What’s Sam Schmidt Thinking? Or: IndyCar’s Scott Peterson Motorsports

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This time it’s a well-liked relative newcomer to IndyCar ownership instead of a loose cannon legacy owner who has us seriously wondering.

It was reported this week Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is teaming up with former F1 owner Didier Calmels to run fellow Frenchman Tristan Gommendy in next year’s Indy 500. Why is he a former F1 owner, you ask? Because when he was convicted of shooting his wife in cold blood in 1990 and sent to prison, the wiser F1 heads understood spousal homicide isn’t exactly a positive image for a racing series. That’s regardless of whether it was a crime of passion or not – and the fact that he somehow served less than two years for his heinous crime.

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Nearly three decades later, apparently SPM hasn’t gotten the memo. Or perhaps they’re merely joining in our national obsession with ignoring history when not defacing it. The team’s statement read in part, “Didier has fulfilled his obligations and gone on to become a successful businessman and team owner in European motor sport.” Translation: he’s paid his debt to society and is a fine, upstanding citizen now who’s bringing us lots and lots of cash.

While the last part is certainly true, it’s the “fulfilled his obligations” bit with which we take exception. Continue reading

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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 Five: Not All Bad Edition

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Fast Friday was a day at the Speedway where if it could go wrong it probably did, although there were a few silver linings. For instance, happy hour happened despite rainfall for the second year in row. And even though a Frenchman was quickest, it’s this weekend’s qualifications that count.

After some limited action the rains came, delaying Fast Friday several hours while the track was dried. Happily it wasn’t as bad as last year’s downpour, as Conor Daly reminded us. Once the cars emerged on track, the crashes came; fortunately both drivers were all right. It was that kind of a day in Speedway.

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Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais ran quickest at 233.1 mph, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and his hyphen here to stay second quick at 232.1 mph. The Dale Coyne and Andretti Autosport cars were followed by two more AA entries in Sato and Alonso, who occupied fourth for the third day in a row. Penske’s “What’s wrong with” Juan Montoya – the lone Chevy representative in the bunch – rounded out the top five.

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The fast frog was fastest without the tow too at 231.1 mph, until RHR edged him out with a 231.2 mph run late in the day. 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

Indy Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: Sympathetic Edition

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Sometimes sympathy is an appropriate response – when it can be convincingly summoned.

A certain uneasy feeling shot through IndyCar teams this week faster than Ganassi flees a bar tab. Those paradoxical Penskes provoke paranoia in the paddock – with good reason – as it’s presumed they’ll probably prevail once the pageantry’s concluded. So should fans expect yet another pitiable GP weekend they’ve seen before, one which merely adds to Roger’s riches?

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Our special prediction is yes, the Cap’n’s embarrassment of wealth will grow even more mortifying this month. Penske practically owns the joint, with sixteen Indy 500 triumphs dating back to the early 1970s. Plus, Pagenaud excels on the ramshackle road course, winning two thirds of the time. If you’re a fan of Team Penske, get ready for a fun few weeks – just have sympathy for the rest of us.

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Pole position will be no different, as both Helio and Power have been superior in qualifying. Penske’s pilots have won ’em all so far this season, taking a decidedly unfeeling approach to the rest of the field. Continue reading

Other Spaniards We’d Like to See at the Indy 500

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Following the announcement that F1’s Fernando Alonso will be competing in the 101st Indianapolis 500, here are some other famous Spaniards we’d enjoy seeing Memorial Day weekend.

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Topping the list is the lovely and talented Penelope Cruz, for obvious reasons. She’d add some real old world style to a distinctly new world event.

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Who knew Elsa Pataky was Spanish? Or an actress? Continue reading

Even IndyCar’s Elites Are Starting To Get It

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The more persuadable of our betters are finally beginning to fully realize the fickle mood of folks at present, and not just those in positions of political power. Feeling the heat, it seems as though elites everywhere are actually taking note and doing what a majority of people (e.g. those who pay for it) want done.  It’s none too soon either, lest the torch bearing mobs come out.

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IndyCar CEO Mark Miles is only the most recent example of a muckety muck for once not mucking things up, a trend stretching from Brexit-ing Brits battling Brussels bureaucrats all the way to Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. And happily now even Indianapolis. Actual accountability to those paying the bills is a damned welcome change, even in racing.

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According to a recent article by Brant James, Miles had many positive items to report, including recommendations Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Cubs Win! Edition

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After a drought so long it predated the Indy 500, the building of IMS AND AJ Foyt, the Cubs finally won the World Series. Meanwhile, in IndyCar news . . .

A Munoz For A Sato: The aforementioned legendary four time Indy 500 winner’s team made some long overdue changes recently. Like the Cubs’ series win, it’s about frickin’ time. At long last AJ Foyt Racing cut ties with Takuma Sato, the problematic pilot who won exactly one race in four crash marred seasons with the team. Better still, he’s being replaced by the talented young Colombian Carlos Munoz, formerly of Andretti Autosport. In essence the two drivers have exchanged seats, with Foyt definitely receiving the better end of the bargain. Good luck with that, Michael.

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Foyt Favors Chevy: In another engine manufacturer switch for 2017, the ornery octogenarian’s team also upgraded their power plants, ditching Honda in favor of the bow tie. This comes as a package deal in dropping Sato, who’s linked at the hip with Honda. It’s a move we’ve long advocated for AJ. Now with a superior driver and engine, perhaps things will finally turn around for the struggling team with an epic drought of its own.

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Hinch, Boogey Man: While we don’t follow DWTS, Hinch continues to grind on, literally. Continue reading