Texas IndyCar Preview: World Edition

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Texas Motor Speedway’s 20th anniversary promises to be memorable when IndyCar arrives at the fast, recently reconfigured mile and a half oval this weekend. Expect the racing to be worlds apart from what we saw in Detroit.

The series has held twenty eight races and counting since TMS opened, with almost all of them being extremely entertaining wheel to wheel wonderment. The repave and reconfiguration of the banking in turns 1 and 2 lessened it from 24 to 20 degrees and widened the track from 60 to 80 feet. Four time Texas winner Helio called it “completely new” and Pags called it “a different layout” after testing there in April. Honda teams were limited in their testing, with several not participating due to mileage concerns. We certainly hope all these changes didn’t screw up the track or the racing. That’d be earth shattering.

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Ragin’ Graham Rahal won a riveting race – weather disruptions aside – in the closest IndyCar finish at the track last year. That’s saying something.  Continue reading

Barber Race Review: PSI Edition

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Young gun Josef Newgarden turned what could have been another hum drum, Penske win from pole into a fairly memorable, exciting race – for a motorbike track.

It was Will “Sour Grapes” Power’s race to lose and he did, handing the newest teammate his first win for the Cap’n and failing to crack the top twelve for the fifth consecutive race. A cut Firestone was the culprit, or rather the hero of the day. Power slowed inexorably, giving PSI an entirely new meaning.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) and Long Beach winner James Hinchcliffe tangled at the start, leading to a third lap caution as RHR’s damaged front wing littered the track. Dale Coyne’s rookie phenom Ed Jones suffered damage due to the debris ruining his day, as well.

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During the initial melee the aged Tony Kanaan gambled and lost, though his Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon advanced to third and remained firmly in contention all day. Continue reading

Scott Dixon’s Helmet, Or: A Tale of Two Pities

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An embarrassing equipment failure at Sonoma typified Scott Dixon‘s season with Chip Ganassi Racing.

IndyCar’s defending champion suffered mightily on Sunday, floundering at a track he’d won on multiple times. Already losing his primary sponsor immediately after the race, Dixon limped home to a seventeenth place finish. Equipment issues and slow pit service stemming from a faulty wire doomed his chances at the largely passing-free Sonoma Raceway. It was truly a pity.

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With a malfunctioning radio and no communication with his team, Dixon was forced to swap helmets on his second pit stop. Continue reading

Sonoma Finale Race Review: Egregious Ending Edition

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Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won the whole kit ‘n caboodle at Sonoma’s so-called Raceway Sunday, leading all but nine laps in another regrettable road course runaway. Clinching a fourteenth IndyCar championship for the Cap’n in his 50th year in racing, it was Pags’ first IndyCar title in a decade in the sport. Yes and predictably, the season finale was truly that bad.

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There were some redeeming moments. Second fiddle stable mate Will Power couldn’t even keep the title hunt mildly interesting beyond lap thirty eight, suffering a clutch failure and falling out of contention. “Power down,” we gleefully Tweeted. The awful Aussie finished twentieth, eight laps off the pace. Always entertaining Graham Rahal ran a strong second for Honda, followed by the mercurial Juan Montoya in a Penske kind of day. Interestingly, it sounds as though Montoya won’t be back with the super team in 2017.

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We plan to address the former Team Target‘s trials and tribulations in the forthcoming article “Scott Dixon‘s helmet,” Continue reading

Texas (Part Two) Race Review: Ragin’ Rahal Edition

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IndyCar put on its second consecutive extraordinarily exhilarating oval track race in less than a week.

Enduring a year long winless drought, Graham Rahal won the closest race in Texas Motor Speedway history Saturday night charging all the way from lucky thirteenth. The race, started in June and rained out after the first seventy three laps and a horrific collision between Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden, proved an instant classic.

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The restarts were exquisite, the action and passing superb. It was like the good ol’ days of racing at Texas back in the ’90s and early ’00s, with a photo finish and the margin of victory a mere eight thousandths of a second. The race was breathtaking.

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Canuck James Hinchcliffe led the field to the restart, enjoyed as Paul Tracy said “the car to beat” and dominated almost the entire race. Crucially though, Continue reading

Toronto Preview: Canadian Token

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Part concrete, part asphalt and completely lined with walls, the streets of Toronto often resemble a Canuck concrete car crusher when IndyCar rolls into town. They’ll do so for the thirty second time Sunday in Canada’s token race of the year.

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We’ve raised alarms about our northern neighbor’s dwindling presence in IndyCar before; like the sport in general, the Canadian situation has shown little improvement. There’s been talk of a new race way out west in Calgary’s oil patch, but who knows? The schedule’s been so chaotic lately it makes nights out in U.S. cities look tranquil by comparison.

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Toronto used to be a double header like Belle Isle, but mercifully they discontinued the practice last year. Consider the move a token of Canadian IndyCar esteem. Continue reading

Barber Race Review: Friends Edition

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So much for a friends reunion at IndyCar’s annual parade ’round a motorcycle track in Alabama. None were made and, what’s worse, auld acquaintances fractured under the pressure Sunday afternoon.

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Photo from indycar.com

The Cap’n’s Frenchman Simon Pagenaud – who has few friends – dominated the road course race winning from pole. It’s his second straight triumph and sixth overall, a trend that won’t win him many new friends in the IndyCar paddock. The fuel saving and “coasting” exhibited yet again during the affair won’t win the series many new fans, either.

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It was a fugly start, with AA‘s Carlos “unfriendly” Munoz smashing into Mad Russian Mikhail Aleshin. Continue reading

Phoenix IndyCar Predictions And Prognostications: Red Hot ‘Readymade’ Edition

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Seems to us that for one IndyCar driver, Phoenix is “Readymade, readymade. Steady as the river rolls. Readymade, readymade. And this is how the story goes.”

On an entertainment note, PIR’s hosting the ’90s “rock” band ‘Better Than Ezra’ for Phoenix’s fans of fast. Really? Since they’re reaching back into the last millennium for music for IndyCar’s return to Arizona, the ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ – playing at Lollapalooza this year – are a much more appropriate band for the occasion on many levels. Just click the above video as you read along and you’ll hear why.

Our special prediction for the race in the desert – IndyCar’s first since 2005 – is a lot of dry, dusty heat. Not only weather wise, but also like the wine those f-ing F1 invaders at the rear of the field enjoy so much. It’s at the back where Max “Paris” Chilton and the others will remain at Phoenix – or, if you prefer, with the backwash at the bottom of the bottle.

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“I got a cousin making beats deep down in Arizona. We’re gonna rocket to Ramone’s in the city of Pomona.”

Another prediction concerns NBCSN, Continue reading

Daffy Leigh Diffey (An IndyCar Commentator’s Tale)

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

NBCSN’s lead announcer is seriously funny, often without even trying.

You know Leigh Diffey if nothing else from his amusing accent. He’s the great big bloke on tv with an even bigger mug. Semi-famous as the (enormous) face of the IndyCar and F1 commentariate on NBCSN, he’s almost bigger than life. He also happens to have a head roughly the size of a Firestone. It’s said that Leigh once got his enormous noggin too close to a confused tire changer in the heat of the action – with near disastrous results. Fortunately both the crewman and air gun survived.

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A real sport, Diffey calls F1 and IndyCar races indifferently. The talkative, if not fluent, talking head seamlessly transitions from one bunch of European and South American drivers with funny names like Kimi, Nico, Nico and Sebastian to the other bunch of European and South American drivers with funny names like Helio, Tony, Simon and Sebastien. While we’re on the subject, how about that label on Leigh? You suppose he caught any grief growing up down under in the ’70s with a moniker like that? Maybe they all have hilarious handles down there, who knows. He is from somewhere called Queensland, after all.

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

Truly international in resume and style, Diffey has obvious, bulging talent. Vaguely resembling the Michelin man, had he not caught on as a television personality he no doubt would’ve become a successful Saturday morning cartoon character. Come to think of it, working with David Hobbs, Steve “Whoaa!” Matchette and Jon Beekhuis (not to mention Paul Tracy) on a lowly NBC cable channel isn’t that far off. Continue reading