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

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Iowa Predictions and Prognostications: The Big Four

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Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 could be the race to end all races – it’s often that entertaining. Hopefully it isn’t the end of IndyCar races at Iowa Speedway, but that’s only if “Bismarck” Miles doesn’t declare war on any more oval tracks. Where’s an ace leader like Eddie Rickenbacker when your series needs him?

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One fact about Iowa that’s likely to blow you away is three different winners in as many years, with the (usually) retired Helio, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay the victors. Make it four of the last five if you throw in Hinchcliffe’s devastating win in 2013. Taken together, they’re who we call The Big Four of Iowa.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has won an impressive three battles on Iowa’s plains, including back to back in 2014-15. Incredibly, his record’s less gaudy than that of his team’s smashing performance overall. Andretti Autosport’s enjoyed an unrestricted seven wins – out of only eleven races in the track’s history – sinking the competition as effectively as a u-boat wolf pack. Hinch’s win was with AA, too and even Marco managed top of the podium for his dad’s outfit, somehow. It was his last win, now seven years ago. Seems like a century, doesn’t it?

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Our special prognostication for Sunday is related, though far from neutral. Continue reading

Texas Race Review: Honestly Edition

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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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Following a quick cleanup, the restart came on lap 15 with Newgarden, Power, Pags, Wickens and Rossi the top five.  Continue reading

Texas Preview: Thank God For Eddie Gossage

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In wake of the Detroit debacle, where a pace car crash by a VP typified GM’s weekend, IndyCar heads to a real racetrack, one where the stage is grand, speeds are eye popping and the racing’s never dull. Eddie Gossage’s Texas Motor Speedway hosts one of the yearly joys of existence, and does so magnificently.

For twenty one consecutive seasons and still more races, Texas Motor Speedway has exhibited some of the most exciting side by side racing IndyCar has to offer. Its gargantuan size, dizzying speeds and close quarters racing all make for a uniquely Texas IndyCar experience – and one of the very best. The race also enjoys the best promoter in the business, one TMS President Gossage.

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Recent changes to the racing surface, including decreasing banking slightly in the first two turns and widening it by twenty feet, didn’t Continue reading

Detroit Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: A Lot To Like

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At the conclusion of the annual pilgrimage to Motor City, ABC’s long and strained relationship with IndyCar comes to a merciful close, as does the weak early part of the series’ schedule. We’re fans of seeing both go and look forward to a brighter, more productive portion of the season ahead. Starting with, like, our ever popular predictions!

We’ve several prognostications for this weekend, full of open wheel racing as it is and coming off what was frankly a rough 500 in this department. But come on, who did have sour grapes Power winning it? Besides his few hard-cores, we mean?

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So without further adieu, we confidently predict a widespread outbreak of spontaneous celebrations marking the conclusion of ABC’s coverage of IndyCar, arriving after this weekend’s dual Disney displeasure. There’s nothing not to like about the new network partner NBC – at least for the foreseeable future, that is.

Not only does the slipshod coverage conclude after Sunday, but also – finally! – the schedule starts to pick up. Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Race Review: It’s A Vegemite Sandwich and We All Gotta Take A Bite

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Team Penske’s – and all IndyCar’s – least likable driver won the series’ biggest race, sadly. For the Cap’n, it was his seventeenth 500 triumph – a towering record never to be surpassed. AA’s Englishman Stefan Wilson, brother of the late driver Justin, led until the final stages before being forced to pit for fuel.

With seven cautions in all, the race – and particularly the start and restarts – were thrilling, right up until the end when Wilson pulled into the pits with only four to go. This handed Will “sour grapes” Power the event, to every single thinking race fan’s chagrin. It’s one race at long last that he can’t complain about.

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ABC’s pre-race coverage of course featured a lengthy Danica interview, followed by some yahoo named Marty Smith with a NASCAR accent screaming into a mike from the snakepit. Thanks for the memories, ABC.

From the green flag, Danica dropped five spots as predicted, then embarrassingly lifted completely off the throttle in turns during early in-car camera coverage. Her owner Fast Eddy Carpenter led from the pole, while ragin’ Graham Rahal jumped seven spots almost immediately from his dismal starting spot. He’d wind up tenth.

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Photo from indystar.com

Driving AJ Foyt Racing‘s always tenuous third car, James Davison was waaaay loose and waaaay slow, and finally on lap 47 Taku’d had enough and simply Satoed him. The defending 500 winner closed quickly and smacked him from behind in between turns 3 and 4, nearly going airborne and bringing out the first of seven cautions.

Only a few laps following the restart, Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Preview: Fast Eddy and the Achievers – Featuring Danica

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Considering a hellacious crash by a Canuck, three wide action and sizzlin’ Sage Karam showing the rest of the 33 car field the way – and that’s all from Monday’s penultimate practice session – Memorial Day weekend should prove to be an entertaining Indy 500 show. And not some mere one-outfit lounge act, either.

In a controversy-free weekend of qualifications, Fast Eddy Carpenter won pole for the third time while his teammates surprisingly secured sixth and seventh. In a stellar showing, ECR out-shined even Team Penske on Sunday. An exhilarating bump day included a couple of fan favorites rudely excluded from the field, namely James Hinchcliffe and Pippa Mann. Honda, the series’ suits in their suites and the entire Twitterverse broke down in an absolute tizzy, Lil’ Al style. We say snowflakes, welcome to Indy.

Now it’s time to look ahead to the race or, if you’re SPM, maybe you should think about taking it one day at a time. In addition to hopefully edge of your seat racing, expect Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Practice Day 4: Fast Friday Flop

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Fast Friday lacked urgency, action and speed, though on the bright side the weather cooperated and nobody got hurt. At least not too badly. Maybe drivers and teams feel they’ve adequately prepared the past three days of practice for the four most nerve wracking laps of their lives, or maybe they’re saving all the best moments for this weekend – and next. When the whole world’ll be watching.

Like yesterday, the fastest speeds came early in the running rather than late, an up is down, black is white scenario if ever there were one. Marco “practice warrior” Andretti managed to again turn in the quickest of the tow speeds at 231.8 mph, followed closely by Robert Wickens, Ed Carpenter, Oriol Servia and Will Power. Danica was 20th. The added turbo boost only raised speeds a mile per hour or so, but for some reason the series does it anyway. The fastest non-tow speed belonged to Will Power with a lap of 229.7 mph, trailed by his teammates Josef Newgarden and Pags as well as Ed Carpenter.

Another of the day’s flops occurred shortly before 3:00 p.m. James Davison lost it in turn 2 and spun A.J. Foyt Racing’s gorgeous, red third car, slamming the wall and wrecking it pretty substantially, destroying the gear box. He suffered a banged up knee, but was otherwise all right and cleared to attempt qualifying tomorrow – Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Practice Day 3: JR Wallbanger Edition

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One driver was up to his old tricks again today at the Speedway, while another showed an aggressive streak. Neither of them were anywhere near the top of the speed charts.

Ragin’ Graham Rahal turned in the day’s fastest lap of 226 mph, which is a tick slower than Marco’s lap yesterday. He was followed by Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan, Marco “practice warrior” Andretti, Ed Carpenter and Sage Karam in the top five tow speeds. This order was established early in the running and never did change, a first for happy hour this week.

Will “sour grapes” Power owned the quickest non-tow speed of 223.9, followed by Sebastien Bourdais and Charlie “pinball” Kimball. Generally things were less hectic on track with some 2700 laps turned compared to 3300 Wednesday, but there was some close racing nonetheless – at more than one point, a little too close.

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Photo from Kevin Murphy on Twitter

The start of happy hour included some increased action with five or six cars running together, until the last twenty minutes when things heated up as more cars joined the fray. Helio Continue reading

Handicapping The Rookies: Greenhorns Galore, Part 2

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Previewing the 2018 IndyCar season from the perspective of those nine drivers with a combined experience of the average couch sitting race fan. Tellingly, the mean age of our final five rookies is a ripe 24.8 years old.

This slate of newbies enjoys slightly more experience than those covered in part 1 and also have the distinct advantage of landing with established teams – in a couple cases, even decent ones. Just not in our first instance . . .

AJ Foyt Racing‘s Matheus Leist – only 19 – hails from Brazil like his curmudgeonly, over the hill teammate. His initial IndyCar foray at the Phoenix test wasn’t fortuitous. Leist brushed the wall at least three separate times, and possibly more. On a less expensive note, Matt did manage three wins last year in Indy Lights, including the Freedom 100 at IMS. That’s no doubt a major reason he’s driving for A.J. Matt also scored an impressive nine top fives and two poles in his sole Lights season. Why the 43 year old TK landed A.J.’s other seat is totally inexplicable.

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Zach Veach will have the benefit of top notch equipment driving for Andretti Autosport, if not the most sensible boss. The baby faced 23 year old Ohioan already had two big league starts in 2017, with a best finish of 19th at Barber for ECR (as a stand in for the injured and now unemployed J.R. Hildebrand). Also, he finished 26th in the 101st Indy 500 for AJ Foyt Racing. Zach’s the author of a book for teens and apparently a good friend of Oprah, so watch out.

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Yet another Canuck – just what the series needs – Robert Wickens Continue reading