2017 IndyCar Season Review

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The series’ recently concluded campaign proved predictable – at least to us – and lacked both a sense of rhythm and any real rivalries. While having its moments, overall 2017 missed out on the excitement and drama of previous years.

This season’s highlights included breathtaking oval racing at Pocono and – to a lesser extent, thank you Tony Kanaan – Texas. Even the racing at Gateway was much improved over the last time they visited a decade ago and an additional oval on the schedule – no matter how inadequate its layout – is welcome change.

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Lowlights involved beyond tedious racing at the usual suspects like Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen and the season finale at Sonoma. Even St. Pete was a stinker this year and as usual the Indy Grand Prix was nearly unwatchable. Iowa‘s daytime race – as opposed to the superior night races of years past – earned the biggest flop award, with Phoenix a close second in the balloting. Iowa Speedway already announced a Sunday date in early July, meaning it’ll be another day race next year.

Easily the most absurd moment of the year was f-ing F1 invader Fernando Alonso being gifted the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award over Ed Jones, or “The Great Hardware Robbery,” as we termed it. This was closely followed by Alo’s team owner Michael Andretti’s brief flirtation with Chevy after winning the last two 500s with Honda and Sam Schmidt beginning to mimic Andretti’s dumb Indy 500 decisions.

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The most shocking moment by far Continue reading

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IndyCar Watkins Glen Race Review: ‘A Really Timely Caution’ or: T-Bell’s Faux Pas Edition

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Alexander Rossi owes a highly dubious second career win to his teammate and fellow Indy 500 winner Takuma “timing is everything” Sato, who committed the racing equivalent of hari kari at the Glen – twice. In NBCSN’s booth, apparently Townsend Bell was under the influence of enough meds to nearly forget his name, which makes us wonder about his urine test for the next race.

For Daffy Leigh Diffey‘s triumphant return to IndyCar there was the ridiculous wet start that wasn’t. That is to say, it wasn’t wet and it wasn’t much of a start. Thank goodness Tony Kanaan made it through the parade laps this time, though he would eventually find pit lane too difficult to navigate, hitting the wall at pit lane exit – right after the championship leader did the exact same thing.

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The start saw Josef Newgarden surging, Scott Dixon dropping and Helio going way wide with no track restrictions in place. After the first lap pit stops for slicks a reshuffle had Helio around Rossi for the lead and Ryan Hunter-Reay up to fourth. Spencer Pigot spun completely around on lap 4 but managed to keep it going and even lead some laps before finishing 12th.

On lap 5 Dixon got around RHR prior to the first of three cautions, as Hinchcliff’s gear box issue and a puff of smoke from his Honda ended his day. The race returned to green on lap nine and as usual Helio jumped the restart ahead of Rossi, Newgarden and Dixie. Dixon soon passed Newkid again and appeared to be on the way to another win at the Glen. However, it wasn’t to be and Helio opened up a sizable lead.

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Then the Townsend Bell blooper reel portion of the broadcast began. Continue reading

IndyCar Watkins Glen Predictions and Prognostications: Glen Scotty Glen Boss

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Expect real estate – and points – to change hands fast this Sunday at the Glen.

Our special prediction for the race is so much fuel saving and strategizing that you’ll think methanol allotments are the good leads from “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Frankly, we’ve never understood why that film’s so highly regarded by some – and feel precisely the same way about Watkins Glen.

Like the movie, last year’s last minute return to upstate New York was a snoozer – and not just because of the steady stream of paid Verizon plugs uttered by drivers, either. Scott Dixon ran away with it – enjoying a 16 second margin of victory – at a road course so similar to Mid-Ohio it’s beyond redundant. Did we mention it’s very much like the worst course on the schedule yet?

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“Third prize is, you’re fired.”

Speaking of leads, pole sitter Will Power sure blew one last Saturday night, didn’t he? Oh well, at least he didn’t crash on the parade lap. Instead of picking Power again for his seventh pole of the campaign however, we’re going with Dixon. He won from pole last year over Josef Newgarden – sound familiar? – and excels on unwatchable permanent road courses like few others. It’ll only be Dixie’s second P1 award of the season, which with only a single win has been as disappointing as Alan Arkin’s paltry performance.

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“The leads are weak.”

First out of the race will be Continue reading

IndyCar Bommarito 500 Predictions and Prognostications: Nostalgic Edition

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What’s old is new again this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park as times gone by suddenly take on renewed relevance.

It’s been so long since IndyCar raced at Gateway more announcers have won there than drivers. The truly colorful Paul Tracy won the inaugural race in 1997 and talkative Townsend Bell took the checkers in the Indy Lights race in 2000. It’s just too bad Brian Till didn’t race – for more reasons than one. Helio Castro-Neves, who won the last race held there in 2003, is the only current driver to have done so. He did it in a Toyota.

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Juan Montoya won the race in 2000, but he’s only a test pilot at present. It’s interesting to note several current drivers were in diapers for PT’s win. Only two others apart from Helio have ever raced there: Scott Dixon and Tony “past expiration date” Kanaan. Interestingly, Dixie struggled in his only start there finishing 15th, while TK managed a second place showing in four starts.

Our special prediction is there’ll be lots of Sebastien Bourdais coverage as the Frenchman returns to the car for the first time since his injurious accident at Indy. His rapid recovery and return to racing is remarkable, but Continue reading

IndyCar ABC Supply 500 Race Review: ‘Clit Stop’ Edition

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IndyCar at Pocono pleasantly lived up to its exquisite oval racing reputation, as one of the most exciting races of the year unfolded Sunday afternoon. Will Power won his second 500 miler in a row at the thrilling triangle, impressively overcoming a lap deficit after his Penske crew were forced to change out a damaged nose. He bested his teammate Josef Newgarden by half a second, while Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi overcame adversity of his own to score a podium finish.

The race featured non-stop jaw dropping action with cars going six and seven wide right from the start. An incredible forty two lead changes took place among ten different drivers, including former winner Scott Dixon who led a quarter of the race. Indy 500 winner Rossi led forty four laps, but encountered a fuel knob issue in the closing stages. Power took the lead when Marco pitted on lap 191 and never relinquished it, swerving low and high to keep the white hot Newkid at bay.

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There were only three cautions all day, the first of which was brought out after Coyne rookie Esteban Gutierrez brushed the wall ending his day. Continue reading

Iowa IndyCar Preview: A 7/8s Mile Slice of Heaven

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Among the dwindling oval tracks remaining on the schedule, Iowa Speedway routinely puts on some of the most riveting racing of the entire year. You could say it’s the nearest thing to IndyCar bliss outside Circle City and Texas.

The Iowa Corn 300 has witnessed some unforgettable moments in a decade of IndyCar racing. Ed Carpenter and Sage Karam’s confrontations in 2015 – both on track and post race – top our list. We termed the race at the time “Sage Gone Wild,” seemingly a breakout moment for the young Pennsylvanian. Perhaps it was his angelic features that drew us in, if not his devilish driving.

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Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Now Sage is relegated to one off status at Indy, and unfortunately won’t be racing at Iowa after finishing 28th in the 500 this year. At least the other half of the duelin’ duo, owner/driver Carpenter, will be driving (as if that’s any consolation). We do have an idea for a new arch enemy for Ed to do battle with, however.

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Speaking of which, could Iowa turn into another TK induced crash fest like Texas? Tempers still smolder in the wake of Wisconsin, where Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan characteristically blamed Alex Rossi for his most recent crash. Continue reading

Texas IndyCar Predictions and Prognostications: Typical Texas

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IndyCar oval track racing – the highest, fastest and most breathtaking form of motorsport – returns to that shrine of speed Texas Motor Speedway for a twenty ninth time Saturday night. Some have been looking forward to this since the end of last August, when a twice rain delayed race started in June concluded with another record close finish in which Graham Rahal edged James Hinchcliffe by a nose.

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Our special prediction for the Rainguard 600 will make race fans very happy, indeed. Despite concerns about the reconfiguration of turns 1 and 2 since last visit, there will be plenty of three wide, 220 mile per hour plus, edge of your seat racing. In other words, it’ll be typical Texas.

Pole winner was Carlos “OK” Munoz for AA last year and Will Power for Penske the two years prior. Neither of them won from P1, though both are worth keeping an eye on. The last winner from pole at Texas was Ryan Briscoe in 2010, so like most ovals starting position isn’t crucial. In that spirit we’ll go with the Cap’n’s curmudgeonly Power for yet another pole, making it three already for the season.

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Since Jack Hawksworth’s no longer in the series, first out will be Dale Coyne’s latest seat filler for the weekend, Frenchman Tristan Vautier. Unlike his counterpart countrymen in IndyCar, Vautier routinely raises the wreck total – just ask Graham Rahal. We feel for his pit crewmen and hope they’re current on their insurance.  Continue reading

Detroit Grand Prix Race Review No. 2: Graham ‘n Sham Edition

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Ragin’ Graham Rahal did the undoable – a Detroit dual double – driving a danged ol’ Honda right through Chevy’s front yard. Twice. Meanwhile Hoosier hot head Conor Daly called the only potentially exciting element of the race, the red flag stoppage with three to go, “such a sham” and “all for show.”

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The angry A.J. Foyt driver continued, Tweeting “to get driven into the wall with one to go after our best race is just sad.”  It’s unclear who made contact with him and ABC certainly didn’t bother to show it, but the young legacy finished twelfth behind Helio, TK and Munoz.

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Once pole sitter Sato got out of the way about twenty two laps in, it was a battle between Saturday’s winner and newcomer Josef Newgarden. Continue reading

Barber IndyCar Preview: The Barber of Seville

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Fernando, Fernando, Fernand-o!

The announcement during the off week that Fernando Alonso will be running in the Indy 500 was the biggest news item since another f-ing F1 invader won the 100th 500 as a rookie, running out of fuel and coasting to the finish.

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Reportedly the Spaniard in question will be at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend to watch his first Indy style race in person. It’s just too bad his initial experience won’t be at a better track. A former F1 champ, Alonso unquestionably brings some star power to the states. However, we prefer to focus on those drivers who actually will be driving this weekend rather than merely spectating.

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Happily some drivers will be working Sunday rather than vacationing, albeit with less attention than Alonso, which brings up several questions. Continue reading

Long Beach Predictions & Prognostications: Environmental Edition

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Prepare for a festival of fuel saving in sanctimoniously green California – but do fuel economy and racing really mix?

The word most commonly invoked in describing the Grand Prix of Long Beach is “atmosphere,” a catch-all term meant to capture the partying, sites and sounds of the decades old ocean side event. An atmospheric problem for IndyCar is that none of this translates very well to television. Still another is the typically dreadful racing there of late, which leaves fans looking a bit green around the gills.

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Now for the special prediction of the Grand Prix, which concerns that pesky Penske paradox. The PP reared its ugly head last year when Pags won a real snoozer, apart from some drama over a blown call from race control. Happily last year’s amphibian outrage won’t recur, and the winner will be somewhat less green.

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In twin victories for middle aged people everywhere, Helio won the pole the last two years running after Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) claimed it in 2014. Notwithstanding, our pick is Continue reading