Handicapping The Rookies: Greenhorns Galore, Part 2

mattleistindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

Previewing the 2018 IndyCar season from the perspective of those nine drivers with a combined experience of the average couch sitting race fan. Tellingly, the mean age of our final five rookies is a ripe 24.8 years old.

This slate of newbies enjoys slightly more experience than those covered in part 1 and also have the distinct advantage of landing with established teams – in a couple cases, even decent ones. Just not in our first instance . . .

AJ Foyt Racing‘s Matheus Leist – only 19 – hails from Brazil like his curmudgeonly, over the hill teammate. His initial IndyCar foray at the Phoenix test wasn’t fortuitous. Leist brushed the wall at least three separate times, and possibly more. On a less expensive note, Matt did manage three wins last year in Indy Lights, including the Freedom 100 at IMS. That’s no doubt a major reason he’s driving for A.J. Matt also scored an impressive nine top fives and two poles in his sole Lights season. Why the 43 year old TK landed A.J.’s other seat is totally inexplicable.

ZachVeachindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

Zach Veach will have the benefit of top notch equipment driving for Andretti Autosport, if not the most sensible boss. The baby faced 23 year old Ohioan already had two big league starts in 2017, with a best finish of 19th at Barber for ECR (as a stand in for the injured and now unemployed J.R. Hildebrand). Also, he finished 26th in the 101st Indy 500 for AJ Foyt Racing. Zach’s the author of a book for teens and apparently a good friend of Oprah, so watch out.

RobertWickensindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

Yet another Canuck – just what the series needs – Robert Wickens Continue reading

Advertisements

Everything’s Different! Or: That New Car Smell

Newgarden18freepcom

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.

Rahal182indycarcom.jpg

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

IndyCar Predictions for 2018: Shiny New Edition

newchevyindycarcom

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.

Rossisebringindycarcom

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.

1gabbypat

Of the new teams, Continue reading

2017 IndyCar Season Review

IndyGradsIRR

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.

Gatewaystarttwittercom

Photo from twitter.com

Lowlights involved beyond tedious racing at the usual suspects like Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen and the season finale at Sonoma. Even St. Pete was a stinker this year and as usual the Indy Grand Prix was nearly unwatchable. Iowa‘s daytime race – as opposed to the superior night races of years past – earned the biggest flop award, with Phoenix a close second in the balloting. Iowa Speedway already announced a Sunday date in early July, meaning it’ll be another day race next year.

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.

satoandretti500indycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

The most shocking moment by far Continue reading

What’s Sam Schmidt Thinking? Or: IndyCar’s Scott Peterson Motorsports

samschmidtsbnationcom.jpg

Photo from sbnation.com

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.

calmelsgettyimages.jpg

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

Barber IndyCar Preview: The Barber of Seville

alonsobarberseville

Fernando, Fernando, Fernand-o!

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.

rossi100thsportsusatodaycom

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.

pagsrahalbarberindycarcom.jpg

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

Long Beach Race Review: Jones-ing Racing

edjonesLBtwittercom

Photo from twitter.com

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

HinchLBtwittercom.jpg

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.

edjonesindycarcom.jpg

Photo from indycar.com

Born in Dubai, UAE Jones is Continue reading

Even IndyCar’s Elites Are Starting To Get It

chairmanmiles.jpg

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.

Mark Miles Flying Circus

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.

acwobuschcrm114

According to a recent article by Brant James, Miles had many positive items to report, including recommendations Continue reading

Initial Ideas and Insights Into IndyCar’s Impending Imminence

newkidtorontosportsusatodaycomnm

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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.

ajsworld3

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.

mausatodaycom

Photo from usatoday.com

Which Andretti Autosport Are You Asking About? On this Jekyll and Hyde team, Continue reading