Silly Season ’17: A Succinct Synopsis

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Penske pared back, Ganassi got leaner, Rahal redoubled and Foyt became even less relevant. Perhaps the greatest concern – apart from the second rate schedule – is the car count for 2018.

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After yet another IndyCar title thanks to Josef Newgarden’s pivotal piloting, Penske’s crew will consist of only three cars for the first time since 2014. At 42 the ever popular Helio Castro-Neves finally has been put out to pasture, where presumably he can climb all the fences he wishes. The formidable trio of Pags, Power and Newkid will carry the Cap’n’s colors in the upcoming campaign, easily remaining the odds on favorites nearly every weekend.

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Not one to be outdone when it comes to downsizing, the Chipster Continue reading

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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

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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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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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

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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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

101st Indy 500 Preview: Second Thoughts Edition

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As race day approaches a number of issues become secondary, while others rise to primary importance.

The two days of qualifying were, as f-ing F1’s Alonso says, intense. Sebastien Bourdais was putting up the month’s fastest laps on Saturday when he crashed horribly in turn 2, ending his day and season with a broken pelvis and hip. Post surgery, Dale Coyne‘s pilot Tweeted thanks for the support and that he’ll “be back at some point.” Meantime, James Davison will drive the 18 car in the 500 and start last.

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Sunday’s round was less eventful as everyone managed to avoid Bourdais’ fate, if not the turn 2 wall entirely. Pushing their cars to the limit, several drivers slapped the safer barrier on the backstretch, including Takuma Sato and Charlie Kimball.

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It was Scott Dixon‘s day, as his four lap average of 232.1 mph was the fastest qualifying speed since 1996 – when Arie Luyendyk set the record – and good enough for pole. Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Practice Three: Scaredy Penske Edition

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Windy conditions kept the Cap’n’s crew – quickest the previous practice, at least in the tow – largely off of Indy’s oval Wednesday. Only Newkid made an appearance, for eleven whole laps. Luckily other teams weren’t deterred by some mere gusts – not entirely.

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Early on Ed Carpenter Racing held the top two spots no matter the tow, with Ed and J.R. 1-2 in their respective Chevys, tops in both categories. Recall that Ed led the way with the highest non-tow speed Tuesday, with J.R. not far behind. By the end of the session, the series’ only owner/driver again owned the quickest lap at over 222.8 mph.

Dixon was second quick for Ganassi, his Honda doing nearly 222.6 mph, while J.R. was third. Fernando Alonso  turned in the fourth best speed – more on him later – and our man Conor Daly completed the top five, Tweeting he was “really happy with the changes overnight.” Way to go, Conor!

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A few questions occurred to us after three days of practice for the greatest spectacle in racing. Continue reading

Indy Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: Sympathetic Edition

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Sometimes sympathy is an appropriate response – when it can be convincingly summoned.

A certain uneasy feeling shot through IndyCar teams this week faster than Ganassi flees a bar tab. Those paradoxical Penskes provoke paranoia in the paddock – with good reason – as it’s presumed they’ll probably prevail once the pageantry’s concluded. So should fans expect yet another pitiable GP weekend they’ve seen before, one which merely adds to Roger’s riches?

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Our special prediction is yes, the Cap’n’s embarrassment of wealth will grow even more mortifying this month. Penske practically owns the joint, with sixteen Indy 500 triumphs dating back to the early 1970s. Plus, Pagenaud excels on the ramshackle road course, winning two thirds of the time. If you’re a fan of Team Penske, get ready for a fun few weeks – just have sympathy for the rest of us.

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Pole position will be no different, as both Helio and Power have been superior in qualifying. Penske’s pilots have won ’em all so far this season, taking a decidedly unfeeling approach to the rest of the field. Continue reading

Barber Race Review: PSI Edition

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Young gun Josef Newgarden turned what could have been another hum drum, Penske win from pole into a fairly memorable, exciting race – for a motorbike track.

It was Will “Sour Grapes” Power’s race to lose and he did, handing the newest teammate his first win for the Cap’n and failing to crack the top twelve for the fifth consecutive race. A cut Firestone was the culprit, or rather the hero of the day. Power slowed inexorably, giving PSI an entirely new meaning.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) and Long Beach winner James Hinchcliffe tangled at the start, leading to a third lap caution as RHR’s damaged front wing littered the track. Dale Coyne’s rookie phenom Ed Jones suffered damage due to the debris ruining his day, as well.

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During the initial melee the aged Tony Kanaan gambled and lost, though his Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon advanced to third and remained firmly in contention all day. 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