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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Portland Preview: It’s Been A Long, Long, Long Time

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As IndyCar’s Magical Mystery Tour heads northwest for the first time in over a decade, IRR’s got your Ticket to Ride.

The legendary George Harrison couldn’t have been writing about Portland International Raceway in his 1968 song “Long, Long, Long,” as the facility didn’t yet exist. Besides, he and the boys were halfway ’round the globe in India with the Maharishi at the time. Nevertheless, it truly has been a Long, Long, Long time since big league racing turned a Revolution in the locale of . . . Oregon. Eleven long years, to be exact. One could say we’re Back in the P-I-R, though the northwest never fails to make us think of Rain.

Photo from portlandraceway.com

The Long and Winding Road in Portland – two miles long, in fact – contains twelve turns and sits near the banks of the Columbia River. Contrary to some reports, Continue reading

Pocono Race Review: A Speedy Recovery

Considering another comically amateurish start followed by a devastating, injurious crash on lap seven, the fact that the remaining able-bodied drivers somehow managed to put on a decent show at all is remarkable. Particularly in light of Robert Wickens’ unknown medical circumstances, which remained a complete mystery for a full hour before his consciousness was announced. The full extent of his wounds still isn’t known.

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Photo from cbc.ca

After a two hour delay for cleanup of the massive debris field plus repairs to the fence, Alexander Rossi drove his NAPA car right up to the wall and to its limits, proving himself yet again the swiftest over 500 miles.

NBCSN’s pre-race included shots of Marco’s Palace and lots of Robin Miller. In other words, it was gaudy and odd. Another laboriously slow, bunched up start to the race from pole sitter Will Power saw Ragin’ Graham Rahal immediately run into Spencer Pigot’s right rear at the back of the field and bring out a caution. Along with the winner we predicted a crash-fest, and it sure started out that way. Power typically blamed Scott Dixon – who was deep in the field! – flashing graphs and pleading that he only did what he was told. Rahal was penalized for the first lap incident and it’s clear he needs to work on his starts, his qualifying – or both.

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Photo from indycar.com

Rossi quickly passed Power for the lead on the lap seven restart. Behind them Wickens tried to get around Ryan Hunter-Reay in turn two Continue reading

IndyCar’s F-ing F-1 Invasion, Part 3: McLaren Megalomania

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Photos from dailymail.co.uk and sports.usatoday.com

With chatter about a back marker F1 team branching out into IndyCar reaching a fever pitch, it’s high time to set the record straight – by which we mean furthering our incisive take on the matter. Namely, F1’s increasing and undue influence over IndyCar – this ongoing invasion from across the pond – is pernicious and must be stopped.

It’s a subject we’ve been covering for some time now. For the first two installments of our series from 2016, see “IndyCar’s F-ing F1 Invasion, Part 1” and also “IndyCar’s F-ing F1 Invasion, Part 2.”

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Photo from indycar.com

Multiple teams are reportedly interested in pairing with the British based outfit including Rahal Lanigan Letterman Racing, but Andretti Autosport seems to be McLaren’s most likely landing spot. 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

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

Detroit Race Review No. 1: We Freakin’ Nailed It! Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

How did they do it? Who’s the soothsayer? What were they on? These are the questions they’ll be asking about IRR in future annals of IndyCar blogs, at least if we have any input.

Scott Dixon scored his 42nd career win, tying Michael Andretti for third all time behind his dad and AJ, marking his fourteenth consecutive season with at least one win. He won handily over Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi in a Honda parade through the heart of downtown Detroit, though it was his first visit to victory lane since Road America last season.

As for what little pre-race there was, the ABC booth took on the somber tone of a wake, or would have had it not been so sleepy. After the obligatory, outrageous Power 500 recap, Jan Beekhuis spoke with pole sitter Marco, who insists upon repeatedly referring to his many “outside poles,” or what everyone else on the planet refers to as starting second. The legacy driver on an eight year drought fibbed and said he “thinks we can pass pretty well here.” But the bigger story would be his burgeoning feud with a teammate – one who’s actually won the Indy 500.

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The stands looked fairly full on a gorgeous day and ticket sales were “up 15% over last year,” according to Bestwick. Rain’s possible tomorrow, Continue reading

Handicapping The Rookies: Greenhorns Galore, Part 2

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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.

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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.

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Photo from indycar.com

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

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