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

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IndyCar Classic Predictions and Prognostications: On the Road Again

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Photo from cicuitoftheamericas.com

In its infinite wisdom, IndyCar visits yet another rampantly redundant road course this weekend – and it’s most definitely not music to our ears.

Turns out a wide array of musicians sing songs titled “On the Road Again,” including most famously Texas’ own Willie Nelson, Canned Heat, Barrabas and a group called Amphetamine Eaters to name but a few. And that’s not to mention derivative ditties like the Grateful Dead’s “Natural Born Easy (On the Road Again),” either. Our special prediction of the race deals specifically with the quick cars being on the road – again.

Image from countryfancast.com

Directly counter to the conventional view of every other single outlet and commentator in existence, Sunday’s show won’t be gripping viewing, but rather a rerun of the numerous other identical road races – like the very next one in Alabama. Lacking in excitement, speed and overtaking – also known as quality racing – COTA will amount to a high dollar, low interest parade around a three and a half mile f-ing F1 circuit. To us, such an ear splitting waste of horsepower strikes an extremely sour note.

Our pick for pole also may sound like a familiar tune, Continue reading

St. Pete Race Review: New Season? Newgarden

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Photo from indycar.com

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

Nineteen Predictions for the 2019 IndyCar Season

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Anticipate another entertaining season opener on St. Pete’s street course oddly enough, even without flying aero kit pieces or Juan “street cleaner” Montoya in the field. Less surprisingly, thrilling contests again will ensue at Texas Motor Speedway and Gateway Motorsports Park, both oval races held under the lights. Now if only the egg heads at 16th & Georgetown would heed IRR’s advice and return Iowa’s race to a nocturnal knife fight and bring back excellent tracks like Kentucky, Chicagoland, Michigan and Fontana we’d have more awesome oval affairs to look forward to.

The series’ pair of new Swedish drivers – Schmidt’s Marcus Ericsson and Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist – will spend the 2019 campaign stuck in neutral. Suffice it to say their transition won’t be pretty.

A second season running the new cars will make the disparity between the series’ haves and have-nots even greater, unfortunately. Last year saw Penske win yet another 500 and Ganassi take the championship – again. An entire off season of the super teams fine tuning their machines won’t help matters. 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.

Photo from indycar.com

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.

Image from oregonlive.com

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

Gateway Race Review: Sour Grapes Power Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

Despite early domination by Scott Dixon, Team Penske’s oval-hating specialist Will “Sour Grapes” Power prevailed by 1.3 seconds over Alex Rossi before promptly calling out the competition in truly classless manner. Instead of celebrating in victory lane, Power pointedly tore into Dixon’s driving, gratuitously and repeatedly ripping his highly-regarded rival.

The best news in months arrived shortly before the green flag flew, as an update on Robert Wickens’ health status was released by his team. SPM’s bulletin revealed Wickens is now off the ventilator and breathing on his own for the first time since the accident at Pocono. The welcome news instantly lifted the spirits of the nice-sized crowd outside East St. Louis, as well as those of the drivers.

Photo from indycar.com

Dixon and Rossi led the field to the green and immediately Rossi dropped back as cars went three wide into turn one. Power and Josef Newgarden simultaneously moved around him in a Penske sandwich as they chased down Dixie. Back in the pack Sebastien Bourdais’ car got loose in between two other cars, hitting the wall and bringing out yet another caution before the first lap was complete.

The restart came on lap 8 as drivers held their positions throughout the field. Continue reading

Gateway Predictions and Prognostications: Attenuator Edition

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Sometimes it isn’t only race car drivers who need an attenuator, but fans as well.

Our special prediction is a soothing one for roughed up race fans who’ve had a difficult week in the wake of Robbie Wickens’ grave accident and injuries. Rest assured Saturday night won’t be at all like that, so everyone can take a deep breath and . . . relax. At half the length, Gateway will prove a much tamer track than Pocono, with far lower speeds, much shorter straightaways and shorter radius turns. The racing’s a lot different; sure there’ll be wrecks, but thankfully none on the order of Wickens’.

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Photo from cbc.ca

This next one we can’t lessen the blow of, so be forewarned. Pole sitter Continue reading

Gateway Preview: Awake and Alert Edition

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

2018’s final oval track race will be held Saturday night outside St. Louis. With only three races remaining in the season and the title chase intensifying, the fast cars under the lights will be fascinating to watch, particularly coming less than a week after Robbie Wickens’ horrific, injury sustaining crash at Pocono.

IndyCar’s return to East St. Louis last season saw Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan crash on the parade lap before the race had even begun. Then, on lap one, Will Power spun and crashed collecting Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato. It was yet another of those kind of starts. On his championship run, an alert Josef Newgarden bravely bump-passed his teammate Simon Pagenaud for the win with thirty laps remaining. Newkid’s victory in Illinois was his third out of the last four races, and Pags wasn’t pleased.

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Photo from indycar.com

Prior to last year, IndyCar hadn’t raced at Gateway Motorsports Park in fourteen years – a race IRR staff attended, but weren’t thrilled about. Continue reading

Pocono Race Review: A Speedy Recovery

Considering another comically amateurish start followed by a devastating, injurious crash on lap seven, the fact that the remaining able-bodied drivers somehow managed to put on a decent show at all is remarkable. Particularly in light of Robert Wickens’ unknown medical circumstances, which remained a complete mystery for a full hour before his consciousness was announced. The full extent of his wounds still isn’t known.

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Photo from cbc.ca

After a two hour delay for cleanup of the massive debris field plus repairs to the fence, Alexander Rossi drove his NAPA car right up to the wall and to its limits, proving himself yet again the swiftest over 500 miles.

NBCSN’s pre-race included shots of Marco’s Palace and lots of Robin Miller. In other words, it was gaudy and odd. Another laboriously slow, bunched up start to the race from pole sitter Will Power saw Ragin’ Graham Rahal immediately run into Spencer Pigot’s right rear at the back of the field and bring out a caution. Along with the winner we predicted a crash-fest, and it sure started out that way. Power typically blamed Scott Dixon – who was deep in the field! – flashing graphs and pleading that he only did what he was told. Rahal was penalized for the first lap incident and it’s clear he needs to work on his starts, his qualifying – or both.

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Photo from indycar.com

Rossi quickly passed Power for the lead on the lap seven restart. Behind them Wickens tried to get around Ryan Hunter-Reay in turn two Continue reading