Sonoma Season Finale Race Review: S&M Edition

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

Advertisements

Portland Race Review: Cluster Edition

TakustarmanIRR

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

WillPowerGateway18indycarcom

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

AttenuatorsIRR.jpg

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’.

Image result for robert wickens crash

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

Gatewaycrashsportsusatodaycom.jpg

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.

Pagsgatewayindycarcom

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.

Image result for robert wickens crash

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.

Image result for indycar abc supply 500 alexander rossi

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

Pocono Predictions and Prognostications: Promises, Promises

PromisesAheadIRR

Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 promises to be powerful viewing as both the final 500 miler and penultimate oval track race of the season.

The special prediction for Pocono entails another exquisite exhibition of open wheel racing on an oval track, we promise. Last year’s race was a highlight of the season, and as we noted in our preview the Pocono show’s actually gotten better and better through the years. A caveat to this prognostication is that there’s always the potential IndyCar, still learning the “new cars” after eight months, could screw it up with its ever changing rules and regulations.

MarkMilesWantedIRR

Pick for pole position is Continue reading

Mid-Ohio Race Review: This Frenchman’s On Fire!

FrenchmanOnFireIRR

Pole sitter Alexander Rossi’s victory for Andretti Autosport was never really in any doubt, as is so often the case at Mid-Ohio, although NBCSN’s superb coverage (on CNBC) of Sebastien Bourdais’ Napoleonic battles from deep in the field made it at times almost seem like it. Demonstrating how Sunday really wasn’t his but rather SeBass’ day for swiping an amazing eighteen positions going from last to sixth, the Indy 500 winner celebrated his race win by embarrassingly high-siding and stalling his NAPA car on track’s edge while attempting, unsuccessfully, to cut donuts.

During pre-race both Rossi and Josef Newgarden mentioned the lack of a morning warm-up, highly unusual for IndyCar. Already putting everyone in the paddock on edge were a string of chaotic practice and qualification sessions, with umpteen incidents and cars leaving the terrible track. Under this foreboding atmosphere, of course the race proceeded under ninety straight green flag laps – though it wasn’t without its incidents.

Rossi and Will Power led the bunched up field to the start, with several drivers back in the pack nearly making and then, in fact, making contact. Rossi’s trudging pace from pole, or what Paul Tracy called a “dirty move,” was reviewed but Continue reading

Mid-Ohio Predictions and Prognostications: Pretty Vacant

MidOHPrettyVacantIRR

Scheduled during “Holidays in the Sun” season when no one’s looking, it’s appropriate that Mid-Ohio again will be broadcast on a cable channel no one’s watching. In a phrase, the race is “Pretty Vacant.”

Since this post is cutting into our own precious vacation time, we’ll get right to our special punk rock prediction for this sorry excuse of a race. There will be nothing memorable, much less special, about Sunday’s parade ’round a sports car course in the middle of nowhere. There never is about Mid-Ohio – it’s a nihilist’s dream date. We’ve been watching it closely – requiring no small amount of both endurance and patience, we can tell you – for decades now. It makes us wonder at times like these, where’s a Sid Vicious to wreak havoc when you need him?

Pole winner will probably be Will “Problems” Power, although any Team Penske member could well do it. Truth is, pole matters little this weekend, as usual. Power started P1 last year and finished second behind Josef Newgarden. Pags did win from pole in ’16, but he’s the only driver to do so in the last six years. One has to go back to 2011 when Scott Dixon won from pole – another of his record five victories at Mid-Ohio. He also triumphed after starting dead last in 2014, beating the field into utter “Submission.”

First out of this event inspiring absolutely “No Feelings” would likely be no one, were awful Austrian Rene “wrecking ball” Binder not back in a car. The rookie ride buyer’s season has been, well, regrettable. As for the race, there weren’t any DNFs last year and 2015 saw only one in Takuma Sato, though both 2016 and 2014 saw three apiece, thanks largely to first lap pileups. Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan was the lone car off course in 2013 while Ryan Hunter-Reay with the hyphen-here-to-stay was the only DNF in 2012. His was mechanical – and wasn’t pretty.

midohfoxnewscom

Photo from foxnews.com

The biggest surprise of the whole sham affair will be if Continue reading

Mid-Ohio Preview: Mediocrity On Parade

MilesofMediocrityIRR

The third-rate though conveniently located sports car course makes for some dreadfully boring IndyCar racing and regrettably will do so again for the thirty fourth time next Sunday. Quite possibly the worst circuit the series visits, Mid-Ohio epitomizes a disturbing trend in modern society of willing, almost glad acceptance of the middling. It’s mediocrity on parade.

During the run of the mill track’s big league history, which began fitfully in 1980, both CART and later Champ Car had the good sense to drop it entirely – for years at a time. Yet since 2007 and to our continual chagrin, Mid-Ohio keeps reappearing year after year on IC’s wreck of a schedule, like a meddling, nosy neighbor knocking on your door.

midohfoxnewscom

Photo from foxnews.com

It’s not expecting too much if, as a race fan, one expects more from Mark Miles and crew than merely mundane Mid-Ohio. Meanwhile, perfectly decent oval tracks all across the country – and as nearby as northern Kentucky and Illinois – sit idle.

The past five races there have featured as many different winners including Josef Newgarden last year, Continue reading