IndyCar Grand Prix Race Review: Empty Seats Edition

Photo from twitter.com

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

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IndyCar Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: Penske Primacy’s Paramount

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Since they insist upon continuing to place this clunker on the schedule, Billionaire Roger Penske should be sponsoring the IndyCar Grand Prix. Particularly since no one else will.

In the five year history of this “event,” Team Penske has won ’em all. Will Power’s won three – including the last two – and his teammate Simon Pagenaud won the other two, taking that fiasco that was the injurious inaugural and also topping the podium again three years ago. Due to such predictable Penske primacy, our special prediction for this rare Saturday race is that once it’s over, you’ll have wished you’d spent the day mowing your yard instead, or even going to a wedding.

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Photo from foxsports.com

Other than Sebastian Saavedra’s disastrous non-start from P1 in 2014, resulting in a horrifying crash that hairlipped the honorary starter, Indy’s Mayor, Team Penske has Continue reading

IndyCar Grand Prix Preview: What’s New Edition

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After an astonishingly absurd month long layoff – talk about a buzz kill – IndyCar finally stirs back to life at the world’s most awe inspiring racetrack. Too bad it’s not on the actual racing surface, or at least not much of it, but instead on the flat, pusillanimously pedestrian infield access roads. With each passing year, our contempt for this supposed “race” – exactly like our feelings for Mark Miles – continues to sink to new depths.

In the wake of such an interminable hiatus, it seems almost like a new season – and in some respects it is. For oval track racing enthusiasts such as ourselves – who’ve only waited nine months since the last oval race – the promise of a fresh oval season, however abbreviated, isn’t far off now with the glorious 500 up next. Still, when only a third of the series’ races – in a sport built on and by oval track racing, mind you – are on ovals, it’s cold comfort. This Tony George spawn of a slot filler typifies what an unprecedentedly lousy schedule the egg heads at 16th and Georgetown have been providing the last several years – and, in a relatively new twist, how they’re all about the money, not the racing.

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Image from indycar.com

The “advanced frontal protection” pieces debuting on the cars are also something new starting with the race ’round IMS’ infield. That’s a fancy, techo-babble term for Continue reading

Iowa Predictions and Prognostications: The Big Four

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Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 could be the race to end all races – it’s often that entertaining. Hopefully it isn’t the end of IndyCar races at Iowa Speedway, but that’s only if “Bismarck” Miles doesn’t declare war on any more oval tracks. Where’s an ace leader like Eddie Rickenbacker when your series needs him?

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One fact about Iowa that’s likely to blow you away is three different winners in as many years, with the (usually) retired Helio, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay the victors. Make it four of the last five if you throw in Hinchcliffe’s devastating win in 2013. Taken together, they’re who we call The Big Four of Iowa.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has won an impressive three battles on Iowa’s plains, including back to back in 2014-15. Incredibly, his record’s less gaudy than that of his team’s smashing performance overall. Andretti Autosport’s enjoyed an unrestricted seven wins – out of only eleven races in the track’s history – sinking the competition as effectively as a u-boat wolf pack. Hinch’s win was with AA, too and even Marco managed top of the podium for his dad’s outfit, somehow. It was his last win, now seven years ago. Seems like a century, doesn’t it?

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Photo from foxsports.com

Our special prognostication for Sunday is related, though far from neutral. Continue reading

Texas Preview: Thank God For Eddie Gossage

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Photo from foxsports.com

In wake of the Detroit debacle, where a pace car crash by a VP typified GM’s weekend, IndyCar heads to a real racetrack, one where the stage is grand, speeds are eye popping and the racing’s never dull. Eddie Gossage’s Texas Motor Speedway hosts one of the yearly joys of existence, and does so magnificently.

For twenty one consecutive seasons and still more races, Texas Motor Speedway has exhibited some of the most exciting side by side racing IndyCar has to offer. Its gargantuan size, dizzying speeds and close quarters racing all make for a uniquely Texas IndyCar experience – and one of the very best. The race also enjoys the best promoter in the business, one TMS President Gossage.

Photo from Getty images

Recent changes to the racing surface, including decreasing banking slightly in the first two turns and widening it by twenty feet, didn’t Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Race Review: It’s A Vegemite Sandwich and We All Gotta Take A Bite

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Photo from foxsports.com.au

Team Penske’s – and all IndyCar’s – least likable driver won the series’ biggest race, sadly. For the Cap’n, it was his seventeenth 500 triumph – a towering record never to be surpassed. AA’s Englishman Stefan Wilson, brother of the late driver Justin, led until the final stages before being forced to pit for fuel.

With seven cautions in all, the race – and particularly the start and restarts – were thrilling, right up until the end when Wilson pulled into the pits with only four to go. This handed Will “sour grapes” Power the event, to every single thinking race fan’s chagrin. It’s one race at long last that he can’t complain about.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

ABC’s pre-race coverage of course featured a lengthy Danica interview, followed by some yahoo named Marty Smith with a NASCAR accent screaming into a mike from the snakepit. Thanks for the memories, ABC.

From the green flag, Danica dropped five spots as predicted, then embarrassingly lifted completely off the throttle in turns during early in-car camera coverage. Her owner Fast Eddy Carpenter led from the pole, while ragin’ Graham Rahal jumped seven spots almost immediately from his dismal starting spot. He’d wind up tenth.

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Photo from indystar.com

Driving AJ Foyt Racing‘s always tenuous third car, James Davison was waaaay loose and waaaay slow, and finally on lap 47 Taku’d had enough and simply Satoed him. The defending 500 winner closed quickly and smacked him from behind in between turns 3 and 4, nearly going airborne and bringing out the first of seven cautions.

Only a few laps following the restart, Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Practice Day 3: JR Wallbanger Edition

Photo from fox59.com

One driver was up to his old tricks again today at the Speedway, while another showed an aggressive streak. Neither of them were anywhere near the top of the speed charts.

Ragin’ Graham Rahal turned in the day’s fastest lap of 226 mph, which is a tick slower than Marco’s lap yesterday. He was followed by Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan, Marco “practice warrior” Andretti, Ed Carpenter and Sage Karam in the top five tow speeds. This order was established early in the running and never did change, a first for happy hour this week.

Will “sour grapes” Power owned the quickest non-tow speed of 223.9, followed by Sebastien Bourdais and Charlie “pinball” Kimball. Generally things were less hectic on track with some 2700 laps turned compared to 3300 Wednesday, but there was some close racing nonetheless – at more than one point, a little too close.

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Photo from Kevin Murphy on Twitter

The start of happy hour included some increased action with five or six cars running together, until the last twenty minutes when things heated up as more cars joined the fray. Helio Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Practice Day 2: Marco, the Practice Warrior

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Photo from twitter.com

Don’t let the often clueless look on his countenance or his fake nonchalance fool you. Driving for one of the best teams in the sport – his dad’s – Marco Andretti may not win races, but he sure knows how to shine in practice.

He held the top towed speed of just over 227 mph at the conclusion of day two, edging out Indy 500 winners Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato. Rookie Robert Wickens and Charlie Kimball rounded out the top five, with Hondas taking the top four spots. Interestingly, Tony Kanaan in his AJ Foyt Racing Chevy had the top non-tow speed of just over 223 mph.

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Over 3,300 laps were turned in total Wednesday,  Continue reading

IndyCar Grand Prix Race Review: Bush League Stuff

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Image from youtube

When winner Will Power’s accent degenerates to the point where it’s more affectation than Aussie, you know you’ve landed in IndyCar’s outback. The predictable and unpalatable Penske win from pole was the Cap’n’s 200th in the sport. It was also, to quote Quintana, “bush league stuff.”

During ABC’s unremarkable, out-the-door-and-it-shows pre-race show, Scott Goodyear pontificated that he wasn’t sure his fellow Canuck Robert Wickens “is a rookie.” Well Mr. also-ran, we’re positive that he is. Next, Power predicted a good race with “lots of passing,” all merely proving that he’s a better driver than prognosticator.

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The GP’s Great Leader Tony George gave the command to start engines while in the booth they droned on about the perils of turn 1. Upon taking the green they went at least four wide in what’s hopefully a harbinger of things to come in the 500, going hard into the sharp right hander that is the GP’s first turn. By turn 2 there was the predictable trouble on track.

Upon first glance and according to the booth, ECR’s rookie Jordan King hit Pags, sending both off course and into the gravel pit. After starting seventh, Pags was able to keep it going and bring it home to a respectable eighth place showing. On the same opening lap, Pigot also ran off course after hitting a curb and wildly flying through the air, hitting an unfortunate Sato after landing and bouncing. Poor Spencer was penalized for the avoidable contact, but soldiered on to finish 15th. Meanwhile, his teammate King got stuck in the gravel trap, bringing out the first caution of the day.

Cutting through the ABC crew’s confusion, replays showed Pags only went wide after being hit by his teammate Helio, who is as you may have heard fresh off retirement. Only then, and after checking up, Continue reading

Barber Predictions and Prognostications: Alabama Getaway

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As IndyCar teams, drivers and fans – including a number of our more intrepid followers – make their way south for a race weekend outside Birmingham, a serious question arises. When it comes to vacation destinations, obviously there are a helluva lot better options than central Alabama. For example, almost anywhere else – save for Detroit. So what’s the attraction, we wonder? It can’t be the statuary.

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Photo from the web

Nor is it likely to be the racing, which takes us to our special prediction for this purpose-built motorbike track. Don’t expect cautions to free viewers from monotony jail like at Long Beach, as the wide open spaces of Barber are almost always amenable to clean, green flag racing. Translation – a single file procession at interstate speeds. See Pags’ win from pole in 2016 for proof. Want more evidence? IndyCar’s last three at the quirky facility have averaged fewer than two cautions per race, although unusually 2014 saw five yellows. Talk about flighty!

Pick for pole is positively Penske, as it’s predictably their plunder. The Cap’n’s crew have purloined the last four in a row at BMSP, with Helio, Pags and Power all getting in on the action. Continue reading