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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Photo from twitter.com

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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Photo from indycar.com

The most shocking moment by far Continue reading

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IndyCar Sonoma Season Finale Predictions and Prognostications: Adios, Aero Kits!

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IRR sets forth its final predictions of the 2017 season – including a surprise champion – while bidding adieu to a crime against racing aesthetics.

Our special prediction for the GoPro Grand Prix is while Sonoma may not feature much passing on its twisted, narrow confines, at least it’s the last time we’ll ever have to watch those hideously fugly, dangerous aero kits in action. Their departure alone will make this nearly unwatchable finale held in a dustbowl almost palatable, raising our spirits markedly in the process. That, and the wine.

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Photo from racesonoma.com

Incidentally, since the cars become obsolete Sunday night – it’s about time – we’d love to see a non-points demolition derby held immediately following the podium celebrations. Charlie “pinball” Kimball, J.R. “hair today, gone next year” Hildebrand and Taku Sato would battle for an Andretti Winery gift certificate and Conor Daly’s domestic duties for a day. Which leads us to . . .

Saturday’s fight for pole position will take on special significance at the infamously tedious track, with the championship contenders – Team Penske and Ganassi’s Scott Dixon – vying for the extra point and tremendous advantage starting up front at Sonoma brings. Four of the last five Grands Prix have been won by drivers starting in the top 3, including fickle Frenchman Simon Pagenaud from pole last year and Dixon’s win in 2014 (his win in 2015 came from 9th).

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Photo from indycar.com

Saying goodbye to all that, Continue reading

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

IndyCar Bommarito 500 Race Review: Hood Vibrations

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Photo from indycar.com

Josef Newgarden won his fourth race of the year Saturday night, making it three of the last four for the blonde American who somehow reminds us of a beach boy. He bested Scott Dixon by seven tenths of a second and was joined by peeved teammate Simon Pagenaud on the podium. Newkid’s late race pass around Pags for the lead was classic.

The race began comically, with the increasingly dangerous Tony Kanaan spinning and crashing on the final parade lap. It was a weird vibe to start a race. After some repairs, he eventually finished many laps down in sixteenth, then refused to do an interview. That’s some fan favorite, huh?

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

After the Kanaan debacle was cleaned up, the field had just taken the green flag when pole sitter Will Power spun and crashed into the turn 2 wall. Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato were caught up in the melee, with Ed spectacularly going up and over Power’s car, their races ruined.

Sato posted that he was “hit from behind” in a subsequent Tweet. Ed mentioned the slick track and Lights rubber being a factor, and looked forward to next season. “This year just did not go well,” the owner/driver admitted. His employee J.R. Hildebrand later joined him in the pits after crashing out due to an apparent suspension failure. Power said “it was super slippery,” and that his teammate “Josef took my air” when passing. It’s “unfortunate,” the first to retire summed up, hinting at early dissension in the Penske ranks.

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Following the second brain fade in as many laps, Newgarden took command and pulled away from the field until the second round of pit stops. Continue reading

Mid-Ohio IndyCar Predictions and Prognostications: Perilous Edition

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IndyCar’s lucky thirteenth stop on the schedule happens to be the annual trip into the ditch that is Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Get ready for a fuel savin’ extravaganza featuring fewer passes than Columbus’ Corn Princess Parade . . . and menacingly, also a potentially lethal surprise.

This week’s special prediction involves the inherent danger of Sunday’s race. Anytime you tread into “Ganassi’s Paradise” you’re risking both life and limb, but Mid-Ohio holds an additional, less obvious risk. Be forewarned, as it’s a serious threat to viewing fans. The real danger during the race will be folks nodding off in haze of bloviating about pit stop strategy and fuel mileage. In some extreme instances, sleep can be dangerous.

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Photo from the Bettman archive

Pick for pole position is especially unimportant, as the pole sitter’s only won once out of the last five contests at Mid-Ohio. Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won from pole in his championship season last year, but that’s it. Ragin’ Graham Rahal won from thirteenth simply being himself in 2015, while rarely cautious Charlie Kimball triumphed from fifth in 2013. Scott Dixon’s always a threat there, starting fourth and incredibly even dead last in just his most recent victories in Ohio. Continue reading

Mid-Ohio IndyCar Preview: Ganassi’s Paradise

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IndyCar’s annual visit to Mid-Ohio brings to mind Coolio’s classic track “Gangsta’s Paradise,” although in actuality it’s Ganassi’s paradise in more ways than one. Both places are plenty dangerous with lots of twists, turns and curves – but only one’s dull as daytime lookout duty. Get the Courvoisier and blunts ready for this one, y’all!

Been spending most their lives
Livin’ in a gangsta’s paradise

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Photo from businessinsider.com

Scott Dixon’s five wins at the joint most definitely mean he’s ridin’ dirty. They also highlight Chip “G-daddy” Ganassi’s utter dominance of central Ohio’s hood. That’s how he rolls and he definitely woke, yo. Chipster’s stealing seven out of the last ten (excuses for) races is straight dope, man. Charlie “Straight Outta Cali” Kimball’s breakthrough victory in 2013 was one of ’em, going from ghetto to penthouse with that fashizzzle.

Ganassi’s got one bangin’ posse, though there are of course exceptions. Not surprisingly, Tony “old over the hill bastard” Kanaan has never scored in the O. And don’t get us started on G-daddy’s fourth driver Max “Paris” Chilton. He definitely unwoke and ’bout to be replaced by some Swede named Rosenqvist.

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Photo from twitter.com

Graham “homeboy” Rahal won in 2015 in yet another of those ‘luckily timed pit stops that win you the race’ kind of deals. It’s cool as hell driving for your dad’s team, ain’t it? Continue reading

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

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Photo from iowaspeedway.com

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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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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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Photo from twitter.com

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

Road America IndyCar Race Review: Dixon’s Cheese Edition

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Surprisingly an engaging battle broke out Sunday in Wisconsin, although the eventual cheese taker was never in doubt. No runaway like last year, the Kohler Grand Prix managed to keep fans’ interest fully engaged from beginning to end – a remarkable accomplishment for the wine and cheese crowd on a road course.

One after another of Penske’s four horsemen faltered, paving the way for Scott Dixon’s 41st career win. He’s now a mere win away from third on the all time list. The half second victory was the Ganassi ace’s first since September and also his first at Elkhart Lake. Once the confetti had settled, the Cap’n’s crew were highly cheesed.

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Photo from indycar.com

Action occurred right from the start at the series’ longest track, as passing aplenty played out. Owning the first two rows, Team Penske seemed set to figure largely in the outcome. Josef Newgarden who started third fought his way to the lead by lap 13, getting around Will Power and pole sitter Helio Castro-Neves. But with the Cap’n away the Penskes did stray, and for Tim Cindric it turned into a long day.

The first caution was brought out by Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, who left the course and came sliding to an abrupt halt. Continue reading

Ways to Enliven IndyCar Road Racing, Or: Obdurate Ovalista Offerings

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Whether it’s some fresh ideas, new rules or simply enforcing existing ones, IndyCar road racing really needs a revival. Since an all oval schedule is unlikely to return anytime soon, here are a few suggestions to liven up the road shows.

As fans of IndyCar it’s no secret we at IRR prefer oval track racing to squiggly courses because speed, passing and excitement are kinda our thing. Having already offered our “Ways To Save Oval Racing,” it’s now time to address the ten times as many curves as straightaways tracks.

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Photo from twitter.com

The first thing the series could do to improve squirmies is simply enforce the rules. When called at all, penalties are often wildly inconsistent – just see Emma Dixon‘s Twitter feed – with certain teams and drivers (think Penske and Ganassi) seemingly exempt. Last year’s Long Beach non-call on Simon Pagenaud is a perfect example of this. It’s grossly unfair and invites NASCAR type lawlessness.

Race control’s laxness calling penalties leads to drivers getting Kimballed, or what’s worse, Satoed. Recently on the Texas oval nine drivers were Kanaaned, which is in case you’re wondering much worse than a caning – just ask Hinch. Continue reading

Time To Call It Quits, Tony Kanaan

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In the span of four years, IndyCar’s oldest driver has gone from winning the 500 to whining and making excuses. We say nuts to that – out with the old and in with the new. Tony, it’s time to consider retiring from the sport.

Approaching forty three and showing it, TK hasn’t won a race in almost three years. His best years are clearly behind him as Texas perilously reminded everyone –  except the good ship Chip and company. We’ve been quietly advocating Tony’s retirement for some time, but now we’re about to raise a racket.

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

It isn’t as though the Brazilian’s tearing up the competition, either. He’s only won twice since 2010 and a mere four times in the last decade. That’s approaching Marco bad. His last win came on August 30, 2014 in the season finale at Fontana, of all places – more on that later. The other win came at Indy in 2013, interestingly on the heels of another two plus year drought.

Originating our outcry are the wrecks he caused at Texas, involving multiple cars and thankfully no injuries. The first crash got Alexander Rossi, while the second victimized James Hinchcliffe and his SPM teammate Mikhail Aleshin, among others. Kanaan has since called it “an honest mistake.” That makes us wonder, which one?

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Chip Ganassi blabbed and blamed Continue reading