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

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Season Finale Preview: Sayonara, Sonoma!

Sayonara Sonoma!

IRR’s preview of the 2018 finale illustrates how the sake’s about to hit the fan with a Japanese race winner, a Kiwi in the points lead and a long overdue kiss off for one particular track.

Following fourteen interminable years of visiting northern California – primarily because the Foyts and Andrettis own wineries there and most certainly not for the racing – the IndyCar party at Sonoma’s over at long last. Now the hellacious hangover begins, as the geniuses responsible for IndyCar’s schedule failed to replace it with a decent track, like the big, beautiful oval at Fontana, home of exquisite racing in years past.

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Photo from sfhracing.com

No, next season the series swaps one inferior road course finale at Sonoma for another one down the coast at Laguna Seca. The 2019 schedule 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

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

IndyCar’s F-ing F-1 Invasion, Part 3: McLaren Megalomania

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Photos from dailymail.co.uk and sports.usatoday.com

With chatter about a back marker F1 team branching out into IndyCar reaching a fever pitch, it’s high time to set the record straight – by which we mean furthering our incisive take on the matter. Namely, F1’s increasing and undue influence over IndyCar – this ongoing invasion from across the pond – is pernicious and must be stopped.

It’s a subject we’ve been covering for some time now. For the first two installments of our series from 2016, see “IndyCar’s F-ing F1 Invasion, Part 1” and also “IndyCar’s F-ing F1 Invasion, Part 2.”

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Photo from indycar.com

Multiple teams are reportedly interested in pairing with the British based outfit including Rahal Lanigan Letterman Racing, but Andretti Autosport seems to be McLaren’s most likely landing spot. Continue reading

Iowa Predictions and Prognostications: The Big Four

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Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 could be the race to end all races – it’s often that entertaining. Hopefully it isn’t the end of IndyCar races at Iowa Speedway, but that’s only if “Bismarck” Miles doesn’t declare war on any more oval tracks. Where’s an ace leader like Eddie Rickenbacker when your series needs him?

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One fact about Iowa that’s likely to blow you away is three different winners in as many years, with the (usually) retired Helio, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay the victors. Make it four of the last five if you throw in Hinchcliffe’s devastating win in 2013. Taken together, they’re who we call The Big Four of Iowa.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has won an impressive three battles on Iowa’s plains, including back to back in 2014-15. Incredibly, his record’s less gaudy than that of his team’s smashing performance overall. Andretti Autosport’s enjoyed an unrestricted seven wins – out of only eleven races in the track’s history – sinking the competition as effectively as a u-boat wolf pack. Hinch’s win was with AA, too and even Marco managed top of the podium for his dad’s outfit, somehow. It was his last win, now seven years ago. Seems like a century, doesn’t it?

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Photo from foxsports.com

Our special prognostication for Sunday is related, though far from neutral. Continue reading

Detroit Race Review No. 1: We Freakin’ Nailed It! Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

How did they do it? Who’s the soothsayer? What were they on? These are the questions they’ll be asking about IRR in future annals of IndyCar blogs, at least if we have any input.

Scott Dixon scored his 42nd career win, tying Michael Andretti for third all time behind his dad and AJ, marking his fourteenth consecutive season with at least one win. He won handily over Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi in a Honda parade through the heart of downtown Detroit, though it was his first visit to victory lane since Road America last season.

As for what little pre-race there was, the ABC booth took on the somber tone of a wake, or would have had it not been so sleepy. After the obligatory, outrageous Power 500 recap, Jan Beekhuis spoke with pole sitter Marco, who insists upon repeatedly referring to his many “outside poles,” or what everyone else on the planet refers to as starting second. The legacy driver on an eight year drought fibbed and said he “thinks we can pass pretty well here.” But the bigger story would be his burgeoning feud with a teammate – one who’s actually won the Indy 500.

Photo from indycar.com

The stands looked fairly full on a gorgeous day and ticket sales were “up 15% over last year,” according to Bestwick. Rain’s possible tomorrow, Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Race Review: It’s A Vegemite Sandwich and We All Gotta Take A Bite

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Photo from foxsports.com.au

Team Penske’s – and all IndyCar’s – least likable driver won the series’ biggest race, sadly. For the Cap’n, it was his seventeenth 500 triumph – a towering record never to be surpassed. AA’s Englishman Stefan Wilson, brother of the late driver Justin, led until the final stages before being forced to pit for fuel.

With seven cautions in all, the race – and particularly the start and restarts – were thrilling, right up until the end when Wilson pulled into the pits with only four to go. This handed Will “sour grapes” Power the event, to every single thinking race fan’s chagrin. It’s one race at long last that he can’t complain about.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

ABC’s pre-race coverage of course featured a lengthy Danica interview, followed by some yahoo named Marty Smith with a NASCAR accent screaming into a mike from the snakepit. Thanks for the memories, ABC.

From the green flag, Danica dropped five spots as predicted, then embarrassingly lifted completely off the throttle in turns during early in-car camera coverage. Her owner Fast Eddy Carpenter led from the pole, while ragin’ Graham Rahal jumped seven spots almost immediately from his dismal starting spot. He’d wind up tenth.

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Photo from indystar.com

Driving AJ Foyt Racing‘s always tenuous third car, James Davison was waaaay loose and waaaay slow, and finally on lap 47 Taku’d had enough and simply Satoed him. The defending 500 winner closed quickly and smacked him from behind in between turns 3 and 4, nearly going airborne and bringing out the first of seven cautions.

Only a few laps following the restart, Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Practice Day 4: Fast Friday Flop

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Image from fox59.com

Fast Friday lacked urgency, action and speed, though on the bright side the weather cooperated and nobody got hurt. At least not too badly. Maybe drivers and teams feel they’ve adequately prepared the past three days of practice for the four most nerve wracking laps of their lives, or maybe they’re saving all the best moments for this weekend – and next. When the whole world’ll be watching.

Like yesterday, the fastest speeds came early in the running rather than late, an up is down, black is white scenario if ever there were one. Marco “practice warrior” Andretti managed to again turn in the quickest of the tow speeds at 231.8 mph, followed closely by Robert Wickens, Ed Carpenter, Oriol Servia and Will Power. Danica was 20th. The added turbo boost only raised speeds a mile per hour or so, but for some reason the series does it anyway. The fastest non-tow speed belonged to Will Power with a lap of 229.7 mph, trailed by his teammates Josef Newgarden and Pags as well as Ed Carpenter.

Another of the day’s flops occurred shortly before 3:00 p.m. James Davison lost it in turn 2 and spun A.J. Foyt Racing’s gorgeous, red third car, slamming the wall and wrecking it pretty substantially, destroying the gear box. He suffered a banged up knee, but was otherwise all right and cleared to attempt qualifying tomorrow – Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Practice Day 3: JR Wallbanger Edition

Photo from fox59.com

One driver was up to his old tricks again today at the Speedway, while another showed an aggressive streak. Neither of them were anywhere near the top of the speed charts.

Ragin’ Graham Rahal turned in the day’s fastest lap of 226 mph, which is a tick slower than Marco’s lap yesterday. He was followed by Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan, Marco “practice warrior” Andretti, Ed Carpenter and Sage Karam in the top five tow speeds. This order was established early in the running and never did change, a first for happy hour this week.

Will “sour grapes” Power owned the quickest non-tow speed of 223.9, followed by Sebastien Bourdais and Charlie “pinball” Kimball. Generally things were less hectic on track with some 2700 laps turned compared to 3300 Wednesday, but there was some close racing nonetheless – at more than one point, a little too close.

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Photo from Kevin Murphy on Twitter

The start of happy hour included some increased action with five or six cars running together, until the last twenty minutes when things heated up as more cars joined the fray. Helio Continue reading