Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview: Weather Or Not

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This weekend the sexy fast cars vector toward a land known for its knock-out weather – and women – if nothing else.

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Following a tsunami-like stunning result at the conclusion of an uneventfully dry race down south, IndyCar heads out west for its annual visit to the concrete canyon course just upwind of la-la land. It’s one date on the racing calendar that consistently yields greater atmosphere than actual agreeable racing; though what do you expect from a race on a temporary street circuit? Much less one in a state where mud slides, wildfires, earthquakes and wicked winds named for a bandito are the norm.

Speaking of which, did anybody else catch Ryan Hunter-Reay’s appearance on TWC with Steph Abrams last week? It was one occasion – at least for us – when racing definitely took a back seat to the scenery. Talk about high temps! [Although, believe it or not, our girlfriend’s waaaay hotter.]

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The last four winners at the Beach – representing four different teams – are Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon. They were the first ever wins at the smoggy, supposed track for each driver and part of multi-win seasons for all of them except Continue reading

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Barber Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Race Review: Inverted Edition

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Pole sitter(!) Takuma Sato’s lead was seldom in doubt – except when he ran completely off course and nearly flipped in characteristic fashion with five to go – as the 500 winner cruised to only his fourth career IndyCar victory in a truly inverted race in Alabama. The previous run-on sentence is not a joke. He credited his Rahal Lanigan Letterman team for a “fantastic effort,” despite an incredibly slow first pit stop due to a lethargic left rear tire changer. Equally incredibly, Scott Dixon claimed his sixth 2nd place finish at Barber – out of ten races – as Honda swept its own podium with Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais coming home in third.

An inadvertently inverted starting grid with the Penskes oddly bringing up the rear led to a decidedly upside down result. One of the few highlights of the weekend occured when a street sweeper rolled over onto its side while at speed in between practices, nearly inverting itself. The accident was a good thing, as NBCSN’s abbreviated pre-race show had little to offer, although they did manage a real rarity in connecting on air with the two seater passenger. Oh, and Continue reading

Barber Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Predictions and Prognostications: Locks Edition

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For IRR’s ever popular predictions regarding the annual trek to a track called Barber, locks seemed like a no-brainer theme.

Our special prediction for the weekend is that ‘Bama’s good ol’ boys will soon wish they’d have locked up their wives and daughters once IndyCar comes to town. Why? Because the racing’ll be surprisingly entertaining – way more so than NASCRAP – especially considering the fast cars are competing on a danged motorcycle track. It’s truly too bad the series is locked out of nearly every oval track in the country thanks to N@$CAR, else IndyCar’s preeminence in the racing world would be a sure thing – just like the good ol’ days.

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Pick for pole’s a slam dunk in that he’s paced the field in both races already this season and twice before at Barber, while his team’s won nearly every single pole in IndyCar’s history at the track. Who’s got it so locked down, you ask? Continue reading

IndyCar Classic Race Review: All Hail Emperor Herta!

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The record books were rewritten Sunday in Texas, as the youngest driver in IndyCar history – 18 year old American legacy pilot Colton “Joaquin” Herta – incredibly won only the third start of his career. It was a popular finish throughout the paddock, as Bryan Herta’s son and Brian Barnhart’s team, Harding Steinbrenner Racing (partnered with Andretti) took their first ever series victory.

Swedish love dished out during pre-race proved badly misplaced, as Felix Rosenqvist was crashed out by James Hinchcliffe in the only full course caution of the day – after earlier spinning on his own. Fellow Scandinavian Marcus Ericsson earned a late penalty in the pits for contacting another car, dropping him to the rear of the field and sealing a fifteenth place finish. The start was clean except for Zach “son of Dracula” Veach, who made contact with Graham Rahal and ran off course, falling to last place as he was forced through and around COTA’s gravel traps.

Scott Dixon made it three wide through turn one, which is allowed under the no limits policy, followed wide right by Rahal who was then contacted by Veach. Herta split Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) to move up a position to third for a taste of things to come. Meanwhile Ganassi’s Rosenqvist dropped back two positions to eighth. Alexander Rossi challenged Will Power for the lead briefly but remained in second with Herta, Hunter-Reay and Dixon making up the top five.

Single file racing rapidly set in, with Power comfortably out front. Continue reading

St. Pete Race Review: New Season? Newgarden

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In a predictably prominent Penske affair, Josef Newgarden cruised to his eleventh career win at St. Pete over Scott Dixon. “It just worked out perfectly,” the positive pilot postulated post race.

During the pre race show, Paul Tracy exclaimed “there are Swedes everywhere!” Sounds like an ideal beach party to us. Also included was a nice update and interview with Robert Wickens, who vowed to come back from his devastating, paralizing injury last season at Pocono.

A controversial qualifying session, which saw Dixon initially miss the top twelve before not only making the fast six but starting fourth, had Will “Sour Grapes” Power on pole, again predictably. In fact, an all Penske front row rounded out by Newgarden was trailed by an all Ganassi second row – with the Swedish rookie Rosenqvist actually outpacing defending champ Dixie – and an all Andretti third row of 500 winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi. In other qualifying news, only Marco can manage to run out of fuel without turning a single lap.

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The start saw a slight delay thanks to the cumbersome two seater and – as usual – failed radio communication with same. Why they insist upon trying to talk to the backseat rider time after time in vain is simply beyond us. Continue reading

Sonoma Season Finale Race Review: S&M Edition

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Racing at Sonoma through the years has often been painful to watch, and the season finale was no different. Admittedly, there were a few moments of pleasure along with hours of punishment.

Scott Dixon clinched his fifth championship Sunday in dominant fashion, totally overshadowing Ryan Hunter-Reay who abused the competition from pole in IndyCar’s final race at the dungeon like track. In a curious move by the series’ sole broadcast partner, NBCSN viewers missed an eventful start due to preemption by a NASCAR crash and delay at Vegas. Of course it proved to be one of few interesting segments of the day, and for fans it really hurt.

As Hunter-Reay led the field to the green his teammate Alexander Rossi suffered a brain fade typical of his youth and inexperience. Entering turn 1 the championship contender inexplicably ran into the back of teammate Marco Andretti, damaging his front wing and right front tire and all but eliminating his title hopes. Rossi would battle back and almost make it interesting by the end, but couldn’t surpass Dixon’s maturity and experience.

Cars quickly strung out single file as normalcy returned to Sonoma. Continue reading

Portland Race Review: Cluster Edition

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing had quite the day at the Portland Grand Prix, with one driver in victory lane and the other ripping the racing, the stewards and the series. Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato scored another victory, while his teammate Ragin’ Graham Rahal was along with several others caught up in another frightening first lap pileup that for once was no fault of his own. However, his scathing criticisms of blatant incompetence in race control had us grinning from ear to ear.

After qualifications but prior to the race, two Andretti Autosport teammates who factored largely in the outcome poignantly diverged in their assessment of the place. And after eleven years away, why not? Ryan Hunter-Reay praised the braking zones as portending engaging racing, while his teammate Alexander Rossi said flatly, “we all know it’s hard to pass here.” In the long run, Rossi was the more correct – though less lucky – on the day.

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Once the green flag flew, Rossi sped around Josef Newgarden for second, with RHR gaining too, until trouble struck. In the back Simon Pagenaud initially encountered problems going off track, followed by fellow Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais. Then the latest frightening first lap crash occurred due to contact between rookie phenom Zach Veach and James Hinchcliffe in turn 3. Hinch spun, causing a trailing Marco Andretti to spin and roll backwards over Hinch’s car, flipping upside down in the process. After Pocono, it was the last thing anyone wanted to see, although Portland’s configuration – specifically the chicane – invites it. Remarkably, and once he was turned right side up, Marco jumped out of the car unscathed, though covered in dirt. He spoke of being “really lucky,” and of his head being “on the ground,” thanks to Rahal hitting him from behind.

Ganassi’s potentially soon to be ex Ed Jones was victimized in the incident and out of the race, his helmet scarred from the crash. Hinch’s car was repaired and he was able to get back out, though many laps down. Another victim of course was the aforementioned Rahal, who made his feelings on the accident crystal clear. “It was a cluster. . . . Oh yeah, Veach – I mean come on now, give him some room. There’s no room there at all … So it’s just wrong, and then the officials take no action, which is typical of our officiating crew. It’s disappointing.”

Driver Marco Andretti was involved in a four-car crash Sunday at the start of the Portland Grand Prix at Portland International Raceway.

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Included in the carnage was championship leader Scott Dixon, who Continue reading

Portland Preview: It’s Been A Long, Long, Long Time

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As IndyCar’s Magical Mystery Tour heads northwest for the first time in over a decade, IRR’s got your Ticket to Ride.

The legendary George Harrison couldn’t have been writing about Portland International Raceway in his 1968 song “Long, Long, Long,” as the facility didn’t yet exist. Besides, he and the boys were halfway ’round the globe in India with the Maharishi at the time. Nevertheless, it truly has been a Long, Long, Long time since big league racing turned a Revolution in the locale of . . . Oregon. Eleven long years, to be exact. One could say we’re Back in the P-I-R, though the northwest never fails to make us think of Rain.

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The Long and Winding Road in Portland – two miles long, in fact – contains twelve turns and sits near the banks of the Columbia River. Contrary to some reports, Continue reading

Toronto Preview: Hinch, Hometown Hero Or Mere Mischief Maker?

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Though it’s only a hunch, we doubt Ontario native James Hinchcliffe becomes just the second Canadian ever to win an IndyCar race on the shores of Lake Ontario. And that’s in three decades of racing there.

Merely hours after he ripped our hearts out – or those of our Iowa Predictions, anyway – Hinch and the rest of the series are already preparing for Sunday’s happenings at a track we like to call the Canuck concrete car crusher, better known as the streets of Toronto. More on the sub-par circuit in a moment.

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The pressure building on Hinch – the face of the series – for his hometown, Honda sponsored event is immense, made even more gargantuan by his thrilling though baffling win Sunday. Real fans of Hinch won’t like what follows, as it’s not pleasant. Nevertheless, it’s true.  Continue reading

Iowa Race Review: ‘How Is Hinch Ahead?!’ Edition

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In a baffling though entertaining affair at Iowa Speedway, SPM‘s James Hinchcliffe somehow overcame everyone who stood in the way of his first win of the season. It was the second of the Canuck’s career on the diminutive oval, his sixth overall. Taking the lead with less than fifty to go to the surprise of many – not least of which Josef Newgarden – it was a confusing, pro-Canadian conclusion under a Carpenter-induced caution. As usual, everything was the villainous Will Power‘s fault.

Newkid’s teammate was nearly a lap down and not surprisingly acted more like a spoiled schoolchild than a teammate, holding up the defending champ as “lap traffic” with only thirty odd laps to go, handing Hinch the lead and eventual victory. Immediately after being passed for position, an astonished Newgarden asked his crew incredulously over the radio, “How is Hinch ahead?!” Simultaneously, we wondered the exact same thing.

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NBCSN’s pre-race included Townsend Bell telling us day is night and Kevin Lee calling RHR – well over 37 – “young.” On the upside, the until recently MIA Katie Hargitt returned to air. Unfortunately, it was primarily whilst eating during the cooking segment, Continue reading