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

Advertisements

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.

AP INDYCAR SONOMA AUTO RACING S CAR USA CA

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.

rossicombsfabwagscom.jpg

Photo from fabwags.com

Biggest surprise to IndyCar fans Continue reading

Season Finale Preview: Sayonara, Sonoma!

Sayonara Sonoma!

IRR’s preview of the 2018 finale illustrates how the sake’s about to hit the fan with a Japanese race winner, a Kiwi in the points lead and a long overdue kiss off for one particular track.

Following fourteen interminable years of visiting northern California – primarily because the Foyts and Andrettis own wineries there and most certainly not for the racing – the IndyCar party at Sonoma’s over at long last. Now the hellacious hangover begins, as the geniuses responsible for IndyCar’s schedule failed to replace it with a decent track, like the big, beautiful oval at Fontana, home of exquisite racing in years past.

ACSsfhracingcom

Photo from sfhracing.com

No, next season the series swaps one inferior road course finale at Sonoma for another one down the coast at Laguna Seca. The 2019 schedule Continue reading

Portland Race Review: Cluster Edition

TakustarmanIRR

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.

Photo from indycar.com

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

Portland Predictions and Prognostications: Positively Polluted

PortlandPollutionIRR

Get your gas masks and eye wash ready for this weekend’s IndyCar incursion into Portland, as a mass of particulate matter may make even murkier an already muddled mix.

Our special prognostication this week involves fanning the flames by pointing out just how pure and unspoiled our predictions have been. Since achieving absolute accuracy in Detroit, we’ve picked the winning team the last two races, if not driver. We correctly called both Barber and Phoenix earlier this season. That’s not including all the picks we’ve gotten partially right either, or nailing last year’s championship – which no one else on the planet did. From now on, we predict you’ll pay closer attention to our remarkably unspoiled prognostications.

WillPower

Photo from from dailytelegraph.com.au

Pole sitter for Sunday’s race’ll be Will “He ever grow up?” Power, much to our – and every other sane race fan’s – chagrin. Barring historic flooding or, more likely nowadays, wildfires destroying the entire area, he’ll be P1 for the fourth time this season. Since in reality neither natural disaster is likely to occur, it’ll be Sour Grapes again leading the field to another sub-standard start. When’s the last time the series piss tested that guy, anyway?

First out of IndyCar’s return to hazy, somewhat hazardous Portland will be 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.

Image result for robert wickens crash

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.

Image result for indycar abc supply 500 alexander rossi

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

PromisesAheadIRR

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.

MarkMilesWantedIRR

Pick for pole position is Continue reading

IndyCar’s F-ing F-1 Invasion, Part 3: McLaren Megalomania

zakbrownmichaelandretti

Photos from dailymail.co.uk and sports.usatoday.com

With chatter about a back marker F1 team branching out into IndyCar reaching a fever pitch, it’s high time to set the record straight – by which we mean furthering our incisive take on the matter. Namely, F1’s increasing and undue influence over IndyCar – this ongoing invasion from across the pond – is pernicious and must be stopped.

It’s a subject we’ve been covering for some time now. For the first two installments of our series from 2016, see “IndyCar’s F-ing F1 Invasion, Part 1” and also “IndyCar’s F-ing F1 Invasion, Part 2.”

AlonsoAndrettibarberindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

Multiple teams are reportedly interested in pairing with the British based outfit including Rahal Lanigan Letterman Racing, but Andretti Autosport seems to be McLaren’s most likely landing spot. Continue reading

Iowa Predictions and Prognostications: The Big Four

IowasBigFourIRR

Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 could be the race to end all races – it’s often that entertaining. Hopefully it isn’t the end of IndyCar races at Iowa Speedway, but that’s only if “Bismarck” Miles doesn’t declare war on any more oval tracks. Where’s an ace leader like Eddie Rickenbacker when your series needs him?

BismarckMilesIRR

One fact about Iowa that’s likely to blow you away is three different winners in as many years, with the (usually) retired Helio, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay the victors. Make it four of the last five if you throw in Hinchcliffe’s devastating win in 2013. Taken together, they’re who we call The Big Four of Iowa.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has won an impressive three battles on Iowa’s plains, including back to back in 2014-15. Incredibly, his record’s less gaudy than that of his team’s smashing performance overall. Andretti Autosport’s enjoyed an unrestricted seven wins – out of only eleven races in the track’s history – sinking the competition as effectively as a u-boat wolf pack. Hinch’s win was with AA, too and even Marco managed top of the podium for his dad’s outfit, somehow. It was his last win, now seven years ago. Seems like a century, doesn’t it?

mafoxsportscom.jpg

Photo from foxsports.com

Our special prognostication for Sunday is related, though far from neutral. Continue reading

Texas Race Review: Honestly Edition

DixonTexasindycarcom.jpg

Photo from indycar.com

Team Penske – the clear class of the field starting 1-2-3 – suffered from tire issues all evening, opening the door for Scott Dixon. The five second victory was his third at Texas Motor Speedway, the forty third of his career and put him in rarefied air in third place on the all time wins list. It couldn’t happen to a better guy, honestly.

NBCSN’s pre-race covered the gamut, from the Penske trio up front to Rossi’s 500 win as well as Power’s. Oddly, in the booth they featured three guys – two of them beefy – in powder blue t-shirts. The ever likable Dixon said he “loves driving IndyCars,” and when asked about his place on the list mentioned how cool it is that “AJ, Mario and Michael are all still at these races.” Presciently, he also mentioned “going for race wins.”‘

daffydiffeydrive

Never to be out-trended, even IndyCar now has a cooking segment, for heaven’s sake. Don’t worry, we at IRR will never cook to camera. For some reason, it’s now Kelly Stavast doing pit coverage, and just when we getting used to the adorable Katie Hargitt. A Will Power feature had Robin Miller saying “ten years ago, Will Power hated oval racing.” He still does, Robin – you’ve been fooled. Daffy Leigh Diffey’s Aussie bias shone vividly through as a drone delivered the green flag and the engines were fired.

A clean start saw Newgarden leading with Ryan Hunter-Reay slicing high attempting to pass in a major theme of the evening. Cars were three wide early, as Alexander Rossi got around both TK and Dixon. Wickens moved around Power on the outside and into second by the lap 6. The first caution flew as AJ Foyt Racing’s Matheus Leist’s car became engulfed by fire in a scary moment. Leist threw steering wheel away and quickly jumped out as the flames encroached upon the cockpit.

Image result for matheus leist indycar texas fire

Photo from motorsport.com

Following a quick cleanup, the restart came on lap 15 with Newgarden, Power, Pags, Wickens and Rossi the top five.  Continue reading