Toronto Race Review: Penske’s Pulled A Fast One

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Photo from twitter.com

The Penske’s pulled a fast one on the paying public Sunday.

With leader Frenchman Simon Pagenaud running low on fuel and fellow Penske pilot Josef Newgarden – the championship points leader – nursing home a damaged car in fourth after hitting the same stretch of wall for a second consecutive year, an uninteresting sleeping pill of a race looked like it might finally become eventful on the last lap. When suddenly third Penske teammate Will Power uncharacteristically – and all by himself – ran straight into a tire barrier, ending the race under caution and guaranteeing both a win for Pags and a continued grip on the points lead for Newkid. Coincidence? We think not. We believe the Penske’s pulled a fast one.

What sometimes saves the racing in Toronto – and in deed, its only redeeming quality – are multiple caution flags. Sunday’s affair had two and therefore technically qualified, but they were too few and far between to liven up the show. NBCSN’s pre-race coverage included the gobsmackingly dreadful condition of the supposed track in Toronto and, on a happier note, Robert Wickens’ return to IndyCar driving the specially configured pace car in his home country less than a year after his tragic accident at Pocono. During his pacing duties, which necessarily carried them close to the walls, his fiancee rode anxiously along screetching at one point, “Don’t be stupid!”

The green flag flew and fans were at least treated to a clean first turn as pole sitter Simon Pagenaud led Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi. But problems quickly began with hometown boy James Hinchcliffe bumping into Marco and getting by him. Continue reading

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IndyCar Grand Prix Race Review: Empty Seats Edition

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Empty suited Frenchman Simon Pagenaud passed Scott Dixon with two laps to go to win the rain soaked IndyCar Grand Prix, coming from eighth starting position to take his third victory – and Team Penske’s sixth – out of six so-called races ’round the infield of IMS. It was a race held before a nearly empty – though admittedly cavernous – racetrack. Dixon’s discernible disappointment at finishing second after leading much of the race was plainly palpable.

The crowd of hangers-on flooding pit road during the pre-race was nearly as large as those poor, drenched paying customers in the sparsely populated stands. Chairman George gave the command to fire engines and the cars were quickly underway. The green flag gave way to the usual first lap problems with Alex Rossi getting rudely run into by Pato O’Ward, sending the 500 winner into the wall, his right rear suspension grievously wounded, ruining his day. The Coyne-ster was penalized for avoidable contact, though came back for a strong – if unjust – showing until the end. Rossi’s teammate Zach Veach got hit by Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan, knocking the youthful, son of Dracula looking American out of the way and into the curb. The aged TK of course faced no such sanction.

Meanhile up front, Jack Harvey went to second around Dixon as rookie Felix Rosenqvist quickly lept out to a comfortable, albeit short-lived, lead. Continue reading

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Predictions and Prognostications: Acura-cy Edition

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In an era where veracity is increasingly viewed by many as valueless, we at IRR strenuously strive for it above all else. Problem is, predictions don’t always work out so perfectly.

It’s no secret that our previous prognostications for Barber weren’t exactly spot on. More correctly, they reeked. But when we make mistakes we admit them, acknowledge the error and move on. Wouldn’t it be a much better world if everyone – including race control – did the same? That leads us to our special prediction for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, which entails often controversial caution flags.

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The recent history of the Grand Prix shows yellows playing a determining factor in both the racing and the outcome. Last year’s race was a prime example. When there are several cautions the racing’s superior. But when there aren’t any, the racing tends to suck. After that sleeping pill of a race at Barber, the series is due for both some concentrated canary flagging and an engaging contest, so expect some carnage and concomitant cautions come Sunday.

Pole prediction’s also a precisely crafted one. Continue reading

Barber Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Race Review: Inverted Edition

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Pole sitter(!) Takuma Sato’s lead was seldom in doubt – except when he ran completely off course and nearly flipped in characteristic fashion with five to go – as the 500 winner cruised to only his fourth career IndyCar victory in a truly inverted race in Alabama. The previous run-on sentence is not a joke. He credited his Rahal Lanigan Letterman team for a “fantastic effort,” despite an incredibly slow first pit stop due to a lethargic left rear tire changer. Equally incredibly, Scott Dixon claimed his sixth 2nd place finish at Barber – out of ten races – as Honda swept its own podium with Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais coming home in third.

An inadvertently inverted starting grid with the Penskes oddly bringing up the rear led to a decidedly upside down result. One of the few highlights of the weekend occured when a street sweeper rolled over onto its side while at speed in between practices, nearly inverting itself. The accident was a good thing, as NBCSN’s abbreviated pre-race show had little to offer, although they did manage a real rarity in connecting on air with the two seater passenger. Oh, and Continue reading

Toronto Predictions and Prognostications: Boneheads Edition

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For reasons beyond comprehension, IndyCar’s boneheaded schedule takes the series back to terrible, tired old TO yet again. One of the dumpiest tracks on the schedule, Exhibition Place may contain splendid examples of neoclassical architecture like Princes’ Gate, but the streets around it make for awful racing. Returning there year after year’s just dumb.

In addition to the crummy Canadian circuit and usually unwatchable racing, we fervently hope you’re fans of the two C’s – cautions and carnage – because Canada’s lone race tends towards lots of both. That’s both obvi as they say and well documented. So our special prediction for this misguided event deals with something completely different.

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Photo from torontograndprixtourist.com

The boneheads  – Robby Wickens, Hinch and TK – won’t win or even do well come Sunday. Covered thoroughly in our Preview, SPM’s All-Canada Team faces serious challenges, Hinchcliffe’s drought busting win at Iowa notwithstanding. Hinch wilts under the terrific pressure of his hometown race and Wicky’s simply overrated. We’ve been calling for Kanaan’s ouster/retirement for some time now, and last year’s embarrassing display – like many others – only reinforced our view.

Speaking of needing to go, our prediction for pole is Mad Will Power. See our last several picks below – and quals results – as to why. As usual, starting P1 won’t matter much in the end.

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First out of the crash-fest at the Canuck concrete car crusher will be one of our featured boneheads 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

Texas Predictions and Prognostications: Deep In The Heart

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Fans come from far and wide to see IndyCars, side by side, doing 220 mph under the lights at TMS. The term thrilling doesn’t begin to capture the feeling, particularly when you’re there in person. If you’re a true race fan, then deep in your heart you adore Texas Motor Speedway.

Our special prediction for the DXC Technology 600 is reams of real, riveting racing. It’s what IndyCar at Texas is known for – a refreshing change from the road course heavy early season schedule. What a difference a weekend makes! Speeds will be 50 mph greater than on Detroit’s Belle Isle and nearly constant, not merely a few seconds per lap. The edge of your seat action – with passes galore – will be in a class of its own. That’s the open wheel oval racing class, where TMS is highly regarded, and the one nearest to our hearts.

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Photo from autosport.com

Pole sitter’ll be Will “sour grapes” Power, unfortunately. He started P1 three consecutive times from 2013-15 and as you may have heard has been on a roll lately. But here’s the good news – 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.

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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

Barber Race Review: Golden Showers Edition

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Showers of various sorts were the major current flowing through Barber the last couple days and an odd Monday finish left fans feeling less than quenched. The weekend was a mess for most, although the heavy showers proved golden for Josef Newgarden, winning for the third time on his home track.

Pouring rain Sunday halted the race after 23 laps, run largely under caution or at caution speeds. Not one but two red flags also appeared, finally delivering the drenched drivers from their soaked cars. Safety was the concern as visibility was nearly non-existent, although that probably should have been clear after the first few laps rather than requiring multiple red flags.

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A single file start under caution proved anticlimactic, or would have if anyone could have seen it. The race went green on the second lap and cars tiptoed around the near constant corners, sliding as they went. The plumes they emitted made viewing – much less driving – extremely difficult.

Marco spun out on the second green flag lap, nearly hitting oncoming traffic a couple of times before finally rejoining the fray. Unfazed by the showers, Newkid opened up a sizable lead over Power, Bourdais, RHR and Dixon as Hinchcliffe dropped back. Continue reading

Long Beach Race Review: Nose-cam Slam Edition

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On an AA kinda day Californian Alexander Rossi won in utterly jack booted fashion, but the advent, added entertainment value and absurd level of abuse meted out to NBCSN’s nose-cam stole the show at Long Beach.

An above average four caution flags fell at just the right times helping out the racing immensely. Without them, Rossi might’ve lapped the entire field. Twice. One of the pole sitter’s biggest competitors was knocked out prior to the first turn, sadly along with a cherished nose-cam. Thank God they had plenty of the tiny cameras in reserve to significantly enhance the coverage.

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Photo from indycar.com

Ragin’ Graham Rahal ran into Simon Pagenaud from behind on the first lap, sending him spinning into the wall and ending his day. Ryan Hunter-Reay also got caught up in the fracas banging into Dixon, suffering some front wing damage and more importantly destroying the first nose-cam of the day, though happily not before it provided excellent views of the action. Rahal was rightly slapped by race control with a drive through penalty, later apologizing to Pags after battling all the way back to finish fifth.

The restart on lap five set a pattern of Rossi opening up a lead and pulling away. Continue reading