Road America IndyCar Preview: This Replaced Milwaukee Why?!

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No kidding – not yet, at least – 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal recently called Road America “THE best circuit in North America” and among the “top ten in the world.” Well, Mr. Mustache, pardon the hell out of us if we beg to differ.

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Last year’s Wisconsin visit typified REM inducing road racing. This despite others’ – and admittedly even our own – efforts at optimism leading up to the event. The series hadn’t raced there in a decade and every track deserves a shot, it’s thought. Except NOLA. And Baltimore. And Boston. And Brasilia. And . . . but we digress. The series’ big return was an absolute laugher, with Sour Grapes Power running away from the field. Stop us – and road racing – if you’ve seen this before.

One problem was – and there were many – only one caution flag. As previously exposed on this site, IndyCar road racing needs a shot in the arm, nay – a salvation – before it bores fans to a tedious, road weary death. Squirrely tracks – especially a super long, scary circuit like RA – need LOTS of flags to make it even remotely interesting. Oh, and rain tires. And penalties. And grid girls.

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At least it’s a road course Scott Dixon didn’t run away with, like Mid-Ohio or Sonoma. Continue reading

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Long Beach Race Review: Jones-ing Racing

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IndyCar rookie Ed Jones is stunning the racing world with an unprecedented career start.

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Sure, comedic Canadian James Hinchcliffe won his fifth career race and second for Sam Schmidt. And yes, Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais finished second and leads the points after two races. Josef Newgarden scored a podium in only his second race for Penske coming home in third, while our pick Dixie finished a disappointing fourth. It’s also true that Frenchman Simon Pagenaud raced from last to fifth after receiving a penalty in qualifications. But none of that’s really the point.

Rookie Ed Jones turned in the drive of the race, moving up seven positions to finish sixth and making the top ten for the second consecutive outing. It was only his second IndyCar race and after a tremendous beginning the youngster now sits seventh in points.
The 2016 Indy Lights champ not only drives for Dale Coyne Racing, making his accomplishments that much more special, but also is off to an astounding start to his IndyCar career.

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Born in Dubai, UAE Jones is Continue reading

What’s Michael Andretti Thinking Now? Or, Andretti’s Always Alarming Approach

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IndyCar’s loosest lipped loose cannon – and that’s saying something – makes more dubious decisions.

You know those tortured guys with the prolonged, seemingly perpetual mid life crises? The ones who share their problems liberally with the rest of us? That’s our Michael. Without erratic owners like Mario’s eldest son, there’d be precious little to write about in the off season. Speaking of precious little . . .

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Takuma Sato – the all time leader in most crashes per win – will replace Carlos “Speedy” Munoz at Andretti Autosport. Considering Sato’s dismal record of a single win in seven IndyCar seasons coupled with nearly a decade of F1 futility, one has to again wonder what Michael’s thinking. After all, a late career renaissance for the soon to be forty year old Japanese jockey’s highly unlikely. It’s not as though his record at Indy‘s any better, with a best finish of thirteenth and several high profile crashes.

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Taku finished seventeenth in points in 2016, near the bottom of the full timers. He’s made a hundred eighteen starts, yet achieved only twelve top five finishes. Tellingly, he failed to finish forty four of those races, or a whopping thirty seven percent. Continue reading

Road America Preview: Racing The Haunted Woods

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A mysterious land of wonderment, danger and frights, Road America’s where AJ‘s leg bones from his terrifying 1990 crash still haunt the foreboding, forested hills. For modern day racers, it’s a lengthy leap into the unsettling unknown.

 

Once upon a time long, long ago IndyCar raced at a magical place called Road America. The scene of flips, collisions and even rear wings flying off, racing last occurred there in 2007 prior to the conclusion of the super scary split. The series first appeared at the frightful facility in the deep, dark woods way back in 1982. Legends including Mario Andretti and Danny Sullivan won races there. It truly was an epic age.

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Only half the field tested in Wisconsin after the Texas flood, as they scattered for vacations from Vegas to Le Mans. Those who did test included Continue reading

100th Indy 500 Qualifications Day One: Mayor of Indy?

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Photo from Chad Smith on twitter.com

After more a.m. rain, weepers on the track caused a delay in the first day of qualifying for the greatest spectacle in racing. IMS extended the track window by an hour setting up a helluva climax for ESPNews. Boy, was it a Duesie. The Mayor James Hinchcliffe stole the show – and the pole – in a riveting late happy hour run of 230.946 mph.

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Photo from Chad Smith on twitter.com

Prior to that, Max Chilton was involved in the first accident of the day in practice, losing the car in turn 2 and smashing Chip’s half million dollar bill board up pretty well. Calamity next struck Pippa Mann when her rear wing end fence failed during a qualifying attempt, spinning her out in turn 2. She almost saved it with an evasive maneuver before lightly brushing the wall.

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ABC’s two hour window missed almost everything except Pippa’s spin and the final few qualifiers like 500 winner Buddy Lazier. Continue reading

IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview: Cheap Trick Edition

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First F1, then CART/Champ Car, and finally IndyCar all have played a cheap trick upon the hospitable “I Want You To Want Me” Southern California destination. Fact is, fairly few edge of your seat races have unfolded at Long Beach during its long history, though you’d never know it. Almost inconceivably, this trickery’s been going on for four decades now.

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Appropriately for SoCal, the Grand Prix of Long Beach always has been upside down, like a wave riding a surfer. The ancient – at least by IndyCar standards – event is known more for its pre-race festivities and “atmosphere” than the race itself. This year’s hoopla will be highlighted by Rockford, Illinois’ own Cheap Trick in concert, a rock band from the ’70s and recent Rock ‘N Roll HOF inductee among whose best songs is, fittingly enough, “California Man.”

 

Included in the fanfare too will be an “ePrix,” a drift race and, perhaps most cryptic of all, a “Lifestyle Expo,” whatever the hell any of those are. One thing IRR‘s sure of, however. Prior to the race a must see Miss GPLB pageant will be held – not to be confused with an LGBT pageant, of course. Strictly for illustrative purposes, here’s a look at last year’s gorgeous finalists. Wonder how many “Southern Girls” are among them? Or cheap tricks?

 

Adding a crescendo to the bawdy buildup is Continue reading

Phoenix IndyCar Preview: Reclaiming The Desert

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As IndyCar returns to Phoenix for the first time in over a decade, fast paced surprises await race fans in the springtime desert.

Phoenix International Raceway’s been the sole haunt of those nattering NASCAR nabobs since the speedy set split after last racing there in 2005. IndyCar’s kiss off saw Sam Hornish, Jr. win for the second time at Phoenix, beating Tony Kanaan who’d won the previous two. Helio‘s also won at PIR for the Cap’n – once – in 2002. In all of IndyCar, TK and Helio are the only two still in the field old enough to ever have run in the desert. Question is, can these two codgers reclaim their former glory?

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The first IndyCar race occurred at the brand spankin’ new PIR way back in 1964. Not surprisingly, it was won by the bigger than life A.J. Foyt in a Watson/Offy. Phoenix was favorable for the never dry Foyt, as he went on to win three more times during his long career. He’s joined by other multiple winners and legends of the sport including Lloyd Ruby, Mario Andretti, Al Unser and perhaps the best named racer of all time, Gordon Johncock. Here’s to reclaiming IndyCar history in Arizona.

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PIR is an oval – albeit a dog legged, relatively flat one – so we’re loyally, though levelly enthusiastic. At least Miles and company haven’t eliminated all of ’em yet. Continue reading

Indy Rivals We’d Like To See

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Just as IndyCar’s speed is wantonly wasted on road courses – and Marco – the series seriously under utilizes rivalries. IRR aims to change that with some actionable ideas for a brand new set of Indy rivals.

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Sure, a few rivalries may still exist, but they’re neither good nor old fashioned. Today they generally start – and end – on social media, often failing to last long enough even to make the television coverage. Compounding this crisis of (a lack of) contention is the fact that Sage Karam remains in IndyCar exile. Sage and half the field last year aside, nowadays rivalries pale in comparison to A.J. and Mario – or even A.J. and Arie. Hell, A.J. and anybody. This mirrors the state of the sport as a whole and that’s just not good enough. It’s something the drivers and owners under their own initiative can do to better the show. Above all, improving IndyCar is what we’re all about.

For the good of IndyCar, here are some Indy rivals we’d like to see:

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Josef and Ed – The ECR teammates should turn nemesis and there are plenty of reasons why. Owner Ed “prince” Carpenter crashed Josef out at Fontana last year and Sunday at St. Pete didn’t even bother to run a teammate for him, while he of course only drives on the ovals. Continue reading

IndyCar’s F-ing F1 Invasion, Part 1

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An invasion is taking place in the U.S. and for once it has nothing to do with the southern border. Rather, racers from far flung Formula 1 shores threaten to take over the American open wheel scene at an astonishing rate. The question is, what to make of this f-ing F1 invasion flooding the IndyCar series?

American Alexander Rossi (where’s Martini?) is only the latest in a long line of F1 invaders currently in the IndyCar series, including fellow rookie Max Chilton from England and veterans like Frenchman Sebastien “butterfingers” Bourdais, Takuma “take ’em out” Sato from Japan, and Colombian Juan “too stupid” Montoya. F-ing F1 intruders will make up a quarter of the field this year, with totals possibly rising even higher for the historic 100th Indy 500.

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That’s not counting former drivers like Italian Luca Filippi who tested for F1, started eighteen IndyCar races (finishing a high of second) and may yet return to the mix, or the late British veteran Justin Wilson. Plus, there’s a real possibility of the unfortunately named Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado upping the total to six former F1 faces in the series, or nearly a third of the field (that’s almost thirty three percent for NASCAR fans). Unsettlingly, rumors abound of still more interlopers venturing over in the years ahead as fabulously pricey F1 opportunities dry up.

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There are plenty of other F1 connections to IndyCar too, Continue reading

Some IndyCar Owners Need To Seriously Step It Up, Part 3

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In part three, we take a good, hard look at Michael Andretti’s decisions at Andretti Autosport.

Michael Andretti made our list too, though for different reasons than either Coyne or Foyt. Andretti’s foremost weakness is his insistence upon pursuing tangential business ventures – failed ventures. Some months ago he was forced to dissolve his race promotion group, which landed Michael in a messy legal imbroglio when his own company sued him. His latest get rich quick scheme? Auctioning off Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Indy 500 winning car, with caveats of course. Mario’s son needs to stick to what he knows – racing – and leave the shady money making ventures to others.

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His purported promotional prowess involved the ill-fated “race” at NOLA where yet another legal battle ensued following the (thankfully) one and done event. Michael himself called it “a nightmare.” Speaking of horror, Andretti’s company also badly mishandled the world’s oldest race track the Milwaukee Mile, now conspicuously absent from the 2016 schedule. Thank you for that, Michael. Another Andretti pipe dream is a green racing series – talk about an oxymoron! – called Formula E or some such thing. Clearly the distracted reality television celebrity should focus more on his IndyCar team and less on derivative business ventures. They not only lead nowhere, but also detract from his performance as an IndyCar team owner.

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It’s not just the risky corporate dealings that need to stop, either. Continue reading