The series’ recently concluded campaign proved predictable – at least to us – and lacked both a sense of rhythm and any real rivalries. While having its moments, overall 2017 missed out on the excitement and drama of previous years.
This season’s highlights included breathtaking oval racing at Pocono and – to a lesser extent, thank you Tony Kanaan – Texas. Even the racing at Gateway was much improved over the last time they visited a decade ago and an additional oval on the schedule – no matter how inadequate its layout – is welcome change.
Easily the most absurd moment of the year was f-ing F1 invader Fernando Alonso being gifted the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award over Ed Jones, or “The Great Hardware Robbery,” as we termed it. This was closely followed by Alo’s team owner Michael Andretti’s brief flirtation with Chevy after winning the last two 500s with Honda and Sam Schmidt beginning to mimic Andretti’s dumb Indy 500 decisions.
This time it’s a well-liked relative newcomer to IndyCar ownership instead of a loose cannon legacy owner who has us seriously wondering.
It was reported this week Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is teaming up with former F1 owner Didier Calmels to run fellow Frenchman Tristan Gommendy in next year’s Indy 500. Why is he a former F1 owner, you ask? Because when he was convicted of shooting his wife in cold blood in 1990 and sent to prison, the wiser F1 heads understood spousal homicide isn’t exactly a positive image for a racing series. That’s regardless of whether it was a crime of passion or not – and the fact that he somehow served less than two years for his heinous crime.
Photo from Getty Images
Nearly three decades later, apparently SPM hasn’t gotten the memo. Or perhaps they’re merely joining in our national obsession with ignoring history when not defacing it. The team’s statement read in part, “Didier has fulfilled his obligations and gone on to become a successful businessman and team owner in European motor sport.” Translation: he’s paid his debt to society and is a fine, upstanding citizen now who’s bringing us lots and lots of cash.
While the last part is certainly true, it’s the “fulfilled his obligations” bit with which we take exception. Continue reading →
The announcement during the off week that Fernando Alonso will be running in the Indy 500 was the biggest news item since another f-ing F1 invader won the 100th 500 as a rookie, running out of fuel and coasting to the finish.
Photo from sports.usatoday.com
Reportedly the Spaniard in question will be at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend to watch his first Indy style race in person. It’s just too bad his initial experience won’t be at a better track. A former F1 champ, Alonso unquestionably brings some star power to the states. However, we prefer to focus on those drivers who actually will be driving this weekend rather than merely spectating.
Photo from indycar.com
Happily some drivers will be working Sunday rather than vacationing, albeit with less attention than Alonso, which brings up several questions. Continue reading →
IndyCar rookie Ed Jones is stunning the racing world with an unprecedented career start.
Photo from twitter.com
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.
In what’s fast becoming another IRR tradition, the number of predictions about the upcoming campaign corresponds precisely to the last two digits of the year in question.
Photo from indycar.com
All seventeen scheduled races for 2017 will actually occur for a change, although honestly Detroit‘s races count as one between them and Mid-Ohio really doesn’t count at all.
A Chevrolet will win the 101st Indianapolis 500, continuing the every other year approach between the manufacturers since 2012. Get used to it, as any new engine involvement is still several years away.
Chip “crowd surfer” Ganassi‘s team will struggle again, except for their four time champion and ace Scott Dixon. Of course Dixie’s the lucky husband of Emma “Twitter toughie” Dixon, pictured below on a recent relaxing vacation. Harrumph!
The more persuadable of our betters are finally beginning to fully realize the fickle mood of folks at present, and not just those in positions of political power. Feeling the heat, it seems as though elites everywhere are actually taking note and doing what a majority of people (e.g. those who pay for it) want done. It’s none too soon either, lest the torch bearing mobs come out.
IndyCar CEO Mark Miles is only the most recent example of a muckety muck for once not mucking things up, a trend stretching from Brexit-ing Brits battling Brussels bureaucrats all the way to Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. And happily now even Indianapolis. Actual accountability to those paying the bills is a damned welcome change, even in racing.
According to a recent article by Brant James, Miles had many positive items to report, including recommendations Continue reading →
Are Foyt’s Fixes Finally Functional? With two new pilots, brand new Chevy engines and in the midst of an exhilarating era in which it seems almost anything’s possible, A.J.’s team just might stand a chance at success in 2017. Finally. The ornery octogenarian‘s outfit will be one to watch, with the caveat of consistently disappointing performances since at least the IRL days.
Can Ganassi Going Geisha Garner Gains? The change back to Honda comes after a Hillary level disappointing season, with neither a 500 win nor a championship to the Chipster’s credit, not to mention Target’s departure after a quarter century of sponsorship. Dixon’s still an ace, especially on the roadies, and Charlie “fearless” Kimball’s improving. But TK, the aged one? And TBD, meaning perhaps the return of Englishman Max “Paris” Chilton? Seems Ganassi could have developed a deeper bench. Meanwhile, Sage Karam‘s coaching wrestling.
Remarkably, we’re now into the sixth year since Andretti’s last victory – and that was only the second of his lengthy career. With a win rate of just over 1%, Marco‘s record has become an embarrassment. He’s up there – or rather, down there – with Danica. And several other former drivers, some of them named Andretti, too.
Nevertheless, the Andretti family remains IndyCar royalty, beloved by hundreds across a few states. Continue reading →
Quite coincidentally, as A.J. Foyt might say on a lucid day, there are exactly sixteen items of note from the racing during the past six months. Next year, seventeen’ll be a real stretch.
In keeping with our sixteen predictions for 2016 theme, the obligatory season-wrapping follow-up’s a veritable “no brainer” as the kids used to say. As obvious as signing . . .
Josef Newgarden, Who Is Awesome: After winning Iowa and driving brilliantly again all year, Newkid’s highly sought after. According to some trigger-happy know nothing speculators, he’s already doing a Penske seat fitting in Montoya’s former car. We had “What’s Wrong With” Juan’s ouster a while ago as it’s overdue, but aren’t buying the Newgarden to the Cap’n rumors just yet.
Photo from twitter.com
Dixon’s Decline: In a well publicized piece, IRR exposed the dreadful season and finale Dixie endured along with his helmet. He’ll have at least one new teammate next year as well as a new sponsor. It’ll be interesting to see how the 2015 champ bounces back.
Ganassi Target-less & Driver-less: Who’ll fill Kanaan’s seat remains to be seen, as well. For the aging TK we suggest a nice, cushy Dario-like coaching gig rather than another embarrassing year of racing. Continue reading →
Host of one of IndyCar’s most riveting races, Iowa Speedway has seen Andretti Autosport stomp the competition. Nevertheless, a return of the fast cars to an exhilarating short oval is a welcome event. It makes us want to jump with joy.
Photo from iowaspeedway.com
Anticipate three wide oval-tastic fun on the 7/8s mile circuit with speeds exceeding a hundred and eighty miles per hour and plenty of passing. By comparison, NASCAR‘s junior league pole speed this year was in the hundred thirty range. Yawn. Speaking of NASCAR, the SAFER barrier’s certain to get a workout this weekend with Dallara Automobili making back some serious dough. Stomped upon stockholders demand it after an almost perfectly clean (and really boring) race at Road America.