100th Indianapolis 500 Preview: A Race Worthy Of The Hype

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Excitement approaches a crescendo as the 100th Indianapolis 500 draws near. It’s no exaggeration to call it the most important race in history. Over a century of tradition, the race of the year, the winner’s name and face etched in silver, all at the world’s largest single day sporting event. Expectations are for the greatest spectacle in racing to be even greater this year. After a long wait and lots of buildup, let’s hope the race lives up to the hype. We think it will.

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Consequently, the IRR crew will be on hand for the sights, sounds, smells and feel of Memorial Day Sunday at IMS. Unless you’ve actually attended an IndyCar oval race in person, you don’t realize the sheer force of the machines, the magnitude of the power and the absolute rush of the cars screaming past you. Simply put, dozens of cars doing over 220 miles per hour isn’t something normal to behold. The Indy 500 amplifies everything five fold – the higher speeds, the larger field, the awe inspiring Speedway. Come race day, three hundred thousand race fans are in for the treat of a lifetime.

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IMS is sold out as it should be, which necessarily means a traffic nightmare on race morning. Continue reading

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Top Fifteen IndyCar Stories of 2015

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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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Photo from usatoday.com

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

IndyCar News Week in Review: See the Future Edition

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An IndyCar Race and a Calf Ropin’: The series could be off to western Canada in 2017 if plans outside the U.S. happen to come together for once. The Great White North’s third largest city and home of the Calgary Stampede – it’s a rodeo, not a football team (they’re the Stampeders, eh?) – hopes to host a race the fall after next according to motorsport.com. The Reverend Mayor Hinchcliffe already made a hoe-down style visit to that end, enthusiastically endorsing the decision to try to hold a second race in his home country as “logical.” That’s some truly Spock-ian level analysis from the comical Canuck. Judging by the picture – and seriously, who’s been to Calgary?! – it looks like a perfectly serviceable oval’s already there in place. Wanna prediction? It’ll be another Mark “Two” Miles street race.

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Image from calgary.cvtnews.ca

SPM’s Assuming Potential New Pilot: Two time Indy Lights runner up Jack Harvey Continue reading

Toronto Race Review: Take That NASCAR

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

While NASCAR was rain delayed several hours at MIS – a track they stole from IndyCar, thank you Roger Penske – another classic IndyCar street fight broke out in what two time race winner and authentic Canuck Paul Tracy called “one of the best races I’ve ever seen at Toronto.” American Josef Newgarden won his second race of the season and his career as team owner Sarah Fisher – who happens to be female – shed tears of joy after the newly merged team went 1-2 with Italian Lucca Filippi. After disappointing in qualifying, Newgarden won from an 11th place starting position taking his second win in the last seven races.

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Despite absolutely awful renditions of both national anthems by Canadian rock group The Trews – which saw drivers and WAGS trying not to laugh on camera – IndyCar put on a helluva race in Toronto. With collisions galore in the wet and then dry conditions there was hard racing, action and passing all afternoon and merely two yellows – half the recent race average and fewer than expected on the wet streets of Exhibition Place. All the gnashing of teeth about another timed race, NBCSN not showing the number of laps, and so forth was all for naught as the race went the full eighty five laps in the end.

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

Team mates got thickly into the fight, with Filippi and Newgarden, Power and Pags, and Gonzalez and seemingly everyone else fighting it out on track. The banging began immediately when Stefano “double secret probation” Coletti hit Frenchman Tristan Vautier on the opening lap, spinning them both. Flaunting his probationary status, the Monacan tangled with others during the course of the event too, later making contact with Charlie Kimball. Fortunately none of those incidents drew a yellow, though further penalties will be forthcoming.

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Surprisingly there were only two cautions the entire race, Continue reading

Toronto Predictions & Prognostications: Double Secret Probation Edition

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First let’s predict who won’t win – it’s not going to be a Honda team, Dale Coyne freshman “un-Speedy” Gonzalez, Sebastien Saavedra or a certain reckless rookie from Monaco. Stefano “faster than Andretti” Coletti now finds himself on IndyCar’s version of double secret probation after speeding and ignoring lanes in the pits at Texas. Already on probation having racked up numerous crashes – sometimes multiple accidents in one weekend – and a penumbra of penalties and fines to boot, for KV’s Coletti it was the Dean Wormer speech. “One more slip up, one more mistake and you’re finished at Farber!” When IndyCar has taken to showing a close up of your car and number above the penalties announcement, you know you’re on thin ice.

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Photo from indycar.com

Our specialty prediction for the concrete car crusher known as Toronto is widespread confusion and disappointment amongst the gathered throngs of Molson-fogged Canucks in attendance. When they finally figure out that there’s only one race this year, the only Canadian in the series is sidelined due to injury AND they’ve only two Brits in the entire field to root for, the War of 1812 may break out again on the bicentennial of its conclusion. Our advice for Americans making the trek to the great white north? Prepare for a hasty though not re-enacted retreat south and be super polite to those border guards.

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Photo from aliexpress.com

Our pick for pole is Penske’s Will Power and not because we’re a fan of the champ. Continue reading

IndyCar Toronto Preview: Canuck Concrete Car Crusher

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Image from youtube.com

Prepare for carnage, cautions and churlishness in Canada on Sunday. The last four races at Exhibition Place have averaged four cautions each, with a first lap pile up last year and multiple red flags in the rain. Compared to Texas that’s a demolition derby. The course is a challenging combination of concrete and asphalt even in dry conditions, which were almost completely absent in 2014. There was no such excuse for 2013. Historically Toronto’s a Canuck concrete car crusher and a godsend for Italy’s Dallara Automibili. North of the border, it’s free gelato for everyone!

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Appropriate for Canada, last year’s double headers were won by a Frenchman and an Englishman – Sebastien Bourdais and Mike Conway. All this Euro flair occurred on Sunday due to rain completely washing Saturday out and was the first one day double header with full points since 1981. As a result of the humidity both races were shortened and the second was timed. TCGR’s Scott Dixon swept the 2013 double header, winning the crash-fest second race – with a total of seven caution flags – under yellow.

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The thirty first IndyCar race to take place in Toronto looks to be dry for a pleasant change this season and will be a stand-alone race for the first time since 2012. Continue reading

IndyCar Driver Test: James Hinchcliffe

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Popular and slightly off-kilter racer James Hinchcliffe was born outside Toronto in Oakville, Ontario in December, 1986 back when “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Platoon” were also new. After a breakthrough third season in 2013 scoring an impressive three wins, Hinch had a disappointing 2014 and recently changed teams leaving Andretti Autosport after three up and down seasons. That’s not the only conversion the comic Canuck has undergone recently, either.

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Last week the madcap Mayor of Hinchtown announced his signing with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in usual style – at an Indy brewery over some “oat sodas.” Before that he became an ordained minister through the wonderful convenience of the web, performing the ceremony at his friend and fellow driver Charlie Kimball’s late September wedding. A few years back, Hinch hilariously dawned a long black wig while replacing Danica (more diva than driver) in the late GoDaddy ride at AA. Today’s question of the quirky, quotable Canadian comedian is, did he pass the driver test?

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Photo from foxsports.com.au

In his fun filled four year IndyCar career, Hinch has a gaudy eighteen top five finishes and thirty four top tens to go with his three wins. He’s also led over four hundred laps in his career, although funnily he’s never earned a pole. A past winner of the Tony Renna Rising Star Award, the racin’ reverend displays obvious driving talent. Even after an off year in 2014, his winning percentage in sixty eight big league races is an impressive 4.4%, better than most in the field. Without question Hinch is in the top half of IndyCar drivers, but that’s not the only part of this rigorous, uncomfortable and thoroughly invasive driver’s test. Now reverend, turn your head and cough.

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Photo from racing.ap.org

The other half of the exam is how well the driver handles media and public relations, as well as interaction with fans. In this regard, James’ talent may well surpass his on track gifts, which are bountiful. From his virtual Hinchtown site to his practical jokes and unorthodox, goofy-cool style, the mayor excels in the realm of media and PR. More than that he embraces his comedic racing role and enjoys it to the hilt, adding some much needed funniness to the sometimes somber, strangely sober series.

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A merry prankster, our humorous man of the (greasy) cloth lightens the mood wherever he goes, his charismatic personality nearly as infectious as a giggling fit in church. Joining his third team in less than five years, Hinch has made light of this inconstancy and likened his wandering ways to that of another waifish star, calling himself “the Taylor Swift of racing.” James is an exceptionally likeable and funny guy who’s not afraid to laugh, especially at himself. That quality translates extremely well in the modern age of racing, media and widespread weirdness.

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We at IRR salute and congratulate Hinchcliffe on his recent off track accomplishments – for weddings be sure to book early – and commend his silly slapstick style and Python-esque panache to other, less media-savvy drivers in the paddock (most of whom certainly will need a backup career). Hinch is easily the most likeable Canuck since John Candy – at a quarter his size – and along with his WAG is just adorable. How could a guy with the talent, face and personality of our favorite fast funnyman not pass the test? As Sam Schmidt may well have sung to the Rev of revs (and if he didn’t he should have), “Get out of my dreams, get into my car.”

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Glossary of IndyCar Racing Terms

The modern world’s confusing and chaotic enough without new, additional jargon bombarding us and complicating our daily lives. We at IRR realized that complex terminology affects all of us in IndyCar association of states and decided to break it down, as the kids used to say. It’s yet another free service we provide for our fellow fans of fast.

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Our goal is to make the series we love more understandable to the average ignorant American and therefore more appealing to the entire Idiocracy-trending nation. Obviously IRR aims to please. So here’s our Glossary of IndyCar Racing Terms, with additions surely to come.

 

Aero kits – what used to be called the chassis, or body shape of the car and now are becoming changeable and disposable like an expensive pair of dress socks

BC bud – particularly potent strain of weed, or “chume” as the President calls it from the western Canadian province of British Columbia and one of the few redeeming products out of Canada

Canuck – member of the Canadian race; a derogatory slur – see Paul Tracy as a former example

Chip the Hutt – IRR’s Star Wars bar scene-inspired nickname for Chip Ganassi, head of TCGR

Claire McCaskill – anti-racing U.S. Senator “Buzzkill” and embarrassment from MO

Glossary – a list, usually alphabetized, with additional information and definitions

Helio-ism – an utterance of Helio Castro-Neves, usually grammatically incorrect and always said with a smile

IndyCar association of states – IndyCar’s sleeker, more selective alternative to the overly accepting behemoth NASCAR nation

Kent – the garden spot of England, southeast of London & home of Indy jockey Mike Conway

Kentish – describing a person from Kent, a Kentish jockey for example

Methuselah Mile – IRR’s affectionate Biblical term for Milwaukee, meaning it’s old

Mid-Ohio – predictably poor racing, adequate camping facilities

National Guard – former coveted racing sponsor/militia that spent many millions of taxpayer dollars over several years  for zero ICS wins

Newkid – IRR’s affectionate nickname for Tennessee’s own Josef Newgarden

Off-weeks – breaks in the IndyCar schedule leading to periods of intense boredom, usually due to some event at IMS such as a bike or other series race, that bring about inane posts like this

Parity – close entertaining racing resulting from the use of standardized, spec equipment (see aero kits)

Racing eggs – portable delicious deviled snacks that are a traditional compliment to racing chicken and racing beer, although the resulting flatulence they induce often act as a repellant to racing chicks

Sonoma Testing  – widespread snoring, napping

Sonoma Race – slightly less snoring, napping

Streets of Toronto – concrete car crusher that hosts IndyCar races under “crack smoking” Mayor Rob Ford’s watchful, bloodshot eyes

Tag Heuer – Hour or time of Day (in English)

Twitter – insidious form of social media that cruelly limits the number of characters one can use when trying to solicit complete strangers to read your racing blog

Will Power – certifiable, completely and madly insane Team Penske driver (who’s not surprisingly quite successful)

Zzzzzzzz – the sound emanating from race fans at tracks like Barber, Mid-Ohio & Sonoma

Oh, Canada? Our Diminishing Northern Neighbors

Hot as it gets this time of year, who doesn’t dream of escaping to Canada for a vac-ay? When IndyCar association of states (and please note this doesn’t include provinces) thinks of Canada, do they really think of racing? We at IRR think not.

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Icy cold? Check. BC bud? Check. Inferior football? Uh-huh. Ending every sentence with “-ay”? You betcha! But big league racing? Not so much. In fact IndyCar racing is a diminishing – and one could argue disappearing – entity in the great white north.

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Canada’s currently down to one driver in the IndyCar Series. He’s James Hinchcliffe, three time winner for AA and funny guy in the paddock (“Funny? How da f— am I funny to you?!”). Mountie Alert: he’s also not yet under contract for next year. There’s no doubt he’s a talented and colorful Canadian character; however, his species seems to be increasingly endangered. He’s it at present, -ay.

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For Queen Elizabeth’s sake, we used to at least enjoy a little French Canadian flavor with Carpentier and Tagliani – whose wife is quite the dish – but no longer. Then there’s the always popular Jacques Villeneuve, Canada’s version of Michael Andretti except funnier looking and he actually won the 500. Does anyone know why he “came back” for the 500 this year decades after walking away? Did anyone even notice?

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 Bronte Tagliani photos from lazygirls.info

There couldn’t be a column written on Canadian IndyCar (the phrase is just peculiar, isn’t it?) without mentioning Paul Tracy. That is, unless it were written strictly about relevant figures, or even semi-relevant former drivers, or . . .  IRR can write that he’s a decent commentator on NBCSN, but that’s about as far as we’re willing to go.

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The troubles for the Canucks don’t end with PT, either. Our chilly neighbors to the north are down to one race really, it’s just spread out over two days. The concrete car crusher also known as the Streets of Toronto certainly generates lots of revenue for the city (and probably more for Dallara Automobili in Italy). So after nearly thirty years you’d think they’d spring for either all asphalt or all concrete. Jeesh, is it really that hard to figure out guys, -ay?

Remember Edmonton Indy? And Vancouver? How ’bout “The Molson Indy Toronto”? Sadly they’ve all gone the way of Canadian comedy – and almost as rapidly – to that great ash heap of history in the Northwest Territories. Seems to be the long term trend up north: racing in demise. Our concern here -ay, is that Canada and IndyCar may not be at all associable in the future, if they even still are.

Instant Reaction to National Guard News

The news that the National Guard is reportedly ending its sponsorship of teams in both IndyCar and other series comes as a tough blow to ICS. It is U.S. taxpayers’ money that’s at stake however, and last IRR checked the old girl wasn’t in the best of financial shape. It’s become certain Congressmen’s pet target, if you will. Sign of the times, perhaps. We’re still awaiting the supposed economic “recovery” here in IndyCar association of states and we’ll see how IndyCar weathers the storm, which has been in the works for some time. At least they had notice.

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Recall the unfortunate end to the Guard’s sponsorship of Panther Racing a couple of years ago, with John Barnes taking the matter to court. It was an ugly end to a largely unprofitable relationship for the taxpayers, e.g, very few if any wins including Jr. in the other series.

Plus, there’s always the question of whether race advertising fulfills its intended purpose, in this case getting youngsters and others to sign up for the National Guard. The guard dates back to the militias of the Revolutionary War and famous groups such as The Minutemen. In this present period of war and want, they are an important link in the chain of defense of the rusting hulking U.S.

But back to racing for a moment, this report raises serious questions. What a blow for the series. What about RLL next year? And Graham? His record is sketchy enough already. Will another promising young American open wheel driver be wasted?

We at IRR – home for all your racing news and laughs – certainly hope not. Graham’s a competent, classy young legacy who’s important to the series. Much like Marco, but more likeable if not successful. Bobby and even Letterman add something to the series, though we’re not quite sure about this Lanigan fellow.

Come to think of it, Letterman’s even sketchy – a has been, as it were – and if RLL can’t find sponsorship then why not dig into Letterman’s deep pockets? Too many crazy -exes we suppose . . . the non-controversy keeps comin’ at IRR.

It’s kinda funny – Leno has cars and Letterman has expenses, er-um Dallaras. Speaking of which, how ’bout that concrete car crusher they call Toronto, huh? you’d think they could spring for either all asphalt or all concrete, no? Isn’t Canada doing better than the US? In fact they are. After nearly 30 years. let’s spring for some paving ala Penske at God-awful Detroit B I, you wealthy Canadians, -ay?

And speaking of Canadians, there’s much much much much much more coming tomorrow on you nattering neighbors you. So stay tuned.

Final word on this for tonight: Clearly the German Swiss timepiece announcement on Wednesday was cover for National Guard’s withdrawal from the series. Just like clockwork, superior strategy prevails on the battlefield..

Comments are welcome and will be mildly addressed, we promise.