St. Pete Race Review: Crass Commercial Edition

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Riveting racing in IndyCar’s return to action Sunday was largely overshadowed by shabby coverage from the Always Being Crass network in hopefully its last year broadcasting the series. Sebastien Bourdais survived the near constant carnage to repeat at St. Pete in a race featuring a whopping 366 on track passes. Fans maybe got to see ten percent of them. Given the sheer frequency of commercial interruptions, one would have thought the local newscaster the victor.

An asinine infomercial ran until ten minutes before the green flag. With so much new this year – gorgeous cars, rookie drivers and fledgling teams – the hyper abbreviated “pre-race” was in reality a slap in fans’ faces. Considering it’s Bestwicke, Goodyear and Cheever in the booth however, perhaps it wasn’t such a great loss.

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Will “Sour Grapes” Power’s first lap spin surprised even those of us predicting early trouble, and boy did it materialize. Even Scott Dixon suffered a rare brain fade worthy of a rookie – or worse, Marco – smacking Sato and instigating one of eight caution flags, five of which came in the early going. Old ‘n in the way TK and rookie Zach Veach made contact before Ragin’ Graham Rahal banged into Spencer Pigot, bringing out yet another yellow.

Away for another ubiquitous break, ABC missed multiple restarts as pole sitting newby Robert Wickens enjoyed a comfortable lead throughout most of the race. In a bit of foreshadowing, Bourdais briefly inherited the lead after the first round of pit stops. Continue reading

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Indy Grand Prix Race Review: ‘You’re All Fired!’ Edition

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During a week of high profile terminations, we’ve a few to suggest for IndyCar after the Indy Grand Prix.

Will Power‘s job is secure after his first win of the year and the Cap’n’s third consecutive. He led three quarters of the entirely green race while Scott “runner up” Dixon took second and Ryan Hunter-Reay made an impressive surge from eighth to third. Graham Rahal again had the drive of the race though, improving fourteen spots to sixth.

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While the traditional Indy GP first lap, first turn pileup was averted, some carnage still occurred. Marco ass-ended TK, sending two cars off course and the past expiration date Kanaan to the pits. Perhaps fearing for their jobs, race control was strangely alert, actually penalizing Andretti for avoidable contact with a drive through penalty. It ended his race and should end his largely fruitless decade plus stint in the series.

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Speaking of firings, the ABC crew of Goodyear, Cheever and the other guy acted exactly like they’d just been shown the door. At one point, Eddie was briefly on fire. After offering Goodyear an opportunity to clean his Borg-Warner replica, Cheever predicted “Ryan Hunter-Reay will get to the front.” He proved prescient.

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While there wasn’t a battle at the front all afternoon, there was some passing on track Continue reading

St. Pete IndyCar Race Review: A Real Stinker

The Firestone Grand Prix at times smelled like a tire fire.

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Frenchmen swept the top two spots at St. Pete Sunday, as Sebastien Bourdais bested defending champ Simon Pagenaud in a result no one foresaw, much less foresmelled. Charging all the way from last place, it was Bourdais’ thirty sixth major open wheel victory of his storied career, and it smelled of feet. By all accounts, SeBass was able to avoid embarrassing himself by not dropping the trophy again from atop the podium. It was his first win since Detroit 1 last June and added to other recent renaissance wins including Milwaukee.

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While the racing on the newly repaved circuit had its moments, particularly during the start and restart, on the whole it still stunk like week old French cheese. St. Pete’s a ramshackle temporary street course, on top of which Mark “Stink” Schlereth acted as Grand Marshall, so what’d you expect?

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Bestwicke, Goodyear and Cheever provided their usual Mickey Mouse coverage, Continue reading

Dual In Detroit Two Race Review: No Further Action

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Will Power saved The Cap’n’s weekend by winning at Detroit on Sunday. The race became a buzz killing Penske parade with one of the series’ least popular drivers searching for a celebration in victory lane. It didn’t help that his suit was soaking wet.

The race was preceded by wild morning qualifications that included Power and Conor Daly – among others – being penalized, though of course Penske was sanctioned less severely than Coyne. Pags stole yet another pole in the bifurcated session, with the second group dealing with a wet track. Like Saturday, starting P1 did the Frenchman little good.

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Pre-race coverage began with Allen Bestwicke assuring viewers, “This is not a repeat. This is a live, original program.” A heavily made up Goodyear sagely – if slightly contradictory – said, “I think we’re going to see the same thing,” while Cheever again mentioned “all these bumps!” Thank goodness it was ABC’s last IndyCar broadcast of the year.  Continue reading

Dual In Detroit One Race Review: Bumpy Edition

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What started out as another Pagenaud pass-out worthy Penske parade suddenly turned into an interesting race in the second half. Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais won his thirty fifth IndyCar race Saturday – from thirteenth – his second in as many years at Detroit.

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The start was anything but bumpy for pole sitter Pags, who checked out from the field. The first caution of the race came when – as we predicted – CGR’s rookie Max Chilton smacked the wall and exited the race. Apparently a suspension piece broke, as he swerved into the wall on a straightaway. The Englishman then proceeded to drop the F-bomb live on national television. That’s hot!

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Pags and Helio ran one-two on the Cap’n’s home track, thanks – according to ABC’s booth geniuses – to Penske’s special shocks and springs made especially for bumpy Detroit. Extremely bumpy commentary characterized the day’s coverage.  Continue reading

Dual in Detroit Predictions & Prognostications: Double Indignity

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After the glory that was the 100th Indianapolis 500, IndyCar’s schedule imposes upon race fans the double indignity of Detroit. Twice. Thank you, Mark Miles. On the desperately needed upside – and in the midst of widespread Post Indy Stress Disorder, or PISD – after Detroit comes more oval track awesomeness under the lights at Texas. Yeehaw!

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As for the double header on Belle Isle, it’s embarrassing for a number of reasons. A Randy Bernard brainchild, double headers were once an innovative way to stretch the series’ skinny schedule. These throwbacks included double dippers at Texas Motor Speedway – huzzah! – as well as the parking lots of Houston – boo! Now we’re down merely to Detroit’s Belle Isle. Yawn.

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The rat infested island sits in the Detroit River, which falls under the administration of the Water & Sewerage Department. The river’s where Flint residents used to get their water, back when their only worry was drinking treated human waste. Continue reading

100th Indy 500 Qualifications Day Two: Mayor of Indy

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Canuck comic and IndyCar pilot James Hinchcliffe completed a comeback story for the ages Sunday evening, going in the span of a year from the edge of oblivion to pole position for the 100th Indianapolis 500 mile extravaganza. He edged Americans Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay, the former by thirty four thousandths of a second over four laps, or ten miles. The series wanted drama for pole day and they got it.

In an early qualifications incident, A.J. Foyt Racing‘s Alex Tagliani “got really loose!” as he said on the exit of turn 4, spun and ended up clipping the pit lane wall attenuator. He’s fine, but the car’s not and receiving a DNQ they’ll start last in 33rd. AJ should be particularly thankful for the Monday practice session.

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Earlier Scott Dixon blew a Chevy engine, which is normally a death knell on the final day of qualifications, except there are only thirty three cars there. In almost super-human fashion, Ganassi’s teams changed the engines out in less than two hours, enabling him to qualify fairly well in thirteenth. That’s one better than Marco and one helluva team effort during a difficult week. Mike Hull, Ganassi’s head honcho on Dixon’s team, gave a different version. He said Chevy “asked us to change” the engine, citing “absolutely zero concern with our race engines,” when we asked. 
Continue reading

100th Indy 500 Qualifications Day One: Mayor of Indy?

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After more a.m. rain, weepers on the track caused a delay in the first day of qualifying for the greatest spectacle in racing. IMS extended the track window by an hour setting up a helluva climax for ESPNews. Boy, was it a Duesie. The Mayor James Hinchcliffe stole the show – and the pole – in a riveting late happy hour run of 230.946 mph.

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Photo from Chad Smith on twitter.com

Prior to that, Max Chilton was involved in the first accident of the day in practice, losing the car in turn 2 and smashing Chip’s half million dollar bill board up pretty well. Calamity next struck Pippa Mann when her rear wing end fence failed during a qualifying attempt, spinning her out in turn 2. She almost saved it with an evasive maneuver before lightly brushing the wall.

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ABC’s two hour window missed almost everything except Pippa’s spin and the final few qualifiers like 500 winner Buddy Lazier. Continue reading

GP of Indy Race Review: Backwards Edition

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Holding a race at Indy before the 500 is as backwards as a horse wearing riding pants. If the Grand Prix of Indy was supposed to build momentum heading into the 100th Indy 500, then it failed. That is, unless you’re Penske, Menard and Pags.

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Simon Pagenaud dominated yet again at the GP, taking his second victory there and third consecutive, to almost nobody’s liking. ABC’s canned intro even rightly called the infield race at IMS “backwards.” In fact, the entire event was ass backwards from start to finish – cars going around the famed track the wrong way, Dale Coyne’s Conor Daly teasing us by taking the lead from out of nowhere, and a Frenchman ultimately winning the damned thing from pole by nearly five seconds.

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Pags’ championship points lead is now sizable, with his competitors going backwards. On the flip side, Tony Kanaan‘s not fast over forty farewell tour continued, as predicted. First out of the race, he walled Bourdais just after the green flag flew, before hitting the precarious first turn. Continue reading

GP of Indy Preview: Get On With It Already

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Blame Mark Miles and his sclerotic schedule for the long hiatus, not us. Also for the latest IndyCar humiliation with Boston flat out telling the series they don’t want a race in their city. That’s the second cancellation of a race by a city under Mark Miles’ miserable reign and at this rate we’ll be down to the Indy 500 and half a dozen Detroit double headers for a schedule next year. Oh, and we can’t forget the second rate race at IMS, the GP of Indy.

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It’s a tabletop flat 2.4 mile road course with a flabbergasting fourteen turns. Both previous races on the IMS infield – which, let’s face it, was made for partying and not for an IndyCar race – featured fugly first lap pileups. What’s worse, the catastrophic carnage turned out to be the highlight of both. In 2014, Sebastien Saavedra Continue reading