Iowa Preview: Wanted – For Wantonly Wasting Ovals

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If justice remains an issue of any importance, then the focus of the sporting world this week should be squarely upon IndyCar’s brass in Iowa. Specifically, how they handle oval tracks starting Sunday and going forward. If Phoenix – and a years’ long slide away from ovals and towards curvy courses – are any indications, then we truly tremble for the future of our beloved egg shaped circuits.

Racing’s routinely riveting at this rural redoubt, like all ovals the series doesn’t ruin with regrettable rules and regulations, then promptly abandon. At Iowa, three wide, edge of your seat action with near constant passing’s the norm. It used to be even better as a night race which it was until 2016, both for the racing and the fans. The move to a daytime race represents yet another major Mark Miles era schedule regression. Unfortunately, so too does Road America, where even more unfortunately that so called race was recently extended into the foreseeable future.

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It’s imperative that Miles and other IndyCar scheduling geniuses do the same with Iowa, whose contract is also up, Continue reading

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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

More Oval Tracks, Please!

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IRR renews its call for more rich, riveting oval track sweetness, as road races truly are the skim milk of IndyCar.

Why must the home of the world’s most famous sip of milk be in a distinct minority of race tracks? Considering two thirds of IndyCar’s races now take place on road courses – several of which are utterly unwatchable, like Mid-Ohio – the old Ovaltine ads suddenly leapt to mind, inspiring our call for ‘More oval tracks, please!’

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Longtime readers are no doubt accustomed to our overt oval track preferences. It’s significant to note however that recent seasons more than bear this out. Take last year, for example. Indy, Pocono, Texas and even East St. Louis (of all places) were easily the most entertaining races of the season.

By contrast, St. PeteToronto and Watkins Glen were terrible. Happily the latter’s no longer with us – one down, two to go. It’s really no surprise as high speed, circuitous venues routinely outshine their plodding, winding yet more numerous counterparts. That is unless your idea of compelling competition is Sonoma last September – talk about sour!

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As poltroonish politicians are always saying, ‘Think of the children!’ An entire generation of young race fans now exists to whom exquisite oval races are all but alien. Two hundred mile per hour plus thrills have become waaaay too few and far between, even if you get NBC Sports. Continue reading

What’s Michael Andretti Thinking This Time? Or: Michael’s Motor Mix Up Madness

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The mercurial motorsports owner’s the subject of still more baffling rumors – yet again.

Victorious team principle in the last two Indianapolis 500s and three of the last four – all with Honda – Michael Andretti is supposedly considering an engine manufacturer change. Bizarre, but that’s just like our Michael. The scion of the famous Andretti clan – and apparently the last real IndyCar driver the family will produce – has had a lot on his plate, starting with Marco’s flailing, failed decade in the sport.

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Publicly, the colorful owner comes off as a real hoot and this latest flirtation’s in keeping with his unpredictable nature. Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Predictions and Prognostications: An American Tradition

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The Indianapolis 500 is an American tradition like no other. Now into its second century, the 500 remains one of America’s great contributions to the world, as millions of Spaniards are about to discover thanks to Fernando Alonso.

Our special prediction for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing concerns the show itself, the racing. Expect highly exhilarating, edge of your seat, 230 mph ecstasy on the ancient oval Sunday – the way all racing should be. Of course that’s assuming the weather cooperates. Pay particular attention to the truly unique start, with eleven glittering, growling rows of three cars. It’s among the very best moments in all of sport.

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First lap leader will come from the outside of row 1 and he’s led before, even recently. It’s 100th Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi. The American prevailed on strategy and fumes last year, was impressive in qualifications last weekend and is still young and inexperienced enough to go for it early. Prepare for a vocal crowd reaction when he shoots into the lead.

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The mid-race leader prediction sees the introduction of a villain into the story, a real heavy Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Preview: Second Thoughts Edition

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As race day approaches a number of issues become secondary, while others rise to primary importance.

The two days of qualifying were, as f-ing F1’s Alonso says, intense. Sebastien Bourdais was putting up the month’s fastest laps on Saturday when he crashed horribly in turn 2, ending his day and season with a broken pelvis and hip. Post surgery, Dale Coyne‘s pilot Tweeted thanks for the support and that he’ll “be back at some point.” Meantime, James Davison will drive the 18 car in the 500 and start last.

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Sunday’s round was less eventful as everyone managed to avoid Bourdais’ fate, if not the turn 2 wall entirely. Pushing their cars to the limit, several drivers slapped the safer barrier on the backstretch, including Takuma Sato and Charlie Kimball.

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It was Scott Dixon‘s day, as his four lap average of 232.1 mph was the fastest qualifying speed since 1996 – when Arie Luyendyk set the record – and good enough for pole. Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Practice Four: One Off Edition

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Indy 500 one off and Englishman with two first names Jay Howard topped the speed charts at 226.7 mph Thursday. The SPM pilot was followed by Ryan-Hunter Reay, the reappearing Marco, one off Fernando, Newkid – more on those two later – and yet another one off Sage “wild man” Karam. That’s three one offs in the top six!

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The non tow leaders included some equally surprising names like Sato, who ran 224.7 mph, and Charlie “pinball” Kimball at 224.6 mph. Rahal, Hunter-Reay, Carpenter and Dixon rounded out the top six as sanity returned further down the list. It seems Hondas had a decent day at the Brickyard.

Josef Newgarden suffered the second wall related incident of the month, getting loose and losing it in the exit of turn one while running in traffic. 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

100th Indy 500 Race Review: Out of Gas Edition

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American IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi stunned IRR and the rest of the racing world Sunday. The Californian – who we predicted would do well – won the most significant race in history after running out of gas, coasting for nearly the entire final lap. When asked on television, the twenty four year old rookie classily mentioned it being “a huge honor and privilege” to have won the 100th.

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Juan Montoya‘s crash on his own in turn 2 was within IRR’s view at the track and a real highlight of the day. Sage Karam‘s wreck occurred right in front of us, while former 500 winner Buddy Lazier‘s problems went completely around the track. Continue reading

IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview: Cheap Trick Edition

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First F1, then CART/Champ Car, and finally IndyCar all have played a cheap trick upon the hospitable “I Want You To Want Me” Southern California destination. Fact is, fairly few edge of your seat races have unfolded at Long Beach during its long history, though you’d never know it. Almost inconceivably, this trickery’s been going on for four decades now.

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Appropriately for SoCal, the Grand Prix of Long Beach always has been upside down, like a wave riding a surfer. The ancient – at least by IndyCar standards – event is known more for its pre-race festivities and “atmosphere” than the race itself. This year’s hoopla will be highlighted by Rockford, Illinois’ own Cheap Trick in concert, a rock band from the ’70s and recent Rock ‘N Roll HOF inductee among whose best songs is, fittingly enough, “California Man.”

 

Included in the fanfare too will be an “ePrix,” a drift race and, perhaps most cryptic of all, a “Lifestyle Expo,” whatever the hell any of those are. One thing IRR‘s sure of, however. Prior to the race a must see Miss GPLB pageant will be held – not to be confused with an LGBT pageant, of course. Strictly for illustrative purposes, here’s a look at last year’s gorgeous finalists. Wonder how many “Southern Girls” are among them? Or cheap tricks?

 

Adding a crescendo to the bawdy buildup is Continue reading