IndyCar’s Irrepressibly Cool List

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IndyCar’s irrepressibly cool list features impressive impresarios from the pinnacle of motor racing, including personalities, WAGS, tracks and other incredibly cool characteristics of the series.

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Graham Rahal’s fast wife. The newlywed drag racer is among the fastest people on the planet, not to mention she’s downright hot. Having a WAG of Courtney’s caliber in the series is priceless. There’s no denying Mr. Rahal married above his station, which isn’t easy for a legacy IndyCar driver. Just ask Michael Andretti with his many exes.

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Helio’s Twitter handle, @h3lio: It’s clever, brief and to the point – even including his car number – and makes the perfect social media moniker. Too bad most of his Tweets aren’t nearly as interesting as his ID.

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Sage Karam’s fearlessness: Continue reading

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Top Fifteen IndyCar Stories of 2015

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The Force Be With You – Rahal rebounded for an excellent season, winning twice and finishing fourth in points. He then proceeded to wed the gorgeous and talented Courtney Force, making major motoring and matrimonial momentum going into 2016. Penske/Ganassi Empire be warned.

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Loss of Williams – No, it’s not an F1 story. SPM cut Englishman James Jakes loose after a lackluster season, which means tragically that his stunningly beautiful girlfriend Megan Williams will no longer enhance the viewing experience with her Venus-like presence. The series needs more serious WAGS like Meg and to feature them prominently, as the NFL does with its cheerleaders.

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Karam Craps Out – Despite our best efforts, fearless young Pennsylvanian Sage Karam is out of the series having lost his ride with villainous Chip the Hutt. Sage had a decent year all things considered, and IndyCar is poorer, older and less American because of his leaving. Continue reading

Fontana Preview: Save The Ovals!

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Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California has played host to some thrilling IndyCar races over the two decades since it opened. Built on the site of an old steel mill that helped the arsenal of western civilization save itself in World War II, the track was completed in 1996. It began hosting CART races the next year. On the other side of the split the all oval IRL began holding competing races there in 2002, with the re-unified series holding its first race at Fontana in 2012. In an age of oval subtractions from the schedule, the addition of Fontana made imminent good sense.

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Previous winners among former drivers include KV Racing owner/wine connoisseur Jimmy Vasser who, like Sam Hornish, Jr won twice at Fontana along with recently retired Dario Franchitti. Ed Carpenter, Will Power and Tony Kanaan are the active winners in the field this year, while Juan Pablo Montoya will be a threat to take his second five hundred mile win of the season in as many attempts. Interestingly, Scott Dixon and Carlos Munoz both won SoCal’s fiesta in Indy lights, the quick Colombian winning consecutively in 2012 and 2013. We can’t help but wonder if those wins were simply “OK.” Hmmm, Carlos?

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Twenty years of racing at the Southern California track have witnessed wild fires, drought, incredible finishes and speeds over 235 miles per hour. Continue reading

IndyCar Driver Test: Jack Hawksworth

Likeable IndyCar rookie Jack Hawksworth who hails from Bradford, England faces our first ever driver exam, a new series of features at IRR. Hawksworth drove the number ninety eight car during the 2014 campaign for underfunded Bryan Herta Autosport with backing from Curb-Agajanian. He made headlines during the season and already again this off season, winning an award and answering some questions in a softball interview for indycar.com. The hardball question we’re asking is, did the twenty three year old Englishman pass the driver test?

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Young Jack finished 17th in IndyCar standings in his inaugural campaign, out of twenty two full time cars. The highlight of his season came in the second race at the now defunct Houston parking lot “track,” where he stormed forward from twenty third and last starting place to finish third, taking his first and only podium of the year. Above him that day on the podium were Simon Pagenaud and his Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports teammate Mikhail Aleshin, Hawksworth’s fellow European rookie rival.

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Jack was awarded the Tony Renna Rising Star Award for 2014 even though the mad Russian Aleshin finished ahead of him in the championship, despite missing the double points finale 500 in Fontana due to an accident in the final practice. Nonetheless, Hawksworth impressed several in and out of the paddock, scoring five top ten finishes in seventeen races while also suffering several encounters with walls, particularly on the ovals. In July Hawk himself missed the double points Pocono 500 after a nasty practice accident.

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He’s already announced that he’s left BHA behind thank you very much and currently isn’t under contract for next season. Recent rumors have linked him to AJ Foyt Racing as well as other possibilities and he doesn’t seem too concerned about landing a ride in the series for next year. HIs driving skills seem solid enough while there’s definitely room for improvement, although that’s not the sole component of the IndyCar driver exam.

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A secondary yet still crucial aspect of this exam is the driver’s savvy in interactions with the media – his PR capabilities. As with most rookies, Hawksworth needs some serious study and improvement in this area. In a recent interview on indycar.com, the northern Englishman came off sounding superior and at times cocky. Interestingly, England is the opposite of the US in its internal biases, where northerners like Hawk have the “accent” and are looked down upon, often considered backward hicks.

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He said in answer to a question about his rookie year results: “I think this has probably been the best season I’ve ever put together and I’m very pleased with my performance.” Depending upon one’s perspective, Jack’s statement ranges anywhere from the typical professional driver’s supreme confidence to a touch overly self-congratulatory, particularly considering his rather scurvy on track results. Remember, Marco, Graham and as recently as this June in Houston Carlos Huertas all actually won races in their rookie seasons. Since Hawk’s a seemingly congenial bloke, we’re willing to over look that comment.

But the naive northerner wasn’t finished. As per indycar.com, Hawksworth continued his lofty praise for himself. “I think I did a very good job. I made mistakes but also got the most out of the car and look back on the year pretty happy without sounding arrogant.” Oh really, young Jack? To some, it does come across arrogantly, especially for a seventeenth place points finisher. He continued, describing his desires for the future. “It’s given me solid ground to go out next year and win races, which is what I want to do.” He concluded “I don’t just want to be an IndyCar driver – I want to win races.”

Obviously the upstart Brit needs some media coaching although that’s not uncommon amongst rookie racers, who are after all death defying daredevils who pilot jet cars for a living. In fact, several aforementioned veteran drivers have had their own notable, recurring lapses in the realm of public relations. One major difference between them and our British subject however is that they all have wins in IndyCar, while Bradford’s favorite son hasn’t any as of yet.

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The rookie’s result in the driver test? We recommend working on your driving skills as well as management of your mouth whilst with the media. Study your fellow northern countryman Justin Wilson’s career and his model handling of media in IndyCar’s spotlight, then come back next season for another attempt at passing the driver exam.

Fontana Finale Race Review: Mea Culpa Edition

Allow us to begin with a mea culpa, as congratulations are in order for Will Power. He didn’t blow the finale as we predicted, but rather triumphed to win the IndyCar Championship in fine fashion. He did not melt down, embarrass himself or his homeland of Australia, or go berserk – much less stark raving lunatic mad – on live television as we envisaged. He performed brilliantly and proved us utterly wrong. Good on you, mate. Finally, we assure all our readers once and for all he’s perfectly sane.

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IndyCar’s finale Saturday night delivered an action packed and thrilling conclusion to a compact 2014 campaign. Seems like it just began at St. Pete the other weekend, doesn’t it? The race entertained the sparse looking crowd, settled the championship and provided the eleventh different winner in eighteen races, which ties the record. Thankfully after Aleshin’s terrible crash in Friday night’s practice it remained safe throughout with only a single caution brought out late by Hunter-Reay’s spin, and he deftly managed to avoid the wall and competitors.   

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The pre-race was a drawn out affair lasting over an hour and recapping the entire season, including each race winner, interviews with three quarters of the field and a full points rundown. It was disappointing there was no Miller grid run (our favorite!) in all that programming and despite its length the pre race show still seemed somehow rushed. There was the usual comic relief during the build up when viewers couldn’t hear the command to start engines due to a dead mic. Happily they were fired anyway and we could hear the two-seater’s mic. By the way that’s the last two races in a row where we’ve heard from the contest winner, which surely must be a record.

When the green flag finally flew on the rows of three the action proved intense with three and four wide passing through the corners. There was near constant battling at speeds over 215 mph throughout the field most of the night. The 500 miler was another exceptionally clean race as it seemed like the Russian’s destructive accident twenty four hours earlier had put the fear of God into the drivers. Long stints of green flag racing ruled and other than Huertas’s very unusual retirement due to illness for Coyne (when’s the last time you remember that occurring? we’re currently investigating the matter) neither engine reliability nor debris on track became an issue as some had feared. In fact every other car besides Coyne’s finished the lengthy race.

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Starting second to last and remaining there initially, Power steadily advanced through the field and even led the race at one point. He finished ninth which was enough for the championship as Helio led too, but then drew a costly penalty for a rules violation. Committing an uncharacteristic mistake, he swerved late off the track entering pit lane which is a no no. After being penalized – they actually did penalize Team Penske – Helio’s race was effectively over as he struggled to stay in contact with the leaders and finished 15th.

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Unfortunately Pags lost a teammate the night before and wasn’t a factor in the championship battle or race. Going seven laps down after experiencing early problems the Frenchman never recovered. Sam Schmidt did give a positive update on Aleshin’s health during the broadcast and mentioned looking forward to having him back in the car again next year, both good signs.

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Power shed tears of joy after finishing the race and winning his first championship after three straight years as runner up. “I can’t believe I won it,” he said emotionally afterward. We can’t believe it either, Will, we really can’t. At the front Tony Kanaan finally broke through taking his first win of the year and with his new team Target, which celebrated three late victories after a rather slow start in its 25th anniversary year.

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TK’s teammate Dixie rallied to second and remarkably finished third in points with a late race and season surge. Carpenter ran solidly on track despite a pit lane speed violation advancing to finish third in his swansong effort with ECR before the merger. His future teammate Josef Newgarden started second but quickly dropped back, finishing a disappointing tenth to end a somewhat frustrating year for the young driver. Juan Montoya “you know what I mean?” capped off a strong comeback to the IndyCar series with a fourth place result while Hinch and Sato both performed well to round out the top six.

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Obviously we absolutely adore Auto Club Speedway and the exciting racing IndyCars routinely display there. SoCal saw a thrilling 500 mile extravaganza as advertised and we’re looking forward to next year’s race already. In the meantime IndyCar fans all must endure a long off season with Will Power as Champion, our newly crowned IndyCar King. We fear it’s going to be an extremely down under reign.

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Race Day Rumblings: Frightening, Fun-tastic Fontana Finale Edition

In a scary accident Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin spun low below the white line in turn 4 during practice last night and collected Charlie Kimball. Aleshin then made solid contact with the wall and was seriously injured. The catch fence sustained major damage as Aleshin’s wheel tore a hole through it. It was a nasty crash for the young comrade, who suffered serious injuries to his ribs, chest and shoulder and was also concussed. He’s in serious but stable condition this morning in the hospital. His car absolutely disintegrated and in the process tore up other cars as well as the facility.  He’s very fortunate he’s not more badly hurt. 

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Kimball reports he’s sore but all right. Marco was also involved, spinning to avoid the damaged cars. Due to the miscue, there will be one less starter in tonight’s race as Pagenaud loses his teammate in his championship debut. This helps Power in the points race as he moves up a starting spot from 21st to 20th.

Apart from the speeds, another safety issue at Auto Club Speedway is the debris, dust and sand on the Cali track. Ryan Hunter-Reay tweeted out a picture of his helmet after testing earlier this week and its face was sandblasted. This after less than 500 miles. He and other drivers have expressed concerns about visibility and having enough tear offs for the 500 mile race. The debris and sand are also a concern for the cars themselves, as radiators took a tremendous pounding last year and a number of cars retired with engine problems, particularly the Hondas. It’s a long endurance race tonight and it will be interesting to see if engine reliability has improved over last year.

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Photo from Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Twitter feed

Welcome to Power’s breakdown, which is already in progress. He completely botched qualifying nearly wrecking his chariot and as a result starts second from last. As reported here, last week’s earthquake put the kibosh on his addled mind, or what’s left of it, and the effects are evident.  He’s toast and the only question is how epic his meltdown tonight will be. We’ve predicted it’ll be on a grand scale, must see tv, “New Hampshire times ten.”

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 Photos from indysportscrew.com and dailytelgraph.com.au

That will make it Helio’s night for the chamionship and it would be his first IndyCar Series title in decades of racing, surprisingly. Helio’s deserving, an engaging personality and will be a good representative for the series. In a long shot, we also predicted Takuma Sato to win one more time for AJ Foyt. That surprise pick is looking better after qualifications as Sato will start fourth from the inside of the second row.  While the pressure’s on, he’ll certainly have a great shot at it as they take the green flag tonight on the west coast. It’ll be an entertaining, wild ride under the lights for the finale – and that’s good as gold.

Helio

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 Photos from usatoday.com and speedsport-magazine.com

Ten Reasons to be Fond of the SoCal Finale

1. Big, bouncy, beautiful ovular racing.

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                                   Photo from ap.org

2. Proximity to Los Angeleez, according to The Stranger a place “high in the runnin’ for laziest worldwide.”

3. Hot Hollywood offspring like Ireland Baldwin.

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               Photos from gotceleb.com and dailymail.co.uk

4. It’s too far to drive, so there’s no guilt over not attending the race.

5. Celebu-tards like Gwyneth Paltrow.

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                                      Photos from dailymail.co.uk and fitsugar.com

6. Many more beaches than Louisiana.

7. Earthquakes!

8. Better weather and less sand than Dubai.

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                Photo from usatoday.com

9. It’s where the Dude abides as well as resides.

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                            Photo from dailycaller.com

10. It’s slightly less third world-y than Brazil.