2017 IndyCar Season Review

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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.

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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.

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The most shocking moment by far Continue reading

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IndyCar Sonoma Season Finale Preview: Bouquet Edition

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Not prone to flowery descriptions, a sometimes acidic tongued IRR stopped in Sonoma wine country to smell the season finale roses – or rosé, as it were. Instead we found a big, fat turd bouquet. Northern California wines may be fine, but unfortunately for fans of fast the racing there’s regularly near the bottom of IndyCar’s barrel.

“In vino, veritas” as the Romans said, but even from a clear-eyed, sober view of things the racing at Sonoma honestly stinks. Like other regrettable road courses on the schedule – Watkins Glen, Barber, Mid-Ohio – the twisted track’s an affront to the olfactory senses. Bouquet, indeed!

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Sonoma’s simply not suited to IndyCars and fails to provide anything approaching intoxicating action. In fact, the lack of passing, speeds and thrills is all rather dry and pedestrian. The series’ choice of venue for the season finale tends to leave an unpleasant, vinegary aftertaste.

Like the local produce, reigning series champion Simon Pagenaud comes across as fruity, often with a hint of bitterness. This was especially the case following his spicy encounter with Penske teammate Josef Newgarden at Gateway. Let it suffice to say Pags was less than vintage during the podium celebration.

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Photo from indycar.com

But the earthy Frenchman suddenly vaulted back into the title hunt after Newkid’s disastrous stumble at Watkins Glen, Continue reading

IndyCar Watkins Glen Predictions and Prognostications: Glen Scotty Glen Boss

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Expect real estate – and points – to change hands fast this Sunday at the Glen.

Our special prediction for the race is so much fuel saving and strategizing that you’ll think methanol allotments are the good leads from “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Frankly, we’ve never understood why that film’s so highly regarded by some – and feel precisely the same way about Watkins Glen.

Like the movie, last year’s last minute return to upstate New York was a snoozer – and not just because of the steady stream of paid Verizon plugs uttered by drivers, either. Scott Dixon ran away with it – enjoying a 16 second margin of victory – at a road course so similar to Mid-Ohio it’s beyond redundant. Did we mention it’s very much like the worst course on the schedule yet?

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“Third prize is, you’re fired.”

Speaking of leads, pole sitter Will Power sure blew one last Saturday night, didn’t he? Oh well, at least he didn’t crash on the parade lap. Instead of picking Power again for his seventh pole of the campaign however, we’re going with Dixon. He won from pole last year over Josef Newgarden – sound familiar? – and excels on unwatchable permanent road courses like few others. It’ll only be Dixie’s second P1 award of the season, which with only a single win has been as disappointing as Alan Arkin’s paltry performance.

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“The leads are weak.”

First out of the race will be Continue reading

IndyCar ABC Supply 500 Preview: Oh No, There Goes Pocono!

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With all the loose talk about the threat of nuclear annihilation lately – Guam, Chicago, why never Mid-Ohio? we wonder – IRR lights off a fifty mega-tonner in advance of the impending ABC Supply 500. With all due respect to Honda, forget about frickin’ Tokyo – there goes Pocono! Here comes Indy-zilla.

Compared to NASCAR’s Pocono show, IndyCar’s visit to the “Tricky Triangle” promises to be earth shatteringly entertaining for fans. With speeds of over 200 mph, kilotons more passing and edge of your seat, side by side racing to be expected Sunday, fans of fast will go ballistic for the season’s final 500 miler.

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Will “oval hating specialist” Power won last year’s rain postponed Monday affair for Penske, though Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) turned in the drive of the race, advancing from last all the way to a podium finish.

In a bittersweet victory, the fair haired Floridian won the accident marred 2015 race that tragically claimed Justin Wilson’s life. Continue reading

Road America IndyCar Preview: This Replaced Milwaukee Why?!

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No kidding – not yet, at least – 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal recently called Road America “THE best circuit in North America” and among the “top ten in the world.” Well, Mr. Mustache, pardon the hell out of us if we beg to differ.

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Last year’s Wisconsin visit typified REM inducing road racing. This despite others’ – and admittedly even our own – efforts at optimism leading up to the event. The series hadn’t raced there in a decade and every track deserves a shot, it’s thought. Except NOLA. And Baltimore. And Boston. And Brasilia. And . . . but we digress. The series’ big return was an absolute laugher, with Sour Grapes Power running away from the field. Stop us – and road racing – if you’ve seen this before.

One problem was – and there were many – only one caution flag. As previously exposed on this site, IndyCar road racing needs a shot in the arm, nay – a salvation – before it bores fans to a tedious, road weary death. Squirrely tracks – especially a super long, scary circuit like RA – need LOTS of flags to make it even remotely interesting. Oh, and rain tires. And penalties. And grid girls.

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At least it’s a road course Scott Dixon didn’t run away with, like Mid-Ohio or Sonoma. Continue reading

Ways to Enliven IndyCar Road Racing, Or: Obdurate Ovalista Offerings

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Whether it’s some fresh ideas, new rules or simply enforcing existing ones, IndyCar road racing really needs a revival. Since an all oval schedule is unlikely to return anytime soon, here are a few suggestions to liven up the road shows.

As fans of IndyCar it’s no secret we at IRR prefer oval track racing to squiggly courses because speed, passing and excitement are kinda our thing. Having already offered our “Ways To Save Oval Racing,” it’s now time to address the ten times as many curves as straightaways tracks.

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The first thing the series could do to improve squirmies is simply enforce the rules. When called at all, penalties are often wildly inconsistent – just see Emma Dixon‘s Twitter feed – with certain teams and drivers (think Penske and Ganassi) seemingly exempt. Last year’s Long Beach non-call on Simon Pagenaud is a perfect example of this. It’s grossly unfair and invites NASCAR type lawlessness.

Race control’s laxness calling penalties leads to drivers getting Kimballed, or what’s worse, Satoed. Recently on the Texas oval nine drivers were Kanaaned, which is in case you’re wondering much worse than a caning – just ask Hinch. Continue reading

IndyCar Driver Test: Mikhail Aleshin

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IndyCar’s first Russian driver in nearly a century features menacingly in our latest driver test.

In an age when seemingly everything’s tied to Vladmir Putin – either rightly or wrongly – it’s surprising Aleshin hasn’t been similarly smeared yet. To the contrary, he enjoys warm relations with Americans as allegations of undue influence are unfounded. The upcoming 2017 season will be his third in IndyCar, all of them for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

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Baron de Rachewsky was the only other driver from Mother Russia ever to race an Indy car. Putin shirtless on horseback obviously doesn’t count. Rachewsky’s lone U.S. effort came in Atlantic City in 1926 on a wooden track. Harry Hartz won the three hundred mile race as the baron’s Bugatti boisterously blew up.

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Getting poured through the sieve of international sanctions (it’s not what you strain, it’s who you strain), Aleshin missed out on all but one race of the 2015 season due to funding issues related to Russia’s rough behavior. The Muscovite’s had some limited success in his two seasons, winning the pole Continue reading

Watkins Glen Predictions and Prognostications: Labor Day Edition

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In response to another cobbled together, last minute IndyCar race at a ho-hum road course, our Watkins Glen predictions will be short form this week. In fact, considering it’s Labor Day weekend we shouldn’t even be working this much. So let’s get right to it.

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Photo from autoweek.com

Our special prediction for the holiday weekend is lots of rest and relaxation, particularly at the track. Fuel saving foolishness has already begun up and down pit lane and isn’t going to stop. As a result, the racing won’t be all that riveting. Our recommendation? Put your feet up, grab some cold ones and prepare for a nice, long Sunday afternoon nap.

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The prognosticated pole winner is Continue reading

Watkins Glen Preview: Kinda Like Mid-Ohio

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Try not to become discombobulated, disturbed or disoriented Sunday when the contest at the Glen seems eerily similar to certain other races on the schedule.

As the name implies, the “IndyCar GP” wasn’t originally scheduled to take place at all, thrown together in two weeks’ time immediately after Boston followed Brazil‘s suit and jilted the series. When’s the last time a NASCAR race was cancelled? Hurriedly announced in mid May, it was just as hurriedly forgotten coming in the middle of all the 100th Running hoopla.

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Photo from autoweek.com

It may be better than no race at all as some say, but unfortunately it also strongly resembles Mid-Ohio. Strongly as in stench, or disagreement. Enough of these risible road courses already – Penske’s frog Pagenaud and chief whiner Power have swept every single pole and race on ’em this season. Like at Mid-Ohio.

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It’s been six years since IndyCar last roared into upstate New York and now the race’s closer to its old, traditional fall date. Continue reading