IndyCar Bommarito 500 Predictions and Prognostications: Nostalgic Edition

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What’s old is new again this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park as times gone by suddenly take on renewed relevance.

It’s been so long since IndyCar raced at Gateway more announcers have won there than drivers. The truly colorful Paul Tracy won the inaugural race in 1997 and talkative Townsend Bell took the checkers in the Indy Lights race in 2000. It’s just too bad Brian Till didn’t race – for more reasons than one. Helio Castro-Neves, who won the last race held there in 2003, is the only current driver to have done so. He did it in a Toyota.

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Juan Montoya won the race in 2000, but he’s only a test pilot at present. It’s interesting to note several current drivers were in diapers for PT’s win. Only two others apart from Helio have ever raced there: Scott Dixon and Tony “past expiration date” Kanaan. Interestingly, Dixie struggled in his only start there finishing 15th, while TK managed a second place showing in four starts.

Our special prediction is there’ll be lots of Sebastien Bourdais coverage as the Frenchman returns to the car for the first time since his injurious accident at Indy. His rapid recovery and return to racing is remarkable, but Continue reading

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IndyCar Driver Test: Mikhail Aleshin

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IndyCar’s first Russian driver in nearly a century features menacingly in our latest driver test.

In an age when seemingly everything’s tied to Vladmir Putin – either rightly or wrongly – it’s surprising Aleshin hasn’t been similarly smeared yet. To the contrary, he enjoys warm relations with Americans as allegations of undue influence are unfounded. The upcoming 2017 season will be his third in IndyCar, all of them for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

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Baron de Rachewsky was the only other driver from Mother Russia ever to race an Indy car. Putin shirtless on horseback obviously doesn’t count. Rachewsky’s lone U.S. effort came in Atlantic City in 1926 on a wooden track. Harry Hartz won the three hundred mile race as the baron’s Bugatti boisterously blew up.

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Getting poured through the sieve of international sanctions (it’s not what you strain, it’s who you strain), Aleshin missed out on all but one race of the 2015 season due to funding issues related to Russia’s rough behavior. The Muscovite’s had some limited success in his two seasons, winning the pole 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 Predictions And Prognostications: Peripatetic Edition

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The IndyCar series is finally back on the move again after a momentum killing three week pause. Teams temporarily postpone their peripatetic ways – at least for a passing period – while staying put at IMS for the entire month of May.

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Last year we predicted lots of signage at the Speedway, as sponsors’ ads crassly covered the joint. This year for the few thousand wandering around IMS there’ll be plenty of signage again, along with tons of tarp-age and also the predictable first lap pileup and carnage. On the upside, at least there’ll be a surprise winner.

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Expect to see tarps covering empty seats at the Speedway again this year, as IMS has been taking lessons from the NFL’s attendance challenged Jacksonville Jaguars.  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

IndyCar News Week in Review: Christmas Charity Edition

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Daly Does Dale: Hoosier Conor Daly landed a full time ride for the 2016 IndyCar season, albeit with one of the lesser teams Dale Coyne Racing. The rough equivalent of a football player signing with the hapless Colts, it’s a well deserved ride in the big league and we’re extremely happy for Conor. For “Dollar Dale,” Daly’s a dramatic upgrade over Dracone, Vautier, et al and it’s perhaps evidence that he’s been reading our site. Happily, Coyne’s crewmembers should be much safer performing their duties in the new year, as the attrition rate in DCR’s pits was Battle of the Somme ghastly. Seems he’s gotten somewhat charitable, that Coyne chap.

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Coyne Claims Clausen: In another stunningly early announcement from Coyne a.k.a. the king of procrastination, Bryan Clauson will drive for the team in the all important 100th running of the Indy 500. The four time king of USAC will attempt to make his third 500 start, guaranteeing at least a couple of Hoosiers will attempt to race in the state’s biggest event since the Battle of Tippecanoe Creek.

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White Russian, Anyone?: Mikhail Aleshin will return to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports next year after an involuntary hiatus in 2015, apparently related to sanctions against Vlad Putin’s resurgent Russia or something. Hinch’s latest teammate Continue reading

GP of Indy Race Review: The 500 It Isn’t

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Eddie Cheever summed up the early portion of the season succinctly during Saturday’s ABC broadcast, saying “Come next week, they’re in their Indy cars.” We had to chuckle and also agree – enough of the road courses already, let’s get to some entertaining oval track racing. The abbreviated ABC pre-race show was highlighted by a Nancy Hulman George appearance as she joined Mary onstage for the traditional command to start the engines. We’d very much enjoy seeing more of the beauty/heiress, perhaps even an extended photo layout.

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For the second year in a row on the IMS road course a first lap pileup marked a messy start. At least this year the pole sitter Power didn’t stall it, though overly aggressive driving by others up front led to cars going off course and another shower of carbon fiber debris. The first turn, first lap collisions ruined the races of Dixie, Newgarden and others while helping Rahal and Bourdais move up due to the carnage. A French civil war erupted on track as Pags and SeBass battled back and forth and Penske’s Simon Pagenaud ran up front most of the day until his Chevy blew up. The defending race winner screamed “Something’s burning!” over the radio as he stopped and hurriedly exited the car.

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The crowd looked sparse on television in the quarter million seat facility, sparser than the estimated 40,000 and down from last year. For the second race in a row Graham Rahal had the drive of the day only to fall just short. Continue reading

Grand Prix of Indy Qualifications: Instant Reaction

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The cars are all brightly painted and freshly decaled for the Month of May and there was even a little excitement during qualifying today – precious little. Some off course adventures livened up the show a bit, including Luca Filippi going off course during the second round in his sharp green CFH Racing Fuzzy’s car. His team mate and Barber winner Josef Newgarden also advanced to the top twelve but no further in his worst qualifying effort in several races. In a potential case of anti-New Zealander bias, Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais and KV Racing protested Scottie Dixon‘s fast lap in round two after a brief on track encounter between the two rivals. IndyCar race control wisely denied KV’s seemingly hemispherist and ugly complaint.

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Unluckily, Carlos Huertas of ‘Dollar’ Dale Coyne Racing saw his Honda engine blow up, spewing oil all over the recently configured track. Even when intact the Hondas remain significantly slower than the Chevys. Continue reading

Grand Prix of Indy Predictions and Prognostications: Gavel Down Edition

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Amidst a hail storm of flying carbon fiber debris and to the surprise of many Simon Pagenaud won last year’s inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. SPM wasn’t considered an upper echelon team at the time, though Pags won two races for Schmidt last year and put the team on the map before going to Penske during the off season’s free agent signing of the year. Following Pags’ departure SPM signed Mayor James Hinchcliffe who’d parted ways with Andretti Autosport to fill the Frenchman’s former seat. Hinch was horrifyingly struck in the helmet by debris, concussed and briefly incapacitated during last year’s GP of Indy in an unsettling sequence of events. These two intertwined drivers and teams will figure largely at Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon.

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Our special prediction for this weekend’s event concerns the greatly increased signage at the Speedway this year. It’s crass commercialism on display. You’ll no doubt notice it immediately upon tuning in, with the gi-normous Angie’s List double banner stretched obstructively across the yard of bricks. We predict the Continue reading

Grand Prix of Indy Preview: Hors d’ Oeuvres Edition

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Last year’s inaugural Indy Grand Prix on the revamped IMS road course featured some frightening moments, including a spectacular collision when pole sitter Sebastien Saavedra stalled it on the standing start and was smashed into by former Schmidt driver Mad Russian Mikhail Aleshin. In a separate horrifying incident during the race flying debris struck The Honorable Mayor James Hinchcliffe in the head briefly incapacitating the crazy Canuck while still very much behind the wheel. Incredibly James was only the second Mayor hit by flying carbon fiber pieces that day as Mayor Greg Ballard was struck at the start. Other than those unsettling and deleterious circumstances, IndyCar’s first race through the snake pit went off without a hitch. That is, unless one finds a Frenchman winning such an historic race on hallowed ground to be irksome, in which case last year’s event was a highly distasteful affair.

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Thankfully IndyCar’s done away with the ridiculous F-1 wanna-be standing starts this year. The drivers and cars could never quite seem to master them anyway. The Speedway brass in their infinite new found financial wisdom have also severely upped the signage at the historic racetrack this year, Continue reading