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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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 ABC Supply 500 Predictions and Prognostications: Know Pocono

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Closely observing the last few decades of IndyCar racing has taught us much, including a) we’re already missing Mikhail Aleshin jokes and b) James “Canadian token” Hinchcliffe goes through teammates like Kim Jong Un burns through liquid oxygen. The Mayor – like the dictator – must be hard to get to know.

After weeks of summer slumbers, the series wisely roars back to life in eastern Pennsylvania. Our special prediction for Pocono is some rather unintelligent driving – and not just from the usual suspects, either. Such a salacious silly season can only bring out the worst in some drivers who, after all, will be racing for their jobs. Remember, some of these guys aren’t the brightest lights even under ideal circumstances.

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Due to the new red scare, we’ve been robbed of last year’s pole sitter and second place finisher. In fact,  Mikhail “not a good year to be a Russian in the US” Aleshin likely won’t be racing in the series again. We say nyet to that. Aged Helio Castro-Neves started out front the previous year – and came in sixteenth. Even Marco‘s been on pole in his home state, but in characteristic fashion finished only tenth. Part timer Juan Montoya managed the only recent win from pole at Pocono in 2014.

When you’re hot, you’re hot as the saying goes and the sagacious 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

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 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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Photo from indycar.com

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

Pocono Race Review: Tragedy in Pennsylvania

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Ryan Hunter-Reay crossed the finish line first for Andretti Autosport at Pocono Sunday evening, but there were no celebrations and no confetti in a subdued victory lane. His team mate Justin Wilson had already been airlifted to the hospital and as yet no one at the track knew his status. It was the strangest scene after a race in memory as a pall hung heavily over the gathered crowd.

Wilson was hit in the head by debris from Sage Karam’s car, which disintegrated when he spun and hit the wall while leading the last portion of the race. Karam injured his right foot in the wreck, but he got off lightly compared to Justin. Slumped forward in the cockpit, Wilson was clearly already knocked unconscious as the car hit the inside wall and came to a stop. Today Wilson remains in a coma in critical condition. Sadly Justin passed away Monday night. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Englishman’s family.

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Photo from motorsport.com

The incident isn’t dissimilar to the case of F-1 driver Jules Bianchi, Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review

  • Silly Season Dominoes Tumble: Canuck James Hinchcliffe announced Tuesday that he’s signed with Schmidt Peterson Motorsport, filling Pag’s vacant seat as he’s now at Team Penske. The Canadian comedian did so in characteristic style, making the announcement at a local brewery in Indianapolis. This after officiating the marriage ceremony of fellow driver Charlie Kimball last week. Beer, change of scenery and honeymooning – what a charmed life IndyCar drivers lead.

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  • The Game of Musical Seats continues: Ryan Briscoe’s now a free agent again with reports linking Sage Karam to Ganassi’s fourth car next year. It seems as though in IndyCar as in life the rich continue to get richer, the poor poorer. Rumors have linked young limey Jack Hawksworth to A.J. Foyt Racing’s famed 14 car. IRR predicted both Briscoe and Sato were in trouble months ago, as both underperformed rather spectacularly in 2014. With Hawksworth a free agent, Bryan Herta Autosport joins the list of teams looking for a fresh pilot, as does Andretti Autosport. Got all that?

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Mr. & Mrs. Briscoe – photo from indystar.com

  • A.J. Foyt Racing Expanding to Speedway: According to reports, A.J. Foyt Racing purchased a large building on Main Street in Speedway, Indiana. They plan to renovate, rent out part and use part of it as a satellite base in Indy during the season while maintaining their main base outside of Houston, Texas. A.J. is quoted on his team’s website: “We’re happy to be part of Speedway’s redevelopment.” It’s a positive sign for the team and a plus for Speedway. Plus it’ll be a little bit of A.J. in Indy, where he belongs.

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  • Finale at Sonoma? Regrettably, it looks as though one of the dullest and dreariest tracks in the country will host the grand finale in 2015. Curt Cavin’s sidekick and minor television/radio personality Kevin Lee tweeted about “more speculation about #IndyCar schedule” and then Cavin posted his own. It’s now down to a matter of dates, as it’s no secret as to the tracks which will be visited. Happily, all of the ovals from this season return in 2015 and the only subtraction is Houston, which was a dangerous joke of a parking lot track that nearly killed Dario and others last year.

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Photo from dailymail.co.uk

  • Another possible change is Toronto losing its twin billing, with the date changing due to a conflict with the Goodwill Games or some such obsolete international nonsense. Seen any pro sports lately? We blame Ted Turner for this amongst many other things. Both Brasilia, the planned capital in central Brazil, and New Orleans NOLA Motorsports Park, south of the Big Sleazy will host new races on road courses next season. Yippie. Otherwise, no major changes are forthcoming apart from some date changes which make sense, such as Pocono moving off the weekend of July 4th.

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  • Odds and Ends: IMS upgraded their website, a long overdue move. IndyCar reporter for AutoRacing1.com Brian Carroccio showed IRR a kindness and followed us on Twitter, so a superspeedway sized thanks to him. Be sure to check out his work on the web. Finally, couldn’t resist this take on celubu-tard Gwynnie (a fave of ours to look at) and the recent fundraiser held in her California home for the once popular commander in chief. Wake me to your leader.

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Fontana Finale Foreshadowing (in Fine French Fashion)

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For hard core oval track racing fans, The Scheduling Gods this year blessedly provided three 500 mile race holiday weekends: Memorial Day at Indy, the Fourth of July at Pocono and summer’s bittersweet swansong in southern California. Therefore, we offer sacrifices of ethanol, oil, carbon fiber and rubber out of appreciation to those upon Mount Foyt-lympus. We’ve been looking forward to Fontana since July and in some ways since last fall.

Auto Club Speedway is a wonderfully wide, steeply banked two-mile oval built by The Cap’n Roger Penske as a sister track to Michigan, which by the way must return to the schedule. In the meantime, we’re fortunate to have Fontana as the finale and anxiously anticipate a season ending stem-winder of a race under the lights. All this while trying not to let the leaks about next year’s schedule harsh our ovular buzz.

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Purposely built for IndyCars atop the site of an old steel mill that helped in America’s WW II effort, Fontana usually provides for highly entertaining, edge of your seat racing. Plentiful three-wide passing should be the order of the evening Saturday in SoCal, barring the possibility of the big one striking the area between now and the race. We kid our cool Californio readers and note that the thousands upon thousands of ex-Californians we’ve met who’ve moved to the Midwest seem like nice enough folks generally. Plus, SoCal’s not only where the Dude abides, but also resides (“high on the list of laziest places world-wide“). 

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The main focus of the coverage this week will be on the championship battle with Power, Helio and Pags all still eligible for the one million dollars and the IndyCar tiara and scepter. Well it should be, as it’s been one hell of a season long race. We wish two-thirds of the contenders all the best. 

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As underdog aficionados and ones ourselves, we’re going full Francophile for the finale, hoping against a Pags’ championship debut debacle. “Never surrender!” shall be our adopted battle cry for the week, as fellow fans of the fast Frenchman – from Frere-Jacques to Francois – form up to fete the famous frog.  

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If the Frenchman retreats during the fight, then hopefully it’ll be Helio who takes the championship since all our favorites are out of it. Somebody’s going to do it for The Cap’n eventually, so it might as well be the longest tenured driver he has. We’ve come to appreciate the ever-ebullient Castro Neves realizing the old adage “if you can’t beat them, don’t root against them.” Obviously we’re not rooting for Mad Will Power (see “Ain’t Penske Ashamed, Will Power’s Insane”) while risking the ire of our own beloved mother in opting out. It’s best to avoid that booby hatch.

We simply can’t bring ourselves to pull for the crazed cream puff-eared crank, not even for dear old mum. Undeniably, the Aussie’s about as stable as a two legged chair on an ice rink. To quote him after Milwaukee, “I love winning on ovals! I love winning on ovals!” Here’s to hoping fervently that he doesn’t win on the massive D-shaped oval. 

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Another “fun-tastic” feature of the finale in Fontana is that it isn’t just about the points battle, but also winning the 500 mile race itself. In fact the race winner easily could come from outside the top three and often does. Hunter-Reay and Eddie Carpenter are always formidable oval racers with a shot to win on the big tracks, as are the Target cars piloted by thirty-five time winner Dixie and the always affable Tony Kanaan who nearly won Pocono. Let’s not forget Montoya who actually did win Pocono and had this to say prior to Sonoma: “Awful, like awful. Like my shit . . . was shaking. It was bad.”

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The racing Saturday night could well be the best of the year and sets up an epic finale. It’ll be a terrific ending to the season and hopefully leads to another highly entertaining year for 2015. Provided that neither the silly season nor the aero-craze get too far out of hand. In that event, the staff here will be forced to personally intervene on the fans’ behalf. Never fear – IRR’s here!  

 

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Sonoma Predictions – Coca Crazed Charge to Cartagena Edition “You Know”

We predict a fruity bouquet of tedium during the ‘race’ accompanied by dry, earthy background blandness finally followed by dreaded, widespread wine hangovers. For the uninitiated, these are amongst the worst of all hangovers and are surpassed only by very cheap wine hangovers, which are in fact the worst. Very much like the on track action at Sonoma – the worst.

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As for the racing – what little there is – we thought it’d be nice to spice the predictions up a little, salsa style. IRR boldly predicts JPM will win in spite of Bored to Tears Point Raceway cartel style by forcing Mad Will Power off the track. He’ll then go on to win the championship by winning Fontana. Wrap your minds around Montoya’s epic and forceful return to IndyCar dominance race fans, ‘cuz it’s a comin’. All hail el Presidente Montoya! That’s right and you heard it here first – and it’s so madcap, quite probably here alone.

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Montoya’s currently sixth but still has a long shot at it, assuming his teammates oblige by running into walls and gravel pits. The way JPM’s been going, the possibility of him banging Mad Will Power out of his way again ala Pocono isn’t out of the question. Plus this way we get to root actively against that Aussie lunatic, as if we needed a reason. The Colombian’s been on a coca crazed charge to Cartagena lately, one unseen since circa 2001. To quote JPM, he’s been “you know” fun to watch most of the year. By the way, how rigid is IndyCar’s drug testing program anyway?

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Apart from Penske, Kalkoven and Vasser’s team has been either very good or more typically very bad this season with the two Sebastians. They’ll be some of both this weekend again, while having nothing to do with the championship battle. How on Jimmy’s green earth does the non-French one hold on to his ride next year? Or next race?

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Sato also needs a strong finish, which at Sonoma means a top six start for Foyt else he faces losing his ride. While we’re at it, how long does Briscoe stick with Ganassi this time? You know the Chipster’s always itching to axe someone. Remember too race fans that Josef Newkid’s keeping his options open for next year and remains uncommitted as of this writing.

Finally, there’s the ravenous AA, rumored to be considering both a 7th and 8th car for next year while they’ve been utterly lost lately with four. RHR admitted his points race chances “went up in smoke” at the Mile and the other Andretti Autosport-sters chances had disappeared long ago. RHR won Barber earlier this year, so he could pull it off at this equally exciting track with some breaks and better luck than at Milwaukee. Then his championship hopes suddenly would materialize again, as if from a puff of smoke – like magic.

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Marco’s first win came at Sonoma – with a little help from his team mates, wink wink, nudge nudge – way back in 2006 (see “Marco, Where Have You Gone?”). That was eight years ago and he’s had only one win since. Can all AA’s IndyCar men put Marco’s race game back together again? Doubtful, though an un-assisted second win in wine country would assuage many doubts, most of them seemingly ours.

We’re definitely looking to improve the statistical averages of our predictions this week, so without further infuriating IndyCar’s elites here’s the latest stomp of the ol’ grapes –

% correct in previous 4 races

Pole Winner – Will Power or Juan Pablo Montoya                                                0%

  Race Winner – Juan Pablo Montoya or Ryan Hunter-Reay                                  25%

First Out of Race – Sebastian Saavedra or Carlos Huertas                                    0%

Biggest Surprise of Race – Marco Andretti or Jack Hawksworth                             0%