Iowa IndyCar Race Review: ‘Like The First Time’ Edition

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For one driver, rumors of his series demise proved as motivational as his pre-race quote was prescient.

Forty two year old Helio Castro-Neves won his thirtieth IndyCar race Sunday at Iowa Speedway after being asked by Robin Miller if his remarkable twenty year career were coming to a close. “We just gotta make sure we not only win this race, but win the championship,” Helio answered with characteristic panache. It proved predictive, at least partially.

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J.R. Hildebrand matched his best career finish in second, recovering strongly from a Saturday practice crash for Ed Carpenter. Three time Iowa winner Ryan Hunter-Reay advanced a dozen spots to steal a podium for formerly dominant Andretti Autosport. Pole sitter Will Power and Graham Rahal, who disparaged other drivers’ “courtesy” as being “awful” afterward, rounded out the top five.

The Team Penske fixture led over two thirds of the race for his first triumph in fifty four races, or over three years of futility. Continue reading

Time To Call It Quits, Tony Kanaan

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In the span of four years, IndyCar’s oldest driver has gone from winning the 500 to whining and making excuses. We say nuts to that – out with the old and in with the new. Tony, it’s time to consider retiring from the sport.

Approaching forty three and showing it, TK hasn’t won a race in almost three years. His best years are clearly behind him as Texas perilously reminded everyone –  except the good ship Chip and company. We’ve been quietly advocating Tony’s retirement for some time, but now we’re about to raise a racket.

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It isn’t as though the Brazilian’s tearing up the competition, either. He’s only won twice since 2010 and a mere four times in the last decade. That’s approaching Marco bad. His last win came on August 30, 2014 in the season finale at Fontana, of all places – more on that later. The other win came at Indy in 2013, interestingly on the heels of another two plus year drought.

Originating our outcry are the wrecks he caused at Texas, involving multiple cars and thankfully no injuries. The first crash got Alexander Rossi, while the second victimized James Hinchcliffe and his SPM teammate Mikhail Aleshin, among others. Kanaan has since called it “an honest mistake.” That makes us wonder, which one?

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Chip Ganassi blabbed and blamed Continue reading

Texas IndyCar Preview: World Edition

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Texas Motor Speedway’s 20th anniversary promises to be memorable when IndyCar arrives at the fast, recently reconfigured mile and a half oval this weekend. Expect the racing to be worlds apart from what we saw in Detroit.

The series has held twenty eight races and counting since TMS opened, with almost all of them being extremely entertaining wheel to wheel wonderment. The repave and reconfiguration of the banking in turns 1 and 2 lessened it from 24 to 20 degrees and widened the track from 60 to 80 feet. Four time Texas winner Helio called it “completely new” and Pags called it “a different layout” after testing there in April. Honda teams were limited in their testing, with several not participating due to mileage concerns. We certainly hope all these changes didn’t screw up the track or the racing. That’d be earth shattering.

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Ragin’ Graham Rahal won a riveting race – weather disruptions aside – in the closest IndyCar finish at the track last year. That’s saying something.  Continue reading

Phoenix Race Review: Single Handed

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J.R. Hildebrand gave fans someone to root for other than those paradoxical Penskes in a flawed though mildly entertaining show in the desert.

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Simon Pagenaud and the Penskes prevailed going away as the first oval and night race of the year looked like 2016 in microcosm. Thankfully there were other stories, or rather a single other story, on NBCSN. If we heard about it once, we heard it a thousand times. Hildebrand‘s comeback race from a broken hand at Long Beach – requiring “a plate and eight screws” as Paul Tracy read from a card – saw him finish an impressive third. It was Ed Carpenter Racing‘s best result in some time and a remarkable feat by the team’s shorthanded newcomer.

We couldn’t help but think of the sound of one hand clapping during the race, as the crowd looked sparse on television and the Saturday night time slot is challenging for ratings to begin with. After seeing the start though, maybe that’s not all bad.

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The race began embarrassingly with a first lap caution as Mikhail Aleshin lost it and spun in turn two collecting Marco, Rahal, Chilton and Bourdais – Hondas all. Continue reading

Long Beach Race Review: Jones-ing Racing

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

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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.

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Born in Dubai, UAE Jones is Continue reading

Sixteen Takeaways from the 2016 IndyCar Season

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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.

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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.

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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

Watkins Glen Race Review: Paid Plugs Edition

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Verizon’s new data plan got more than enough mentions Sunday, but its IndyCar series championship suffered a real blow as viewers’ attention spans were severely tested at Watkins Glen.

Pole sitter Scott Dixon commandingly ran away from the field in another fuel saving snoozer on a roadie, winning by a whopping sixteen seconds ahead of Josef Newgarden. Things at the back of the pack did become interesting though, with exploding Firestones, Will Power practically taking himself out of the points chase and drivers fighting for their jobs. Silly season hung over the paddock like a shroud of Finger Lakes fog.

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Three caution flags flew for a total of nine laps, which at the Glen are long at over three miles. Muscovite Mikhail Aleshin was seemingly victimized by a sniper’s round on lap fifteen, his left rear Firestone exploding in an extremely rare total tire failure. The bumper disintegrated in a spectacular display of collateral damage as he spun, collecting no one and brushing the wall.

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The SPM jockey, who like many others grew furious after being penalized in qualifications, as usual acquitted himself well in interviews afterward, looked ahead to the next race and further ingratiated himself to a growing number of fans. We envision some sponsorship on those blank red sidepods, and soon.

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Five laps later following the restart, Ragin’ Graham Rahal brought out the second caution when he Continue reading

Pocono Race Review: Delayed Gratification

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NBCSN’s Brian Till described the racing at Pocono as “spectacular,” and on Monday it certainly was. Will “awesome” Power won thanks to a Penske perfect late race charge to the front, but Ryan Hunter-Reay ran the race of the day. He drove his burnt yellow DHL machine through the field – twice! – to a podium finish, racing a brand new, unfamiliar car after crashing his Indy 500 winner in practice. Failing even to attempt qualifying, he started dead last and still very nearly won.

After a washout on Sunday even the command to start engines was delayed, leading to an awkward pause during the beginning of the broadcast. Then a bomb was dropped on the audience as they revealed that Robin Miller was joining Till and Townsend Bell in the booth. A surreal quality instantly infused the broadcast as the news rippled across the land. Apparently Paul Tracy had important buffets to attend in Vegas.

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The start was waived off after first time pole sitter Mikhail Aleshin jumped the gun, forcing another attempt. Aleshin again shot out to a lead coming to the flag stand, but Josef Newgarden quickly took the lead just before Takuma Sato snap spun into the wall in turn three, coming to a wrecked rest in front of the “what turn 4?” sign. Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Outrageous Hiatus Edition

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Usually reserved for the off season, an idiotic three week involuntary layoff from IndyCar action qualifies. See what we mean about this silly schedule? Purposely not on a break, here’s our latest version of IndyCar News Week in Review.

Flipping Nasty: Hoosier USAC iron man Bryan Clauson was critically injured during a midget race in Belleville, Kansas Saturday night. While leading the twenty seven year old was forced into the wall by a lapped car sending him cart-wheeling down the track. Before even coming to a stop, the three time Indy 500 starter was violently struck in the cockpit by a trailing car. It took them nearly a half hour to remove the cage and extract Clauson from the mangled wreck. He was airlifted to a Lincoln, Nebraska hospital.

Little has been reported on the extent of his injuries, though according to Robin Miller he’s in stable condition and breathing on his own. It appears an unwanted racing hiatus is in Bryan’s future and we wish him a full recovery. His Dale Coyne Racing teammate Pippa Mann, fellow Indy 500 competitor Graham Rahal and many others have expressed their thoughts and wishes. Forebodingly, Mann joined journalist Jenna Fryer in urging against speculation “until his family has something official to say.”

Ironically, Clauson’s last Tweet was sent out Saturday following a previous wreck. “Thanks to and for keeping me safe!”

Bryan’s family issued a statement on Facebook at just after 2:30 pm central time. They confirmed he remains in critical condition and asked for fans “to respect our privacy as we focus on Bryan.”

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Continue reading

Toronto Preview: Canadian Token

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Part concrete, part asphalt and completely lined with walls, the streets of Toronto often resemble a Canuck concrete car crusher when IndyCar rolls into town. They’ll do so for the thirty second time Sunday in Canada’s token race of the year.

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We’ve raised alarms about our northern neighbor’s dwindling presence in IndyCar before; like the sport in general, the Canadian situation has shown little improvement. There’s been talk of a new race way out west in Calgary’s oil patch, but who knows? The schedule’s been so chaotic lately it makes nights out in U.S. cities look tranquil by comparison.

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Toronto used to be a double header like Belle Isle, but mercifully they discontinued the practice last year. Consider the move a token of Canadian IndyCar esteem. Continue reading