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

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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

IndyCar News Week in Review

Early 500 WTF: Bryan Herta Autosport announced forgotten Brit racer Jay Howard as the pilot of their entry in the 99th Indy 500. Six months early, it appears Herta and Howard wanted to get the news out ahead of the Black Friday rush. Howard hasn’t raced in the series for years and only started fourteen total races in his IndyCar career, this after winning the 2006 Indy Lights championship. Apparently Wade Cunningham wasn’t available for the ride. Images were released of a putrid lime green and white car. Our advice is to try again – if not with the driver, then certainly with the pee green livery, fellas.

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The Rich Get Way Richer: Reports have Kyle Moyer leaving Andretti Autosport after decades with the team and its precursors and heading to Team Penske as new competition director. First the highly sought after Pags went all Penske and now the respected veteran Moyer. It was also reported that Ben Bretzman will join Team Penske as Pags’ engineer, a role he’s filled at SPM the last three seasons. Heading into 2015 Penske truly has an embarrassment of riches. As for AA, they’re reeling with the loss of Moyer after already saying sayonara to funnyman James Hinchcliffe.

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Schedule Schizophrenia: Reaction to the schedule has been split and ranges from paranoid to institutional. Curt Cavin wrote of the 2015 schedule that “it does represent a balance of the circuits. Six ovals, six road courses and four street circuits.” How the hell six versus ten can be considered balanced is beyond our explanation. Classic Cavin craziness.

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Cajun Cookin: On Wednesday, a tweet mentioned IndyCar would have a presence at this weekend’s LSU and Saints home games down in Louisiana. This is a PR push in advance of next April’s inaugural GP of Louisiana at NOLA Motorsports Park south of the Big Sleazy. Andretti, Power & the two-seater will be there all weekend publicizing the series. Good for IndyCar for getting the word, stars and cars out there – or down there, in this case. It’s just too bad the race isn’t on a decent oval track instead of a road course, or near a decent city. Judging by the aerial views of NOLA, it looks like the crowd could be on a smaller scale even than Iowa.

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Cavin’s Crumbs: We give Curt a lot of grief here at IRR and much of it is deserved, but we have to admit that while he may not be the best writer or most intelligent reporter, he does have something as valuable: access. He reported this week that fifty one year veteran of the Speedway Bill Spoerle died. Spoerle managed the IMS restoration unit since 1963 and restored many of the historic Indycars on display at the museum. He was 80 years old and lived a dream working with cherished chariots of speed. Also, Cavin noted some potential bad news for fans of ovals, as Auto Club Speedway President Jillian Zucker resigned this week. Zucker was instrumental in IndyCar’s return to Fontana several years ago and has left to join the NBA’s Clippers. The potential future loss of Fontana from the schedule would be unforgivable, so it’ll be important to keep an eye on her replacement.

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Odds n’ Ends: Iowa Speedway announced an additional support race for next summer’s IndyCar visit, doubling the number of junior league races that few care about or pay to see. The Brasilia race seems to be coming together with the usual amount of third world delays and overruns, per reports on indycar.com. It’s about time but par for the course in South America. Money man Jeff Belskus is retiring after nearly three decades with Hulman & Co. and for a few years head of IMS. The Indiana State University graduate replaced Tony George at IMS in 2009 at the conclusion of the Great Schism.

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