IndyCar News Week in Review: Women’s Room Edition

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Photo from dailymail.co.uk

Danica Just Wants To Have Fun: Like ’80s flash in the pan Cyndi Lauper, racing’s lone girl-power representative is struggling mightily to remain relevant. After another “average” season of not coming anywhere close to a win in taxicab land, the former over rated IndyCar diva said recently she’s seeking “more fun” in the future. For a real good time, give us a call, Danica!

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Angie’s List Will Be Missed: According to an Indy Star story, the Indiana based company’s experiencing a downturn in business – thanks, Obama! – necessitating a round of layoffs. Although they “thoroughly enjoyed” sponsoring the Indy GP, now they’ve “opted to invest elsewhere.” Sounds like Angie desperately needs some Trump treatment, ala Carrier – Making IndyCar Great Again. As a result, the so called race will be deemed simply the IndyCar Grand Prix, barring another sponsor stepping in. How many IC GPs are there now?! Let’s see, Road America, Watkins Glen, Indianapolis, . . .

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Carol Brady’s Passing. Longtime Indy 500 fixture Florence Henderson passed away on Thanksgiving night to the dismay of many an IndyCar fan. Continue reading

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Marco, Don’t Go Away Mad – Marco, Just Go Away

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No longer wondering “Marco, Where Have You Gone?” IRR now proposes that the IndyCar legacy find other, more suitable employment.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Remarkably, we’re now into the sixth year since Andretti’s last victory – and that was only the second of his lengthy career. With a win rate of just over 1%, Marco‘s record has become an embarrassment. He’s up there – or rather, down there – with Danica. And several other former drivers, some of them named Andretti, too.

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Nevertheless, the Andretti family remains IndyCar royalty, beloved by hundreds across a few states. Continue reading

Celebrating Our Second Anniversary

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IRR celebrates two years of providing unique, unabashed views, racing news and laughs covering IndyCar racing.  It’s been a lot of fun emphasizing the foul-ups, foolishness and frivolity of the sport we love, as well as its riveting beauty. In essence, IRR is to IndyCar coverage what Ted Cruz was to the RNC convention in Cleveland.

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The hardest working racing site on the web, we’ve churned out over three hundred and thirty articles and posts over the last two years. The best part? It’s all free. Reviewing races and adding some humor to a serious and highly dangerous sport is our mission. We’re delighted to report it’s an ongoing one.

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It’s been quite a ride, from skewering the untalented though beautiful Danica Patrick and needling her less than entertaining NASCAR series to championing young American IndyCar stars to leading the charge for Mark Miles’ dismissal. Continue reading

Some IndyCar Owners Need To Seriously Step It Up, Part 2

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

In Part Two, we’re forced to take on Super Tex and A.J. Foyt Racing.

After years of running in the back with Coyne’s cars, AJ Foyt Racing also needs to improve in a big way. Super Tex‘s admonishments of his former driver and still grandson A.J. IV from years ago spring to mind. “You’re so slow you’re gonna to get run over out there!” and “you’re gettin’ beat by a girl!” epitomize the team’s long standing performance struggles.

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A.J.’s now eighty one years young and his son Larry took over day to day operations of the team several years ago. Therefore, it’s really on Larry rather than the first four time winner of the Indy 500, although – and we dislike writing it – A.J. shares in the blame too since it’s his name on the transporter. The team needs to up its game in a Texas-sized manner.

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With wins as scarce as intelligent NASCAR fans, Foyt’s team has become an embarrassment. Continue reading

Ten Reasons Sage Karam Deserves an IndyCar Ride

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1. Iowa. If you’ve seen the young lad’s breathtaking run to third in the cornfields outside Newton, then you understand why we’re such tremendous fans of oval racing as well as “Wild Man” Karam. If not, then see this.

2. Obviously Sage is an attractive and talented American racer who acquitted himself well and created some buzz in his rookie season. For the love of storylines, somebody in the IndyCar paddock needs to bring him back.

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3. Karam is nothing if not aggressive. Continue reading

IndyCar Driver Test: James Hinchcliffe

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Popular and slightly off-kilter racer James Hinchcliffe was born outside Toronto in Oakville, Ontario in December, 1986 back when “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Platoon” were also new. After a breakthrough third season in 2013 scoring an impressive three wins, Hinch had a disappointing 2014 and recently changed teams leaving Andretti Autosport after three up and down seasons. That’s not the only conversion the comic Canuck has undergone recently, either.

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Last week the madcap Mayor of Hinchtown announced his signing with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in usual style – at an Indy brewery over some “oat sodas.” Before that he became an ordained minister through the wonderful convenience of the web, performing the ceremony at his friend and fellow driver Charlie Kimball’s late September wedding. A few years back, Hinch hilariously dawned a long black wig while replacing Danica (more diva than driver) in the late GoDaddy ride at AA. Today’s question of the quirky, quotable Canadian comedian is, did he pass the driver test?

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In his fun filled four year IndyCar career, Hinch has a gaudy eighteen top five finishes and thirty four top tens to go with his three wins. He’s also led over four hundred laps in his career, although funnily he’s never earned a pole. A past winner of the Tony Renna Rising Star Award, the racin’ reverend displays obvious driving talent. Even after an off year in 2014, his winning percentage in sixty eight big league races is an impressive 4.4%, better than most in the field. Without question Hinch is in the top half of IndyCar drivers, but that’s not the only part of this rigorous, uncomfortable and thoroughly invasive driver’s test. Now reverend, turn your head and cough.

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The other half of the exam is how well the driver handles media and public relations, as well as interaction with fans. In this regard, James’ talent may well surpass his on track gifts, which are bountiful. From his virtual Hinchtown site to his practical jokes and unorthodox, goofy-cool style, the mayor excels in the realm of media and PR. More than that he embraces his comedic racing role and enjoys it to the hilt, adding some much needed funniness to the sometimes somber, strangely sober series.

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A merry prankster, our humorous man of the (greasy) cloth lightens the mood wherever he goes, his charismatic personality nearly as infectious as a giggling fit in church. Joining his third team in less than five years, Hinch has made light of this inconstancy and likened his wandering ways to that of another waifish star, calling himself “the Taylor Swift of racing.” James is an exceptionally likeable and funny guy who’s not afraid to laugh, especially at himself. That quality translates extremely well in the modern age of racing, media and widespread weirdness.

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We at IRR salute and congratulate Hinchcliffe on his recent off track accomplishments – for weddings be sure to book early – and commend his silly slapstick style and Python-esque panache to other, less media-savvy drivers in the paddock (most of whom certainly will need a backup career). Hinch is easily the most likeable Canuck since John Candy – at a quarter his size – and along with his WAG is just adorable. How could a guy with the talent, face and personality of our favorite fast funnyman not pass the test? As Sam Schmidt may well have sung to the Rev of revs (and if he didn’t he should have), “Get out of my dreams, get into my car.”

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Danica: More Diva Than Driver, Part 2

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Danica endured a disappointing 2010 IndyCar season though she remained well lighted under the media klieg lights. The pressure mounted on her to prove that the historic 2008 win at Motegi wasn’t merely a fueling fluke, an accidental outcome as it started to appear. She managed only eight top ten finishes in seventeen races that year, though she did score a couple of podiums at Texas and Homestead along the way. There was nary a win in sight and it’d been nearly three years since her triumph in Japan.

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The same fans, press and admirers who had helped propel her to such dizzying heights of driver-diva fame now demanded more from her, or else the media machine threatened to move on from “Danica-mania” to the next fabricated folksy focal-point of their choosing, say Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus. Undoubtedly, her star had dimmed over the last couple years as the up and down cycles of big league racing took their toll. That glorious Danica glow already had begun to fade amongst the fans, if not yet amongst her dedicated followers in the press corps.

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By 2011 it was apparent that Danica would be leaving IndyCar and her on track results showed it. Emotionally she’d already moved on that final year in IndyCar, merely going through the motions and acting interested, all the while secretly looking forward to trading up for obscene riches. In one of her worst years in racing she managed only seven top ten finishes in seventeen starts, not counting the Las Vegas finale, which was canceled after Wheldon was tragically killed. Her best finish was fifth at the Milwaukee Mile, but it was her only top five finish all year with a couple of paltry sixth place results at New Hampshire and Baltimore for good measure. She led ten laps at Indy but finished a disappointing tenth in her final appearance to date in the Greatest Spectacle in racing.

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Then in 2012 with the usual amount of hoopla and media fanfare she married into NASCAR and its multi-millions, leaving IndyCar jilted, attention-starved and somewhat stunned at its losses. As Elvis once asked, “Are you lonesome tonight?” The divorce complete, her relationship with suddenly shaky IndyCar was behind her and the desirous diva-driver didn’t look back. Whether or not she actually could drive a hulking stocky behemoth around a racetrack was another matter altogether, as her waifish size and weight were no longer advantageous in her new series.

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If DP’s record of one win in a hundred sixteen IndyCar starts was poor, then her record in NASCAR has been even worse. She’s currently oh for seventy seven and counting, with a best finish of sixth quite recently in Atlanta. She has three top ten finishes so far this year along with two ninth place finishes last year. That’s it in two-plus lengthy – by which we mean seemingly never ending – NASCAR seasons.

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The media hype surrounding the driver-diva remains disproportionate to her performance to this very day, and it’s been that way since she made her debut a decade ago. It’d be another matter if she were a consistent or even sporadic winner, but such effusive media coverage starts to become insulting after so many years without results. Just ask her dumped ex-IndyCar colleagues.

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Photo from examiner.com

No other racer with one win in nearly two hundred starts gets a fraction of the attention she does. Clearly, Danica’s far more of a diva than she is a driver. The record – both photographic and otherwise – proves it. The only question is, will the media finally wake up and roll over for a clear eyed, sober morning view of their bodacious bedfellow to acknowledge the obvious fact? We predict no, and that she eventually moves on from NASCAR to fall for her next passionate love interest (media, anyone?), when yet again her utter lack of results will be completely ignored.

Danica: More Diva Than Driver, Part 1

The sometimes salacious, truly tiresome Danica Patrick saga is now over a decade old, lasting from its inception in 2005 to at least the present day. While parts of it haven’t been pretty, other parts certainly were. Danica may not be much of a race car driver, but she’s commendable for making the most of her career through skillful use of her um, assets.

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It’s not that she’s just another pretty face, though. Born in 1982 in Roscoe, Illinois Danica’s raced nearly her entire life. The diminutive thirty two year old has been competing at the big league level for ten years now – all one hundred pounds of her. Between IndyCar and NASCAR, she has nearly two hundred major league racing starts under her belt and exactly one win. The one victory occurred over six years ago in a little noticed late night IndyCar race in a land far, far away. That’s a .52 % career winning percentage in case you’re counting, which obviously is not a very attractive little number.

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Danica burst onto the IndyCar scene in 2005, soaking up the adoring press she generated and turning heads like a wet t-shirt contestant at a tent revival. Her national fame swelled to C-cup proportions at Indianapolis where she made history in leading laps as a rookie. An attractive young female racer who continually gained throngs of new fans and admirers, she also received the ire of competitors who were clearly jealous of the unparalleled media coverage the rookie garnered. Many forget she also led laps at Japan and Chicagoland that year and finished fourth at both Japan and Indianapolis. In a promising inaugural campaign Danica achieved six top ten finishes in sixteen starts, earning Rookie of the Year honors for both the Indy 500 and the season.

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The speedy siren also landed the Sports Illustrated cover after Indianapolis, further irking the more established and proven drivers in the field. In a televised interview after winning the Indianapolis 500, the late Dan Wheldon absolutely went off on Patrick. Asked about her extensive media exposure and whether it overshadowed his 500 victory, Wheldon unconvincingly told ESPN “I don’t care. Who gives a shit, really? I mean, so it’s SI – right there,  I mean if you were owner of SI, there are thirty three people in the Indianapolis 500, one of ’ems hot and female why wouldn’t you put ’em on the front? You’d be crazy not to, right?” The English racer then added tersely, “I have the self-satisfaction of just winning the biggest race in the world. Fine by me. . . . In ten years down the road, no one’s gonna remember the media attention the fourth place person got.”

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Danica experienced a bit of a sophomore slump on track the next year – her last with the struggling Rahal Letterman Racing – failing to lead a lap all year but finishing fourth at both Nashville and Milwaukee. The fawning national media treated her as though she were a female AJ Foyt setting the world afire. Danica had eight top ten finishes in only fourteen races that season but didn’t come close to winning. In fresh surroundings she bounced back in 2007 leading four races and landing on the podium three times, finishing second at Detroit and third at both Texas and Nashville. She finished in the top ten an impressive eleven times in seventeen starts and carried momentum into the 2008 season, her fourth in IndyCar and second with her new team Andretti Autosport.

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In her fiftieth IndyCar start Danica finally broke through with a victory. The general feeling among many in and around the series was one of relief rather than exhilaration once the facts had finally caught up with the phenomenon. She won the third race of 2008, taking the lead with three laps to go as most of those ahead of her pitted in an otherwise forgettable fuel mileage contest on a mountainside in Motegi, Japan. The few Americans who saw the race thirteen time zones away watched it very late at night and went to bed shocked at the result. She led only the final three laps but prevailed to become the first woman in history to win a major league race on a closed race course. The press attention Danica’s win birthed was unprecedented in its scope for IndyCar, lasting for months and years, easily overshadowing the recent announcement of the end of IndyCar’s version of the Great Schism.

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It seemed all the press’s previous glowing coverage of her was now somehow justified as they congratulated themselves, basking in their role of diva-driver queen-makers. She’d already posed in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and was arguably the most recognized (or is it over-exposed?) driver in the world, a true celebrity phenomenon by this point in her career. Starring appearances in extremely pricey and widely discussed Super Bowl ads weren’t far off. The win in Japan proved to be the high water mark of her racing career so far however, as she went on that year to lead only one more lap with high finishes of fifth at Nashville and Sonoma, and a total of nine top ten showings in eighteen starts. Her record didn’t get much better over the next  six years, despite what you may have read.

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In 2009 she did respectably well, finishing third at Indy and fourth at Long Beach and turning in five top fives and ten top tens in seventeen races. While she led laps at Texas and Kentucky and showed some consistency, she really wasn’t a threat to win all year. The next year she achieved second place finishes at Texas and Homestead, but managed only eight top ten finishes in seventeen starts including fifth place in Japan.

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By then the rumors of her leaving for NASCAR raged in the press, again irritating many in the Indycar paddock. Apparently some in the series thought they couldn’t live with her and couldn’t live without her. Having learned their lesson, this time around her fellow drivers muted their displeasure with Danica and her departure, generally voicing it off the record rather than publicly through the press as before. Few in the media ever noted her unremarkable record during a seven year IndyCar career and instead stayed on the Danica bandwagon as it swerved toward NASCAR.

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Eleven Reasons IndyCar is Superior to N@$C@R

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We at IRR despise N@$C@R while at the same time adoring everything IndyCar. Well, almost everything – don’t get us started on certain IndyStar “reporters.” Or this year’s champ. Or the disturbing disappearance of terrific oval tracks from the schedule.

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Despite its many flaws, IndyCar is a vastly superior form of motorsport with history, danger, innovation and raw speed on its side. N@$C@R bleeping sucks in comparison, and here’s why.

1. IndyCar doesn’t need 11 months and 40 some odd races to put on the fastest, best, most intense racing on earth.

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2. Much cooler names like Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud and Kanaan than Johnson, Busch and Keselowski.

3. Faster, sleeker, sexier, and far better looking race cars.

4. Faster, sleeker, sexier, and far better looking WAGS.

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5. Gene Simmons.

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6. IndyCar’s had many more bosses – three in the last five years – than N@$C@R’s mere one.

7. MUCH faster races than the interminable, snooze inducing N@$C@R marathons.

8. Less Busch brothers.

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9. A more selective group of race fans.

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10. IndyCar’s moved on from Danica, who’s all drawers and no drive.

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11. Jan Beekhuis!

Tomas Scheckter: IndyCar’s Orson Welles, Part 2

It had been a tumultuous  first half-season in IndyCar for Scheckter, especially  those chaotic days leading up to his epic victory in Michigan. Fired by Cheever – who didn’t last long as an owner – Scheckter eventually drove for nearly a dozen different IndyCar teams, sometimes several in a single season.  His career stalled as the shadow of his incredible initial triumph loomed largely, negatively affecting his fortunes thereafter.

Later in his career it became a scrum for funding, a tough grind like most drivers and even some Hollywood geniuses encounter sooner or later. As a result, the art suffered and starring appearances became fewer and further between. Unlike other legacy drivers Tomas’s father didn’t own an IndyCar team. Most of his former teams either no longer exist or have changed radically, as has the series itself.

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Scheckter had one more brilliant leading role in him, though. He returned to victory lane in 2005 for Panther Racing under the lights before a fairly packed house at Texas. His second win was Tomas’s The Third Man, an overlooked and underrated gem of a performance coming years after his first. This was back when there were three engines competing in the series and Danica raced as a rookie sensation, a golden age in IndyCars. Danica-mania raged nationwide and brought much needed though controversial attention to the series – or at least to one driver – as you may recall. 

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The Texas race immediately followed the late Dan Wheldon’s memorable first Indianapolis 500 win – the same 500 Danica briefly led. As a result, Danica-mania had reached pop-concert pre-teen scream pitch. She led several laps making history, but many forget about her earlier spin that collected both Scheckter and his Czech teammate Tomas Enge, ruining their respective races.  Danica suffered little damage and went on to finish fourth in her first 500, to the amazement of many.

Starting from pole in Texas and looking to regain the lost limelight, Tomas took the checkers after once again being forced to overcome numerous problems in the pits. For Tomas to win, it wouldn’t have been believable without  some theatrics. Fittingly it was another edge of your seat type of race, an exhilarating, enthralling show. It couldn’t quite match that thriller in the lower peninsular three years earlier, but then again what could? 

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For Tomas it was a needed shot of redemption, some box office success. An underdog, he was always someone you wanted to root for, to see succeed. On that night he did. “Thomas Scheckter has exercised the demons tonight” ESPN announcer Todd Harris declared as he beat Sam Hornish, Jr. to the line in an extremely close finish. Characteristically for Tomas, it was the first race the streaky South African had finished all year.

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In a post race interview on ESPN2, Panther principle John Barnes excitedly reacted to Tomas’s only win with his team.  “He’s a helluva driver. We’re gonna . . . party all night!” Danica ended up finishing 13th, well behind her media hype. Sound vaguely familiar? On stage in victory circle a humble Scheckter credited his team and Chevy power plant, saying “American Revolution, baby. . . . Thank them a lot.”

The Texas win came amidst the usual adversity, as Ed Carpenter ran over one of Tomas’s hoses on his first pit stop and he had to overcome some other slow  stops as well. Like Michigan, the pit crew’s poor supporting performance only served to make Tomas’s starring role shine brighter.  Tortoise-paced pit crews and rotten luck seemed to be defining traits of his career, but on that night he was able to overcome them both.

Losing a ton of track position again during his final stop at the high banked oval, the plot twist was exquisite. Scheckter had to contend with antagonists Hornish, Jr – a two time winner at Texas – and Castro-Neves in addition to the always tough Tony Kanaan. As if in flashback to his previous win Scheckter battled and speedily overtook them all to regain the lead of the race, holding onto it despite several contentious challenges right to the end credits.  

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The Texas win came in one of the sharpest paint schemes of all time – the platinum colored Pennzoil car – which positively popped under the lights. We wonder how many people missed the highly entertaining race on ESPN2 that Saturday night, when Thomas stormed into the lead for the final time during a side by side “30 at 30” break with less than fifteen laps to go. Clearly many critics weren’t pleased with the absence of a leading lady on stage, but the paying fans roared their approval.

Texas Motor Speedway was the final curtain call for Scheckter, as thereafter he bounced around from team to low budget team as often as some drivers change fireproof suits. He secured some funding on his own and spliced together programs here and there, but he never again got a shot with one of the big teams after Panther. The on screen results suffered.

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His record on the grandest stage of them all was decent, earning co-rookie of the year honors in 2002 –  shortly before Cheever wanted him gone – and leading over a hundred and fifty laps at Indianapolis during  his career. However, he would also crash while leading the 500 and a couple of other times as well. Victory in the big one always eluded him as it has most others who’ve raced there. His best finish of fourth came in his second race in 2003 for Ganassi, with Tomas as always feeling he had something to prove. In over half a dozen more attempts he never equaled that sophomore showing.

We hope he’s doing well and wish more genius-level talent like Scheckter would come along to IndyCar. Tomas was always riveting and compelling to watch race, adding something special merely with his larger than life presence in the field. We miss him and his crazy-brave racing skills. Like the late great filmmaker Orson Welles, the world could use more talented, defiant, risk-taking characters like him.