Iowa IndyCar Race Review: ‘Like The First Time’ Edition

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For one driver, rumors of his series demise proved as motivational as his pre-race quote was prescient.

Forty two year old Helio Castro-Neves won his thirtieth IndyCar race Sunday at Iowa Speedway after being asked by Robin Miller if his remarkable twenty year career were coming to a close. “We just gotta make sure we not only win this race, but win the championship,” Helio answered with characteristic panache. It proved predictive, at least partially.

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J.R. Hildebrand matched his best career finish in second, recovering strongly from a Saturday practice crash for Ed Carpenter. Three time Iowa winner Ryan Hunter-Reay advanced a dozen spots to steal a podium for formerly dominant Andretti Autosport. Pole sitter Will Power and Graham Rahal, who disparaged other drivers’ “courtesy” as being “awful” afterward, rounded out the top five.

The Team Penske fixture led over two thirds of the race for his first triumph in fifty four races, or over three years of futility. Continue reading

Iowa IndyCar Preview: A 7/8s Mile Slice of Heaven

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Among the dwindling oval tracks remaining on the schedule, Iowa Speedway routinely puts on some of the most riveting racing of the entire year. You could say it’s the nearest thing to IndyCar bliss outside Circle City and Texas.

The Iowa Corn 300 has witnessed some unforgettable moments in a decade of IndyCar racing. Ed Carpenter and Sage Karam’s confrontations in 2015 – both on track and post race – top our list. We termed the race at the time “Sage Gone Wild,” seemingly a breakout moment for the young Pennsylvanian. Perhaps it was his angelic features that drew us in, if not his devilish driving.

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Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Now Sage is relegated to one off status at Indy, and unfortunately won’t be racing at Iowa after finishing 28th in the 500 this year. At least the other half of the duelin’ duo, owner/driver Carpenter, will be driving (as if that’s any consolation). We do have an idea for a new arch enemy for Ed to do battle with, however.

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Speaking of which, could Iowa turn into another TK induced crash fest like Texas? Tempers still smolder in the wake of Wisconsin, where Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan characteristically blamed Alex Rossi for his most recent crash. 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

101st Indy 500 Practice Two: A Slow Day at IMS

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Team Penske’s Will Power made a showing with the top speed of 224.6 mph in Tuesday’s Indy 500 practice, while Ed Carpenter and his eponymous team were in the dough with the fastest non tow speed of 222.8 mph.

Speeds were down even from Monday, as high temps and winds made conditions less than ideal on the famed two and half mile oval. With the weather expected to worsen this week every minute of practice becomes more and more crucial, particularly for the rookies.

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Helio, Gabby “Pat” Chaves (!), RHR and Sage Karam rounded out the top five tow speeds, while Charlie “pinball” Kimball, ECR’s J.R. Hildebrand, “Sour Grapes” Power and Dixon completed the top five on the no tow speed chart. Chevy took both categories Tuesday, while Honda did on Monday.

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Happily there were no incidents involving the wall, Continue reading

Phoenix Race Review: Single Handed

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J.R. Hildebrand gave fans someone to root for other than those paradoxical Penskes in a flawed though mildly entertaining show in the desert.

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Simon Pagenaud and the Penskes prevailed going away as the first oval and night race of the year looked like 2016 in microcosm. Thankfully there were other stories, or rather a single other story, on NBCSN. If we heard about it once, we heard it a thousand times. Hildebrand‘s comeback race from a broken hand at Long Beach – requiring “a plate and eight screws” as Paul Tracy read from a card – saw him finish an impressive third. It was Ed Carpenter Racing‘s best result in some time and a remarkable feat by the team’s shorthanded newcomer.

We couldn’t help but think of the sound of one hand clapping during the race, as the crowd looked sparse on television and the Saturday night time slot is challenging for ratings to begin with. After seeing the start though, maybe that’s not all bad.

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The race began embarrassingly with a first lap caution as Mikhail Aleshin lost it and spun in turn two collecting Marco, Rahal, Chilton and Bourdais – Hondas all. Continue reading

Phoenix Predictions and Prognostications: Sponsors Needed

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Several high profile drivers and teams remain without solid sponsorship for the season’s first oval race – a big deal around here – including the previous winner. As true IndyCar racing arrives with Saturday night’s fiesta of fast in Phoenix, it’s the lack of big, big money that rightfully has some fans concerned.

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Empty sidepods are less than desirable, especially when they adorn a super team that sometimes tends not to finish races and another that barely cracks the top ten (except for Dixon). Scott enjoyed the thirty ninth win of his storied career last year in the desert, yet three races in still hasn’t found a permanent replacement for the dearly departed Target. How 100th Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi’s car remains a blank slate is equally incomprehensible. In the spirit of ovular optimism, our special prediction is that this dearth of signage on quality competitors won’t last long.

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Speaking of money, Helio Castro-Neves Continue reading

Prix View Open Test Review: Reverting To Form

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Prodigal pilot J.R. Hildebrand – who’d been out of a full time ride for years – shot to the top of the speed charts Saturday during IndyCar’s open test at Phoenix International Raceway. Reaching speeds of over 193 miles per hour on the 1.02 mile oval in the afternoon session, J.R.’s nineteen second lap held up as the quickest of the weekend. Hildebrand then reverted to form and crashed during the evening session after contacting Mad Will Power.

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Hildebrand’s ECR teammate and owner Ed Carpenter posted the second highest speed of the test at over 192 mph as Chevy swept the top five speeds overall. He was followed by the Penske trio of Josef Newgarden, Helio and Power. Recently featured Russian driver Mikhail Aleshin impressed as top Honda in sixth place with a lap of just over 191 mph. Clearly he wasn’t horsing around and no fake news was reported or influenced the results.

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While Chevy again dominated the speed charts, Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: The More Things Change Edition

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New Year, New Look . . . Next Year: So-called “uniform body kits,” spec chassis set to replace the aborted IndyCar aero kits, will be previewed in a test on February 10th at PIR. Unfortunately, they’re not set to debut in action until 2018. Brant James recently agreed with us on the egregious aero kits, writing of the “unpopular and expensive assemblies” going away after this season – and none too soon.

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He also quoted IndyCar president of competition ol’ Jay Frye on the mysterious appearance of the forthcoming chassis, who cited “cool” looking “bits and pieces” from “the past twenty years,” with “a lot of retro.”  Encouragingly, Frye claimed the new design would be “lower, sleeker, what an IndyCar has historically looked like.” Perhaps over-promising, the competition president predicted the experience would be “aesthetically exciting for the fans.” Depends upon the quality of the grid girls, obviously. Chassis that aren’t aesthetically appalling would be an improvement, and we hope he’s not speaking of NASCAR fans.

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Optimism Abounds, Apparently: Between Frye’s gushing about the next generation of chassis and Mark Miles‘ ebullience about Continue reading

An Unbrave Newgarden World

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The recent move to Penske was not an especially brave one by the up and coming Tennessean.

It’s hard to blame a guy like Newkid for going with a super team, even a villainous one like the Cap’n’s. But we’re willing to try.

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Cavin’s typical puff piece on Josef jumping ship to Penske was humorous, with several coats of everything’s wonderful, great for everyone, blah blah blah. But is it really? As you may well imagine dear reader, we have a different take. One that stands in stark contrast to all that.

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In an IRR interview exclusive, long time Newgarden fans – from Tennessee, no less – expressed dismay upon hearing the news. Continue reading

Sonoma Finale Predictions and Prognostications: Rude As Hell Edition

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IndyCar’s season finale will take place Sunday at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California, rudely enough. In case you’ve been living in a frickin’ cave lately, NoCal’s the home of everyone’s favorite bench warming quarterback, the extremely rude and disrespectful Colin Kaepernick. He’s known primarily for his spectacular fall from grace, as well as his prima donna precociousness and pre-game protests of the national anthem. Now IndyCar with its ill-mannered front runners is crashing Kap’s bitch session.

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For our thorough thoughts on the championship battle, see “IndyCar Championship: Evil of Two Lessers.” In perfect keeping with our extremely rude theme, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud will prevail in the championship battle, beating out his ill-tempered team mate “Mad” Will Power. Pags winning the points sweepstakes is highly appropriate, for not only is Cali known for wine, but now thanks to Kap also for whining – as well as losing football teams, Hollywood hucksterism, in your face government, impolite levels of taxation and widespread flight from the state. How rude.

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Our special prediction for the finale is Continue reading