Ways to Enliven IndyCar Road Racing, Or: Obdurate Ovalista Offerings

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Whether it’s some fresh ideas, new rules or simply enforcing existing ones, IndyCar road racing really needs a revival. Since an all oval schedule is unlikely to return anytime soon, here are a few suggestions to liven up the road shows.

As fans of IndyCar it’s no secret we at IRR prefer oval track racing to squiggly courses because speed, passing and excitement are kinda our thing. Having already offered our “Ways To Save Oval Racing,” it’s now time to address the ten times as many curves as straightaways tracks.

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The first thing the series could do to improve squirmies is simply enforce the rules. When called at all, penalties are often wildly inconsistent – just see Emma Dixon‘s Twitter feed – with certain teams and drivers (think Penske and Ganassi) seemingly exempt. Last year’s Long Beach non-call on Simon Pagenaud is a perfect example of this. It’s grossly unfair and invites NASCAR type lawlessness.

Race control’s laxness calling penalties leads to drivers getting Kimballed, or what’s worse, Satoed. Recently on the Texas oval nine drivers were Kanaaned, which is in case you’re wondering much worse than a caning – just ask Hinch. Continue reading

Time To Call It Quits, Tony Kanaan

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In the span of four years, IndyCar’s oldest driver has gone from winning the 500 to whining and making excuses. We say nuts to that – out with the old and in with the new. Tony, it’s time to consider retiring from the sport.

Approaching forty three and showing it, TK hasn’t won a race in almost three years. His best years are clearly behind him as Texas perilously reminded everyone –  except the good ship Chip and company. We’ve been quietly advocating Tony’s retirement for some time, but now we’re about to raise a racket.

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It isn’t as though the Brazilian’s tearing up the competition, either. He’s only won twice since 2010 and a mere four times in the last decade. That’s approaching Marco bad. His last win came on August 30, 2014 in the season finale at Fontana, of all places – more on that later. The other win came at Indy in 2013, interestingly on the heels of another two plus year drought.

Originating our outcry are the wrecks he caused at Texas, involving multiple cars and thankfully no injuries. The first crash got Alexander Rossi, while the second victimized James Hinchcliffe and his SPM teammate Mikhail Aleshin, among others. Kanaan has since called it “an honest mistake.” That makes us wonder, which one?

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Chip Ganassi blabbed and blamed Continue reading

Texas IndyCar Race Review: Attrition Edition

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The racing was breathtaking Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway – as usual – when they weren’t screwing it up. Cautions breed cautions the saying goes, but apparently the same isn’t true for red flags. Instead, the thrilling race petered out under yellow with Will Power anticlimactically taking his second win at Texas.

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There were accidents galore, with a dozen cars retiring due to contact. By contrast, the race saw only one mechanical when pole sitter Charlie Kimball’s Honda expired. Nine cautions flew for 66 laps including the red flag stoppage. There were no fewer than seven crashes including James Hinchcliffe’s pit lane fiasco as well as six on track incidents. The race had it all. Ed Carpenter even did a 360 on a lap 102 restart, spinning on the front straight before amazingly saving his car and avoiding everyone else.

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Alexander Rossi was first out, the victim of a Ganassi sandwich as he got bounced like a basketball between the blue cars and into the wall. It wouldn’t be the last time Tony Kanaan was involved in an on track fracas. Continue reading

Texas IndyCar Predictions and Prognostications: Typical Texas

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IndyCar oval track racing – the highest, fastest and most breathtaking form of motorsport – returns to that shrine of speed Texas Motor Speedway for a twenty ninth time Saturday night. Some have been looking forward to this since the end of last August, when a twice rain delayed race started in June concluded with another record close finish in which Graham Rahal edged James Hinchcliffe by a nose.

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Our special prediction for the Rainguard 600 will make race fans very happy, indeed. Despite concerns about the reconfiguration of turns 1 and 2 since last visit, there will be plenty of three wide, 220 mile per hour plus, edge of your seat racing. In other words, it’ll be typical Texas.

Pole winner was Carlos “OK” Munoz for AA last year and Will Power for Penske the two years prior. Neither of them won from P1, though both are worth keeping an eye on. The last winner from pole at Texas was Ryan Briscoe in 2010, so like most ovals starting position isn’t crucial. In that spirit we’ll go with the Cap’n’s curmudgeonly Power for yet another pole, making it three already for the season.

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Since Jack Hawksworth’s no longer in the series, first out will be Dale Coyne’s latest seat filler for the weekend, Frenchman Tristan Vautier. Unlike his counterpart countrymen in IndyCar, Vautier routinely raises the wreck total – just ask Graham Rahal. We feel for his pit crewmen and hope they’re current on their insurance.  Continue reading

Detroit Grand Prix Race Review No. 2: Graham ‘n Sham Edition

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Ragin’ Graham Rahal did the undoable – a Detroit dual double – driving a danged ol’ Honda right through Chevy’s front yard. Twice. Meanwhile Hoosier hot head Conor Daly called the only potentially exciting element of the race, the red flag stoppage with three to go, “such a sham” and “all for show.”

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The angry A.J. Foyt driver continued, Tweeting “to get driven into the wall with one to go after our best race is just sad.”  It’s unclear who made contact with him and ABC certainly didn’t bother to show it, but the young legacy finished twelfth behind Helio, TK and Munoz.

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Once pole sitter Sato got out of the way about twenty two laps in, it was a battle between Saturday’s winner and newcomer Josef Newgarden. Continue reading

Detroit Grand Prix Race Review No. 1: Squirrely Edition

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Fittingly for Detroit the rodents ruled while the racing bit in another atrocious street “race” on Belle Isle. A track already known for enormous rats roaming the island saw a squirrel artfully dodging cars in one of the few highlights of a tedious afternoon of racing.

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Courtney’s dragster blew up Friday and her husband Graham Rahal, not to be upstaged, went out and won his fifth career IndyCar race the next day. Following last week’s horrifying crash, Scott Dixon held on to second for Ganassi and SPM’s James Hinchcliffe recovered from a first lap brush with the wall – which brought out the first caution – to a best ever third place result at Detroit.

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In an easy to root for effort for our veterans, Rahal raised nearly four thousand dollars in the Turns for Troops car. He Tweeted that he was “proud,” at the same time “thankful,” and again “proud.” Continue reading

Detroit Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: Bizarro Edition

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Considering that incredible Indy 500 result, the season’s obviously gone completely through the looking glass. Up is down, black is white and forty year old foreign ride buyers reign supreme. Hold on to your hats tightly for our picks for this Duesie of a double header in Detroit.

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Any series that thinks Belle Isle is worthy of one race a year – much less two, hot on the heels of Indy – has long occupied bizzarro land. As we’ve documented before at some length, it’s a rat infested dump best avoided, a destination rivaled in its unpleasantness only by Gateway in East St. Louis. It’s a peculiar location for a series seeking to maintain momentum to feature, for sure.

The thing about predicting how the races will turn out in bizarro IndyCar is that it’s just so damned . . . well, unpredictable. Did we mention this year’s 500? Oh, yeah. In light of all that, here go some rather unexpected, unorthodox picks for this weekend.

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Pole sitters for the two races will be unusual in the sense that they won’t include Frenchman Simon Pagenaud for a change. In an unbelievably hoggish display he occupied point for both races last year, edging Ryan Hunter-Reay and stable mate Helio Castro-Neves. Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Race Review: Stunned Disbelief

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Takuma Sato shocked the racing universe by winning the Indianapolis 500 in his eighth start on the famed oval. He prevailed by two tenths of a second over Helio Castro-Neves. The first Japanese to triumph in the 500, he called it “the best win in my life,” adding “I still just cannot believe it.”

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The mild mannered, likable Andretti Autosport pilot wasn’t the only one in stunned disbelief. Taku had faced much criticism for his past performances at the Speedway as well as other tracks, with crashes commonplace. The 40 year old’s single win in eight seasons of racing brought derision from some quarters, as did his hiring by Andretti before the season. All of that was wiped away Sunday afternoon.

The start was clean following the parade laps and it remained that way until lap 53, when a major accident brought out a rare red flag. Already laps down, Jay Howard drifted high into the turn 1 wall and then careened down the track and into the path of pole sitter Scott Dixon. Dixon’s car flipped into the air, caught the catch fence and disintegrated before coming to a stop. Both drivers emerged unhurt, although Dixon was wearing a boot later in the day. Castro-Neves narrowly avoided the melee.

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There were nine cautions in addition to the red flag, with three for debris and three more for mechanicals. Continue reading

Indy Grand Prix Race Review: ‘You’re All Fired!’ Edition

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During a week of high profile terminations, we’ve a few to suggest for IndyCar after the Indy Grand Prix.

Will Power‘s job is secure after his first win of the year and the Cap’n’s third consecutive. He led three quarters of the entirely green race while Scott “runner up” Dixon took second and Ryan Hunter-Reay made an impressive surge from eighth to third. Graham Rahal again had the drive of the race though, improving fourteen spots to sixth.

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While the traditional Indy GP first lap, first turn pileup was averted, some carnage still occurred. Marco ass-ended TK, sending two cars off course and the past expiration date Kanaan to the pits. Perhaps fearing for their jobs, race control was strangely alert, actually penalizing Andretti for avoidable contact with a drive through penalty. It ended his race and should end his largely fruitless decade plus stint in the series.

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Speaking of firings, the ABC crew of Goodyear, Cheever and the other guy acted exactly like they’d just been shown the door. At one point, Eddie was briefly on fire. After offering Goodyear an opportunity to clean his Borg-Warner replica, Cheever predicted “Ryan Hunter-Reay will get to the front.” He proved prescient.

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While there wasn’t a battle at the front all afternoon, there was some passing on track 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