Toronto Race Review: Penske’s Pulled A Fast One

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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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Toronto Predictions & Prognostications: Penske’s Province

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Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but Team Penske’s won two of the last three races held in Ontario – and their current drivers have won three of the last four. Fact is, thanks to IndyCar’s current road course heavy, ridiculously redundant schedule, these totally one-sided results are fast becoming a joke.

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Our special prediction for Sunday is a dash more excitement than the ramshackle racing the streets of Toronto usually provides. Why, you ask? Because Continue reading

Road America Race Review: Caution Needed Edition

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In the most lop-sided IndyCar contest in a decade, Alexander Rossi won going away for Andretti Autosport in a typical Road America laugher. In the annals of racing, perhaps never was a caution, a rain storm, or a Sato desperation banzai move more needed to liven up the show.

Sunday’s pre-race coverage was lengthy, featuring Rossi, Jean Girard lookalike Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and the legendary Scott Dixon, whose dreadful luck of late was chronicled – and would continue. The start of the race saw polesitter Colton Herta lead Rossi toward turn 1, although it wouldn’t last. Rossi skillfully passed him on the outside of the corner for P1 and never looked back. Whinin’ Will Power immediately was all over the 19 year old rookie for second, a spot he’d eventually take. Herta would finish eighth.

Then Dixon spun ’round after going wide into a turn and being rudely hit from behind by Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay), dropping to last. In typical Gumpian fashion, he’d fight his way all the way back to fifth by the checkered flag. Continue reading

Indy 500 Preview: Hasta La Vista, Alonso!

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A soggy, disjointed weekend of qualifying for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing sent one of F1’s biggest stars packing after he failed to produce the speed needed to make the show.

Fernando Alonso and his McLaren team suffered devastating disappointment, unable to qualify for the world’s greatest race after lots of hype and hoopla. This shocking development came despite his team receiving last minute help from both Andretti Autosport and Team Penske, heavyweights of the sport. To Alonso’s undying credit though he handled the blow well, even refusing an offer from McLaren to buy him a ride for the 500. Every crisis presents opportunities however, and young American drivers Kyle Kaiser and Sage Karam seized them in Sunday’s final session, setting the last row and sealing Alonso’s fickle fate.

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Simon Pagenaud put Penske’s Chevy powered day glow Menard’s car on pole by the slightest of margins, but he didn’t detract from Ed Carpenter Racing’s efforts in taking three of the top four starting positions for Sunday’s race. Continue reading

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

Brindy, Or: Britain’s IndyCar Rebirth (Sort Of)

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Forget Brexit – it’s Brindy!

Five years ago when we last broached the subject of UK born IndyCar drivers, the major pending issue was Scottish independence from the UK (how’d that work out, Dario?). Today, it’s the entire UK’s freedom at stake under Brexit. So we’re watching how thoroughly Parliament will foul it all up. My, things do change rapidly across the pond, don’t they?

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In that not too distant past over on this side of the Atlantic, British drivers in the IndyCar series had dwindled down to darn near nil, fleeing faster than the Duchess of Sussex’s personal staff. She’s not known as “Lady Megbeth” for nothing. Imagine an open wheel series without the lilting, stilted manner of speech, the meek, mockish politeness, or those gawd awful, hooligan type fans. Oh, and we musn’t forget about the tea. Crickey, it’d be far too much to bear.

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The situation approached the downright unimaginable, particularly coming from the right regal realm of Jimmy Clark and Nigel “worst teammate ever” Mansell. Continue reading

St. Pete Race Review: New Season? Newgarden

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In a predictably prominent Penske affair, Josef Newgarden cruised to his eleventh career win at St. Pete over Scott Dixon. “It just worked out perfectly,” the positive pilot postulated post race.

During the pre race show, Paul Tracy exclaimed “there are Swedes everywhere!” Sounds like an ideal beach party to us. Also included was a nice update and interview with Robert Wickens, who vowed to come back from his devastating, paralizing injury last season at Pocono.

A controversial qualifying session, which saw Dixon initially miss the top twelve before not only making the fast six but starting fourth, had Will “Sour Grapes” Power on pole, again predictably. In fact, an all Penske front row rounded out by Newgarden was trailed by an all Ganassi second row – with the Swedish rookie Rosenqvist actually outpacing defending champ Dixie – and an all Andretti third row of 500 winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi. In other qualifying news, only Marco can manage to run out of fuel without turning a single lap.

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The start saw a slight delay thanks to the cumbersome two seater and – as usual – failed radio communication with same. Why they insist upon trying to talk to the backseat rider time after time in vain is simply beyond us. Continue reading

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.

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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.

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

Iowa Race Review: ‘How Is Hinch Ahead?!’ Edition

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In a baffling though entertaining affair at Iowa Speedway, SPM‘s James Hinchcliffe somehow overcame everyone who stood in the way of his first win of the season. It was the second of the Canuck’s career on the diminutive oval, his sixth overall. Taking the lead with less than fifty to go to the surprise of many – not least of which Josef Newgarden – it was a confusing, pro-Canadian conclusion under a Carpenter-induced caution. As usual, everything was the villainous Will Power‘s fault.

Newkid’s teammate was nearly a lap down and not surprisingly acted more like a spoiled schoolchild than a teammate, holding up the defending champ as “lap traffic” with only thirty odd laps to go, handing Hinch the lead and eventual victory. Immediately after being passed for position, an astonished Newgarden asked his crew incredulously over the radio, “How is Hinch ahead?!” Simultaneously, we wondered the exact same thing.

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NBCSN’s pre-race included Townsend Bell telling us day is night and Kevin Lee calling RHR – well over 37 – “young.” On the upside, the until recently MIA Katie Hargitt returned to air. Unfortunately, it was primarily whilst eating during the cooking segment, Continue reading

Detroit Race Review No. 2: ‘Penske’s GM Amateur Hour’ Edition

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It is entirely appropriate that ABC’s last ever IndyCar broadcast involved a pace car crash during the parade laps that they missed while away at commercial, utterly destroying a brand new Corvette and delaying the start by thirty seven minutes. It was less so that Honda absolutely schooled Chevy in their hometown yet again, sweeping both races rather easily and awarding AA’s Ryan Hunter-Reay the trophy Sunday. Despite a positive public face and Power’s podium, the Cap’n could not have been happy.

RHR earned the victory, for much of the race looked like a Rossi runaway, the 500 winner starting from pole after emerging from a drenched morning qualifications. Overcoming adversity after a podium finish Saturday, the victor spun into the tire barrier during quals Sunday morning and received a penalty for his trouble, losing his fastest two laps of the session. As a result Hunter-Reay started back in tenth position. He wouldn’t be deterred.

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The pre-race consisted of a replay of Hinch’s lap from yesterday and a very subdued command to start engines by Mark Reuss – a senior VP at GM – who then proceeded to crash the pace car on the parade lap, stopping the race before it’d even begun. IndyCar should demand that  Continue reading