Detroit Race Review No. 2: ‘Penske’s GM Amateur Hour’ Edition

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It is entirely appropriate that ABC’s last ever IndyCar broadcast involved a pace car crash during the parade laps that they missed while away at commercial, utterly destroying a brand new Corvette and delaying the start by thirty seven minutes. It was less so that Honda absolutely schooled Chevy in their hometown yet again, sweeping both races rather easily and awarding AA’s Ryan Hunter-Reay the trophy Sunday. Despite a positive public face and Power’s podium, the Cap’n could not have been happy.

RHR earned the victory, for much of the race looked like a Rossi runaway, the 500 winner starting from pole after emerging from a drenched morning qualifications. Overcoming adversity after a podium finish Saturday, the victor spun into the tire barrier during quals Sunday morning and received a penalty for his trouble, losing his fastest two laps of the session. As a result Hunter-Reay started back in tenth position. He wouldn’t be deterred.

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The pre-race consisted of a replay of Hinch’s lap from yesterday and a very subdued command to start engines by Mark Reuss – a senior VP at GM – who then proceeded to crash the pace car on the parade lap, stopping the race before it’d even begun. IndyCar should demand that  Continue reading

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Detroit Race Review No. 1: We Freakin’ Nailed It! Edition

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How did they do it? Who’s the soothsayer? What were they on? These are the questions they’ll be asking about IRR in future annals of IndyCar blogs, at least if we have any input.

Scott Dixon scored his 42nd career win, tying Michael Andretti for third all time behind his dad and AJ, marking his fourteenth consecutive season with at least one win. He won handily over Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi in a Honda parade through the heart of downtown Detroit, though it was his first visit to victory lane since Road America last season.

As for what little pre-race there was, the ABC booth took on the somber tone of a wake, or would have had it not been so sleepy. After the obligatory, outrageous Power 500 recap, Jan Beekhuis spoke with pole sitter Marco, who insists upon repeatedly referring to his many “outside poles,” or what everyone else on the planet refers to as starting second. The legacy driver on an eight year drought fibbed and said he “thinks we can pass pretty well here.” But the bigger story would be his burgeoning feud with a teammate – one who’s actually won the Indy 500.

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The stands looked fairly full on a gorgeous day and ticket sales were “up 15% over last year,” according to Bestwick. Rain’s possible tomorrow, Continue reading

Detroit Grand Prix Preview: Adios! ABC

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If you thought ABC’s coverage of the 500 was dreadful – missed restarts, “Scott Pigot,” that guber Smith, that other guber Goodyear – then prepare to be heartened. After a double dose of Disney’s dismal dimwits from Detroit this weekend, it’s Adios! ABC once and for all. Hip-hip, hooray!

Just imagine it – no more frustratingly confusing calls, no more fretting about whether Bestwick and crew are gonna ruin another race, no more qualifications slights, no more shoddy coverage of the greatest spectacle in racing – ever. Well, at least until NBC too grows complacent and lackadaisical.

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The good news just keeps coming – that is, if such a thing can be written honestly about street racing in Detroit. The Hinch is back! That’s right, race fans – one of IndyCar’s most popular drivers is actually going to be racing Saturday and Sunday. As if (decades of) ABC’s abuse weren’t enough, the racing gods seemed to heap it on the pitiable fans with the Mayor’s recent DNQ at the Brickyard. Happily that’s all forgotten, as the uncanny Canuck definitely will be on track in his SPM Arrow machine since there’ll be no bumping. It’s not Indy, but it is just across the river from his native land. Hinch abides.

Another promising trend concerns the 500 winner, Mad Will Power. Watching his Oz freak-out in victory lane Sunday was hard to do, but happily Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Race Review: It’s A Vegemite Sandwich and We All Gotta Take A Bite

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Team Penske’s – and all IndyCar’s – least likable driver won the series’ biggest race, sadly. For the Cap’n, it was his seventeenth 500 triumph – a towering record never to be surpassed. AA’s Englishman Stefan Wilson, brother of the late driver Justin, led until the final stages before being forced to pit for fuel.

With seven cautions in all, the race – and particularly the start and restarts – were thrilling, right up until the end when Wilson pulled into the pits with only four to go. This handed Will “sour grapes” Power the event, to every single thinking race fan’s chagrin. It’s one race at long last that he can’t complain about.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

ABC’s pre-race coverage of course featured a lengthy Danica interview, followed by some yahoo named Marty Smith with a NASCAR accent screaming into a mike from the snakepit. Thanks for the memories, ABC.

From the green flag, Danica dropped five spots as predicted, then embarrassingly lifted completely off the throttle in turns during early in-car camera coverage. Her owner Fast Eddy Carpenter led from the pole, while ragin’ Graham Rahal jumped seven spots almost immediately from his dismal starting spot. He’d wind up tenth.

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Photo from indystar.com

Driving AJ Foyt Racing‘s always tenuous third car, James Davison was waaaay loose and waaaay slow, and finally on lap 47 Taku’d had enough and simply Satoed him. The defending 500 winner closed quickly and smacked him from behind in between turns 3 and 4, nearly going airborne and bringing out the first of seven cautions.

Only a few laps following the restart, Continue reading

St. Pete Race Review: Crass Commercial Edition

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Riveting racing in IndyCar’s return to action Sunday was largely overshadowed by shabby coverage from the Always Being Crass network in hopefully its last year broadcasting the series. Sebastien Bourdais survived the near constant carnage to repeat at St. Pete in a race featuring a whopping 366 on track passes. Fans maybe got to see ten percent of them. Given the sheer frequency of commercial interruptions, one would have thought the local newscaster the victor.

An asinine infomercial ran until ten minutes before the green flag. With so much new this year – gorgeous cars, rookie drivers and fledgling teams – the hyper abbreviated “pre-race” was in reality a slap in fans’ faces. Considering it’s Bestwicke, Goodyear and Cheever in the booth however, perhaps it wasn’t such a great loss.

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Will “Sour Grapes” Power’s first lap spin surprised even those of us predicting early trouble, and boy did it materialize. Even Scott Dixon suffered a rare brain fade worthy of a rookie – or worse, Marco – smacking Sato and instigating one of eight caution flags, five of which came in the early going. Old ‘n in the way TK and rookie Zach Veach made contact before Ragin’ Graham Rahal banged into Spencer Pigot, bringing out yet another yellow.

Away for another ubiquitous break, ABC missed multiple restarts as pole sitting newby Robert Wickens enjoyed a comfortable lead throughout most of the race. In a bit of foreshadowing, Bourdais briefly inherited the lead after the first round of pit stops. Continue reading

Dual In Detroit Two Race Review: No Further Action

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Will Power saved The Cap’n’s weekend by winning at Detroit on Sunday. The race became a buzz killing Penske parade with one of the series’ least popular drivers searching for a celebration in victory lane. It didn’t help that his suit was soaking wet.

The race was preceded by wild morning qualifications that included Power and Conor Daly – among others – being penalized, though of course Penske was sanctioned less severely than Coyne. Pags stole yet another pole in the bifurcated session, with the second group dealing with a wet track. Like Saturday, starting P1 did the Frenchman little good.

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Photo from espnmediazone.com

Pre-race coverage began with Allen Bestwicke assuring viewers, “This is not a repeat. This is a live, original program.” A heavily made up Goodyear sagely – if slightly contradictory – said, “I think we’re going to see the same thing,” while Cheever again mentioned “all these bumps!” Thank goodness it was ABC’s last IndyCar broadcast of the year.  Continue reading

Dual In Detroit One Race Review: Bumpy Edition

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What started out as another Pagenaud pass-out worthy Penske parade suddenly turned into an interesting race in the second half. Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais won his thirty fifth IndyCar race Saturday – from thirteenth – his second in as many years at Detroit.

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The start was anything but bumpy for pole sitter Pags, who checked out from the field. The first caution of the race came when – as we predicted – CGR’s rookie Max Chilton smacked the wall and exited the race. Apparently a suspension piece broke, as he swerved into the wall on a straightaway. The Englishman then proceeded to drop the F-bomb live on national television. That’s hot!

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Pags and Helio ran one-two on the Cap’n’s home track, thanks – according to ABC’s booth geniuses – to Penske’s special shocks and springs made especially for bumpy Detroit. Extremely bumpy commentary characterized the day’s coverage.  Continue reading

Dual in Detroit Predictions & Prognostications: Double Indignity

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After the glory that was the 100th Indianapolis 500, IndyCar’s schedule imposes upon race fans the double indignity of Detroit. Twice. Thank you, Mark Miles. On the desperately needed upside – and in the midst of widespread Post Indy Stress Disorder, or PISD – after Detroit comes more oval track awesomeness under the lights at Texas. Yeehaw!

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As for the double header on Belle Isle, it’s embarrassing for a number of reasons. A Randy Bernard brainchild, double headers were once an innovative way to stretch the series’ skinny schedule. These throwbacks included double dippers at Texas Motor Speedway – huzzah! – as well as the parking lots of Houston – boo! Now we’re down merely to Detroit’s Belle Isle. Yawn.

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The rat infested island sits in the Detroit River, which falls under the administration of the Water & Sewerage Department. The river’s where Flint residents used to get their water, back when their only worry was drinking treated human waste. Continue reading

GP of Indy Race Review: Backwards Edition

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Holding a race at Indy before the 500 is as backwards as a horse wearing riding pants. If the Grand Prix of Indy was supposed to build momentum heading into the 100th Indy 500, then it failed. That is, unless you’re Penske, Menard and Pags.

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Simon Pagenaud dominated yet again at the GP, taking his second victory there and third consecutive, to almost nobody’s liking. ABC’s canned intro even rightly called the infield race at IMS “backwards.” In fact, the entire event was ass backwards from start to finish – cars going around the famed track the wrong way, Dale Coyne’s Conor Daly teasing us by taking the lead from out of nowhere, and a Frenchman ultimately winning the damned thing from pole by nearly five seconds.

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Pags’ championship points lead is now sizable, with his competitors going backwards. On the flip side, Tony Kanaan‘s not fast over forty farewell tour continued, as predicted. First out of the race, he walled Bourdais just after the green flag flew, before hitting the precarious first turn. Continue reading