2017 IndyCar Season Review

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The series’ recently concluded campaign proved predictable – at least to us – and lacked both a sense of rhythm and any real rivalries. While having its moments, overall 2017 missed out on the excitement and drama of previous years.

This season’s highlights included breathtaking oval racing at Pocono and – to a lesser extent, thank you Tony Kanaan – Texas. Even the racing at Gateway was much improved over the last time they visited a decade ago and an additional oval on the schedule – no matter how inadequate its layout – is welcome change.

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Lowlights involved beyond tedious racing at the usual suspects like Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen and the season finale at Sonoma. Even St. Pete was a stinker this year and as usual the Indy Grand Prix was nearly unwatchable. Iowa‘s daytime race – as opposed to the superior night races of years past – earned the biggest flop award, with Phoenix a close second in the balloting. Iowa Speedway already announced a Sunday date in early July, meaning it’ll be another day race next year.

Easily the most absurd moment of the year was f-ing F1 invader Fernando Alonso being gifted the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award over Ed Jones, or “The Great Hardware Robbery,” as we termed it. This was closely followed by Alo’s team owner Michael Andretti’s brief flirtation with Chevy after winning the last two 500s with Honda and Sam Schmidt beginning to mimic Andretti’s dumb Indy 500 decisions.

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The most shocking moment by far Continue reading

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IndyCar Watkins Glen Race Review: ‘A Really Timely Caution’ or: T-Bell’s Faux Pas Edition

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Alexander Rossi owes a highly dubious second career win to his teammate and fellow Indy 500 winner Takuma “timing is everything” Sato, who committed the racing equivalent of hari kari at the Glen – twice. In NBCSN’s booth, apparently Townsend Bell was under the influence of enough meds to nearly forget his name, which makes us wonder about his urine test for the next race.

For Daffy Leigh Diffey‘s triumphant return to IndyCar there was the ridiculous wet start that wasn’t. That is to say, it wasn’t wet and it wasn’t much of a start. Thank goodness Tony Kanaan made it through the parade laps this time, though he would eventually find pit lane too difficult to navigate, hitting the wall at pit lane exit – right after the championship leader did the exact same thing.

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The start saw Josef Newgarden surging, Scott Dixon dropping and Helio going way wide with no track restrictions in place. After the first lap pit stops for slicks a reshuffle had Helio around Rossi for the lead and Ryan Hunter-Reay up to fourth. Spencer Pigot spun completely around on lap 4 but managed to keep it going and even lead some laps before finishing 12th.

On lap 5 Dixon got around RHR prior to the first of three cautions, as Hinchcliff’s gear box issue and a puff of smoke from his Honda ended his day. The race returned to green on lap nine and as usual Helio jumped the restart ahead of Rossi, Newgarden and Dixie. Dixon soon passed Newkid again and appeared to be on the way to another win at the Glen. However, it wasn’t to be and Helio opened up a sizable lead.

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Then the Townsend Bell blooper reel portion of the broadcast began. Continue reading

IndyCar Watkins Glen Preview: Wit’s End Edition

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With the season’s end in sight, there’s still plenty of IRR wittiness left in the tank.

Sadly, summertime’s over and with it – even more unfortunately – the rousing oval portion of IndyCar’s schedule. Two wine region, cheesy road courses remain, Watkins Glen in upstate New York and the Sonoma finale in California. In the Glen’s case, the most memorable parts of last year’s race were the ubiquitous paid Verizon plugs. Expect neither venue to excite nearly as much as Pocono or Texas regularly do, as the season slinks toward a less than satisfactory conclusion. It all has us feeling at wit’s end.

Josef “teammate terminator” Newgarden has the championship all but wrapped up thanks to Power and Helio’s witlessness at Gateway. There’s no end to his predictable success this season, taking three of the last four races and holding a 31 point championship lead. Making it worse, Team Penske’s won the last five in row. This marks the first time in many years the IndyCar finale probably won’t hold any title significance whatsoever, even with the gimmicky double points paid in the NoCal conclusion.

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Similarly, the rookie of the year award has been settled for some time with only a single candidate and therefore no competition. The fact than Alonso was gifted the Indy 500 ROY remains a travesty, truly “The Great Hardware Robbery,” as we termed it. Ed Jones deserved the award finishing third to Fernando’s 24th, just as he deserves the season ROY. Lack of other contenders aside, Jones has been the most impressive newcomer to the series in recent memory. Thankfully a better ROY resolution’s in the offing.

Happily, the end of the awful aero kit era is also in sight. It’ll be good riddance to bad chassis soon, perhaps the most compelling reason to look forward to next season. Continue reading

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

IndyCar ABC Supply 500 Race Review: ‘Clit Stop’ Edition

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IndyCar at Pocono pleasantly lived up to its exquisite oval racing reputation, as one of the most exciting races of the year unfolded Sunday afternoon. Will Power won his second 500 miler in a row at the thrilling triangle, impressively overcoming a lap deficit after his Penske crew were forced to change out a damaged nose. He bested his teammate Josef Newgarden by half a second, while Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi overcame adversity of his own to score a podium finish.

The race featured non-stop jaw dropping action with cars going six and seven wide right from the start. An incredible forty two lead changes took place among ten different drivers, including former winner Scott Dixon who led a quarter of the race. Indy 500 winner Rossi led forty four laps, but encountered a fuel knob issue in the closing stages. Power took the lead when Marco pitted on lap 191 and never relinquished it, swerving low and high to keep the white hot Newkid at bay.

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There were only three cautions all day, the first of which was brought out after Coyne rookie Esteban Gutierrez brushed the wall ending his day. Continue reading

Iowa IndyCar Preview: A 7/8s Mile Slice of Heaven

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Among the dwindling oval tracks remaining on the schedule, Iowa Speedway routinely puts on some of the most riveting racing of the entire year. You could say it’s the nearest thing to IndyCar bliss outside Circle City and Texas.

The Iowa Corn 300 has witnessed some unforgettable moments in a decade of IndyCar racing. Ed Carpenter and Sage Karam’s confrontations in 2015 – both on track and post race – top our list. We termed the race at the time “Sage Gone Wild,” seemingly a breakout moment for the young Pennsylvanian. Perhaps it was his angelic features that drew us in, if not his devilish driving.

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Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Now Sage is relegated to one off status at Indy, and unfortunately won’t be racing at Iowa after finishing 28th in the 500 this year. At least the other half of the duelin’ duo, owner/driver Carpenter, will be driving (as if that’s any consolation). We do have an idea for a new arch enemy for Ed to do battle with, however.

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Speaking of which, could Iowa turn into another TK induced crash fest like Texas? Tempers still smolder in the wake of Wisconsin, where Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan characteristically blamed Alex Rossi for his most recent crash. 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

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

Phoenix Predictions and Prognostications: Sponsors Needed

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Several high profile drivers and teams remain without solid sponsorship for the season’s first oval race – a big deal around here – including the previous winner. As true IndyCar racing arrives with Saturday night’s fiesta of fast in Phoenix, it’s the lack of big, big money that rightfully has some fans concerned.

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Empty sidepods are less than desirable, especially when they adorn a super team that sometimes tends not to finish races and another that barely cracks the top ten (except for Dixon). Scott enjoyed the thirty ninth win of his storied career last year in the desert, yet three races in still hasn’t found a permanent replacement for the dearly departed Target. How 100th Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi’s car remains a blank slate is equally incomprehensible. In the spirit of ovular optimism, our special prediction is that this dearth of signage on quality competitors won’t last long.

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Speaking of money, Helio Castro-Neves Continue reading

Barber Race Review: PSI Edition

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Young gun Josef Newgarden turned what could have been another hum drum, Penske win from pole into a fairly memorable, exciting race – for a motorbike track.

It was Will “Sour Grapes” Power’s race to lose and he did, handing the newest teammate his first win for the Cap’n and failing to crack the top twelve for the fifth consecutive race. A cut Firestone was the culprit, or rather the hero of the day. Power slowed inexorably, giving PSI an entirely new meaning.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) and Long Beach winner James Hinchcliffe tangled at the start, leading to a third lap caution as RHR’s damaged front wing littered the track. Dale Coyne’s rookie phenom Ed Jones suffered damage due to the debris ruining his day, as well.

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During the initial melee the aged Tony Kanaan gambled and lost, though his Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon advanced to third and remained firmly in contention all day. Continue reading