Phoenix Race Review: Take Cover! Edition

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American gunslinger Josef Newgarden obliterated his opposition outside Phoenix Saturday night, leaving a trail of IndyCar carnage stretching clear to Canada. As bad as it was for Robby Wickens, it was Coyne crew members who again got the worst of it.

The race started with an all day-glo – and all French – front row at what Townsend Bell called “this hot, nasty track.” Then again, it almost didn’t. Surprise pole sitter Sebastien Bourdais‘ car stopped dead on pit lane, requiring the help of Robert Wickens’ – or “Wiggins” as TBell calls him – crew to refire his Honda. It wouldn’t be the last issue SeBass had on pit road during the evening.

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RHR and Marco went high at the start and gained several spots while a now functioning Bourdais pulled away from Pags. Wickens gained a position and joined the top five as the Frenchmen at the front battled early traffic. A hard charging Rossi challenged Pags for the pass before nearly losing it on the apron and drifting high up the track. Narrowly avoiding disaster, he wasn’t done yet.

On lap 41 the first of only two yellows arrived when PFitti got high in turn four and rudely met the wall. Emo’s grandson was first out in his first ever race. During the initial round of pit stops SeBass slid wildly into his pit box, hitting his left front tire changer in an ugly scene. Continue reading

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Phoenix Preview: Casablanka Edition

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There’s so much construction taking place at dusty ISM Raceway at present, the facility’s practically a blank slate. Fitting, as so too is the young IndyCar season. No one quite knows how it’ll all end. Exciting possibilities – and temporary setbacks – exist for all involved in the upcoming Phoenix Grand Prix.

Pondering that great roulette wheel in the desert formerly known as PIR, we couldn’t help but think of the Bogey-Bergman gin joint classic Casablanca and that even the director didn’t know the ending. Like magnificent open wheel oval racing, the thoroughly entertaining movie from 1942 winds up to a thrilling crescendo. Similar to the beloved film, IndyCar on oval tracks is unsurpassed in its splendor. Plus, there’s such an intriguing international cast; and get a load of the gams on those new Dallaras! Here’s looking at you, Phoenix.

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IndyCar tested at the soon to be reconfigured ISM (Ingenuity Sun Media, in case you’re wondering) Raceway in February. Takuma Sato led an all Rahal Lanigan Letterman revue. The prospects of Sato on pole alone are enough to conjure the stuff parts bills nightmares are made of. Judging by St. PeteContinue reading

St. Pete Race Review: Crass Commercial Edition

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Riveting racing in IndyCar’s return to action Sunday was largely overshadowed by shabby coverage from the Always Being Crass network in hopefully its last year broadcasting the series. Sebastien Bourdais survived the near constant carnage to repeat at St. Pete in a race featuring a whopping 366 on track passes. Fans maybe got to see ten percent of them. Given the sheer frequency of commercial interruptions, one would have thought the local newscaster the victor.

An asinine infomercial ran until ten minutes before the green flag. With so much new this year – gorgeous cars, rookie drivers and fledgling teams – the hyper abbreviated “pre-race” was in reality a slap in fans’ faces. Considering it’s Bestwicke, Goodyear and Cheever in the booth however, perhaps it wasn’t such a great loss.

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Will “Sour Grapes” Power’s first lap spin surprised even those of us predicting early trouble, and boy did it materialize. Even Scott Dixon suffered a rare brain fade worthy of a rookie – or worse, Marco – smacking Sato and instigating one of eight caution flags, five of which came in the early going. Old ‘n in the way TK and rookie Zach Veach made contact before Ragin’ Graham Rahal banged into Spencer Pigot, bringing out yet another yellow.

Away for another ubiquitous break, ABC missed multiple restarts as pole sitting newby Robert Wickens enjoyed a comfortable lead throughout most of the race. In a bit of foreshadowing, Bourdais briefly inherited the lead after the first round of pit stops. Continue reading

Handicapping The Rookies: Greenhorns Galore, Part 2

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Previewing the 2018 IndyCar season from the perspective of those nine drivers with a combined experience of the average couch sitting race fan. Tellingly, the mean age of our final five rookies is a ripe 24.8 years old.

This slate of newbies enjoys slightly more experience than those covered in part 1 and also have the distinct advantage of landing with established teams – in a couple cases, even decent ones. Just not in our first instance . . .

AJ Foyt Racing‘s Matheus Leist – only 19 – hails from Brazil like his curmudgeonly, over the hill teammate. His initial IndyCar foray at the Phoenix test wasn’t fortuitous. Leist brushed the wall at least three separate times, and possibly more. On a less expensive note, Matt did manage three wins last year in Indy Lights, including the Freedom 100 at IMS. That’s no doubt a major reason he’s driving for A.J. Matt also scored an impressive nine top fives and two poles in his sole Lights season. Why the 43 year old TK landed A.J.’s other seat is totally inexplicable.

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Zach Veach will have the benefit of top notch equipment driving for Andretti Autosport, if not the most sensible boss. The baby faced 23 year old Ohioan already had two big league starts in 2017, with a best finish of 19th at Barber for ECR (as a stand in for the injured and now unemployed J.R. Hildebrand). Also, he finished 26th in the 101st Indy 500 for AJ Foyt Racing. Zach’s the author of a book for teens and apparently a good friend of Oprah, so watch out.

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Yet another Canuck – just what the series needs – Robert Wickens Continue reading

Everything’s Different! Or: That New Car Smell

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IndyCar finds itself in the midst of change not seen in a decade – welcome change, at that.

The 2018 season excitingly ushers in new cars, a multitude of rookie drivers and even several fledgling teams. There’s a first time reigning champ and let’s not forget new sponsors, either. Lots of ’em – on Graham Rahal’s car alone. Heck, there’s even sort of a new track on the schedule. That is, if you possess little memory and consider Portland a track in the first place.

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Easily the most striking of all the upgrades is the car itself, a real beauty to behold – especially compared to what fans have been subjected to the last three seasons. Continue reading

IndyCar Predictions for 2018: Shiny New Edition

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The eagerly anticipated follow up to our hugely successful 2017 predictions.

IndyCar’s extremely iffy schedule will seem like a strange, Groundhog Day like replay of last year’s, with merely the single alteration of swapping Watkins Glen for Portland. It’s a bit like exchanging that ugly Christmas sweater for a slightly less ugly – though smellier – hemp sweater. Frankly, we wouldn’t be caught dead in either.

Unfortunately, the static schedule means that once again only a third of the races will be held on oval tracks. Ovals being the fastest, most exhilaratingly entertaining form of motor racing on the planet, that’s just plain wrong. As long time readers know, our laments on this topic are nothing new.

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The new cars, which ironically and happily look an awful lot like the old cars, will impress – aesthetically, at least. Three cheers for the end of the awful aero kit era. Don’t expect speed records to fall at Indy or the other ovals any time soon, though – or a smooth, seamless transition. It’s still IndyCar, after all. The lower downforce levels of the new cars will add some excitement to the racing, as well as to the repair bills for many teams.

Get ready to hear and read lots about brakes and braking as a result of the introduction of new bodies. Translation: massive amounts of front and rear end damage due to near constant contact in the corners on street courses. Also expect electrical gremlins to make aggravating appearances, especially early on in the season.

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Of the new teams, Continue reading

Silly Season ’17: A Succinct Synopsis

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Penske pared back, Ganassi got leaner, Rahal redoubled and Foyt became even less relevant. Perhaps the greatest concern – apart from the second rate schedule – is the car count for 2018.

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After yet another IndyCar title thanks to Josef Newgarden’s pivotal piloting, Penske’s crew will consist of only three cars for the first time since 2014. At 42 the ever popular Helio Castro-Neves finally has been put out to pasture, where presumably he can climb all the fences he wishes. The formidable trio of Pags, Power and Newkid will carry the Cap’n’s colors in the upcoming campaign, easily remaining the odds on favorites nearly every weekend.

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Not one to be outdone when it comes to downsizing, the Chipster Continue reading