IndyCar News Week in Review

  • Silly Season Dominoes Tumble: Canuck James Hinchcliffe announced Tuesday that he’s signed with Schmidt Peterson Motorsport, filling Pag’s vacant seat as he’s now at Team Penske. The Canadian comedian did so in characteristic style, making the announcement at a local brewery in Indianapolis. This after officiating the marriage ceremony of fellow driver Charlie Kimball last week. Beer, change of scenery and honeymooning – what a charmed life IndyCar drivers lead.

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  • The Game of Musical Seats continues: Ryan Briscoe’s now a free agent again with reports linking Sage Karam to Ganassi’s fourth car next year. It seems as though in IndyCar as in life the rich continue to get richer, the poor poorer. Rumors have linked young limey Jack Hawksworth to A.J. Foyt Racing’s famed 14 car. IRR predicted both Briscoe and Sato were in trouble months ago, as both underperformed rather spectacularly in 2014. With Hawksworth a free agent, Bryan Herta Autosport joins the list of teams looking for a fresh pilot, as does Andretti Autosport. Got all that?

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Mr. & Mrs. Briscoe – photo from indystar.com

  • A.J. Foyt Racing Expanding to Speedway: According to reports, A.J. Foyt Racing purchased a large building on Main Street in Speedway, Indiana. They plan to renovate, rent out part and use part of it as a satellite base in Indy during the season while maintaining their main base outside of Houston, Texas. A.J. is quoted on his team’s website: “We’re happy to be part of Speedway’s redevelopment.” It’s a positive sign for the team and a plus for Speedway. Plus it’ll be a little bit of A.J. in Indy, where he belongs.

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Photo from usatoday.com

  • Finale at Sonoma? Regrettably, it looks as though one of the dullest and dreariest tracks in the country will host the grand finale in 2015. Curt Cavin’s sidekick and minor television/radio personality Kevin Lee tweeted about “more speculation about #IndyCar schedule” and then Cavin posted his own. It’s now down to a matter of dates, as it’s no secret as to the tracks which will be visited. Happily, all of the ovals from this season return in 2015 and the only subtraction is Houston, which was a dangerous joke of a parking lot track that nearly killed Dario and others last year.

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Photo from dailymail.co.uk

  • Another possible change is Toronto losing its twin billing, with the date changing due to a conflict with the Goodwill Games or some such obsolete international nonsense. Seen any pro sports lately? We blame Ted Turner for this amongst many other things. Both Brasilia, the planned capital in central Brazil, and New Orleans NOLA Motorsports Park, south of the Big Sleazy will host new races on road courses next season. Yippie. Otherwise, no major changes are forthcoming apart from some date changes which make sense, such as Pocono moving off the weekend of July 4th.

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Photo from economist.com

  • Odds and Ends: IMS upgraded their website, a long overdue move. IndyCar reporter for AutoRacing1.com Brian Carroccio showed IRR a kindness and followed us on Twitter, so a superspeedway sized thanks to him. Be sure to check out his work on the web. Finally, couldn’t resist this take on celubu-tard Gwynnie (a fave of ours to look at) and the recent fundraiser held in her California home for the once popular commander in chief. Wake me to your leader.

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Photo from dailymail.co.uk

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IndyCar News Week in Review

  • Pags to Penske: The most significant IndyCar news of the week wasn’t even a close race – it was a Penske sweep. The championship winning team landed the hottest free agent on the market in 2014, ironically a Frenchman. Pagenaud to Penske is major news, creating a four car powerhouse team, a first for Penske for a full season. Looks like the Cap’n grew tired of watching Andretti’s and Ganassi’s cars outnumber his on track, so he’s upping the count. For fans of underdogs, this adds another reason to root against the former CART Cardinal turned Captain and his dominant team.

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Photo from pinterest.com

  • Hinch Marries Kimball?! On September 27, Charlie Kimball married long time girlfriend Kathleen Thompson in a ceremony in Indianapolis officiated by Canadian James Hinchcliffe. Apparently the madcap mayor obtained a ministerial license online from a shadowy group known as American Marriage Ministries. We wish the newlyweds all the happiness in the world and the Mayor of Hinchtown a very  blessed day in his new career. It could really pay off for him if his on track performance doesn’t improve.

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Photo from racing.ap.org

  • Other Silly Season News: Mayor/Minister Hinch remains unsigned, but Pagenaud’s vacant seat at Schmidt is said to be his for the taking. Schmidt has tested several lesser known drivers recently, although signs point to the quirky Canadian being paired with the mad Russian for next season. This should make an intriguing international combination for one of the few IRL era teams left in the paddock. Speaking of the good ol’ days, as predicted here at IRR months ago Sato’s ride with AJ Foyt Racing is apparently in jeopardy, as other drivers including rookie Englishman Jack Hawksworth have been rumored to be under consideration by the King of IndyCar.

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Photo from toledoblade.com

  • Career Change? Former series driver Swiss Miss Simona de Silvestro’s Formula 1 dreams have been obliterated, as Swiss team Sauber announced it’s moving in a different direction. De Silvestro departed IndyCar in 2013 after scoring her first podium finish with a second place finish in Houston. Enduring several unsuccessful seasons in IndyCar, Simona’s latest failed F-1 venture is considered by some as her last chance in big league racing. We wish her the best in her future endeavors and would enjoy seeing her return to IndyCar, though we’re not holding our breath.

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Photo from usatoday.com

  • Odds & Ends: There was a Firestone tire test at IMS recently, and it was uneventful according to reports.  Ed Carpenter, whose team is transitioning to two cars as he merges with SFH, participated in the test while his new teammate Josef Newgarden watched. Newkid Tweeted some snaps of his boss and it looked to be a perfect fall day in Indianapolis, the Rome of motorsport. Testing of the new aero kits hasn’t begun, but will be a crucial component for teams this off season. In other news, Honda’s scrambling to keep up with Chevy as they continue to hemorrhage top drivers and teams, most recently Pags.

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Giving that Extra Effort to Win?

An article on legendary four time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt in Motorsport Magazine got us to thinking, which is a nice surprise from an informative piece. It chronicled Foyt’s 1964 season in which he won the championship and his second Indianapolis 500. It was what Foyt said recently while reflecting on his career that was striking, though.

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Photo from toledoblade.com

Foyt said “I know some great race drivers who were always satisfied with second or third when they could’ve won. They did not want to put that extra little effort. They were satisfied. My worst days were when I ran Indy and ran like crap myself. I couldn’t wait to get back there the next year to prove a point.” Knowing Foyt and his mind through the media at least, the cynic in us wondered which current drivers in the IndyCar series he might have been referring to – which drivers were satisfied with podiums rather than going above and beyond for race wins. Several leapt to mind.  

Ryan Briscoe made headlines recently, although not for his driving  or even his own efforts. His celebrity wife was promoted at ESPN and it was reported that the couple were moving to Connecticut. That’s a long way from his team and their  race shop in North Carolina. It’s not like Briscoe has torn up the tracks lately, as his last wins came at Sonoma in 2012 and Texas in 2010. He actually had a great year in 2009 with three wins and an amazing eight second place finishes, but that’s five years ago. His performance lately has fallen off and he’s had a disastrous last couple of seasons.

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Photo from indystar.com

Graham Rahal’s another driver who’s struggled mightily as of late. With a high finish of second in 2014, Rahal has only one career win in IndyCar. That came his rookie year as a nineteen year old at St. Pete, six years ago now. Graham’s been in the headlines for dating the gorgeous and talented Courtney Force lately, but hasn’t made news for his driving abilities for quite some time. Driving for his father, we wonder what he’s doing to significantly up his game.

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Photo from examiner.com

Finally, there’s the scion of the Andretti clan, Marco. He has only two wins in his eight year career which encompasses nearly a hundred and fifty IndyCar starts. Marco’s known to live the high life and makes fairly regular appearances in the press, just not for his on track performance. His last win was over three years ago in Iowa and this year’s campaign was disappointing to say the least, especially in comparison to his teammates. 

Another quote from Foyt may well apply to the young Andretti. Foyt reminisced  about his youthful days driving. “Back in those days when the sun went down was when it all started. You could stay up half the night partying away and get up in the morning and go to work feeling great, raring to go. You didn’t even feel it.”

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Photo from dailymail.co.uk

Are these talented, potentially great drivers giving that little extra effort in the off season to put themselves in a position to win? Or are they doing what they’ve always done or less hoping against hope that things will turn around for them? Good ol’ A.J. – always one to make you think.

Race Day Rumblings: Frightening, Fun-tastic Fontana Finale Edition

In a scary accident Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin spun low below the white line in turn 4 during practice last night and collected Charlie Kimball. Aleshin then made solid contact with the wall and was seriously injured. The catch fence sustained major damage as Aleshin’s wheel tore a hole through it. It was a nasty crash for the young comrade, who suffered serious injuries to his ribs, chest and shoulder and was also concussed. He’s in serious but stable condition this morning in the hospital. His car absolutely disintegrated and in the process tore up other cars as well as the facility.  He’s very fortunate he’s not more badly hurt. 

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Photo from usatoday.com

Kimball reports he’s sore but all right. Marco was also involved, spinning to avoid the damaged cars. Due to the miscue, there will be one less starter in tonight’s race as Pagenaud loses his teammate in his championship debut. This helps Power in the points race as he moves up a starting spot from 21st to 20th.

Apart from the speeds, another safety issue at Auto Club Speedway is the debris, dust and sand on the Cali track. Ryan Hunter-Reay tweeted out a picture of his helmet after testing earlier this week and its face was sandblasted. This after less than 500 miles. He and other drivers have expressed concerns about visibility and having enough tear offs for the 500 mile race. The debris and sand are also a concern for the cars themselves, as radiators took a tremendous pounding last year and a number of cars retired with engine problems, particularly the Hondas. It’s a long endurance race tonight and it will be interesting to see if engine reliability has improved over last year.

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Photo from Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Twitter feed

Welcome to Power’s breakdown, which is already in progress. He completely botched qualifying nearly wrecking his chariot and as a result starts second from last. As reported here, last week’s earthquake put the kibosh on his addled mind, or what’s left of it, and the effects are evident.  He’s toast and the only question is how epic his meltdown tonight will be. We’ve predicted it’ll be on a grand scale, must see tv, “New Hampshire times ten.”

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 Photos from indysportscrew.com and dailytelgraph.com.au

That will make it Helio’s night for the chamionship and it would be his first IndyCar Series title in decades of racing, surprisingly. Helio’s deserving, an engaging personality and will be a good representative for the series. In a long shot, we also predicted Takuma Sato to win one more time for AJ Foyt. That surprise pick is looking better after qualifications as Sato will start fourth from the inside of the second row.  While the pressure’s on, he’ll certainly have a great shot at it as they take the green flag tonight on the west coast. It’ll be an entertaining, wild ride under the lights for the finale – and that’s good as gold.

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 Photos from usatoday.com and speedsport-magazine.com

Why Takuma Sato Must Win in Fontana

Predicting Takuma Sato to win only the second race of his major league career (and that’s counting F-1) in the finale at Fontana Saturday night may seem like lunatic fringe stuff – we all know you’re out there. After all, he’s had no success on the ovals since joining IndyCar full time in 2010 and extremely limited success overall. However there are some very compelling reasons as to why Takuma must win in Fontana. The most obvious of them all is simply to keep his ride next year with AJ Foyt Racing and in IndyCar period. In that sense, having been booted from F-1 after nearly a decade driving and never cracking the top five, the 37 year old is driving for his racing life.

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Photo from lotusrace.com

Taku raced three IndyCar races as a rookie in 2005 to no avail, but began his career in earnest in 2010 with KV Racing and the woefully under-powered Lotus. This was after a fruitless seven year stint in F-1 with Bernie’s multi-billion dollar circus. Eventually he left KV to drive for Rahal Letterman Racing, but still found no success. Taku showed flashes of promise and led a couple races including 31 laps at Indianapolis, but tended to crash out struggling to finish. In 2013 to the surprise of many he joined AJ Foyt Racing and had to adjust again to a new team and to the abrasive, iconic Texan. At first his career continued to languish as he still sought his breakthrough win.

Takuma settled in quickly as the 2013 season progressed while AJ Foyt Racing also was settling in with a new boss, as son and former driver Larry Foyt assumed more of the racing responsibilities from AJ. The results soon showed as Taku took the ABC Supply car to his only big league victory at Long Beach in 2013. He followed that up in the next race at Sao Paolo with a solid second place finish in a wild, rain soaked race.

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Photo from speedsport-magazine.com

Since then though it’s been more famine than feast. Taku’s best efforts this year have come in a fifth place finish in the second race at Toronto and a then an impressive fourth last week at Sonoma. He’s won two poles in 2014 and raced well at a few tracks, but still struggled to finish races. He’s over due for a top two finish this year and in picking him to win the finale we’re going for the gusto.

Last Sunday’s 6.0 earthquake in Cali was something the Japanese driver could relate to, as natural disasters are something his countrymen are certainly familiar with. After the catastrophic quake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, Sato promoted the recovery charity for Japan on his car and did much good work in the global efforts to aid his stricken home nation. On Sunday Taku sustained damage to his car in the first lap melee at Sonoma but soldiered on smartly to a top five. It’s almost as if the quake woke Sato from his slumber and there is some discernible momentum there.

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As for A.J,  Lord only knows how much longer his patience with Taku will last or how long he’ll be with us in this racing world. The first four time winner of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, Anthony Joseph Foyt was born in January, 1935 in Texas. A hellion as a youth and arguably the best race car driver of all disciplines to ever have wheeled around a track, AJ is a legend in his own time. Having witnessed his final races at Indianapolis in the early 1990s and seen the man in action, this author vividly recalls the crowd’s appreciation, respect and adoration for Foyt. The awe fans held him in was apparent.

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Photo from espn.go.com

AJ’s also had countless surgeries, accidents and even encounters with killer bees and survived them all. In short, the man’s a 78 year old walking brush with death, fortunate to be alive as we are fortunate to have him. But the years of counting on seeing his smiling face on pit lane are slipping past. The legends of old are slowly dying off, as always and must ever be. We at IRR hope fervently that AJ lives to see many more Mays at Indy. But we also hope he gets to enjoy one more trip to victory circle before he slips off track to the great pit lane beyond. We’re predicting Taku has one more great performance in him to ensure that happens.

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Photo from toledoblade.com

 

 

Predictions: Fontana Finale Championship Edition

Expect the racing to be outstanding on Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. It almost always is as the track’s perfectly designed for IndyCars. Fontana’s an Italian place name with a gritty steel town history. It’s changed drastically over the last several decades and come Saturday night it’ll be known for two types of speed. The 220 mph speeds of IndyCars are perfectly legal though, and much better for you as long as you’re only spectating and not too close.

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Photo from ap.org

The season title is on the line and kudos to the series for another down to the wire year with the championship. In addition to being exciting to watch, it’s further evidence of the parity the league enjoys and the new Dallaras have brought to racing  over the last three years. Of course without race control’s reticence to penalize Team Penske again this year, we’d probably have another contender or two for the championship. The engine manufacturers also have performed well with Chevrolet taking the title again and Honda taking another Indianapolis 500 in May.

Realistically, it’s a battle between the two Penske veterans, Mad Will Power and the ever-ebullient Helio Castro Neves for the million dollar championship prize. IRR predicts it will be Helio who takes home the crown for the Cap’n’s first ICS title in nearly a decade, amazingly. This occurring after Power blows his lead, his race and his stack all in one glorious meltdown. Think New Hampshire times ten.

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Photo from indysportscrew.com

Here’s IRR’s exclusive scoop. For the unstable member of the Penske stable, Sunday’s earthquake sent Will kicking and screaming across  the proverbial edge. As we’ve documented here extensively, he was already teetering on it and Sunday’s 6.0 rumbler finished off his last remaining nerve. In addition to looking forward to Power’s meltdown, Helio’s experience and magnetism will shine through to make the difference Saturday night and beyond. That’s a positive for IndyCar. After all, you don’t want a mad man as your spokesman.  

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Photos from dailytelegraph.com.au and usatoday.com

As for the 500 mile race itself that’s another matter entirely. Somewhat unique to motor racing the result of the grand finale may be completely independent of the championship. Therefore multiple winners may well emerge Saturday night, a race winner and a points winner. Many factors go into the final race of the year for the teams. Drivers are auditioning for other opportunities, attempting to pad their career stats and even looking to keep their rides. Teams evaluate their crews and drivers’ performance in the finale closely, all with an eye toward improving next year.

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Like previous season finales in IndyCar, all bets are off. It’ll be a wild and entertaining ride, guaranteed. Both Hunter-Reay and Ed Carpenter are oval aces and Montoya’s been hot lately so any of them could win. Same can be said for Dixie and TK who’s been close most of the summer.

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But for the season finale in SoCal, that’s all too safe and tame for us at IRR. We’re going with a nostalgic surprise winner – one last win for the King of IndyCar – and some other astounding calls. They certainly can’t hurt our season averages and besides it’s the last opportunity of the year.

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Photo from toledoblade.com

% correct in previous 5 races

Pole Winner – Helio Castro Neves or Tony Kanaan                                               20%

Race Winner – Juan Pablo Montoya or Takuma Sato                                            20%

First Out of Race – Will Power or Sebastian Saavedra                                          20%

Biggest Surprise of Race – Carlos Munoz or Mikhail Aleshin                                  0%

Sonoma Recap: Rockin’ Race Review

To our pleasant surprise, Sonoma provided glimpses of real IndyCar magic on Sunday afternoon. Even a blind racetrack can find a decent race once in a while. Racing broke out after an earthquake jolted the area overnight, Will Power inexplicably remained un-institutionalized and Sebastian Saavedra somehow received another series start. Hats off to Scottie Dixon who stealthily stalked the leaders most of the afternoon to take the win. It’s only his and Target’s second win of the year, but thirty-fifth of “the ice man’s” impressive career.

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It threatened to be another Power-from-the-pole snoozer like we’ve become accustomed to at Bored to Tears Point, but acts of God have a funny way of changing things up. The race was very much like a six foot long sub sandwich – good at first, then there’s the long middle part but boy is it exciting to finish.

It started with a first lap pile up that saw Hinch spin for about the eighth time of the weekend and collisions involving Helio, Sato and others receiving damage in the corner. The accident was precipitated by Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais who like the others continued on until the wild finish. A skittish Bourdais later tangled with his teammate (two Sebastians come together!) and finally with Will Power on the last lap ending up in the wall. Helio’s race would be at the rear of the field and he’d soon be joined by teammate and championship leader Mad Will Power, a massive mistake adding some unexpected drama to Bored to Tears Point.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

Power controlled the race and pulled away under largely green though dusty dry conditions. Nearly halfway through the race however, he uncharacteristically spun coming off of a corner in traffic, losing the lead and the race and dropping to twentieth. Like Helio he continued on for points sake, but wouldn’t be a factor in the outcome. This put the race up for grabs and led to an extremely entertaining though jarring finish. Less Power means more drama at tracks like Sonoma.

As they dashed to the finish line behind leader Scott Dixon, cars raced all over the track, bumping and grinding and several even running out of gas. It proved to be a finish worthy of the quake rattled weekend, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud filling out the podium in fairly close fashion. Conway who led the race for Ed Carpenter Racing ran out of gas and coasted across the line before stopping on course.

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Bourdais was driven into the wall as they came banging three wide to the line with Power finishing tenth despite some controversy with his final placement. Sato comported himself well finishing fourth and Montoya charged back coca crazed style to a fifth place finish after also starting in the back. There was another brief yellow brought out during the middle portion of the race by Coyne’s Carlos Huertas who stopped on course. We predicted Huertas as first out, as well as Power on pole but missed with winners RHR & Montoya who fell just short.

The race sets up a grand finale for the championship as usual in IndyCar. With no contrived chase system like other series, IndyCar consistently has championship drama through the final race of the season. The double points Fontana offers as a 500 miler makes it a three way battle between the Penske duo Power and Helio and remarkably Frenchman Pagenaud for Sam Schmidt. Fontana will make for a thrilling conclusion to what’s been an entertaining season.

The coverage of the race by NBCSN although with the B team was colorful and competent, as usual. We just wonder how much they get paid to call the area “beautiful,” as unless you really like dusty brown, Sonoma just doesn’t do it aesthetically. Sam – you know – did all right as a new announcer, Townsend’s tolerable and PT’s ok for a Canuck. Leigh Diffy is preferred over his stand in, though. We particularly loved finally getting to see Courtney Force on camera. Damn, Graham needs to lead more races.  


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Photo from examiner.com

Earthquake Quotes –  

“Man I thought it was all over. I didn’t think we’d have the race. Oh my God – such a shock. I thought I was gonna die-uh.” – Will Power

“Not what you want. Man, it was amazing. I never knew we had that. Man, wow, that was the scariest thing of my life.” – Helio Castro Neves

“It was exciting – first earthquake ever.” –  Simon Pagenaud

“Yeah it was crashing and banging and stuff flying across the room.”  – Mike Conway

“The building was swaying so much. It was pretty big.” – Graham Rahal

“It was weird, man, I’d never been through an earthquake.” – James Hinchcliffe

“Awful, like awful. Like my shit- my, the bed was shaking. Anything in the bathroom went to the floor. It was bad.” – Juan Pablo Montoya

Race Day Rumblings: Earthquake Edition

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Photo from stanford.edu

It’s been an unusually unsettling morning for the IndyCar series. A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck overnight in the Sonoma, CA area. Reports of power outages, fires and damage are coming in this race morning. Effects on the track and today’s race remain to be seen. If there were to be a postponement or even cancellation of the race it would be a first for the IndyCar Series – cancellation due to earthquake. It’s one of the inherent risks in racing much less ending the season in Cali where numerous fault lines are found. It’s all oddly reminiscent of the 1989 quake during the World Series in San Francisco.Check back for updates.

There are already rumors of damage at the track and of a race cancellation today. The epicenter reportedly was six milesouthwest of Napa, very near the track at Sonoma. No injures have been reported, although fires and infrastructure damage will make today’s race highly unlikely to occur. Reports of aftershocks and widespread though moderate damage are coming in as the sun rises over Cali.

There’s still no word from IndyCar. Why the delay and why remain silent during this disaster? Wildfires are a growing concern as the state’s already taxed emergency resources will be stretched thinner. Is there any way a race can be held today in the midst of such chaos?

Preliminary reports from Sonoma Raceway state there is no damage to the facility. These reports don’t include the surrounding area’s infrastructure damage, however. Finally at 9:00 am central time the IndyCar website is reporting the races will go on today as scheduled. After a delay, it’s a remarkable turn of events in California. 

A cancellation of the race today would be huge for the championship, taking points away from Power almost certainly and making the double points 500 mile finale in Fontana even more crucial to the title race. 

If the race does eventually occur – and that’s an increasingly large if – the question is can Power win from the pole? It’s happened three of the last five years at Sonoma and Power’s done it twice in a row in 2010-11.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

There haven’t been any major silly season news updates at Sonoma this weekend, unlike Milwaukee where SFH & Carpenter announced a merger for next year. Perhaps they’re saving it up for the Fontana finale, or maybe the earthquake will shake things out. 

Can Sato keep his ride at AJ Foyt Racing? Larry said he needed “a strong finish” to the season but he starts 20th today. The results this year have been disappointing. 

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How long will Saavedra last at KVSH? It’s been another very difficult year for him and the team and Sebastian hasn’t been close to a win yet in multiple seasons.

Can Target get back on track? Dixon’s won at Sonoma and starts third while Briscoe and Kanaan begin fifth and eighth respectively. The team needs a strong race. Will Briscoe keep his streak of finishes alive this year and keep his ride for next year?

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Will AA’s up and down year continue? Their best qualifying effort was from Hinchcliffe in fourth, followed by Munoz and Hunter-Reay in 9th and 10th. They’ve seemed lost as of late and Hinch spun repeatedly on Saturday. 

Josef Newgarden starts second and has been strong this season. Reports are out this morning that he’s extended his contract with SFHR (soon to be CFHR) through next year. 

Will JPM be able to storm to the front and become a factor today? A penalty in quals (“Over the line!”) has him starting 19th next to Sato. It’ll be a challenge for Montoya to pull off a coca crazed charge to Cartagena from that far back in the field, but he should be fun to watch.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Sonoma Predictions – Coca Crazed Charge to Cartagena Edition “You Know”

We predict a fruity bouquet of tedium during the ‘race’ accompanied by dry, earthy background blandness finally followed by dreaded, widespread wine hangovers. For the uninitiated, these are amongst the worst of all hangovers and are surpassed only by very cheap wine hangovers, which are in fact the worst. Very much like the on track action at Sonoma – the worst.

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Photo from forbes.com

As for the racing – what little there is – we thought it’d be nice to spice the predictions up a little, salsa style. IRR boldly predicts JPM will win in spite of Bored to Tears Point Raceway cartel style by forcing Mad Will Power off the track. He’ll then go on to win the championship by winning Fontana. Wrap your minds around Montoya’s epic and forceful return to IndyCar dominance race fans, ‘cuz it’s a comin’. All hail el Presidente Montoya! That’s right and you heard it here first – and it’s so madcap, quite probably here alone.

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Photo from tri-cityherald.com

Montoya’s currently sixth but still has a long shot at it, assuming his teammates oblige by running into walls and gravel pits. The way JPM’s been going, the possibility of him banging Mad Will Power out of his way again ala Pocono isn’t out of the question. Plus this way we get to root actively against that Aussie lunatic, as if we needed a reason. The Colombian’s been on a coca crazed charge to Cartagena lately, one unseen since circa 2001. To quote JPM, he’s been “you know” fun to watch most of the year. By the way, how rigid is IndyCar’s drug testing program anyway?

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

Apart from Penske, Kalkoven and Vasser’s team has been either very good or more typically very bad this season with the two Sebastians. They’ll be some of both this weekend again, while having nothing to do with the championship battle. How on Jimmy’s green earth does the non-French one hold on to his ride next year? Or next race?

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Photo from foxsports.com

Sato also needs a strong finish, which at Sonoma means a top six start for Foyt else he faces losing his ride. While we’re at it, how long does Briscoe stick with Ganassi this time? You know the Chipster’s always itching to axe someone. Remember too race fans that Josef Newkid’s keeping his options open for next year and remains uncommitted as of this writing.

Finally, there’s the ravenous AA, rumored to be considering both a 7th and 8th car for next year while they’ve been utterly lost lately with four. RHR admitted his points race chances “went up in smoke” at the Mile and the other Andretti Autosport-sters chances had disappeared long ago. RHR won Barber earlier this year, so he could pull it off at this equally exciting track with some breaks and better luck than at Milwaukee. Then his championship hopes suddenly would materialize again, as if from a puff of smoke – like magic.

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Marco’s first win came at Sonoma – with a little help from his team mates, wink wink, nudge nudge – way back in 2006 (see “Marco, Where Have You Gone?”). That was eight years ago and he’s had only one win since. Can all AA’s IndyCar men put Marco’s race game back together again? Doubtful, though an un-assisted second win in wine country would assuage many doubts, most of them seemingly ours.

We’re definitely looking to improve the statistical averages of our predictions this week, so without further infuriating IndyCar’s elites here’s the latest stomp of the ol’ grapes –

% correct in previous 4 races

Pole Winner – Will Power or Juan Pablo Montoya                                                0%

  Race Winner – Juan Pablo Montoya or Ryan Hunter-Reay                                  25%

First Out of Race – Sebastian Saavedra or Carlos Huertas                                    0%

Biggest Surprise of Race – Marco Andretti or Jack Hawksworth                             0%

 

Milwaukee Mile Madness

The race entertained as promised with plenty of passing, traffic and action on the flat oval track. Before qualifications even commenced though the silly season news heated up. SFHR and ECR announced they’re joining forces next year to become a multi car team, consolidating into one big happy All American family.  Except for Conway that is, who’s a part time driver and full time Englishman. The series loses two teams but gains one, and we hope CFHR have success together. They cited the coming of aero kits, the need for shared data and the advantages of a two car team in the decision. We’d love to see Sarah back behind the wheel next year, but that ain’t gonna happen.

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Power started and won the race from pole, leading most of the race in dominating fashion. Team Penske finished 1-2 with Montoya also running a strong race despite a rough pit stop and looking solid heading into the last two races. He received a warning for running into a tire in his pit box but no penalty, as it seems Penske rules were in effect again for race control. The race was run almost entirely under green flag conditions with drivers generally behaving themselves all day. Kanaan and Dixon took third and fourth for Target Chip Ganassi Racing while Josef Newgarden took fifth for SFHR.

WillPower

Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

Andretti Autosport had a disappointing weekend, with all four cars qualifying poorly and Hinchcliffe who’d been quickest hitting the wall with minutes to go in the final practice, wrecking a perfectly good car. Hunter-Reay had the most entertaining drive of the race, storming from the rear of the field to near the front and gaining fourteen positions before his suspension finally gave up on him. After he climbed out of his car a dejected Hunter-Reay said “Our championship hopes are up in smoke.” AA rookie Munoz struggled all weekend and made the only contact with the wall all race, finishing last.

CMindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

In pre-race, Robin Miller amused viewers on NBCSN as usual with his grid run. In a brief encounter with J.R. Hildebrand, he raised the possibility of him driving a third car for the new CFH Racing. He then spoke with Larry Foyt about expanding to two cars and of the possibility of “half the grid being Americans next year.” We can only hope. Miller also mentioned the field being even stronger next year, which really would be something.

The grandstands looked to be only about half full for the race, if that, but we’re happy to pass along news reports stating that the IndyCar series will return to the historic mile next year. At least there’s some stability when it comes to oval tracks on the schedule. The oval track racing proved exciting with two and even three wide passing throughout the afternoon.

foyt

One of the biggest moments of the race was the start, where Sato in mid pack got extremely loose and nearly caused a pile up on the first lap. He recovered but was never a factor in another disappointing performance in front of his sponsor’s home town crowd. This after Larry Foyt told Miller in pre race that “the pressure’s on” Sato who “needs to finish the season strong.”

The grand old mile put in a good showing yesterday, providing challenging and entertaining racing for drivers and spectators alike. Power’s prime position in the points was strengthened as was Montoya’s, while Helio’s standing suffered with an 11th place finish. It was one of those pure Penske days in Milwaukee and sets up an exciting final two races of a rapidly dwindling season.