IndyCar Sonoma Season Finale Race Review: Ho-hum Edition

 

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Photo from indycar.com

Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won the GoPro Grand Prix again on Sunday, while his teammate Josef Newgarden secured his first championship by finishing second in the hum sponsored car. Starting from pole and leading in points, it was Newgarden’s title and race to lose. Unsurprisingly, the first American champion in half a decade brought it home safely for an all Penske podium in a rather ho-hum contest.

The season’s ultimate race proved a mundane affair and went off largely as we’d predicted with no cautions, little passing or on track action and only three leaders – and that’s counting Conor Daly’s three laps led. SPM’s James Hinchcliffe provided some comic relief right from the start, getting hit by Spencer Pigot and spinning off course. He restarted the 5 machine but eventually became the first to retire with an electrical issue. Hinch’s early exit was indicative of his year and provided a prime example of poetic justice for the controversial team.

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Not to be outdone, Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato drove off the dusty track and dropped back on the first lap too, ruining a fifth place start. Tony Kanaan was forced to pit after another collision caused a flat tire that also sent him off track. He’d go on to finish sixteenth in his last race for Chip Ganassi. As Townsend Bell pointed out, it was TK’s third race in a row with a first lap issue going back to Gateway. It’s becoming painfully obvious that it’s time to call it quits, Tony.

The only other remarkable moment of the finale came during the final pit stop cycle. Continue reading

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IndyCar Sonoma Season Finale Predictions and Prognostications: Adios, Aero Kits!

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IRR sets forth its final predictions of the 2017 season – including a surprise champion – while bidding adieu to a crime against racing aesthetics.

Our special prediction for the GoPro Grand Prix is while Sonoma may not feature much passing on its twisted, narrow confines, at least it’s the last time we’ll ever have to watch those hideously fugly, dangerous aero kits in action. Their departure alone will make this nearly unwatchable finale held in a dustbowl almost palatable, raising our spirits markedly in the process. That, and the wine.

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Incidentally, since the cars become obsolete Sunday night – it’s about time – we’d love to see a non-points demolition derby held immediately following the podium celebrations. Charlie “pinball” Kimball, J.R. “hair today, gone next year” Hildebrand and Taku Sato would battle for an Andretti Winery gift certificate and Conor Daly’s domestic duties for a day. Which leads us to . . .

Saturday’s fight for pole position will take on special significance at the infamously tedious track, with the championship contenders – Team Penske and Ganassi’s Scott Dixon – vying for the extra point and tremendous advantage starting up front at Sonoma brings. Four of the last five Grands Prix have been won by drivers starting in the top 3, including fickle Frenchman Simon Pagenaud from pole last year and Dixon’s win in 2014 (his win in 2015 came from 9th).

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Saying goodbye to all that, Continue reading

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 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

IndyCar ABC Supply 500 Predictions and Prognostications: Know Pocono

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Closely observing the last few decades of IndyCar racing has taught us much, including a) we’re already missing Mikhail Aleshin jokes and b) James “Canadian token” Hinchcliffe goes through teammates like Kim Jong Un burns through liquid oxygen. The Mayor – like the dictator – must be hard to get to know.

After weeks of summer slumbers, the series wisely roars back to life in eastern Pennsylvania. Our special prediction for Pocono is some rather unintelligent driving – and not just from the usual suspects, either. Such a salacious silly season can only bring out the worst in some drivers who, after all, will be racing for their jobs. Remember, some of these guys aren’t the brightest lights even under ideal circumstances.

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Due to the new red scare, we’ve been robbed of last year’s pole sitter and second place finisher. In fact,  Mikhail “not a good year to be a Russian in the US” Aleshin likely won’t be racing in the series again. We say nyet to that. Aged Helio Castro-Neves started out front the previous year – and came in sixteenth. Even Marco‘s been on pole in his home state, but in characteristic fashion finished only tenth. Part timer Juan Montoya managed the only recent win from pole at Pocono in 2014.

When you’re hot, you’re hot as the saying goes and the sagacious Continue reading

Toronto IndyCar Race Review: Yellow is the New Orange Edition

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A perfectly timed yellow flag handed the orange DeVilbiss car a victory on the walled streets of Toronto.

Josef Newgarden happened to be pitting when Tony “Time To Call It Quits” Kanaan committed his latest brain fade and careened into the Turn 1 tire barrier. As a result, Newgarden ran away with it for his second win out of the last three times north of the border.

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Scott Dixon was rudely hit by “Sour Grapes” Will Power – twice – during a first lap melee bringing out the first of only two cautions on the day. Power limped around the course failing to make it to his pit and would be a surprise first out. Dixon soldiered to a tenth place finish and as usual no infraction was called on the Penske pilot.

In front of all the banging, Helio grabbed the lead from Simon Pagenaud in a ballsy inside move at the start and TK managed to gain five spots, but it was Josef Newgarden’s jump of three positions to fourth that ultimately made all the difference. He’d soon find himself out front and, due to both timing and luck, in possession of another street course victory.

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The restart saw Indy 500 winners and Andretti Autosport teammates Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato make contact, as Rossi battled nearly everyone on his way to second. Continue reading

Toronto IndyCar Predictions and Prognostications: Ill-Tempered Edition

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Soaring temps and a third rate track in a nation of second raters have our blood boiling.

Canada’s lone race on IndyCar’s schedule is one too many, making us especially ill-tempered and downright salty this week. Our special prediction of the weekend is that come Sunday evening following another disastrous so called race north of the border you’ll find yourself in an irritable mood, too. Then – to top it all off – there’s those entitled, over officious border agents to negotiate on the way home.

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Pole prediction perhaps means less at Exhibition Place than most road courses, as the winner’s come from P1 a third of the time lately – the exact same fraction as those winning from eleventh starting position. The other two winners over the last six contests started fourth and fifth, so in wild and wacky Canuck land clearly anything can happen – just look at their juvenile Premier. That’s why we’re going with Graham Rahal snagging his second pole of the season – and only the fourth of his career. He’ll edge Penske’s “Mad” Will Power, angering almost no one.

First out of the race – and this is where our Canuck hosts begin to get hot under the collar – will be hometown boy James Hinchcliffe. Hinch was recently dubbed a “megastar” of IndyCar by the Canadian press, whatever that is. He’s already suffered three DNFs this season and now all of a sudden has a new teammate. Due to all this, unfortunately his temperament won’t be improving come Sunday. Neither will that of his throngs of fans, so be extra vigilant when leaving.

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Our biggest surprise of the race will be the result of Continue reading

Toronto IndyCar Preview: Dallara’s Dollar Devising Dream Date

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IndyCar heads north to the Canuck concrete car crusher for arguably Dallara Automobili’s most consistently lucrative stop on the schedule. That – among other things – makes Toronto one of the series’ absolute worst tracks for viewing fans.

Following last year’s embarrassment of a race on the crumbling streets of Exhibition Place, IRR advocated an end to such nonsense north of the border until those LaBatt loving second raters constructed a decent track. Sadly and obviously, our schedule recommendations haven’t been implemented as of yet. So we’ll see IndyCar return for a thirty third time to a city that really doesn’t deserve it, judging by the overall lack of quality of late.

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Toronto averages about four cautions per race in recent years, although counting red flags it ballooned to seven in 2014. That’s rather high for a road race, though it’s no wonder when the crappy Canadian course disintegrates during competition. From what Hoosier Conor Daly called a “crazy” curved pit lane to Canuck curbs coming apart mid race, as usual IndyCar can and must do better.

When Toronto hasn’t ended under caution – as it has a third of the time lately – the average margin of victory is over two seconds. IndyCar’s Canadian token isn’t exactly the track of dreams, is it? That is, unless you’re the series’ exclusive chassis supplier. Cha-ching!

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Now for the series’ other Canadian token, James Hinchcliffe, a confessed Justin Bieber fan by the way. 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

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