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

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

Detroit 1 Race Review: Rain Delay Edition

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Following a lengthy rain delay, Rossi’s typical smugness and a whole lotta Frenchman in the pre-race, festivities finally got underway over an hour and twenty minutes late. It’s what NBC’s Daffy Leigh Diffey called “a slight delay.” For sitting through the wait, fans were treated to a single file start and a timed race. Really?! Either the track’s good to go racing or it isn’t. We’ve long been on record arguing the latter.

Zach “son of Dracula” Veach spun during the parade laps, soon followed by Canuck James Hinchcliffe, both suffering no apparent damage and thankfully only added a lap’s delay. Now with merely seventy two minutes left, Santino Ferrucci narrowly avoided AJ Foyt’s Matt Leist who spun out on a wet patch of concrete. Then Whinin’ Will Power pinched one of the way too many blue cars as they went three wide through the turn. The yellow flag flew by lap 2, with Takuma Sato getting into Pato O’Ward on a track clearly too wet to start a race.

Photo from indycar.com

The caution dragged on and the track continued to dry when, with just over an hour of racing left, Power 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

St. Pete Race Review: New Season? Newgarden

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Photo from indycar.com

In a predictably prominent Penske affair, Josef Newgarden cruised to his eleventh career win at St. Pete over Scott Dixon. “It just worked out perfectly,” the positive pilot postulated post race.

During the pre race show, Paul Tracy exclaimed “there are Swedes everywhere!” Sounds like an ideal beach party to us. Also included was a nice update and interview with Robert Wickens, who vowed to come back from his devastating, paralizing injury last season at Pocono.

A controversial qualifying session, which saw Dixon initially miss the top twelve before not only making the fast six but starting fourth, had Will “Sour Grapes” Power on pole, again predictably. In fact, an all Penske front row rounded out by Newgarden was trailed by an all Ganassi second row – with the Swedish rookie Rosenqvist actually outpacing defending champ Dixie – and an all Andretti third row of 500 winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi. In other qualifying news, only Marco can manage to run out of fuel without turning a single lap.

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The start saw a slight delay thanks to the cumbersome two seater and – as usual – failed radio communication with same. Why they insist upon trying to talk to the backseat rider time after time in vain is simply beyond us. Continue reading

Sonoma Season Finale Race Review: S&M Edition

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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

Texas Race Review: Honestly Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

Team Penske – the clear class of the field starting 1-2-3 – suffered from tire issues all evening, opening the door for Scott Dixon. The five second victory was his third at Texas Motor Speedway, the forty third of his career and put him in rarefied air in third place on the all time wins list. It couldn’t happen to a better guy, honestly.

NBCSN’s pre-race covered the gamut, from the Penske trio up front to Rossi’s 500 win as well as Power’s. Oddly, in the booth they featured three guys – two of them beefy – in powder blue t-shirts. The ever likable Dixon said he “loves driving IndyCars,” and when asked about his place on the list mentioned how cool it is that “AJ, Mario and Michael are all still at these races.” Presciently, he also mentioned “going for race wins.”‘

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Never to be out-trended, even IndyCar now has a cooking segment, for heaven’s sake. Don’t worry, we at IRR will never cook to camera. For some reason, it’s now Kelly Stavast doing pit coverage, and just when we getting used to the adorable Katie Hargitt. A Will Power feature had Robin Miller saying “ten years ago, Will Power hated oval racing.” He still does, Robin – you’ve been fooled. Daffy Leigh Diffey’s Aussie bias shone vividly through as a drone delivered the green flag and the engines were fired.

A clean start saw Newgarden leading with Ryan Hunter-Reay slicing high attempting to pass in a major theme of the evening. Cars were three wide early, as Alexander Rossi got around both TK and Dixon. Wickens moved around Power on the outside and into second by the lap 6. The first caution flew as AJ Foyt Racing’s Matheus Leist’s car became engulfed by fire in a scary moment. Leist threw steering wheel away and quickly jumped out as the flames encroached upon the cockpit.

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Photo from motorsport.com

Following a quick cleanup, the restart came on lap 15 with Newgarden, Power, Pags, Wickens and Rossi the top five.  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

Long Beach Predictions and Prognostications: Damned Statistical Edition

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IRR lets readers in on a sizable statistical secret.

A significant part of the reason we’ve been so successful in our IndyCar predictions the last few years is simple mathematics. Or – more precisely – damned statistics. It’s a pity we haven’t been putting the information to better use by wagering boatloads in Vegas.

“There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” – Benjamin Disraeli

No, we’re not a stats site as our readers well know. It being tax time, we’re particularly afraid of figures at present. Lord knows there’re enough purely statistical destinations out there and – other than this article – stats and humor go together about like NPR and Alabama Slammers. They’re just too damned different in their purposes.

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Photo from timeout.com

This week’s special prediction for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is another Penske pavement party. The team’s won a majority of races going back years – not to mention poles, championships, et cetera – with defending champ Newgarden’s win at Phoenix merely serving as the most recent example. When it comes to pole, semi-retiree Helio started first in SoCal the last three races. By anyone’s calculation, the team’s peerless.

Pole sitter admittedly is a toughie as we discussed in the preview, but even with Helio out of the picture odds overwhelmingly point to one particular three car team. Statistically, Continue reading

Phoenix Race Review: Take Cover! Edition

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American gunslinger Josef Newgarden obliterated his opposition outside Phoenix Saturday night, leaving a trail of IndyCar carnage stretching clear to Canada. As bad as it was for Robby Wickens, it was Coyne crew members who again got the worst of it.

The race started with an all day-glo – and all French – front row at what Townsend Bell called “this hot, nasty track.” Then again, it almost didn’t. Surprise pole sitter Sebastien Bourdais‘ car stopped dead on pit lane, requiring the help of Robert Wickens’ – or “Wiggins” as TBell calls him – crew to refire his Honda. It wouldn’t be the last issue SeBass had on pit road during the evening.

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Photo from indycar.com

RHR and Marco went high at the start and gained several spots while a now functioning Bourdais pulled away from Pags. Wickens gained a position and joined the top five as the Frenchmen at the front battled early traffic. A hard charging Rossi challenged Pags for the pass before nearly losing it on the apron and drifting high up the track. Narrowly avoiding disaster, he wasn’t done yet.

On lap 41 the first of only two yellows arrived when PFitti got high in turn four and rudely met the wall. Emo’s grandson was first out in his first ever race. During the initial round of pit stops SeBass slid wildly into his pit box, hitting his left front tire changer in an ugly scene. Continue reading