IndyCar Sonoma Season Finale Race Review: Ho-hum Edition

 

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Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won the GoPro Grand Prix again on Sunday, while his teammate Josef Newgarden secured his first championship by finishing second in the hum sponsored car. Starting from pole and leading in points, it was Newgarden’s title and race to lose. Unsurprisingly, the first American champion in half a decade brought it home safely for an all Penske podium in a rather ho-hum contest.

The season’s ultimate race proved a mundane affair and went off largely as we’d predicted with no cautions, little passing or on track action and only three leaders – and that’s counting Conor Daly’s three laps led. SPM’s James Hinchcliffe provided some comic relief right from the start, getting hit by Spencer Pigot and spinning off course. He restarted the 5 machine but eventually became the first to retire with an electrical issue. Hinch’s early exit was indicative of his year and provided a prime example of poetic justice for the controversial team.

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Not to be outdone, Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato drove off the dusty track and dropped back on the first lap too, ruining a fifth place start. Tony Kanaan was forced to pit after another collision caused a flat tire that also sent him off track. He’d go on to finish sixteenth in his last race for Chip Ganassi. As Townsend Bell pointed out, it was TK’s third race in a row with a first lap issue going back to Gateway. It’s becoming painfully obvious that it’s time to call it quits, Tony.

The only other remarkable moment of the finale came during the final pit stop cycle. Continue reading

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IndyCar Watkins Glen Preview: Wit’s End Edition

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With the season’s end in sight, there’s still plenty of IRR wittiness left in the tank.

Sadly, summertime’s over and with it – even more unfortunately – the rousing oval portion of IndyCar’s schedule. Two wine region, cheesy road courses remain, Watkins Glen in upstate New York and the Sonoma finale in California. In the Glen’s case, the most memorable parts of last year’s race were the ubiquitous paid Verizon plugs. Expect neither venue to excite nearly as much as Pocono or Texas regularly do, as the season slinks toward a less than satisfactory conclusion. It all has us feeling at wit’s end.

Josef “teammate terminator” Newgarden has the championship all but wrapped up thanks to Power and Helio’s witlessness at Gateway. There’s no end to his predictable success this season, taking three of the last four races and holding a 31 point championship lead. Making it worse, Team Penske’s won the last five in row. This marks the first time in many years the IndyCar finale probably won’t hold any title significance whatsoever, even with the gimmicky double points paid in the NoCal conclusion.

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Similarly, the rookie of the year award has been settled for some time with only a single candidate and therefore no competition. The fact than Alonso was gifted the Indy 500 ROY remains a travesty, truly “The Great Hardware Robbery,” as we termed it. Ed Jones deserved the award finishing third to Fernando’s 24th, just as he deserves the season ROY. Lack of other contenders aside, Jones has been the most impressive newcomer to the series in recent memory. Thankfully a better ROY resolution’s in the offing.

Happily, the end of the awful aero kit era is also in sight. It’ll be good riddance to bad chassis soon, perhaps the most compelling reason to look forward to next season. Continue reading

Sixteen Predictions for the 2016 IndyCar Season

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Including the 100th Indy 500, Team Penske, Mad Will Power and more.

It’s been some time since our Predictions and Prognostications Department actually earned their lavish salaries and expense accounts, so it’s high time they did. After an up and down 2015 season they’ve dusted off the old crystal ball and are due for some duesies.

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The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile extravaganza will occur, despite the exceptionally inept Mark Miles‘ shoddy efforts. Overcoming the series’ serious lack of leadership, an American nevertheless will emerge to win the historic race – albeit in an Italian car.

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Speaking of cars, expect still more flipping at Indianapolis this year thanks to those flipping aero kits, and also due to the near octogenarian Mario Andretti being back behind the wheel of the two seater. Cleared for takeoff.  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

Sonoma Finale Race Review: ‘Damn It, Man!’ Championship Edition

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In a result few outside of Chip Ganassi‘s Star Wars bar scene inner circle saw coming, Kiwi Scott Dixon won both the Sonoma GoPro Grand Prix and the IndyCar championship Sunday, his third win of the year and fourth title of Dixie’s storied career. It was thanks in large part to Team Penske and Juan Montoya‘s monumental collapse. Leading since St. Pete it was Montoya’s title to lose, and he did so in spectacular fashion. Banging into and spinning team mate Will Power who was leading the race on the first restart, Montoya damaged the nose of his own car and threw the championship away in a single turn. JPM had enjoyed a substantial points lead going into the finale – thirty four over Rahal and forty seven over Dixon – but thanks to this epic brain fade finished second in a tie breaker on wins.

Aug 30, 2015; Sonoma, CA, USA; Pit crew for IndyCar Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya bring the car to the grid before the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

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The first half of the contest was fairly humdrum and typical of a Sonoma race as Leigh Diffey himself admitted in the latter stages. From pole Power sped away from the field and dominated the race until Montoya foolishly punted him. It being a Penske affair, of course no penalty was forthcoming. The first caution was a questionable flag for Filippi who hit  nothing but was supposedly slow on course. This was the beginning of race control rearing its ugly heads though, and unfortunately it would have an effect on the outcome. For the first time in months they penalized drivers during the contest with drive through penalties including one for Sebastien Bourdais who hit Graham Rahal from behind, spinning him out and costing him any chance at the title. Rahal angrily confronted Bourdais afterwards on pit lane, saying “Good job . . . you knew exactly where I was going and you drove like a f___ing d__k! ”

Graham Rahal, right, and Charlie Kimball (83) compete during the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma auto race Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) ORG XMIT: CAER108

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Josef Newgarden ran well in second but Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud parked it on pit road obstructing the young American’s exit from his pit box. Continue reading

Sonoma Finale Predictions and Prognostications: Rock ‘n Roll Edition

It’s been a trying week so let’s get right to the good stuff – our rip roarin’ Jimmy Page inspired crystal balling, of course. This week’s special prediction for IndyCar’s final race of the season and Championship decider is that there’ll be no driver-rattling, frightened-it’s-the-big-one, Fred Sanford-type earthquake hit Sonoma this year, at least not hours prior to the green flag like last visit.

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To quote Juan Pablo Montoya on 2014’s rockin’ act of God who come to think of it sounded a bit like Redd Foxx, “Awful, like awful. My shit . . . was shaking.” And since there’ll be no rockin’ and rollin’ pre-race – or probably during the race at all in “So Mind Numbing Sonoma,” thank you Indycar schedulers – we’ve supplied an excellent musical selection of our own choosing. Thought it’d be appropriate to have England’s greatest rock band provide it this week.

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Like a hot poker up the pee hole, picking Power for pole pains us plenty. Prognosticating “Mad” Will to prevail in anything just seems crazy and wrong. Moving right along first out of the race will be rookie Stefano “reckless-er than Andretti” Coletti, who seems to have trouble keeping his KV machine in one piece, whether it’s in practice or a race, on an oval or a crappy road course. In other words, Coletti doesn’t rock.

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The biggest surprise of the race and arguably the season Continue reading

Sonoma IndyCar Finale Preview: Determined Joy Edition

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The show must go on as the old saying goes and in this case the race must take place. IndyCar’s season finale will occur on Sunday and as we move on from the tragic loss of Justin Wilson we do so saddened and humbled, yet also grateful and appreciative for the decade of racing we all had rooting for him. JWil was a true gentleman and talented racer who made the world a better place; it’ll be a poorer, less joyous world without him.

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We hate to say it but the trajectory IndyCar’s been on lately we wouldn’t be surprised if either massive wildfires engulf the entire track this weekend or – and also God forbid – the big one finally hits California and breaks the whole kit and caboodle off into the sea, or possibly both. One seriously wonders what the formerly Golden state did to deserve such luck, until remembering Hollywood, Simi Valley, Charlie Manson, Watts, Willie Brown, Napa Valley, Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, The Gover-nator, Riverside, and on and on and on.

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But barring such calamities or the intervention of political villains, there’ll be a champion crowned at the end of it all – funnily the race winner almost always gets overshadowed by the champ at the conclusion of the finale –  and like him or not we’re starkly faced with the fact it’ll be the last IndyCar race until at least next spring. So by God we are resolutely determined to enjoy it. Justin would have wanted us to and as we were all rudely reminded this week, one never knows when it’ll be your last race.

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The Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma Continue reading