Texas Race Review: Honestly Edition

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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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Following a quick cleanup, the restart came on lap 15 with Newgarden, Power, Pags, Wickens and Rossi the top five.  Continue reading

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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

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

Detroit Grand Prix Race Review No. 2: Graham ‘n Sham Edition

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Ragin’ Graham Rahal did the undoable – a Detroit dual double – driving a danged ol’ Honda right through Chevy’s front yard. Twice. Meanwhile Hoosier hot head Conor Daly called the only potentially exciting element of the race, the red flag stoppage with three to go, “such a sham” and “all for show.”

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The angry A.J. Foyt driver continued, Tweeting “to get driven into the wall with one to go after our best race is just sad.”  It’s unclear who made contact with him and ABC certainly didn’t bother to show it, but the young legacy finished twelfth behind Helio, TK and Munoz.

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Once pole sitter Sato got out of the way about twenty two laps in, it was a battle between Saturday’s winner and newcomer Josef Newgarden. 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

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

About Those IndyCar Penalties, Or Under-Officious Jerks

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Seems to us IndyCar’s iron fist of justice has turned a bit well, limp lately. The faceless, mysterious and secretive force known only as “race control” has obviously changed direction this season, taking a delayed approach to penalty enforcement – if bothering at all. Remember black flags? Drive through penalties? Disqualifications? As we all learned in government class and more recently in Ferguson, Baltimore and movie theaters everywhere, lax enforcement leads to disregard of the rules, which in turn leads to chaos. IndyCar’s chaotic enough without adopting Russian mob rules.

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In taking a wait and see approach to penalties, IndyCar is bucking the long standing tradition of penalizing drivers for infractions during the race in which they committed them so as to affect the offending drivers’ outcomes. IndyCar has three stewards and new, supposedly state of the art video equipment, so why not use them? Instant assessment of penalties not only discourages bad behavior and rule breaking – both of which are occurring this season – but also eliminates the speculation, whining and questioning that inevitably lingers long after the incidents themselves. Seen Twitter lately? After all, when it comes to officiating it’s an issue of basic fairness.

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Little was written or said about the Milwaukee winner’s misdeeds as the series ploddingly plowed its way into Iowa. Bourdais‘ team Continue reading

The Buzz From Beekhuis

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IRR’s latest encounter with IndyCar media super star Jon Beekhuis occurred once again very late at night and was accompanied by shock and exhilaration. By late night encounter with the professor of speed we mean of course an exchange on Twitter. Turns out not only is Mr. Beekhuis a night owl, he’s also quite conscientious and prompt in responding to our queries.

We discovered this about Beekhuis a couple of weeks ago when sending him a flyer of a Tweet about a story the IndyCar press seem to have missed. While Jon would be on both television networks covering the races this year from the pits, he would no longer be a race steward as he confirmed to us in a somewhat confusing exchange on Twitter.

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So last night we thought we’d try again and much to our surprise we learned still more buzz from Beekhuis. Asking him about his perception of the aero kits after “having survived them” at St. Pete, Jon graciously replied. Continue reading