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

Detroit 2 Race Review: Rear Ended Edition

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If an IndyCar driver wasn’t involved in a rear end collision Sunday at Detroit, he probably won.

NBC’s rather amateurish broadcast was delayed this time by tennis from France, which after the Indy 500 was appropriate enough. While the weather proved much better than Saturday, the perfunctory Pagenaud platitudes didn’t. Qualifying was also missed due to a water delay – not from rain, but from a tire barrier – even though the recording was set for an extra half hour in case of such eventualities. Nevertheless we did get to hear “O’Canada” sung out loud as well as STP’s new front man do the US national anthem, which was superlative. Scott Dixon said he felt “very, very, very lucky” to be recognized by the Queen with an Order of Merit listing for his racing skills. Certainly no rear ending there.

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Josef Newgarden and Alex Rossi made up the first row, and Colton “Joaquin” Herta and Zach “Son of Dracula” Veach the second with Conor Daly driving . . . the two seater. Continue reading

Detroit 1 Race Review: Rain Delay Edition

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Following a lengthy rain delay, Rossi’s typical smugness and a whole lotta Frenchman in the pre-race, festivities finally got underway over an hour and twenty minutes late. It’s what NBC’s Daffy Leigh Diffey called “a slight delay.” For sitting through the wait, fans were treated to a single file start and a timed race. Really?! Either the track’s good to go racing or it isn’t. We’ve long been on record arguing the latter.

Zach “son of Dracula” Veach spun during the parade laps, soon followed by Canuck James Hinchcliffe, both suffering no apparent damage and thankfully only added a lap’s delay. Now with merely seventy two minutes left, Santino Ferrucci narrowly avoided AJ Foyt’s Matt Leist who spun out on a wet patch of concrete. Then Whinin’ Will Power pinched one of the way too many blue cars as they went three wide through the turn. The yellow flag flew by lap 2, with Takuma Sato getting into Pato O’Ward on a track clearly too wet to start a race.

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The caution dragged on and the track continued to dry when, with just over an hour of racing left, Power 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

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

IndyCar Classic Race Review: All Hail Emperor Herta!

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The record books were rewritten Sunday in Texas, as the youngest driver in IndyCar history – 18 year old American legacy pilot Colton “Joaquin” Herta – incredibly won only the third start of his career. It was a popular finish throughout the paddock, as Bryan Herta’s son and Brian Barnhart’s team, Harding Steinbrenner Racing (partnered with Andretti) took their first ever series victory.

Swedish love dished out during pre-race proved badly misplaced, as Felix Rosenqvist was crashed out by James Hinchcliffe in the only full course caution of the day – after earlier spinning on his own. Fellow Scandinavian Marcus Ericsson earned a late penalty in the pits for contacting another car, dropping him to the rear of the field and sealing a fifteenth place finish. The start was clean except for Zach “son of Dracula” Veach, who made contact with Graham Rahal and ran off course, falling to last place as he was forced through and around COTA’s gravel traps.

Scott Dixon made it three wide through turn one, which is allowed under the no limits policy, followed wide right by Rahal who was then contacted by Veach. Herta split Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) to move up a position to third for a taste of things to come. Meanwhile Ganassi’s Rosenqvist dropped back two positions to eighth. Alexander Rossi challenged Will Power for the lead briefly but remained in second with Herta, Hunter-Reay and Dixon making up the top five.

Single file racing rapidly set in, with Power comfortably out front. 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