: ‘Get A Fu@&in’ Move On!’ Edition

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Photo from ap.org

Living IndyCar legend Scott Dixon did indeed get a fu@&in’ move on as he so forcefully said Sunday in Toronto, cruising to his forty fourth career victory. It was his third of the season, padding his now comfortable championship lead, particularly with the regrettable Mid-Ohio in the offing and pole sitter Josef Newgarden’s brain fade, slamming the wall from the lead mid-race.

NBCSN’s pre-race included multiple mentions of the Alexander Rossi – Robert Wickens rivalry by Daffy Leigh Diffey, which didn’t play a role at all in the race. More telling was an interview with the eventual victor, who once again took the blame for his qualifying mistake on Saturday, the classy guy that he is, accepting responsibility for starting second rather than pole. Then came the obligatory interview by the ever expanding universe that is Paul Tracy with James Hinchcliffe and Wickens. There was plenty of talk about Canada and in Canadian, as best we could gather.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay jumped forward three spots during a wild, four wide start, although he’d ultimately have a difficult day. Newgarden led Dixon, RHR and Will “sour grapes” Power once things inevitably settled down with Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato soon getting around his fellow 500 winner Rossi into fifth. During that entertaining first lap the two Canuck teammates Hinch and the rookie made contact – as did others – with actual passing briefly appearing in the cobbled together concrete canyon.  Continue reading

Toronto Preview: Hinch, Hometown Hero Or Mere Mischief Maker?

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Though it’s only a hunch, we doubt Ontario native James Hinchcliffe becomes just the second Canadian ever to win an IndyCar race on the shores of Lake Ontario. And that’s in three decades of racing there.

Merely hours after he ripped our hearts out – or those of our Iowa Predictions, anyway – Hinch and the rest of the series are already preparing for Sunday’s happenings at a track we like to call the Canuck concrete car crusher, better known as the streets of Toronto. More on the sub-par circuit in a moment.

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The pressure building on Hinch – the face of the series – for his hometown, Honda sponsored event is immense, made even more gargantuan by his thrilling though baffling win Sunday. Real fans of Hinch won’t like what follows, as it’s not pleasant. Nevertheless, it’s true.  Continue reading