Phoenix Preview: Casablanka Edition

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There’s so much construction taking place at dusty ISM Raceway at present, the facility’s practically a blank slate. Fitting, as so too is the young IndyCar season. No one quite knows how it’ll all end. Exciting possibilities – and temporary setbacks – exist for all involved in the upcoming Phoenix Grand Prix.

Pondering that great roulette wheel in the desert formerly known as PIR, we couldn’t help but think of the Bogey-Bergman gin joint classic Casablanca and that even the director didn’t know the ending. Like magnificent open wheel oval racing, the thoroughly entertaining movie from 1942 winds up to a thrilling crescendo. Similar to the beloved film, IndyCar on oval tracks is unsurpassed in its splendor. Plus, there’s such an intriguing international cast; and get a load of the gams on those new Dallaras! Here’s looking at you, Phoenix.

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IndyCar tested at the soon to be reconfigured ISM (Ingenuity Sun Media, in case you’re wondering) Raceway in February. Takuma Sato led an all Rahal Lanigan Letterman revue. The prospects of Sato on pole alone are enough to conjure the stuff parts bills nightmares are made of. Judging by St. PeteContinue reading

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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

St. Pete IndyCar Race Review: A Real Stinker

The Firestone Grand Prix at times smelled like a tire fire.

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Frenchmen swept the top two spots at St. Pete Sunday, as Sebastien Bourdais bested defending champ Simon Pagenaud in a result no one foresaw, much less foresmelled. Charging all the way from last place, it was Bourdais’ thirty sixth major open wheel victory of his storied career, and it smelled of feet. By all accounts, SeBass was able to avoid embarrassing himself by not dropping the trophy again from atop the podium. It was his first win since Detroit 1 last June and added to other recent renaissance wins including Milwaukee.

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While the racing on the newly repaved circuit had its moments, particularly during the start and restart, on the whole it still stunk like week old French cheese. St. Pete’s a ramshackle temporary street course, on top of which Mark “Stink” Schlereth acted as Grand Marshall, so what’d you expect?

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Bestwicke, Goodyear and Cheever provided their usual Mickey Mouse coverage, Continue reading

Pocono Preview: Not Like NASCAR

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IndyCar roars back to life after an outrageous three week momentum killing hiatus, something NASCAR wouldn’t dream of doing with its schedule. Pocono Speedway’s irritatingly known as “NASCAR’s tricky triangle,” although in fact the track was purposely built for IndyCar and modeled on other classic IndyCar ovals Trenton, Milwaukee and IMS. Unfortunately only one of them is still in use, that is unless you count the recent race rioting in Milwaukee.

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Race fans are hoping for an absence of rain for IndyCar’s intriguing return to Pocono Speedway Sunday, unlike that recent wreck of a NASCAR race. At least that’s what we gathered – we certainly didn’t watch it. Texas reminded fans what a bummer rain outs are, making it a months’ long race set to finally finish in a few weeks.

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Also unlike NASCAR, speeds will be in excess of two hundred miles an hour. Continue reading

IndyCar Fans Just Love To Bitch

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The wine and cheese crowd of open wheel auto racing – like most Americans – finds much to complain about these days. Rightfully so.

As regular fans who love the sport, yet at the same time wish to see it bettered, we at IRR freely admit loving to bitch at, to and about all things IndyCar. Doesn’t everyone? IndyCar fans’ bitching easily puts that of NASCAR fans to shame. It’s another tremendous tradition that all followers of artistry on wheels share, no matter the era – or the issue – in question. For devotees of speed, it’s practically a point of pride. In fact, the IndyCar series may well enjoy (or is it endure?) the bitchiest fan base in all of sports, certainly per capita. Considering Philadelphia Eagles rooters are on that list, it’s quite an impressive feat.

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Whether it’s their 500 tickets not arriving in the mail when they feel they should (or worse – the horror! – they arrive after a fellow Twitter user got theirs), the series’ so called schedule, its poor promotion, inept leadership, woeful owners, crappy streaming, questionable ride buying talent, lack of ovals, ad hoc rule enforcement, lousy coverage, or any number of other things, fans of fast love letting their disapproval be known. Why shouldn’t they? After all, they’re the ones paying for it.

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Over the last twenty months, IRR alone has published countless articles critical of the sport we adore – and with good reason. Alas, for lovers of Indy there’s plenty to bitch about. Continue reading

Phoenix IndyCar Preview: Reclaiming The Desert

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As IndyCar returns to Phoenix for the first time in over a decade, fast paced surprises await race fans in the springtime desert.

Phoenix International Raceway’s been the sole haunt of those nattering NASCAR nabobs since the speedy set split after last racing there in 2005. IndyCar’s kiss off saw Sam Hornish, Jr. win for the second time at Phoenix, beating Tony Kanaan who’d won the previous two. Helio‘s also won at PIR for the Cap’n – once – in 2002. In all of IndyCar, TK and Helio are the only two still in the field old enough to ever have run in the desert. Question is, can these two codgers reclaim their former glory?

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The first IndyCar race occurred at the brand spankin’ new PIR way back in 1964. Not surprisingly, it was won by the bigger than life A.J. Foyt in a Watson/Offy. Phoenix was favorable for the never dry Foyt, as he went on to win three more times during his long career. He’s joined by other multiple winners and legends of the sport including Lloyd Ruby, Mario Andretti, Al Unser and perhaps the best named racer of all time, Gordon Johncock. Here’s to reclaiming IndyCar history in Arizona.

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PIR is an oval – albeit a dog legged, relatively flat one – so we’re loyally, though levelly enthusiastic. At least Miles and company haven’t eliminated all of ’em yet. Continue reading

Indy Rivals We’d Like To See

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Just as IndyCar’s speed is wantonly wasted on road courses – and Marco – the series seriously under utilizes rivalries. IRR aims to change that with some actionable ideas for a brand new set of Indy rivals.

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Sure, a few rivalries may still exist, but they’re neither good nor old fashioned. Today they generally start – and end – on social media, often failing to last long enough even to make the television coverage. Compounding this crisis of (a lack of) contention is the fact that Sage Karam remains in IndyCar exile. Sage and half the field last year aside, nowadays rivalries pale in comparison to A.J. and Mario – or even A.J. and Arie. Hell, A.J. and anybody. This mirrors the state of the sport as a whole and that’s just not good enough. It’s something the drivers and owners under their own initiative can do to better the show. Above all, improving IndyCar is what we’re all about.

For the good of IndyCar, here are some Indy rivals we’d like to see:

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Josef and Ed – The ECR teammates should turn nemesis and there are plenty of reasons why. Owner Ed “prince” Carpenter crashed Josef out at Fontana last year and Sunday at St. Pete didn’t even bother to run a teammate for him, while he of course only drives on the ovals. Continue reading

Some IndyCar Owners Need To Seriously Step It Up, Part 3

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In part three, we take a good, hard look at Michael Andretti’s decisions at Andretti Autosport.

Michael Andretti made our list too, though for different reasons than either Coyne or Foyt. Andretti’s foremost weakness is his insistence upon pursuing tangential business ventures – failed ventures. Some months ago he was forced to dissolve his race promotion group, which landed Michael in a messy legal imbroglio when his own company sued him. His latest get rich quick scheme? Auctioning off Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Indy 500 winning car, with caveats of course. Mario’s son needs to stick to what he knows – racing – and leave the shady money making ventures to others.

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His purported promotional prowess involved the ill-fated “race” at NOLA where yet another legal battle ensued following the (thankfully) one and done event. Michael himself called it “a nightmare.” Speaking of horror, Andretti’s company also badly mishandled the world’s oldest race track the Milwaukee Mile, now conspicuously absent from the 2016 schedule. Thank you for that, Michael. Another Andretti pipe dream is a green racing series – talk about an oxymoron! – called Formula E or some such thing. Clearly the distracted reality television celebrity should focus more on his IndyCar team and less on derivative business ventures. They not only lead nowhere, but also detract from his performance as an IndyCar team owner.

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It’s not just the risky corporate dealings that need to stop, either. Continue reading

Top Fifteen IndyCar Stories of 2015

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The Force Be With You – Rahal rebounded for an excellent season, winning twice and finishing fourth in points. He then proceeded to wed the gorgeous and talented Courtney Force, making major motoring and matrimonial momentum going into 2016. Penske/Ganassi Empire be warned.

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Loss of Williams – No, it’s not an F1 story. SPM cut Englishman James Jakes loose after a lackluster season, which means tragically that his stunningly beautiful girlfriend Megan Williams will no longer enhance the viewing experience with her Venus-like presence. The series needs more serious WAGS like Meg and to feature them prominently, as the NFL does with its cheerleaders.

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Karam Craps Out – Despite our best efforts, fearless young Pennsylvanian Sage Karam is out of the series having lost his ride with villainous Chip the Hutt. Sage had a decent year all things considered, and IndyCar is poorer, older and less American because of his leaving. Continue reading