Season Finale Preview: Sayonara, Sonoma!

Sayonara Sonoma!

IRR’s preview of the 2018 finale illustrates how the sake’s about to hit the fan with a Japanese race winner, a Kiwi in the points lead and a long overdue kiss off for one particular track.

Following fourteen interminable years of visiting northern California – primarily because the Foyts and Andrettis own wineries there and most certainly not for the racing – the IndyCar party at Sonoma’s over at long last. Now the hellacious hangover begins, as the geniuses responsible for IndyCar’s schedule failed to replace it with a decent track, like the big, beautiful oval at Fontana, home of exquisite racing in years past.

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Photo from sfhracing.com

No, next season the series swaps one inferior road course finale at Sonoma for another one down the coast at Laguna Seca. The 2019 schedule Continue reading

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Portland Race Review: Cluster Edition

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing had quite the day at the Portland Grand Prix, with one driver in victory lane and the other ripping the racing, the stewards and the series. Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato scored another victory, while his teammate Ragin’ Graham Rahal was along with several others caught up in another frightening first lap pileup that for once was no fault of his own. However, his scathing criticisms of blatant incompetence in race control had us grinning from ear to ear.

After qualifications but prior to the race, two Andretti Autosport teammates who factored largely in the outcome poignantly diverged in their assessment of the place. And after eleven years away, why not? Ryan Hunter-Reay praised the braking zones as portending engaging racing, while his teammate Alexander Rossi said flatly, “we all know it’s hard to pass here.” In the long run, Rossi was the more correct – though less lucky – on the day.

Photo from indycar.com

Once the green flag flew, Rossi sped around Josef Newgarden for second, with RHR gaining too, until trouble struck. In the back Simon Pagenaud initially encountered problems going off track, followed by fellow Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais. Then the latest frightening first lap crash occurred due to contact between rookie phenom Zach Veach and James Hinchcliffe in turn 3. Hinch spun, causing a trailing Marco Andretti to spin and roll backwards over Hinch’s car, flipping upside down in the process. After Pocono, it was the last thing anyone wanted to see, although Portland’s configuration – specifically the chicane – invites it. Remarkably, and once he was turned right side up, Marco jumped out of the car unscathed, though covered in dirt. He spoke of being “really lucky,” and of his head being “on the ground,” thanks to Rahal hitting him from behind.

Ganassi’s potentially soon to be ex Ed Jones was victimized in the incident and out of the race, his helmet scarred from the crash. Hinch’s car was repaired and he was able to get back out, though many laps down. Another victim of course was the aforementioned Rahal, who made his feelings on the accident crystal clear. “It was a cluster. . . . Oh yeah, Veach – I mean come on now, give him some room. There’s no room there at all … So it’s just wrong, and then the officials take no action, which is typical of our officiating crew. It’s disappointing.”

Driver Marco Andretti was involved in a four-car crash Sunday at the start of the Portland Grand Prix at Portland International Raceway.

Image from oregonlive.com

Included in the carnage was championship leader Scott Dixon, who Continue reading

Mid-Ohio Preview: Mediocrity On Parade

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The third-rate though conveniently located sports car course makes for some dreadfully boring IndyCar racing and regrettably will do so again for the thirty fourth time next Sunday. Quite possibly the worst circuit the series visits, Mid-Ohio epitomizes a disturbing trend in modern society of willing, almost glad acceptance of the middling. It’s mediocrity on parade.

During the run of the mill track’s big league history, which began fitfully in 1980, both CART and later Champ Car had the good sense to drop it entirely – for years at a time. Yet since 2007 and to our continual chagrin, Mid-Ohio keeps reappearing year after year on IC’s wreck of a schedule, like a meddling, nosy neighbor knocking on your door.

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Photo from foxnews.com

It’s not expecting too much if, as a race fan, one expects more from Mark Miles and crew than merely mundane Mid-Ohio. Meanwhile, perfectly decent oval tracks all across the country – and as nearby as northern Kentucky and Illinois – sit idle.

The past five races there have featured as many different winners including Josef Newgarden last year, Continue reading

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

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Photo from ap.org

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

Texas Race Review: Honestly Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

Team Penske – the clear class of the field starting 1-2-3 – suffered from tire issues all evening, opening the door for Scott Dixon. The five second victory was his third at Texas Motor Speedway, the forty third of his career and put him in rarefied air in third place on the all time wins list. It couldn’t happen to a better guy, honestly.

NBCSN’s pre-race covered the gamut, from the Penske trio up front to Rossi’s 500 win as well as Power’s. Oddly, in the booth they featured three guys – two of them beefy – in powder blue t-shirts. The ever likable Dixon said he “loves driving IndyCars,” and when asked about his place on the list mentioned how cool it is that “AJ, Mario and Michael are all still at these races.” Presciently, he also mentioned “going for race wins.”‘

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Never to be out-trended, even IndyCar now has a cooking segment, for heaven’s sake. Don’t worry, we at IRR will never cook to camera. For some reason, it’s now Kelly Stavast doing pit coverage, and just when we getting used to the adorable Katie Hargitt. A Will Power feature had Robin Miller saying “ten years ago, Will Power hated oval racing.” He still does, Robin – you’ve been fooled. Daffy Leigh Diffey’s Aussie bias shone vividly through as a drone delivered the green flag and the engines were fired.

A clean start saw Newgarden leading with Ryan Hunter-Reay slicing high attempting to pass in a major theme of the evening. Cars were three wide early, as Alexander Rossi got around both TK and Dixon. Wickens moved around Power on the outside and into second by the lap 6. The first caution flew as AJ Foyt Racing’s Matheus Leist’s car became engulfed by fire in a scary moment. Leist threw steering wheel away and quickly jumped out as the flames encroached upon the cockpit.

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Photo from motorsport.com

Following a quick cleanup, the restart came on lap 15 with Newgarden, Power, Pags, Wickens and Rossi the top five.  Continue reading

Detroit Race Review No. 1: We Freakin’ Nailed It! Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

How did they do it? Who’s the soothsayer? What were they on? These are the questions they’ll be asking about IRR in future annals of IndyCar blogs, at least if we have any input.

Scott Dixon scored his 42nd career win, tying Michael Andretti for third all time behind his dad and AJ, marking his fourteenth consecutive season with at least one win. He won handily over Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi in a Honda parade through the heart of downtown Detroit, though it was his first visit to victory lane since Road America last season.

As for what little pre-race there was, the ABC booth took on the somber tone of a wake, or would have had it not been so sleepy. After the obligatory, outrageous Power 500 recap, Jan Beekhuis spoke with pole sitter Marco, who insists upon repeatedly referring to his many “outside poles,” or what everyone else on the planet refers to as starting second. The legacy driver on an eight year drought fibbed and said he “thinks we can pass pretty well here.” But the bigger story would be his burgeoning feud with a teammate – one who’s actually won the Indy 500.

Photo from indycar.com

The stands looked fairly full on a gorgeous day and ticket sales were “up 15% over last year,” according to Bestwick. Rain’s possible tomorrow, Continue reading

Detroit Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: A Lot To Like

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At the conclusion of the annual pilgrimage to Motor City, ABC’s long and strained relationship with IndyCar comes to a merciful close, as does the weak early part of the series’ schedule. We’re fans of seeing both go and look forward to a brighter, more productive portion of the season ahead. Starting with, like, our ever popular predictions!

We’ve several prognostications for this weekend, full of open wheel racing as it is and coming off what was frankly a rough 500 in this department. But come on, who did have sour grapes Power winning it? Besides his few hard-cores, we mean?

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So without further adieu, we confidently predict a widespread outbreak of spontaneous celebrations marking the conclusion of ABC’s coverage of IndyCar, arriving after this weekend’s dual Disney displeasure. There’s nothing not to like about the new network partner NBC – at least for the foreseeable future, that is.

Not only does the slipshod coverage conclude after Sunday, but also – finally! – the schedule starts to pick up. Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Race Review: It’s A Vegemite Sandwich and We All Gotta Take A Bite

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Photo from foxsports.com.au

Team Penske’s – and all IndyCar’s – least likable driver won the series’ biggest race, sadly. For the Cap’n, it was his seventeenth 500 triumph – a towering record never to be surpassed. AA’s Englishman Stefan Wilson, brother of the late driver Justin, led until the final stages before being forced to pit for fuel.

With seven cautions in all, the race – and particularly the start and restarts – were thrilling, right up until the end when Wilson pulled into the pits with only four to go. This handed Will “sour grapes” Power the event, to every single thinking race fan’s chagrin. It’s one race at long last that he can’t complain about.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

ABC’s pre-race coverage of course featured a lengthy Danica interview, followed by some yahoo named Marty Smith with a NASCAR accent screaming into a mike from the snakepit. Thanks for the memories, ABC.

From the green flag, Danica dropped five spots as predicted, then embarrassingly lifted completely off the throttle in turns during early in-car camera coverage. Her owner Fast Eddy Carpenter led from the pole, while ragin’ Graham Rahal jumped seven spots almost immediately from his dismal starting spot. He’d wind up tenth.

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Photo from indystar.com

Driving AJ Foyt Racing‘s always tenuous third car, James Davison was waaaay loose and waaaay slow, and finally on lap 47 Taku’d had enough and simply Satoed him. The defending 500 winner closed quickly and smacked him from behind in between turns 3 and 4, nearly going airborne and bringing out the first of seven cautions.

Only a few laps following the restart, Continue reading

Wannabes and Wankers – IndyCar’s Sh!t List, Or: A Quarter Post Rundown

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A quarter of the way through the 2018 IndyCar season’s a terrific time to stop and assess who’s been exceeding expectations – by pointing out who hasn’t been. Besides, what else are you gonna do with yet another off putting three week gap in this joke of a schedule? Discover who’s about to get thrown under the Holmatro safety truck and – more importantly – who deserves to be.

Max “Paris” Chilton leads this ignominious group, part of the unimpressive new British outfit called Carlin Racing. Unable to make the cut with Ganassi during a couple of woeful seasons despite bringing money to the table, he’s doing no better this year. Chilton sits twentieth in points, last among drivers who’ve taken all four green flags.

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Occupying nineteenth in the championship is Charlie “pinball” Kimball, who clearly isn’t “Tresiba rea-dy!” after all. Also with Carlin – whose team oddly enjoys a sterling reputation across the pond – Charlie was supposed to provide veteran IndyCar leadership the group so badly needs. He hasn’t, and blaming competitors for one’s problems isn’t a sign of growth.   Continue reading

Phoenix Preview: Casablanka Edition

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There’s so much construction taking place at dusty ISM Raceway at present, the facility’s practically a blank slate. Fitting, as so too is the young IndyCar season. No one quite knows how it’ll all end. Exciting possibilities – and temporary setbacks – exist for all involved in the upcoming Phoenix Grand Prix.

Pondering that great roulette wheel in the desert formerly known as PIR, we couldn’t help but think of the Bogey-Bergman gin joint classic Casablanca and that even the director didn’t know the ending. Like magnificent open wheel oval racing, the thoroughly entertaining movie from 1942 winds up to a thrilling crescendo. Similar to the beloved film, IndyCar on oval tracks is unsurpassed in its splendor. Plus, there’s such an intriguing international cast; and get a load of the gams on those new Dallaras! Here’s looking at you, Phoenix.

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Photo from fanpop.com

IndyCar tested at the soon to be reconfigured ISM (Ingenuity Sun Media, in case you’re wondering) Raceway in February. Takuma Sato led an all Rahal Lanigan Letterman revue. The prospects of Sato on pole alone are enough to conjure the stuff parts bills nightmares are made of. Judging by St. PeteContinue reading