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

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IndyCar Grand Prix Race Review: Bush League Stuff

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Image from youtube

When winner Will Power’s accent degenerates to the point where it’s more affectation than Aussie, you know you’ve landed in IndyCar’s outback. The predictable and unpalatable Penske win from pole was the Cap’n’s 200th in the sport. It was also, to quote Quintana, “bush league stuff.”

During ABC’s unremarkable, out-the-door-and-it-shows pre-race show, Scott Goodyear pontificated that he wasn’t sure his fellow Canuck Robert Wickens “is a rookie.” Well Mr. also-ran, we’re positive that he is. Next, Power predicted a good race with “lots of passing,” all merely proving that he’s a better driver than prognosticator.

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The GP’s Great Leader Tony George gave the command to start engines while in the booth they droned on about the perils of turn 1. Upon taking the green they went at least four wide in what’s hopefully a harbinger of things to come in the 500, going hard into the sharp right hander that is the GP’s first turn. By turn 2 there was the predictable trouble on track.

Upon first glance and according to the booth, ECR’s rookie Jordan King hit Pags, sending both off course and into the gravel pit. After starting seventh, Pags was able to keep it going and bring it home to a respectable eighth place showing. On the same opening lap, Pigot also ran off course after hitting a curb and wildly flying through the air, hitting an unfortunate Sato after landing and bouncing. Poor Spencer was penalized for the avoidable contact, but soldiered on to finish 15th. Meanwhile, his teammate King got stuck in the gravel trap, bringing out the first caution of the day.

Cutting through the ABC crew’s confusion, replays showed Pags only went wide after being hit by his teammate Helio, who is as you may have heard fresh off retirement. Only then, and after checking up, Continue reading

Barber Predictions and Prognostications: Alabama Getaway

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As IndyCar teams, drivers and fans – including a number of our more intrepid followers – make their way south for a race weekend outside Birmingham, a serious question arises. When it comes to vacation destinations, obviously there are a helluva lot better options than central Alabama. For example, almost anywhere else – save for Detroit. So what’s the attraction, we wonder? It can’t be the statuary.

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Photo from the web

Nor is it likely to be the racing, which takes us to our special prediction for this purpose-built motorbike track. Don’t expect cautions to free viewers from monotony jail like at Long Beach, as the wide open spaces of Barber are almost always amenable to clean, green flag racing. Translation – a single file procession at interstate speeds. See Pags’ win from pole in 2016 for proof. Want more evidence? IndyCar’s last three at the quirky facility have averaged fewer than two cautions per race, although unusually 2014 saw five yellows. Talk about flighty!

Pick for pole is positively Penske, as it’s predictably their plunder. The Cap’n’s crew have purloined the last four in a row at BMSP, with Helio, Pags and Power all getting in on the action. Continue reading

Long Beach Preview: Up in the Air

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IndyCar’s annual whiff of SoCal’s insalubrious smog arrives Sunday and the pending outcome is as up in the air as a juggler’s balls.

Hinch, Pags and Dixie have won the last three Grans Prix, by far the series’ most atmospheric street race. That’s three different teams represented atop the podium since 2015. Go back far enough and some rather wispy outfits indeed have triumphed by the shore, including Ed Carpenter Racing. On a street course. Twice. That’s certainly some rarefied air out west.

Bourdais is a three time winner, stratospherically taking three in a row during the most polluted days of the split. Understandably though, after Phoenix his pit crew may still be a bit sore at him this weekend. Even Will “hot air” Power vaporized the entire field twice at the Beach, though that was several years ago. Heck, Sato won there for Foyt in 2013. Tellingly, it was under caution and the tentative team‘s last win.

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Unassuming Ed Jones stole the show last year with a sixth place finish and second consecutive top ten to start his career. Continue reading

Why Foyt Should Fold

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The legendary IndyCar gambler’s game has gone, his eponymous team no longer worthy of the name. As longtime fans of the ornery octogenarian, it pains us to point out his team’s precipitous decline.

A recent conversation with an A.J. fan who’s followed him since the 1960s got us to thinking. While there’s no questioning Foyt’s former skills behind the wheel, his decisions on the stand are downright dumbfounding. It dawned on us that the last twelve years he’s been in the sport, Marco Andretti has more wins than all of A.J. Foyt Racing – twice as many wins, in fact. That’s not only extremely sad, but also tremendously telling.

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For the sake of A.J.’s legacy and his place at the center of IndyCar history, it’s time for his team to toss in their cards. Larry Foyt’s been running things the last decade, and rather poorly at that. Continue reading

Ways to Enliven IndyCar Road Racing, Or: Obdurate Ovalista Offerings

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Whether it’s some fresh ideas, new rules or simply enforcing existing ones, IndyCar road racing really needs a revival. Since an all oval schedule is unlikely to return anytime soon, here are a few suggestions to liven up the road shows.

As fans of IndyCar it’s no secret we at IRR prefer oval track racing to squiggly courses because speed, passing and excitement are kinda our thing. Having already offered our “Ways To Save Oval Racing,” it’s now time to address the ten times as many curves as straightaways tracks.

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Photo from twitter.com

The first thing the series could do to improve squirmies is simply enforce the rules. When called at all, penalties are often wildly inconsistent – just see Emma Dixon‘s Twitter feed – with certain teams and drivers (think Penske and Ganassi) seemingly exempt. Last year’s Long Beach non-call on Simon Pagenaud is a perfect example of this. It’s grossly unfair and invites NASCAR type lawlessness.

Race control’s laxness calling penalties leads to drivers getting Kimballed, or what’s worse, Satoed. Recently on the Texas oval nine drivers were Kanaaned, which is in case you’re wondering much worse than a caning – just ask Hinch. Continue reading

Phoenix Race Review: Single Handed

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J.R. Hildebrand gave fans someone to root for other than those paradoxical Penskes in a flawed though mildly entertaining show in the desert.

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Photo from edcarpenterracing.com

Simon Pagenaud and the Penskes prevailed going away as the first oval and night race of the year looked like 2016 in microcosm. Thankfully there were other stories, or rather a single other story, on NBCSN. If we heard about it once, we heard it a thousand times. Hildebrand‘s comeback race from a broken hand at Long Beach – requiring “a plate and eight screws” as Paul Tracy read from a card – saw him finish an impressive third. It was Ed Carpenter Racing‘s best result in some time and a remarkable feat by the team’s shorthanded newcomer.

We couldn’t help but think of the sound of one hand clapping during the race, as the crowd looked sparse on television and the Saturday night time slot is challenging for ratings to begin with. After seeing the start though, maybe that’s not all bad.

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The race began embarrassingly with a first lap caution as Mikhail Aleshin lost it and spun in turn two collecting Marco, Rahal, Chilton and Bourdais – Hondas all. 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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Photo from indycar.com

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

Barber Predictions & Prognostications: Alonso’s Cherry Edition

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Fernando Alonso’s IndyCar cherry is about to be popped in Alabama, and it’s going to be messy for Andretti Autosport.

The former champ and soon to be f-ing F1 invader will be attending his first ever race on Sunday. If as reported he thinks he’s racing with “the least power ever” now in an F1 McLaren Honda, then just wait until the Spaniard’s in an AA Honda come May.

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Image from twitter.com

Our special prediction of the race is that Fernando will feel his first time’s somewhat awkward and painful. Join the club, as many of us feel the same way particularly when watching a race at Barber. After all, it is a frickin’ motorbike track. However, we’re certain that at thirty five Alonso won’t publicly admit it.

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Our pole prediction is similarly agonizing, Continue reading

Barber IndyCar Preview: The Barber of Seville

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Fernando, Fernando, Fernand-o!

The announcement during the off week that Fernando Alonso will be running in the Indy 500 was the biggest news item since another f-ing F1 invader won the 100th 500 as a rookie, running out of fuel and coasting to the finish.

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Reportedly the Spaniard in question will be at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend to watch his first Indy style race in person. It’s just too bad his initial experience won’t be at a better track. A former F1 champ, Alonso unquestionably brings some star power to the states. However, we prefer to focus on those drivers who actually will be driving this weekend rather than merely spectating.

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Photo from indycar.com

Happily some drivers will be working Sunday rather than vacationing, albeit with less attention than Alonso, which brings up several questions. Continue reading