100th Indy 500 Race Review: Out of Gas Edition

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

American IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi stunned IRR and the rest of the racing world Sunday. The Californian – who we predicted would do well – won the most significant race in history after running out of gas, coasting for nearly the entire final lap. When asked on television, the twenty four year old rookie classily mentioned it being “a huge honor and privilege” to have won the 100th.

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Photo from indycar.com

Juan Montoya‘s crash on his own in turn 2 was within IRR’s view at the track and a real highlight of the day. Sage Karam‘s wreck occurred right in front of us, while former 500 winner Buddy Lazier‘s problems went completely around the track. Continue reading

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IndyCar News Week In Review: Money, Money Edition

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

Money, money makes the racing world go ’round. As usual, for many teams there isn’t nearly enough of it.

Andretti Swallows Herta, Spits Chaves Out: In yet another case of contraction for IndyCar teams following the CFH Racing divorce, Andretti Autosport’s absorbed Bryan Herta Autosport, subtracting another team from the grid – not to mention an Autosport. Herta’s tiny, underfunded one car effort will now comprise AA’s fourth car, with former F1 driver American Alexander Rossi as the driver. Rookie of the Year Gabby “Pat” Chaves was unceremoniously dumped despite Herta’s earlier intimations that he’d be back. Obviously the price wasn’t right.

 

Money, Money: Funding was reportedly the issue at BHA, as was the case with CFHR reverting back to Ed Carpenter Racing this year. For a switch, instead of Michael it’s Herta who makes us ask, “what’s Bryan thinking” in casting his lot with the troubled Andrettis? Perhaps he’s planning a driving comeback and wants to takeover Marco’s seat, given the money and the fact that Marco’s not been using it effectively.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Phillips Out, Pappas In: In a further shakeup at 16th & Georgetown, longtime engineer Bill Pappas is taking over as VP of Competition, Race Engineering for IndyCar. Continue reading

Questions To Ponder Prior To IndyCar’s Start

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Photo from Indy Race Reviewer

IRR has several questions about the upcoming IndyCar season, including the most important race in history.

Can Chip Ganassi Racing get off to anything other than a snail like start this season? They’ve failed to do so the last two years running, still managing to rebound to win the 2015 championship. A decent beginning to the campaign would sure make it easier for Dixie going down the stretch, not that he needs any help.

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Is this Tony Kanaan’s unofficial farewell tour? It may be, at least with Ganassi. The forty one year old Brazilian – one of IndyCar’s three stooges – doesn’t seem to have much left in the tank and is currently settling down in Indy in real family man style according to reports. Could a consulting role ala Dario Franchitti be in his future? We know some tat removal sessions will be.

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Will the Penske team’s tetrarchy payoff this season? Continue reading

Simona Seeks Series Return, Ride Rumors Revving Up

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Photo from racing.ap.org

The silly season rumor mill has been working overtime lately as IndyCar’s game of musical seats cranks back to life. Since saying a week ago she’d made a mistake in leaving and wanted to come back to IndyCar with all forgiven, Simona de Silvestro’s been a hot um, topic. Speculation has swirled as many wondered where the twenty six year old from Thun, Switzerland might end up if indeed the jilted series were to take her back with open arms.

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Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review

  • Silly Season Dominoes Tumble: Canuck James Hinchcliffe announced Tuesday that he’s signed with Schmidt Peterson Motorsport, filling Pag’s vacant seat as he’s now at Team Penske. The Canadian comedian did so in characteristic style, making the announcement at a local brewery in Indianapolis. This after officiating the marriage ceremony of fellow driver Charlie Kimball last week. Beer, change of scenery and honeymooning – what a charmed life IndyCar drivers lead.

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  • The Game of Musical Seats continues: Ryan Briscoe’s now a free agent again with reports linking Sage Karam to Ganassi’s fourth car next year. It seems as though in IndyCar as in life the rich continue to get richer, the poor poorer. Rumors have linked young limey Jack Hawksworth to A.J. Foyt Racing’s famed 14 car. IRR predicted both Briscoe and Sato were in trouble months ago, as both underperformed rather spectacularly in 2014. With Hawksworth a free agent, Bryan Herta Autosport joins the list of teams looking for a fresh pilot, as does Andretti Autosport. Got all that?

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Mr. & Mrs. Briscoe – photo from indystar.com

  • A.J. Foyt Racing Expanding to Speedway: According to reports, A.J. Foyt Racing purchased a large building on Main Street in Speedway, Indiana. They plan to renovate, rent out part and use part of it as a satellite base in Indy during the season while maintaining their main base outside of Houston, Texas. A.J. is quoted on his team’s website: “We’re happy to be part of Speedway’s redevelopment.” It’s a positive sign for the team and a plus for Speedway. Plus it’ll be a little bit of A.J. in Indy, where he belongs.

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Photo from usatoday.com

  • Finale at Sonoma? Regrettably, it looks as though one of the dullest and dreariest tracks in the country will host the grand finale in 2015. Curt Cavin’s sidekick and minor television/radio personality Kevin Lee tweeted about “more speculation about #IndyCar schedule” and then Cavin posted his own. It’s now down to a matter of dates, as it’s no secret as to the tracks which will be visited. Happily, all of the ovals from this season return in 2015 and the only subtraction is Houston, which was a dangerous joke of a parking lot track that nearly killed Dario and others last year.

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Photo from dailymail.co.uk

  • Another possible change is Toronto losing its twin billing, with the date changing due to a conflict with the Goodwill Games or some such obsolete international nonsense. Seen any pro sports lately? We blame Ted Turner for this amongst many other things. Both Brasilia, the planned capital in central Brazil, and New Orleans NOLA Motorsports Park, south of the Big Sleazy will host new races on road courses next season. Yippie. Otherwise, no major changes are forthcoming apart from some date changes which make sense, such as Pocono moving off the weekend of July 4th.

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  • Odds and Ends: IMS upgraded their website, a long overdue move. IndyCar reporter for AutoRacing1.com Brian Carroccio showed IRR a kindness and followed us on Twitter, so a superspeedway sized thanks to him. Be sure to check out his work on the web. Finally, couldn’t resist this take on celubu-tard Gwynnie (a fave of ours to look at) and the recent fundraiser held in her California home for the once popular commander in chief. Wake me to your leader.

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Photo from dailymail.co.uk

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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Photo from jackhawksworth.co.uk

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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Photo from indystar.com

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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Photo from jackhawksworth.co.uk

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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Photo from indystar.com

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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Photo from indycar.com

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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Photo from indycar.com

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.

2014 IndyCar Horse Power Rankings – Teams

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Photo from gizmag.com

Team Rankings:

1. Team Penske

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2. Andretti Autosport

3. Target CG Racing

4. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

5. Ed Carpenter Racing (soon to be defunct)

6. KV Racing

7. Dale Coyne Racing

8. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (soon to be defunct)

9. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

10. AJ Foyt Racing

11. Herta Autosport

 

Observations:

Chevy & Honda split the top 4 rankings although Chevy took first & third, with the former winning the engine manufacturers’ race and the latter winning the Indy 500. 

There’s been no other silly season news as of yet, although that could change affecting the Horse Power Rankings. Stay tuned for updates. 

The series will be down to ten teams next year unless a new one joins full time. That’s old AFL levels, folks. Fan Force United, are you reading?

Target rose through the rankings during the last quarter of the season along with Penske, while Andretti fell. Momentum for 2015?

The introduction of aero-kits in 2015 will almost certainly affect the Horse Power rankings, also. 

IndyCar 2014 Season Grades

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Under new leadership yet again for the 2014 campaign Indycar instituted several changes, apparently operating under the philosophy ‘if it’s kinda broke, then half-ass fix it.’ One modification brought a more compact schedule with fewer gaps but lasting less than six months and concluded by Labor Day. While the more concentrated schedule with less momentum-killing layoffs was an improvement, we’d still like to see more races and an earlier start to the season.

Next year’s schedule hasn’t been released yet to the consternation of many, but this is standard operating procedure for IndyCar. While leaks and snippets have caused angst amongst some, we’re taking a largely wait and see approach to 2015. The subtraction of Houston from next year’s lineup is a positive move though, as the track was a dangerous and thrown together creation on a parking lot, for goodness sake. It’s the track that nearly killed Dario and big league racing can do better. 

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Photo from dailymail.co.uk

The series also relied upon double header races at three different street venues again in 2014 to reach eighteen races for the season. For the three 500 mile races double points were awarded in an effort to balance the increasingly road and street course-heavy schedule. This trend is not helpful because the on-track product suffers when fewer oval tracks are visited. Tracks like Michigan, Kentucky, Phoenix and others all should be brought back to IndyCar. Re-instituting the 500 mile triple crown this season added an extra element of racing (as well as more mileage) and should be continued along with some 400 mile events.

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Photo from sfhracing.com

Penalties were another focal point of 2014, with both calls and non-calls making headlines and causing outrage across IndyCar association of states. Race control added Jan Beekhuis as a steward late in the season as it seems rules related issues are still being sorted out by Derrick Walker and Beaux Barfield. Most races went fairly smoothly even in spite of an earthquake at Sonoma, although it seemed race control was a larger part of the story this year, which isn’t a positive development. Refs aren’t what fill the stands or gain viewers.

With a few exceptions like the usual suspects Barber and Mid-Ohio, the racing was highly entertaining and exciting this season. Weather intruded on a couple of races such as Toronto so the new rain tires made their debut, but overall there were few major glitches. It was also a relatively safe season thankfully, although Aleshin’s accident in the final practice was no minor crash.

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The series’ crown jewel Indianapolis 500 once again proved thrilling and one of the better races of the year with winner Ryan Hunter-Reay making an agreeable face of IndyCar. Fontana provided an exciting finale as usual, marking an astounding nine years in a row the last race has decided the championship and rewarding Tony Kanaan with a deserved win. Overall, we give IndyCar a solid grade of B for the season – above average with some room for improvement.

Team Grades :

AJ Foyt Racing

Race Wins: 0

Podiums: 0

Poles: 2

Sato and the team failed to impress with season high finishes of fourth and fifth after winning a race last year. Another disappointing year means there could be changes in AJ Foyt Racing’s future, starting with the driver.

Bonus Points: Underfunded increasingly rare one car team nominally headed by an IndyCar legend.

Overall Grade: D-

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Photo from speedsport-magazine.com

 

Andretti Autosport

Race Wins: 3

Podiums: 9

Poles: 1

Carlos Munoz ran an impressive rookie campaign, winning ROY honors and taking three podium finishes.

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Photo from indycar.com

Hunter-Reay won the Indy 500 and two other races making the team’s season. Hinchcliffe and Marco were disappointing, as were the team’s qualifying efforts.

Bonus Points: RHR’s first Indy 500 victory and AA’s first since Dario won in 2007.

Overall Grade: B-

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Photo from Getty Images

 

Bryan Herta Autosport

Race Wins: 0

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

English rookie Jack Hawksworth ran well at times taking a podium at Houston race 2, but still has some development to undergo. Herta’s little team like Foyt’s is a dying breed.

Bonus Points: Underfunded one car team with a hungry young Englishman driving.

Overall Grade: D

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Photo from jackhawsksworth.co.uk

 

Dale Coyne Racing

Race Wins: 1

Podiums: 0

Poles: 0

Carlos Huertas won in Houston race 1 as a rookie, but the team was a non-factor everywhere else and the track’s gone from next year’s schedule. Talented veteran Justin Wilson struggled consistently throughout a difficult season.

Bonus Points: Underfunded two car team run by a quirky former ‘driver.’

Overall Grade: C-

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Photo from racing.ap.org

 

Ed Carpenter Racing

Race Wins: 3

Podiums: 1

Poles: 1

Conway won Long Beach and Toronto race 2 while Ed won Texas and took the pole at Indy as owner/driver. Next year the team merges with SFHR, which probably can’t hurt.

Bonus Points: One car shared by two drivers, plus Ed’s a true underdog.

Overall Grade: B+

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KV Racing

Race Wins: 1

Podiums: 1

Poles: 3

Frenchman Bourdais won Toronto race 1 and finished second at Mid-Ohio. Saavedra struggled mightily all year and in his one highlight he disastrously stalled it on pole at the Indy GP.

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Photo from foxsports.com

Bonus Points: The number one pilot is a Frenchman. None.

Overall Grade: C-

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Photo from usatoday.com

 

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Race Wins: 0

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

Rahal finished second at Detroit Race 1 and later predicted a win by year’s end. He still only has one IndyCar series victory after seven seasons.

Bonus Points: One car team for most of the year, working through a difficult father-son relationship. They lost their main sponsor for next year and appear to be in some disarray.

Overall Grade: D-

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Photo from motorsport.com

 

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

Race Wins: 0

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

Josef Newgarden finished second at Iowa and had several second place starts in a frustrating season. No wins yet from Newkid after three seasons but a teammate will help.

Bonus Points: One car outfit with lots of potential and merging with ECR in 2015.

Overall Grade: D

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Photo from espn.go.com

 

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Race Wins: 2

Podiums: 1

Poles: 1

Great job by Pagenaud and the underfunded team to battle Penske in the championship right to the end. Pags & Aleshin finished 1-2 at Houston race 2 and Pags won the inaugural Indy Grand Prix. Aleshin showed potential but is currently recovering from serious injuries suffered in the year’s final practice.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Bonus Points: Schmidt’s an IndyCar guy we all want to root for with two interesting, off beat European drivers. The team represents a future threat provided Pags doesn’t jump ship to Andretti as rumored.

Overall Grade: B-

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Photo from autosport.com

 

Target Chip Ganassi Racing

Race Wins: 3

Podiums: 8

Poles: 1

Dixie and Kanaan came through toward the end of the campaign, but Kimball and especially Briscoe struggled all year in a disappointing 25th anniversary for Target. They should be even more adept with the bow tie next year and carry substantial momentum.

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Photo from chipganassiracing.com

Bonus Points: It’s Chip Ganassi. None.

Overall Grade: C+

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Team Penske

Race Wins: 5

Podiums: 11

Poles: 9

The team swept the top two spots in the championship with Power prevailing at Fontana. Helio and Montoya both contributed race wins, podiums  and poles with Montoya doing so after more than a decade out of the car. They’re top of the class for reasons, folks.

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Photo from tri-cityherald.com

Bonus Points: None.

Overall Grade: A

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