Pocono Race Review: A Speedy Recovery

Considering another comically amateurish start followed by a devastating, injurious crash on lap seven, the fact that the remaining able-bodied drivers somehow managed to put on a decent show at all is remarkable. Particularly in light of Robert Wickens’ unknown medical circumstances, which remained a complete mystery for a full hour before his consciousness was announced. The full extent of his wounds still isn’t known.

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Photo from cbc.ca

After a two hour delay for cleanup of the massive debris field plus repairs to the fence, Alexander Rossi drove his NAPA car right up to the wall and to its limits, proving himself yet again the swiftest over 500 miles.

NBCSN’s pre-race included shots of Marco’s Palace and lots of Robin Miller. In other words, it was gaudy and odd. Another laboriously slow, bunched up start to the race from pole sitter Will Power saw Ragin’ Graham Rahal immediately run into Spencer Pigot’s right rear at the back of the field and bring out a caution. Along with the winner we predicted a crash-fest, and it sure started out that way. Power typically blamed Scott Dixon – who was deep in the field! – flashing graphs and pleading that he only did what he was told. Rahal was penalized for the first lap incident and it’s clear he needs to work on his starts, his qualifying – or both.

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Photo from indycar.com

Rossi quickly passed Power for the lead on the lap seven restart. Behind them Wickens tried to get around Ryan Hunter-Reay in turn two Continue reading

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Texas Race Review: Honestly Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

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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Photo from motorsport.com

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

Barber Preview: Broken Record Edition

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More records are likely to be broken as IndyCar screeches into Alabama this weekend, the series’ third consecutive race since inexplicably skipping an entire month after the St. Pete opener. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but Team Penske’s success at Barber is nearly as unblemished as a mint condition Beatles vinyl still in the original packaging.

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Josef “new American hero” Newgarden (according to Robin Miller) has swiped two of the last three at the deep south’s premier motorbike track, an undeniably impressive album of work. Continue reading

Iowa IndyCar Race Review: ‘Like The First Time’ Edition

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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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Photo from indycar.com

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

Even IndyCar’s Elites Are Starting To Get It

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The more persuadable of our betters are finally beginning to fully realize the fickle mood of folks at present, and not just those in positions of political power. Feeling the heat, it seems as though elites everywhere are actually taking note and doing what a majority of people (e.g. those who pay for it) want done.  It’s none too soon either, lest the torch bearing mobs come out.

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IndyCar CEO Mark Miles is only the most recent example of a muckety muck for once not mucking things up, a trend stretching from Brexit-ing Brits battling Brussels bureaucrats all the way to Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. And happily now even Indianapolis. Actual accountability to those paying the bills is a damned welcome change, even in racing.

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According to a recent article by Brant James, Miles had many positive items to report, including recommendations Continue reading

Sonoma Finale Race Review: Egregious Ending Edition

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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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Photo from indycar.com

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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Photo from usatoday.com

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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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Five laps later following the restart, Ragin’ Graham Rahal brought out the second caution when he Continue reading

Texas (Part Two) Race Review: Ragin’ Rahal Edition

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Photo from twitter.com

IndyCar put on its second consecutive extraordinarily exhilarating oval track race in less than a week.

Enduring a year long winless drought, Graham Rahal won the closest race in Texas Motor Speedway history Saturday night charging all the way from lucky thirteenth. The race, started in June and rained out after the first seventy three laps and a horrific collision between Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden, proved an instant classic.

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Photo from ap.com

The restarts were exquisite, the action and passing superb. It was like the good ol’ days of racing at Texas back in the ’90s and early ’00s, with a photo finish and the margin of victory a mere eight thousandths of a second. The race was breathtaking.

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Photo from indycar.com

Canuck James Hinchcliffe led the field to the restart, enjoyed as Paul Tracy said “the car to beat” and dominated almost the entire race. Crucially though, Continue reading

Pocono Race Review: Delayed Gratification

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Photo from zimbio.com

NBCSN’s Brian Till described the racing at Pocono as “spectacular,” and on Monday it certainly was. Will “awesome” Power won thanks to a Penske perfect late race charge to the front, but Ryan Hunter-Reay ran the race of the day. He drove his burnt yellow DHL machine through the field – twice! – to a podium finish, racing a brand new, unfamiliar car after crashing his Indy 500 winner in practice. Failing even to attempt qualifying, he started dead last and still very nearly won.

After a washout on Sunday even the command to start engines was delayed, leading to an awkward pause during the beginning of the broadcast. Then a bomb was dropped on the audience as they revealed that Robin Miller was joining Till and Townsend Bell in the booth. A surreal quality instantly infused the broadcast as the news rippled across the land. Apparently Paul Tracy had important buffets to attend in Vegas.

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Photo from foxsports.com

The start was waived off after first time pole sitter Mikhail Aleshin jumped the gun, forcing another attempt. Aleshin again shot out to a lead coming to the flag stand, but Josef Newgarden quickly took the lead just before Takuma Sato snap spun into the wall in turn three, coming to a wrecked rest in front of the “what turn 4?” sign. 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