Mid-Ohio IndyCar Preview: Ganassi’s Paradise

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IndyCar’s annual visit to Mid-Ohio brings to mind Coolio’s classic track “Gangsta’s Paradise,” although in actuality it’s Ganassi’s paradise in more ways than one. Both places are plenty dangerous with lots of twists, turns and curves – but only one’s dull as daytime lookout duty. Get the Courvoisier and blunts ready for this one, y’all!

Been spending most their lives
Livin’ in a gangsta’s paradise

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Scott Dixon’s five wins at the joint most definitely mean he’s ridin’ dirty. They also highlight Chip “G-daddy” Ganassi’s utter dominance of central Ohio’s hood. That’s how he rolls and he definitely woke, yo. Chipster’s stealing seven out of the last ten (excuses for) races is straight dope, man. Charlie “Straight Outta Cali” Kimball’s breakthrough victory in 2013 was one of ’em, going from ghetto to penthouse with that fashizzzle.

Ganassi’s got one bangin’ posse, though there are of course exceptions. Not surprisingly, Tony “old over the hill bastard” Kanaan has never scored in the O. And don’t get us started on G-daddy’s fourth driver Max “Paris” Chilton. He definitely unwoke and ’bout to be replaced by some Swede named Rosenqvist.

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Graham “homeboy” Rahal won in 2015 in yet another of those ‘luckily timed pit stops that win you the race’ kind of deals. It’s cool as hell driving for your dad’s team, ain’t it? Continue reading

Phoenix Preview: Unabashedly Unapologetic Edition

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Following last year’s race at PIR drivers sounded like United Airlines after dragging a paying customer kicking and screaming off a flight. While it wasn’t that traumatically awful of a race – no fans were bloodied, broken or concussed, at least – IndyCar better have learned its lessons and get it right on Saturday.

The issue was down force levels and the series can be excused somewhat since it was returning to the track after over a decade hiatus. Next generation, aero kitted cars – soon to be done away with, thankfully – and other variables contributed to the disappointment. Scott “podium” Dixon won going away last year in a so-so race under the lights. No one likes a yellow finish, though. Thanks, race control.

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Image from youtube.com

Unabashed in our adoration of IndyCar oval track action – the highest form, fastest and most entertaining of all racing – we at IRR favor Wild Bill’s (as portrayed by Jeff Bridges) approach: “I DON”T apologize!” It’s also solid advice never to touch another man’s hat, or in this case, helmet. Taking to ovals like Hickock to whiskey, cards and whores, we’re cautiously optimistic that they will provide, as Dixie put it, “a better show” this time around. After all, patience isn’t a limitless virtue.

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Son of ‘stache Graham Rahal Continue reading

Road America Preview: Racing The Haunted Woods

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A mysterious land of wonderment, danger and frights, Road America’s where AJ‘s leg bones from his terrifying 1990 crash still haunt the foreboding, forested hills. For modern day racers, it’s a lengthy leap into the unsettling unknown.

 

Once upon a time long, long ago IndyCar raced at a magical place called Road America. The scene of flips, collisions and even rear wings flying off, racing last occurred there in 2007 prior to the conclusion of the super scary split. The series first appeared at the frightful facility in the deep, dark woods way back in 1982. Legends including Mario Andretti and Danny Sullivan won races there. It truly was an epic age.

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Only half the field tested in Wisconsin after the Texas flood, as they scattered for vacations from Vegas to Le Mans. Those who did test included Continue reading

100th Indy 500 Practice 4: Cautionary Edition

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The normally rideless Rookie of the Year Gabby “Pat” Chaves found him/herself atop the speed charts on the fourth/third day of practice. This extreme oddity – in a Dale Coyne car, to boot! – continues a Honda sweep at the top of the charts. There’s a cautionary note or two that accompany this story, though. First, the speed was tow assisted. Plus, a third Honda engine blew up in as many days of practice, never a good sign. Ryan Hunter-Reay’s AA machine belched smoke rolling to a halt on the warm up lane during the afternoon session.

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After Spencer Pigot’s wreck in his yellow car Wednesday, the series was taking no chances. Perhaps they were being overly cautious, like last year. Either that, or an inordinate amount of debris somehow found its way onto the racing surface. Seemed like an awful lot of cautions Thursday, despite the happy absence of wrecks. The speeds were slower, too. Pigot still hasn’t made it back out in his RLL backup car, which he’d described as “bare.” Probably the cautious thing to do.

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Photo from autosport.com

Add another yellow and blue car to the field, as f-ing F1 invader Alexander Rossi – who’s been quick this week for Andretti Autosport – makes the field practically half yellow this year. Ray Harroun’s probably spinning in his grave. We took it to the highest levels.  Continue reading

100th Indy 500 Practice 2/3: Tow Edition

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Photo from Chad Smith on twitter.com

Honda may own the fastest speeds of the month in a tow, but they also own the first two major engine problems as well as the first crash.

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

After a washout Tuesday the track was green Wednesday at the shrine of motorsports. Things got off to a wacky start with the numbering. According to IMS, the second day of practice which occurred Wednesday is actually – and officially – day three, not day two. Got that? So we’re using the Lazier/Burns slash and calling it practice 2/3.

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Photo from Jason on twitter.com

RLL rookie Spencer Pigot received a rude welcome to the ancient and unforgiving Speedway. Pigot became the first and only crash victim thus far, spinning in turn 1 and slamming into the end of the safer barrier with his left side. Continue reading

100th Indy 500 Preparations: 1st Practice Blues

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Photo from Honda on twitter.com

Chevy couldn’t have been happy with the first day’s results, as Honda swept the top four spots. In fact, Andretti Autosport claimed the four fastest cars, with Marco quickest at almost 229 mph. Townsend Bell – who wins ugliest car of the year award, hands down – piloted the fastest non-towed car at just over 223. Even AA’s f-ing F1 invader Alexander Rossi was quick. Scott “Gump” Dixon wound up as top Chevy in fifth at 226.8. None of which made us very happy – but it’s early.

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Photo from Chad Smith on twitter.com

All thirty three entries appeared on track Monday, the most cars on opening day in years. [In Robert Duvall’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ voice] “Smells like – the hundredth!” Had to be the most yellow cars on track in a long time too, including those of Helio, Pags, Marco, Hunter-Reay and Pigot. Oh, also the aforementioned Bell – and probably a few others, too. Often and rather oddly, the yellow liveries are combined with blue.

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Photo from Chad Smith on twitter.com

The other category of cars is red, white and blue ones. AJ was in the house, Continue reading

IndyCar News Week In Review: Money, Money Edition

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

Money, money makes the racing world go ’round. As usual, for many teams there isn’t nearly enough of it.

Andretti Swallows Herta, Spits Chaves Out: In yet another case of contraction for IndyCar teams following the CFH Racing divorce, Andretti Autosport’s absorbed Bryan Herta Autosport, subtracting another team from the grid – not to mention an Autosport. Herta’s tiny, underfunded one car effort will now comprise AA’s fourth car, with former F1 driver American Alexander Rossi as the driver. Rookie of the Year Gabby “Pat” Chaves was unceremoniously dumped despite Herta’s earlier intimations that he’d be back. Obviously the price wasn’t right.

 

Money, Money: Funding was reportedly the issue at BHA, as was the case with CFHR reverting back to Ed Carpenter Racing this year. For a switch, instead of Michael it’s Herta who makes us ask, “what’s Bryan thinking” in casting his lot with the troubled Andrettis? Perhaps he’s planning a driving comeback and wants to takeover Marco’s seat, given the money and the fact that Marco’s not been using it effectively.

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Phillips Out, Pappas In: In a further shakeup at 16th & Georgetown, longtime engineer Bill Pappas is taking over as VP of Competition, Race Engineering for IndyCar. Continue reading

Giving that Extra Effort to Win?

An article on legendary four time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt in Motorsport Magazine got us to thinking, which is a nice surprise from an informative piece. It chronicled Foyt’s 1964 season in which he won the championship and his second Indianapolis 500. It was what Foyt said recently while reflecting on his career that was striking, though.

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Photo from toledoblade.com

Foyt said “I know some great race drivers who were always satisfied with second or third when they could’ve won. They did not want to put that extra little effort. They were satisfied. My worst days were when I ran Indy and ran like crap myself. I couldn’t wait to get back there the next year to prove a point.” Knowing Foyt and his mind through the media at least, the cynic in us wondered which current drivers in the IndyCar series he might have been referring to – which drivers were satisfied with podiums rather than going above and beyond for race wins. Several leapt to mind.  

Ryan Briscoe made headlines recently, although not for his driving  or even his own efforts. His celebrity wife was promoted at ESPN and it was reported that the couple were moving to Connecticut. That’s a long way from his team and their  race shop in North Carolina. It’s not like Briscoe has torn up the tracks lately, as his last wins came at Sonoma in 2012 and Texas in 2010. He actually had a great year in 2009 with three wins and an amazing eight second place finishes, but that’s five years ago. His performance lately has fallen off and he’s had a disastrous last couple of seasons.

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Photo from indystar.com

Graham Rahal’s another driver who’s struggled mightily as of late. With a high finish of second in 2014, Rahal has only one career win in IndyCar. That came his rookie year as a nineteen year old at St. Pete, six years ago now. Graham’s been in the headlines for dating the gorgeous and talented Courtney Force lately, but hasn’t made news for his driving abilities for quite some time. Driving for his father, we wonder what he’s doing to significantly up his game.

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Photo from examiner.com

Finally, there’s the scion of the Andretti clan, Marco. He has only two wins in his eight year career which encompasses nearly a hundred and fifty IndyCar starts. Marco’s known to live the high life and makes fairly regular appearances in the press, just not for his on track performance. His last win was over three years ago in Iowa and this year’s campaign was disappointing to say the least, especially in comparison to his teammates. 

Another quote from Foyt may well apply to the young Andretti. Foyt reminisced  about his youthful days driving. “Back in those days when the sun went down was when it all started. You could stay up half the night partying away and get up in the morning and go to work feeling great, raring to go. You didn’t even feel it.”

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Photo from dailymail.co.uk

Are these talented, potentially great drivers giving that little extra effort in the off season to put themselves in a position to win? Or are they doing what they’ve always done or less hoping against hope that things will turn around for them? Good ol’ A.J. – always one to make you think.

2014 IndyCar Horse Power Rankings – Teams

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Photo from gizmag.com

Team Rankings:

1. Team Penske

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2. Andretti Autosport

3. Target CG Racing

4. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

5. Ed Carpenter Racing (soon to be defunct)

6. KV Racing

7. Dale Coyne Racing

8. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (soon to be defunct)

9. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

10. AJ Foyt Racing

11. Herta Autosport

 

Observations:

Chevy & Honda split the top 4 rankings although Chevy took first & third, with the former winning the engine manufacturers’ race and the latter winning the Indy 500. 

There’s been no other silly season news as of yet, although that could change affecting the Horse Power Rankings. Stay tuned for updates. 

The series will be down to ten teams next year unless a new one joins full time. That’s old AFL levels, folks. Fan Force United, are you reading?

Target rose through the rankings during the last quarter of the season along with Penske, while Andretti fell. Momentum for 2015?

The introduction of aero-kits in 2015 will almost certainly affect the Horse Power rankings, also. 

IndyCar 2014 Season Grades

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Under new leadership yet again for the 2014 campaign Indycar instituted several changes, apparently operating under the philosophy ‘if it’s kinda broke, then half-ass fix it.’ One modification brought a more compact schedule with fewer gaps but lasting less than six months and concluded by Labor Day. While the more concentrated schedule with less momentum-killing layoffs was an improvement, we’d still like to see more races and an earlier start to the season.

Next year’s schedule hasn’t been released yet to the consternation of many, but this is standard operating procedure for IndyCar. While leaks and snippets have caused angst amongst some, we’re taking a largely wait and see approach to 2015. The subtraction of Houston from next year’s lineup is a positive move though, as the track was a dangerous and thrown together creation on a parking lot, for goodness sake. It’s the track that nearly killed Dario and big league racing can do better. 

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Photo from dailymail.co.uk

The series also relied upon double header races at three different street venues again in 2014 to reach eighteen races for the season. For the three 500 mile races double points were awarded in an effort to balance the increasingly road and street course-heavy schedule. This trend is not helpful because the on-track product suffers when fewer oval tracks are visited. Tracks like Michigan, Kentucky, Phoenix and others all should be brought back to IndyCar. Re-instituting the 500 mile triple crown this season added an extra element of racing (as well as more mileage) and should be continued along with some 400 mile events.

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Photo from sfhracing.com

Penalties were another focal point of 2014, with both calls and non-calls making headlines and causing outrage across IndyCar association of states. Race control added Jan Beekhuis as a steward late in the season as it seems rules related issues are still being sorted out by Derrick Walker and Beaux Barfield. Most races went fairly smoothly even in spite of an earthquake at Sonoma, although it seemed race control was a larger part of the story this year, which isn’t a positive development. Refs aren’t what fill the stands or gain viewers.

With a few exceptions like the usual suspects Barber and Mid-Ohio, the racing was highly entertaining and exciting this season. Weather intruded on a couple of races such as Toronto so the new rain tires made their debut, but overall there were few major glitches. It was also a relatively safe season thankfully, although Aleshin’s accident in the final practice was no minor crash.

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The series’ crown jewel Indianapolis 500 once again proved thrilling and one of the better races of the year with winner Ryan Hunter-Reay making an agreeable face of IndyCar. Fontana provided an exciting finale as usual, marking an astounding nine years in a row the last race has decided the championship and rewarding Tony Kanaan with a deserved win. Overall, we give IndyCar a solid grade of B for the season – above average with some room for improvement.

Team Grades :

AJ Foyt Racing

Race Wins: 0

Podiums: 0

Poles: 2

Sato and the team failed to impress with season high finishes of fourth and fifth after winning a race last year. Another disappointing year means there could be changes in AJ Foyt Racing’s future, starting with the driver.

Bonus Points: Underfunded increasingly rare one car team nominally headed by an IndyCar legend.

Overall Grade: D-

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Photo from speedsport-magazine.com

 

Andretti Autosport

Race Wins: 3

Podiums: 9

Poles: 1

Carlos Munoz ran an impressive rookie campaign, winning ROY honors and taking three podium finishes.

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Photo from indycar.com

Hunter-Reay won the Indy 500 and two other races making the team’s season. Hinchcliffe and Marco were disappointing, as were the team’s qualifying efforts.

Bonus Points: RHR’s first Indy 500 victory and AA’s first since Dario won in 2007.

Overall Grade: B-

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Photo from Getty Images

 

Bryan Herta Autosport

Race Wins: 0

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

English rookie Jack Hawksworth ran well at times taking a podium at Houston race 2, but still has some development to undergo. Herta’s little team like Foyt’s is a dying breed.

Bonus Points: Underfunded one car team with a hungry young Englishman driving.

Overall Grade: D

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Photo from jackhawsksworth.co.uk

 

Dale Coyne Racing

Race Wins: 1

Podiums: 0

Poles: 0

Carlos Huertas won in Houston race 1 as a rookie, but the team was a non-factor everywhere else and the track’s gone from next year’s schedule. Talented veteran Justin Wilson struggled consistently throughout a difficult season.

Bonus Points: Underfunded two car team run by a quirky former ‘driver.’

Overall Grade: C-

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Photo from racing.ap.org

 

Ed Carpenter Racing

Race Wins: 3

Podiums: 1

Poles: 1

Conway won Long Beach and Toronto race 2 while Ed won Texas and took the pole at Indy as owner/driver. Next year the team merges with SFHR, which probably can’t hurt.

Bonus Points: One car shared by two drivers, plus Ed’s a true underdog.

Overall Grade: B+

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KV Racing

Race Wins: 1

Podiums: 1

Poles: 3

Frenchman Bourdais won Toronto race 1 and finished second at Mid-Ohio. Saavedra struggled mightily all year and in his one highlight he disastrously stalled it on pole at the Indy GP.

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Photo from foxsports.com

Bonus Points: The number one pilot is a Frenchman. None.

Overall Grade: C-

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Photo from usatoday.com

 

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Race Wins: 0

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

Rahal finished second at Detroit Race 1 and later predicted a win by year’s end. He still only has one IndyCar series victory after seven seasons.

Bonus Points: One car team for most of the year, working through a difficult father-son relationship. They lost their main sponsor for next year and appear to be in some disarray.

Overall Grade: D-

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Photo from motorsport.com

 

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

Race Wins: 0

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

Josef Newgarden finished second at Iowa and had several second place starts in a frustrating season. No wins yet from Newkid after three seasons but a teammate will help.

Bonus Points: One car outfit with lots of potential and merging with ECR in 2015.

Overall Grade: D

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Photo from espn.go.com

 

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Race Wins: 2

Podiums: 1

Poles: 1

Great job by Pagenaud and the underfunded team to battle Penske in the championship right to the end. Pags & Aleshin finished 1-2 at Houston race 2 and Pags won the inaugural Indy Grand Prix. Aleshin showed potential but is currently recovering from serious injuries suffered in the year’s final practice.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Bonus Points: Schmidt’s an IndyCar guy we all want to root for with two interesting, off beat European drivers. The team represents a future threat provided Pags doesn’t jump ship to Andretti as rumored.

Overall Grade: B-

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Photo from autosport.com

 

Target Chip Ganassi Racing

Race Wins: 3

Podiums: 8

Poles: 1

Dixie and Kanaan came through toward the end of the campaign, but Kimball and especially Briscoe struggled all year in a disappointing 25th anniversary for Target. They should be even more adept with the bow tie next year and carry substantial momentum.

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Photo from chipganassiracing.com

Bonus Points: It’s Chip Ganassi. None.

Overall Grade: C+

 Dixie

 

Team Penske

Race Wins: 5

Podiums: 11

Poles: 9

The team swept the top two spots in the championship with Power prevailing at Fontana. Helio and Montoya both contributed race wins, podiums  and poles with Montoya doing so after more than a decade out of the car. They’re top of the class for reasons, folks.

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Photo from tri-cityherald.com

Bonus Points: None.

Overall Grade: A

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