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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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 Watkins Glen Preview: Wit’s End Edition

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With the season’s end in sight, there’s still plenty of IRR wittiness left in the tank.

Sadly, summertime’s over and with it – even more unfortunately – the rousing oval portion of IndyCar’s schedule. Two wine region, cheesy road courses remain, Watkins Glen in upstate New York and the Sonoma finale in California. In the Glen’s case, the most memorable parts of last year’s race were the ubiquitous paid Verizon plugs. Expect neither venue to excite nearly as much as Pocono or Texas regularly do, as the season slinks toward a less than satisfactory conclusion. It all has us feeling at wit’s end.

Josef “teammate terminator” Newgarden has the championship all but wrapped up thanks to Power and Helio’s witlessness at Gateway. There’s no end to his predictable success this season, taking three of the last four races and holding a 31 point championship lead. Making it worse, Team Penske’s won the last five in row. This marks the first time in many years the IndyCar finale probably won’t hold any title significance whatsoever, even with the gimmicky double points paid in the NoCal conclusion.

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Similarly, the rookie of the year award has been settled for some time with only a single candidate and therefore no competition. The fact than Alonso was gifted the Indy 500 ROY remains a travesty, truly “The Great Hardware Robbery,” as we termed it. Ed Jones deserved the award finishing third to Fernando’s 24th, just as he deserves the season ROY. Lack of other contenders aside, Jones has been the most impressive newcomer to the series in recent memory. Thankfully a better ROY resolution’s in the offing.

Happily, the end of the awful aero kit era is also in sight. It’ll be good riddance to bad chassis soon, perhaps the most compelling reason to look forward to next season. Continue reading

Texas Firestone 600 Predictions And Prognostications: Huge Edition

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Expect high speeds, plenty of passing action and lots of sparks flying on track in Texas Saturday night. As Napoleon said, “that which is large is beautiful,” and Texas Motor Speedway certainly qualifies. Also, there’ll be no preordained Penske parades like we saw Sunday in Detroit. In our eyes, that’s just huge.

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This week’s special prediction for the race is some good old fashioned, hugely entertaining oval track racing. Last year’s race was one of those rare Texas IndyCar contests that failed to fulfill fans. Caution free, Scott Dixon ran away with it cruising to an almost eight second margin of victory. Truly, Dixie did Dallas last year – in a huge way.

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The broadcast will also be noticeably superior to those of the last several races. NBCSN is not only covering the race and qualifications on its air, but also a bonus practice session Friday morning. Continue reading

IndyCar News Week In Review: Money, Money Edition

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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

Questions To Ponder Prior To IndyCar’s Start

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IRR has several questions about the upcoming IndyCar season, including the most important race in history.

Can Chip Ganassi Racing get off to anything other than a snail like start this season? They’ve failed to do so the last two years running, still managing to rebound to win the 2015 championship. A decent beginning to the campaign would sure make it easier for Dixie going down the stretch, not that he needs any help.

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Is this Tony Kanaan’s unofficial farewell tour? It may be, at least with Ganassi. The forty one year old Brazilian – one of IndyCar’s three stooges – doesn’t seem to have much left in the tank and is currently settling down in Indy in real family man style according to reports. Could a consulting role ala Dario Franchitti be in his future? We know some tat removal sessions will be.

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Will the Penske team’s tetrarchy payoff this season? Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Over Officious Edition

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Silly Season Standstill: As has never been said by anyone anywhere before, no silly season news is could silly season news. Swiss Miss Simona de Silvestro could end up at Andretti Autosport though nothing’s been announced officially yet. Same with KV and Coyne’s cars – they tested some new drivers as we noted last week but no official announcements have been made. We’ll have more thoughts on Simona in the future, but for now there’s been no movement on the possible final four seats for 2015 or any definite word they’ll all in fact materialize. This will soon change with crucial aero kit testing only a week away.

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Aero Kits Delivered & Desultorily Drubbed: As promised and amidst great secrecy, both Chevy and the ultra secret Honda aero kits were officially delivered last weekend to IndyCar’s nine teams who frantically began assembling the pieces on the cars. They’ve little time to complete their work before testing at NOLA, Texas Motor Speedway or Sebring officially begins March 13. The public Barber test will occur March 16-17 according to indycar.com, when all the teams will gather for the first time to test the new kits.

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The TMS testing option is news Continue reading