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

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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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Photo from twitter.com

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

IndyCar Sonoma Season Finale Predictions and Prognostications: Adios, Aero Kits!

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IRR sets forth its final predictions of the 2017 season – including a surprise champion – while bidding adieu to a crime against racing aesthetics.

Our special prediction for the GoPro Grand Prix is while Sonoma may not feature much passing on its twisted, narrow confines, at least it’s the last time we’ll ever have to watch those hideously fugly, dangerous aero kits in action. Their departure alone will make this nearly unwatchable finale held in a dustbowl almost palatable, raising our spirits markedly in the process. That, and the wine.

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Photo from racesonoma.com

Incidentally, since the cars become obsolete Sunday night – it’s about time – we’d love to see a non-points demolition derby held immediately following the podium celebrations. Charlie “pinball” Kimball, J.R. “hair today, gone next year” Hildebrand and Taku Sato would battle for an Andretti Winery gift certificate and Conor Daly’s domestic duties for a day. Which leads us to . . .

Saturday’s fight for pole position will take on special significance at the infamously tedious track, with the championship contenders – Team Penske and Ganassi’s Scott Dixon – vying for the extra point and tremendous advantage starting up front at Sonoma brings. Four of the last five Grands Prix have been won by drivers starting in the top 3, including fickle Frenchman Simon Pagenaud from pole last year and Dixon’s win in 2014 (his win in 2015 came from 9th).

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Saying goodbye to all that, Continue reading

IndyCar Bommarito 500 Predictions and Prognostications: Nostalgic Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

What’s old is new again this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park as times gone by suddenly take on renewed relevance.

It’s been so long since IndyCar raced at Gateway more announcers have won there than drivers. The truly colorful Paul Tracy won the inaugural race in 1997 and talkative Townsend Bell took the checkers in the Indy Lights race in 2000. It’s just too bad Brian Till didn’t race – for more reasons than one. Helio Castro-Neves, who won the last race held there in 2003, is the only current driver to have done so. He did it in a Toyota.

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Photo from indycar.com

Juan Montoya won the race in 2000, but he’s only a test pilot at present. It’s interesting to note several current drivers were in diapers for PT’s win. Only two others apart from Helio have ever raced there: Scott Dixon and Tony “past expiration date” Kanaan. Interestingly, Dixie struggled in his only start there finishing 15th, while TK managed a second place showing in four starts.

Our special prediction is there’ll be lots of Sebastien Bourdais coverage as the Frenchman returns to the car for the first time since his injurious accident at Indy. His rapid recovery and return to racing is remarkable, but Continue reading

IndyCar Bommarito 500 Preview: Escape From East St. Louis

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Little known fact about John Carpenter’s classic 1981 “Escape From New York” – it was filmed in East St. Louis. Turns out the burned out husk of a city had the perfect post-apocalyptic look for the director’s dark, dystopian vision of a future big apple/prison. That, and of course it was cheaper than filming in NYC. Now IndyCar’s set to return to a place that made even Snake Pliskin demur.

It’s been a decade and a half since the series graced the greater East St. Louis area, and with good reason. IRR staff attended the last race held there in 2003 and it was so off puttingly boring that by three quarters through we felt an overwhelming urge to escape. Indeed, it was so bad that we vowed never to return – unless substantial track improvements were made.

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Photo from gatewaymsp.com

During the race long lull, the bizarre all male musical number from “Escape” sprang to mind for some reason. This could be explained by the fact that the thrilling Tomas Scheckter was on track that day. He finished fourth.

Surrounded by land fill mountains of garbage, Gateway Speedway’s environment isn’t exactly Barber-esque in its beauty. Then again, scenery doesn’t make the racing, tracks do – which leads us to Gateway’s biggest problem. [Insert repetitive thumping synthesizer bass line here.]

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The mile and a quarter track’s situated Continue reading

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

Mid-Ohio IndyCar Race Review: Newkid Wins Again

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American star Josef Newgarden won again at Mid-Ohio, his third victory of the season and second in a row. He utterly dominated the race, leading three quarters of the laps and winning by a margin of over five seconds. Penske’s Newkid now leads the championship points with only four races left in the season.

 

The race began promisingly enough, with polesitter Will Power leading Newgarden for the first fourteen laps and Ragin’ Graham Rahal improving a spot to third. Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato went backward after a solid qualifying effort, while his team mates and fellow 500 winners Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay advanced inside the top ten.

Then Newgarden made a beautiful double move, faking out Power and taking the lead. It’s the move that won him the race – and quite possibly the title.

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Photo from indycar.com

As soon as the portly Paul Tracy muttered something passive aggressive about “passing here,” all of a sudden there was no more passing. At all. Continue reading

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

Road America IndyCar Race Review: Dixon’s Cheese Edition

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Surprisingly an engaging battle broke out Sunday in Wisconsin, although the eventual cheese taker was never in doubt. No runaway like last year, the Kohler Grand Prix managed to keep fans’ interest fully engaged from beginning to end – a remarkable accomplishment for the wine and cheese crowd on a road course.

One after another of Penske’s four horsemen faltered, paving the way for Scott Dixon’s 41st career win. He’s now a mere win away from third on the all time list. The half second victory was the Ganassi ace’s first since September and also his first at Elkhart Lake. Once the confetti had settled, the Cap’n’s crew were highly cheesed.

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Photo from indycar.com

Action occurred right from the start at the series’ longest track, as passing aplenty played out. Owning the first two rows, Team Penske seemed set to figure largely in the outcome. Josef Newgarden who started third fought his way to the lead by lap 13, getting around Will Power and pole sitter Helio Castro-Neves. But with the Cap’n away the Penskes did stray, and for Tim Cindric it turned into a long day.

The first caution was brought out by Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, who left the course and came sliding to an abrupt halt. Continue reading

Indy Grand Prix Preview: Pagenaud, the Destroyer

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Pags and the Penskes have been destroying it lately, eliciting widespread fear – and worse.

“Paranoia, the Destroyer” as the Kinks artfully put it runs rampant throughout IndyCar. Specifically, Penske paranoia – a creeping, deep seeded fear that Pagenaud the Destroyer and crew will win every remaining blasted race.

You blow it all with paranoia.

You’re so insecure, you self destroyer.

Pagenaud has won a lot lately, so much so that we’re getting tired of his winning. He won the previous race either way you look at it – both at Phoenix and last season’s Indy GP. It’s starting to become habitual for the Frenchman. His seemingly unending tear dates back over a year now, as he absolutely ran away with it at Phoenix, just like 2016’s procession around the IMS infield.

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Photo from indycar.com

Feelin’ guilty, feelin’ scared.

Hidden cameras everywhere!

It’s no wonder why the other teams are fearful of the Cap’n’s outfit. Continue reading