Toronto Race Review: ‘Get A Fu@&in’ Move On!’ Edition

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Living IndyCar legend Scott Dixon did indeed get a fu@&in’ move on as he so forcefully said Sunday in Toronto, cruising to his forty fourth career victory. It was his third of the season, padding his now comfortable championship lead, particularly with the regrettable Mid-Ohio in the offing and pole sitter Josef Newgarden’s brain fade, slamming the wall from the lead mid-race.

NBCSN’s pre-race included multiple mentions of the Alexander Rossi – Robert Wickens rivalry by Daffy Leigh Diffey, which didn’t play a role at all in the race. More telling was an interview with the eventual victor, who once again took the blame for his qualifying mistake on Saturday, the classy guy that he is, accepting responsibility for starting second rather than pole. Then came the obligatory interview by the ever expanding universe that is Paul Tracy with James Hinchcliffe and Wickens. There was plenty of talk about Canada and in Canadian, as best we could gather.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay jumped forward three spots during a wild, four wide start, although he’d ultimately have a difficult day. Newgarden led Dixon, RHR and Will “sour grapes” Power once things inevitably settled down with Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato soon getting around his fellow 500 winner Rossi into fifth. During that entertaining first lap the two Canuck teammates Hinch and the rookie made contact – as did others – with actual passing briefly appearing in the cobbled together concrete canyon.  Continue reading

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Toronto Preview: Hinch, Hometown Hero Or Mere Mischief Maker?

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Though it’s only a hunch, we doubt Ontario native James Hinchcliffe becomes just the second Canadian ever to win an IndyCar race on the shores of Lake Ontario. And that’s in three decades of racing there.

Merely hours after he ripped our hearts out – or those of our Iowa Predictions, anyway – Hinch and the rest of the series are already preparing for Sunday’s happenings at a track we like to call the Canuck concrete car crusher, better known as the streets of Toronto. More on the sub-par circuit in a moment.

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The pressure building on Hinch – the face of the series – for his hometown, Honda sponsored event is immense, made even more gargantuan by his thrilling though baffling win Sunday. Real fans of Hinch won’t like what follows, as it’s not pleasant. Nevertheless, it’s true.  Continue reading

IndyCar Predictions for 2018: Shiny New Edition

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The eagerly anticipated follow up to our hugely successful 2017 predictions.

IndyCar’s extremely iffy schedule will seem like a strange, Groundhog Day like replay of last year’s, with merely the single alteration of swapping Watkins Glen for Portland. It’s a bit like exchanging that ugly Christmas sweater for a slightly less ugly – though smellier – hemp sweater. Frankly, we wouldn’t be caught dead in either.

Unfortunately, the static schedule means that once again only a third of the races will be held on oval tracks. Ovals being the fastest, most exhilaratingly entertaining form of motor racing on the planet, that’s just plain wrong. As long time readers know, our laments on this topic are nothing new.

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The new cars, which ironically and happily look an awful lot like the old cars, will impress – aesthetically, at least. Three cheers for the end of the awful aero kit era. Don’t expect speed records to fall at Indy or the other ovals any time soon, though – or a smooth, seamless transition. It’s still IndyCar, after all. The lower downforce levels of the new cars will add some excitement to the racing, as well as to the repair bills for many teams.

Get ready to hear and read lots about brakes and braking as a result of the introduction of new bodies. Translation: massive amounts of front and rear end damage due to near constant contact in the corners on street courses. Also expect electrical gremlins to make aggravating appearances, especially early on in the season.

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Of the new teams, Continue reading

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

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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