Mid-Ohio IndyCar Race Review: Newkid Wins Again

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American star Josef Newgarden won again at Mid-Ohio, his third victory of the season and second in a row. He utterly dominated the race, leading three quarters of the laps and winning by a margin of over five seconds. Penske’s Newkid now leads the championship points with only four races left in the season.

 

The race began promisingly enough, with polesitter Will Power leading Newgarden for the first fourteen laps and Ragin’ Graham Rahal improving a spot to third. Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato went backward after a solid qualifying effort, while his team mates and fellow 500 winners Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay advanced inside the top ten.

Then Newgarden made a beautiful double move, faking out Power and taking the lead. It’s the move that won him the race – and quite possibly the title.

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As soon as the portly Paul Tracy muttered something passive aggressive about “passing here,” all of a sudden there was no more passing. At all. Continue reading

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

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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Photo from edcarpenterracing.com

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

Barber Race Review: PSI Edition

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Young gun Josef Newgarden turned what could have been another hum drum, Penske win from pole into a fairly memorable, exciting race – for a motorbike track.

It was Will “Sour Grapes” Power’s race to lose and he did, handing the newest teammate his first win for the Cap’n and failing to crack the top twelve for the fifth consecutive race. A cut Firestone was the culprit, or rather the hero of the day. Power slowed inexorably, giving PSI an entirely new meaning.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) and Long Beach winner James Hinchcliffe tangled at the start, leading to a third lap caution as RHR’s damaged front wing littered the track. Dale Coyne’s rookie phenom Ed Jones suffered damage due to the debris ruining his day, as well.

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During the initial melee the aged Tony Kanaan gambled and lost, though his Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon advanced to third and remained firmly in contention all day. 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

St. Pete Predictions and Prognostications: The Penske Paradox

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IndyCar’s best team is also by far the worst.

Team Penske has won the lion’s share of the races lately, taking ten of sixteen in 2016 on the way to a championship. That’s one awfully rude lion. The four horsemen of the Penske paradox also have won the last three St. Pete season openers in a row.

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In the twelve year history of the event – not counting Paul “nearly won the 500” Tracy’s 2003 win in CART – Penske pilots have won an astounding eight races. That’s two out of every three on the west Florida streets.

Predictable doesn’t describe the sort of dominance RP’s team enjoys in IndyCar’s initial race. Tedious comes close.

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Which brings us to the worst part of Team Penske. Continue reading

What’s Michael Andretti Thinking Now? Or, Andretti’s Always Alarming Approach

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IndyCar’s loosest lipped loose cannon – and that’s saying something – makes more dubious decisions.

You know those tortured guys with the prolonged, seemingly perpetual mid life crises? The ones who share their problems liberally with the rest of us? That’s our Michael. Without erratic owners like Mario’s eldest son, there’d be precious little to write about in the off season. Speaking of precious little . . .

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Takuma Sato – the all time leader in most crashes per win – will replace Carlos “Speedy” Munoz at Andretti Autosport. Considering Sato’s dismal record of a single win in seven IndyCar seasons coupled with nearly a decade of F1 futility, one has to again wonder what Michael’s thinking. After all, a late career renaissance for the soon to be forty year old Japanese jockey’s highly unlikely. It’s not as though his record at Indy‘s any better, with a best finish of thirteenth and several high profile crashes.

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Taku finished seventeenth in points in 2016, near the bottom of the full timers. He’s made a hundred eighteen starts, yet achieved only twelve top five finishes. Tellingly, he failed to finish forty four of those races, or a whopping thirty seven percent. Continue reading

Marco, Don’t Go Away Mad – Marco, Just Go Away

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No longer wondering “Marco, Where Have You Gone?” IRR now proposes that the IndyCar legacy find other, more suitable employment.

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Remarkably, we’re now into the sixth year since Andretti’s last victory – and that was only the second of his lengthy career. With a win rate of just over 1%, Marco‘s record has become an embarrassment. He’s up there – or rather, down there – with Danica. And several other former drivers, some of them named Andretti, too.

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Nevertheless, the Andretti family remains IndyCar royalty, beloved by hundreds across a few states. Continue reading

Sonoma Finale Race Review: Egregious Ending Edition

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Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won the whole kit ‘n caboodle at Sonoma’s so-called Raceway Sunday, leading all but nine laps in another regrettable road course runaway. Clinching a fourteenth IndyCar championship for the Cap’n in his 50th year in racing, it was Pags’ first IndyCar title in a decade in the sport. Yes and predictably, the season finale was truly that bad.

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There were some redeeming moments. Second fiddle stable mate Will Power couldn’t even keep the title hunt mildly interesting beyond lap thirty eight, suffering a clutch failure and falling out of contention. “Power down,” we gleefully Tweeted. The awful Aussie finished twentieth, eight laps off the pace. Always entertaining Graham Rahal ran a strong second for Honda, followed by the mercurial Juan Montoya in a Penske kind of day. Interestingly, it sounds as though Montoya won’t be back with the super team in 2017.

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We plan to address the former Team Target‘s trials and tribulations in the forthcoming article “Scott Dixon‘s helmet,” 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