Toronto Race Review: Penske’s Pulled A Fast One

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Photo from twitter.com

The Penske’s pulled a fast one on the paying public Sunday.

With leader Frenchman Simon Pagenaud running low on fuel and fellow Penske pilot Josef Newgarden – the championship points leader – nursing home a damaged car in fourth after hitting the same stretch of wall for a second consecutive year, an uninteresting sleeping pill of a race looked like it might finally become eventful on the last lap. When suddenly third Penske teammate Will Power uncharacteristically – and all by himself – ran straight into a tire barrier, ending the race under caution and guaranteeing both a win for Pags and a continued grip on the points lead for Newkid. Coincidence? We think not. We believe the Penske’s pulled a fast one.

What sometimes saves the racing in Toronto – and in deed, its only redeeming quality – are multiple caution flags. Sunday’s affair had two and therefore technically qualified, but they were too few and far between to liven up the show. NBCSN’s pre-race coverage included the gobsmackingly dreadful condition of the supposed track in Toronto and, on a happier note, Robert Wickens’ return to IndyCar driving the specially configured pace car in his home country less than a year after his tragic accident at Pocono. During his pacing duties, which necessarily carried them close to the walls, his fiancee rode anxiously along screetching at one point, “Don’t be stupid!”

The green flag flew and fans were at least treated to a clean first turn as pole sitter Simon Pagenaud led Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi. But problems quickly began with hometown boy James Hinchcliffe bumping into Marco and getting by him. Continue reading

Road America Race Review: Caution Needed Edition

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In the most lop-sided IndyCar contest in a decade, Alexander Rossi won going away for Andretti Autosport in a typical Road America laugher. In the annals of racing, perhaps never was a caution, a rain storm, or a Sato desperation banzai move more needed to liven up the show.

Sunday’s pre-race coverage was lengthy, featuring Rossi, Jean Girard lookalike Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and the legendary Scott Dixon, whose dreadful luck of late was chronicled – and would continue. The start of the race saw polesitter Colton Herta lead Rossi toward turn 1, although it wouldn’t last. Rossi skillfully passed him on the outside of the corner for P1 and never looked back. Whinin’ Will Power immediately was all over the 19 year old rookie for second, a spot he’d eventually take. Herta would finish eighth.

Then Dixon spun ’round after going wide into a turn and being rudely hit from behind by Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay), dropping to last. In typical Gumpian fashion, he’d fight his way all the way back to fifth by the checkered flag. Continue reading

Detroit 2 Race Review: Rear Ended Edition

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If an IndyCar driver wasn’t involved in a rear end collision Sunday at Detroit, he probably won.

NBC’s rather amateurish broadcast was delayed this time by tennis from France, which after the Indy 500 was appropriate enough. While the weather proved much better than Saturday, the perfunctory Pagenaud platitudes didn’t. Qualifying was also missed due to a water delay – not from rain, but from a tire barrier – even though the recording was set for an extra half hour in case of such eventualities. Nevertheless we did get to hear “O’Canada” sung out loud as well as STP’s new front man do the US national anthem, which was superlative. Scott Dixon said he felt “very, very, very lucky” to be recognized by the Queen with an Order of Merit listing for his racing skills. Certainly no rear ending there.

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Josef Newgarden and Alex Rossi made up the first row, and Colton “Joaquin” Herta and Zach “Son of Dracula” Veach the second with Conor Daly driving . . . the two seater. Continue reading

Indy 500 Race Review: The Pagenaud Show

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Simon Pagenaud became the first Frenchman in ninety nine years to win the Indy 500 on Sunday, retaking the lead from Andretti Autosport’s former 500 winner Alex Rossi with two laps to go. In his 50 years at IMS, Roger Penske now owns eighteen 500 victories, winning 36% of all he’s entered.

Mike Tirico actually mentioned the word patriotism during the pre-race show, which was nice to hear on Memorial Day weekend, though frankly we could have done without Dale, Jr.’s dim-witted drawling. Same goes for Danica – and Lance Armstrong, for goodness’ sake. At times during the broadcast it seemed almost like the NASCAR Indy 500.

Photo from indycar.com

The crowd was decent making for fairly full stands, but with noticable tarpaulins and swaths of empty seats the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 was definitely not a sellout. Happily the weather held and the over two hundred thousand fans in attendance enjoyed an action packed race.

Rookie phenom and race winner Colton “Joaquin” Herta was first out of the contest, Continue reading

IndyCar Grand Prix Race Review: Empty Seats Edition

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Empty suited Frenchman Simon Pagenaud passed Scott Dixon with two laps to go to win the rain soaked IndyCar Grand Prix, coming from eighth starting position to take his third victory – and Team Penske’s sixth – out of six so-called races ’round the infield of IMS. It was a race held before a nearly empty – though admittedly cavernous – racetrack. Dixon’s discernible disappointment at finishing second after leading much of the race was plainly palpable.

The crowd of hangers-on flooding pit road during the pre-race was nearly as large as those poor, drenched paying customers in the sparsely populated stands. Chairman George gave the command to fire engines and the cars were quickly underway. The green flag gave way to the usual first lap problems with Alex Rossi getting rudely run into by Pato O’Ward, sending the 500 winner into the wall, his right rear suspension grievously wounded, ruining his day. The Coyne-ster was penalized for avoidable contact, though came back for a strong – if unjust – showing until the end. Rossi’s teammate Zach Veach got hit by Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan, knocking the youthful, son of Dracula looking American out of the way and into the curb. The aged TK of course faced no such sanction.

Meanhile up front, Jack Harvey went to second around Dixon as rookie Felix Rosenqvist quickly lept out to a comfortable, albeit short-lived, lead. Continue reading

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Race Review: Ridin’ Bitch Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

Alexander Rossi forced the rest of the field to ride bitch Sunday at Long Beach, winning his second consecutive grand prix by over ten seconds from pole. It was one of those sleep inducing street course races that we’re constantly railing against, one that would’ve been totally forgettable but for a bit of late race controversy over the low step on the podium between Scott “Forrest” Dixon and Ragin’ Graham Rahal. But in the end, even that was less than dramatic.

Rossi featured mightily on the pre-race show but hell, if you’d have read our predictions you could have saved yourself some time and already known all that. Sorry to Alex – and almost everyone else – but the GP is NOT a close second to the Indy 500. It’s only about a third as old, much less prestigious and it’s a frickin’ street course, to boot. A couple of positives from the pre-race pageantry were F-18s doing a flyover and the hottie Mickey Guyton singing the national anthem. Candidly, we were surprised the kooky Californios let her sing it at all. Additionally, there was a second consecutive audio connection with the two seater passenger – some gal from The Bachelor who, not surprisingly, could hardly contain her enthusiasm.

At Long Beach there are a whopping two passing zones, according to Townsend Bell and – whoopie! – it showed. The start saw Dixon immediately dart behind Rossi, with the only change being Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) bumping and then getting around Frenchman Simon Pagenaud for fifth. Continue reading

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

St. Pete Predictions and Prognostications: Live PD Edition

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A recent high profile IndyCar related arrest put IRR in an increasingly incarcerating mood for Sunday’s season opener. As Davey Hamilton, Jr. might say, “stop resisting!”

The Firestone Grand Prix takes place just south of Pasco County, Florida, equally famous for both its recurring spots on Live PD and its 3rd grade educated, meth addled criminal class. In honor of this and the adorable K-9 officer Shep – along with his equally adorable handler (at least according to this author’s girlfriend) – we’ll get to our picks quicker than Dan Abrams can come up with a poorly worded police related pun.

Our special prediction for 2019’s inaugural event is that it’ll be about as engaging as a Nye County welfare check thirty minutes out. Afterward you’ll wish the entire series hierarchy were thrown behind bars or, better yet, put under the jail for so persistently insisting upon such shoddy street circuits. Particularly when there’s a perfectly serviceable yet thoroughly unused oval track down in Homestead. Swedish imports NOT in a vodka bottle or bikini? Check. Starting the year off with yet another buzz killing street course?? Check. Allowing Marco, Max “Paris” Chilton and TK all to take the green??? Check. It’s profoundly criminal, and more than enough to make us wanna fire up Florida’s famed ol’ sparky.

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Prognostication for pole sitter invokes our personal favorite Live PD peace officer, Richland County’s Lieutenant “Downtown” Danny Brown. Why, you ask? Because in IndyCar nowadays, pole’s as easy to sniff out as a blazin’ blunt from the car full of extremely confident fellows directly upwind from you. Continue reading

St. Pete Preview: Swede Smell of Unsuccess

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IRR’s far from neutral in our insights into IndyCar’s incredibly iffy intro to 2019.

Expect a typically erratic, albeit mildly entertaining start to the campaign on the streets of St. Pete, with nothing even approaching an error-free opener, much less Swedish drivers distinguishing themselves in any positive way. That’s coming from an author who’s actually visited Sweden – or as close as Stockholm comes these days.

Despite a lamentably lame and lackluster course, the initial contest of the season is often surprisingly watchable, for as noted in last year’s preview, “My God – It’s Full of Rookies!,” the stunning lack of experience in what’d be considered spring training in any other sport usually provides some laughs – if not worse. We’re not merely referring to the outrageous maiming of paying race fans at the track a few years back, either.

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With a pair of Swedish rookies meatballing their way through their inaugural IndyCar race there’ll be plenty of Nordic-headed behavior on display. And that’s not even counting the micro talented, macro ego-ed Marco, who hasn’t won a race in nearly a decade and routinely makes the term driver as big of a joke as a Jussie Smollett “hate crime.” Though not saying much, IndyCar’s actual Vikings will greatly out-pillage Mario’s mediocre, milquetoast grandson – and all without the benefit of Volvos! 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