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

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Pocono Preview: The Pusillanimous Needn’t Apply

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The pusillanimous needn’t apply this weekend as IndyCar penetrates the Poconos, with pilots parrying perilously for a paltry pittance and precious little prestige. After all, this ain’t NASCAR.

In furtherance of the point, speeds Sunday will exceed 215 miles an hour and be performed by drivers without roofs, windshields or fenders – much less the distraction of a drug addled CEO. That’s one positive we’ll point out about Mark Miles: he isn’t Brian France. In IndyCar mere helmets and the relative safety of open wheel car technology provide the protection. The only real racing series left on the planet features truly brave drivers who even do it sans halos.

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Will “The Ugly” Power improbably prevailed the last two years running, while Continue reading

Mid-Ohio Predictions and Prognostications: Pretty Vacant

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Scheduled during “Holidays in the Sun” season when no one’s looking, it’s appropriate that Mid-Ohio again will be broadcast on a cable channel no one’s watching. In a phrase, the race is “Pretty Vacant.”

Since this post is cutting into our own precious vacation time, we’ll get right to our special punk rock prediction for this sorry excuse of a race. There will be nothing memorable, much less special, about Sunday’s parade ’round a sports car course in the middle of nowhere. There never is about Mid-Ohio – it’s a nihilist’s dream date. We’ve been watching it closely – requiring no small amount of both endurance and patience, we can tell you – for decades now. It makes us wonder at times like these, where’s a Sid Vicious to wreak havoc when you need him?

Pole winner will probably be Will “Problems” Power, although any Team Penske member could well do it. Truth is, pole matters little this weekend, as usual. Power started P1 last year and finished second behind Josef Newgarden. Pags did win from pole in ’16, but he’s the only driver to do so in the last six years. One has to go back to 2011 when Scott Dixon won from pole – another of his record five victories at Mid-Ohio. He also triumphed after starting dead last in 2014, beating the field into utter “Submission.”

First out of this event inspiring absolutely “No Feelings” would likely be no one, were awful Austrian Rene “wrecking ball” Binder not back in a car. The rookie ride buyer’s season has been, well, regrettable. As for the race, there weren’t any DNFs last year and 2015 saw only one in Takuma Sato, though both 2016 and 2014 saw three apiece, thanks largely to first lap pileups. Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan was the lone car off course in 2013 while Ryan Hunter-Reay with the hyphen-here-to-stay was the only DNF in 2012. His was mechanical – and wasn’t pretty.

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Photo from foxnews.com

The biggest surprise of the whole sham affair will be if Continue reading

Mid-Ohio Preview: Mediocrity On Parade

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The third-rate though conveniently located sports car course makes for some dreadfully boring IndyCar racing and regrettably will do so again for the thirty fourth time next Sunday. Quite possibly the worst circuit the series visits, Mid-Ohio epitomizes a disturbing trend in modern society of willing, almost glad acceptance of the middling. It’s mediocrity on parade.

During the run of the mill track’s big league history, which began fitfully in 1980, both CART and later Champ Car had the good sense to drop it entirely – for years at a time. Yet since 2007 and to our continual chagrin, Mid-Ohio keeps reappearing year after year on IC’s wreck of a schedule, like a meddling, nosy neighbor knocking on your door.

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Photo from foxnews.com

It’s not expecting too much if, as a race fan, one expects more from Mark Miles and crew than merely mundane Mid-Ohio. Meanwhile, perfectly decent oval tracks all across the country – and as nearby as northern Kentucky and Illinois – sit idle.

The past five races there have featured as many different winners including Josef Newgarden last year, 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

Iowa Preview: Wanted – For Wantonly Wasting Ovals

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If justice remains an issue of any importance, then the focus of the sporting world this week should be squarely upon IndyCar’s brass in Iowa. Specifically, how they handle oval tracks starting Sunday and going forward. If Phoenix – and a years’ long slide away from ovals and towards curvy courses – are any indications, then we truly tremble for the future of our beloved egg shaped circuits.

Racing’s routinely riveting at this rural redoubt, like all ovals the series doesn’t ruin with regrettable rules and regulations, then promptly abandon. At Iowa, three wide, edge of your seat action with near constant passing’s the norm. It used to be even better as a night race which it was until 2016, both for the racing and the fans. The move to a daytime race represents yet another major Mark Miles era schedule regression. Unfortunately, so too does Road America, where even more unfortunately that so called race was recently extended into the foreseeable future.

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Photo from foxsports.com

It’s imperative that Miles and other IndyCar scheduling geniuses do the same with Iowa, whose contract is also up, Continue reading

Detroit Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: A Lot To Like

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At the conclusion of the annual pilgrimage to Motor City, ABC’s long and strained relationship with IndyCar comes to a merciful close, as does the weak early part of the series’ schedule. We’re fans of seeing both go and look forward to a brighter, more productive portion of the season ahead. Starting with, like, our ever popular predictions!

We’ve several prognostications for this weekend, full of open wheel racing as it is and coming off what was frankly a rough 500 in this department. But come on, who did have sour grapes Power winning it? Besides his few hard-cores, we mean?

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So without further adieu, we confidently predict a widespread outbreak of spontaneous celebrations marking the conclusion of ABC’s coverage of IndyCar, arriving after this weekend’s dual Disney displeasure. There’s nothing not to like about the new network partner NBC – at least for the foreseeable future, that is.

Not only does the slipshod coverage conclude after Sunday, but also – finally! – the schedule starts to pick up. Continue reading

Everything’s Different! Or: That New Car Smell

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Photo from freep.com

IndyCar finds itself in the midst of change not seen in a decade – welcome change, at that.

The 2018 season excitingly ushers in new cars, a multitude of rookie drivers and even several fledgling teams. There’s a first time reigning champ and let’s not forget new sponsors, either. Lots of ’em – on Graham Rahal’s car alone. Heck, there’s even sort of a new track on the schedule. That is, if you possess little memory and consider Portland a track in the first place.

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Photo from indycar.com

Easily the most striking of all the upgrades is the car itself, a real beauty to behold – especially compared to what fans have been subjected to the last three seasons. Continue reading

More Oval Tracks, Please!

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IRR renews its call for more rich, riveting oval track sweetness, as road races truly are the skim milk of IndyCar.

Why must the home of the world’s most famous sip of milk be in a distinct minority of race tracks? Considering two thirds of IndyCar’s races now take place on road courses – several of which are utterly unwatchable, like Mid-Ohio – the old Ovaltine ads suddenly leapt to mind, inspiring our call for ‘More oval tracks, please!’

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Longtime readers are no doubt accustomed to our overt oval track preferences. It’s significant to note however that recent seasons more than bear this out. Take last year, for example. Indy, Pocono, Texas and even East St. Louis (of all places) were easily the most entertaining races of the season.

By contrast, St. PeteToronto and Watkins Glen were terrible. Happily the latter’s no longer with us – one down, two to go. It’s really no surprise as high speed, circuitous venues routinely outshine their plodding, winding yet more numerous counterparts. That is unless your idea of compelling competition is Sonoma last September – talk about sour!

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Image of A Christmas Story from the web

As poltroonish politicians are always saying, ‘Think of the children!’ An entire generation of young race fans now exists to whom exquisite oval races are all but alien. Two hundred mile per hour plus thrills have become waaaay too few and far between, even if you get NBC Sports. Continue reading

IndyCar Predictions for 2018: Shiny New Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

The eagerly anticipated follow up to our hugely successful 2017 predictions.

IndyCar’s extremely iffy schedule will seem like a strange, Groundhog Day like replay of last year’s, with merely the single alteration of swapping Watkins Glen for Portland. It’s a bit like exchanging that ugly Christmas sweater for a slightly less ugly – though smellier – hemp sweater. Frankly, we wouldn’t be caught dead in either.

Unfortunately, the static schedule means that once again only a third of the races will be held on oval tracks. Ovals being the fastest, most exhilaratingly entertaining form of motor racing on the planet, that’s just plain wrong. As long time readers know, our laments on this topic are nothing new.

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Photo from indycar.com

The new cars, which ironically and happily look an awful lot like the old cars, will impress – aesthetically, at least. Three cheers for the end of the awful aero kit era. Don’t expect speed records to fall at Indy or the other ovals any time soon, though – or a smooth, seamless transition. It’s still IndyCar, after all. The lower downforce levels of the new cars will add some excitement to the racing, as well as to the repair bills for many teams.

Get ready to hear and read lots about brakes and braking as a result of the introduction of new bodies. Translation: massive amounts of front and rear end damage due to near constant contact in the corners on street courses. Also expect electrical gremlins to make aggravating appearances, especially early on in the season.

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Of the new teams, Continue reading