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

St. Pete IndyCar Race Review: A Real Stinker

The Firestone Grand Prix at times smelled like a tire fire.

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Frenchmen swept the top two spots at St. Pete Sunday, as Sebastien Bourdais bested defending champ Simon Pagenaud in a result no one foresaw, much less foresmelled. Charging all the way from last place, it was Bourdais’ thirty sixth major open wheel victory of his storied career, and it smelled of feet. By all accounts, SeBass was able to avoid embarrassing himself by not dropping the trophy again from atop the podium. It was his first win since Detroit 1 last June and added to other recent renaissance wins including Milwaukee.

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While the racing on the newly repaved circuit had its moments, particularly during the start and restart, on the whole it still stunk like week old French cheese. St. Pete’s a ramshackle temporary street course, on top of which Mark “Stink” Schlereth acted as Grand Marshall, so what’d you expect?

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Bestwicke, Goodyear and Cheever provided their usual Mickey Mouse coverage, Continue reading

What’s Michael Andretti Thinking Now? Or, Andretti’s Always Alarming Approach

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IndyCar’s loosest lipped loose cannon – and that’s saying something – makes more dubious decisions.

You know those tortured guys with the prolonged, seemingly perpetual mid life crises? The ones who share their problems liberally with the rest of us? That’s our Michael. Without erratic owners like Mario’s eldest son, there’d be precious little to write about in the off season. Speaking of precious little . . .

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Takuma Sato – the all time leader in most crashes per win – will replace Carlos “Speedy” Munoz at Andretti Autosport. Considering Sato’s dismal record of a single win in seven IndyCar seasons coupled with nearly a decade of F1 futility, one has to again wonder what Michael’s thinking. After all, a late career renaissance for the soon to be forty year old Japanese jockey’s highly unlikely. It’s not as though his record at Indy‘s any better, with a best finish of thirteenth and several high profile crashes.

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Taku finished seventeenth in points in 2016, near the bottom of the full timers. He’s made a hundred eighteen starts, yet achieved only twelve top five finishes. Tellingly, he failed to finish forty four of those races, or a whopping thirty seven percent. Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Election Edition

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Millions of mostly legal voters turned out across the U.S. on Tuesday, exercising their sacred right to have a say in the nation’s direction. They decisively chose Trump, and in so doing made pollsters, pundits and pantywaists everywhere look beyond foolish. Meanwhile, IndyCar’s silly season continued unabated, with business as usual in the IndyCar paddock.

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Daly Employment Report: In at least their third wise selection of the last couple weeks, A.J. Foyt Racing elected to fill the second ABC Supply seat with Hoosier Conor Daly. Barring deportation, the underdog American will be paired with Colombian Carlos “OK” Munoz in what should be a definite improvement over the past several years. Seems to be a nationwide trend.

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Coyne’s Second Choice: Dale Coyne Racing opted for Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Cubs Win! Edition

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After a drought so long it predated the Indy 500, the building of IMS AND AJ Foyt, the Cubs finally won the World Series. Meanwhile, in IndyCar news . . .

A Munoz For A Sato: The aforementioned legendary four time Indy 500 winner’s team made some long overdue changes recently. Like the Cubs’ series win, it’s about frickin’ time. At long last AJ Foyt Racing cut ties with Takuma Sato, the problematic pilot who won exactly one race in four crash marred seasons with the team. Better still, he’s being replaced by the talented young Colombian Carlos Munoz, formerly of Andretti Autosport. In essence the two drivers have exchanged seats, with Foyt definitely receiving the better end of the bargain. Good luck with that, Michael.

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Foyt Favors Chevy: In another engine manufacturer switch for 2017, the ornery octogenarian’s team also upgraded their power plants, ditching Honda in favor of the bow tie. This comes as a package deal in dropping Sato, who’s linked at the hip with Honda. It’s a move we’ve long advocated for AJ. Now with a superior driver and engine, perhaps things will finally turn around for the struggling team with an epic drought of its own.

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Hinch, Boogey Man: While we don’t follow DWTS, Hinch continues to grind on, literally. Continue reading

Pocono Race Review: Delayed Gratification

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NBCSN’s Brian Till described the racing at Pocono as “spectacular,” and on Monday it certainly was. Will “awesome” Power won thanks to a Penske perfect late race charge to the front, but Ryan Hunter-Reay ran the race of the day. He drove his burnt yellow DHL machine through the field – twice! – to a podium finish, racing a brand new, unfamiliar car after crashing his Indy 500 winner in practice. Failing even to attempt qualifying, he started dead last and still very nearly won.

After a washout on Sunday even the command to start engines was delayed, leading to an awkward pause during the beginning of the broadcast. Then a bomb was dropped on the audience as they revealed that Robin Miller was joining Till and Townsend Bell in the booth. A surreal quality instantly infused the broadcast as the news rippled across the land. Apparently Paul Tracy had important buffets to attend in Vegas.

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The start was waived off after first time pole sitter Mikhail Aleshin jumped the gun, forcing another attempt. Aleshin again shot out to a lead coming to the flag stand, but Josef Newgarden quickly took the lead just before Takuma Sato snap spun into the wall in turn three, coming to a wrecked rest in front of the “what turn 4?” sign. Continue reading

Mid-Ohio Race Review: Precious Little Edition

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IndyCar’s least entertaining track lived up to its reputation with precious little passing and even less excitement.

The start especially as well as restarts provided brief glimpses of racing. Cars were three wide on the first lap, the air thick with tire smoke rising from the contact. The field quickly spread out into a procession however, or what we call situation normal at Mid-Ohio. Precious little Penske Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won from pole, padding his points lead. It was a predictably smallish sort of weekend in central Ohio.

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Two caution periods for ten laps seemed too few, as contact and damage were rife during portions of the race. Four penalties seemed insufficient also, considering three were for pit lane violations and two of those were on one driver. Mikhail Aleshin led thirty laps prior to his last stop troubles. Doing his best Francesco Dracone impersonation, the racy Russian hit equipment, crew and Josef Newgarden after prematurely being sent out of his SPM pit.

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Scott Dixon’s awful weekend included a “miscommunication” leading to an eleventh place qualifying effort, breaking his front wing soon after the start and an early retirement due to contact. Continue reading