Detroit Grand Prix Race Review No. 2: Graham ‘n Sham Edition

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Ragin’ Graham Rahal did the undoable – a Detroit dual double – driving a danged ol’ Honda right through Chevy’s front yard. Twice. Meanwhile Hoosier hot head Conor Daly called the only potentially exciting element of the race, the red flag stoppage with three to go, “such a sham” and “all for show.”

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The angry A.J. Foyt driver continued, Tweeting “to get driven into the wall with one to go after our best race is just sad.”  It’s unclear who made contact with him and ABC certainly didn’t bother to show it, but the young legacy finished twelfth behind Helio, TK and Munoz.

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Once pole sitter Sato got out of the way about twenty two laps in, it was a battle between Saturday’s winner and newcomer Josef Newgarden. Continue reading

Detroit Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: Bizarro Edition

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Considering that incredible Indy 500 result, the season’s obviously gone completely through the looking glass. Up is down, black is white and forty year old foreign ride buyers reign supreme. Hold on to your hats tightly for our picks for this Duesie of a double header in Detroit.

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Any series that thinks Belle Isle is worthy of one race a year – much less two, hot on the heels of Indy – has long occupied bizzarro land. As we’ve documented before at some length, it’s a rat infested dump best avoided, a destination rivaled in its unpleasantness only by Gateway in East St. Louis. It’s a peculiar location for a series seeking to maintain momentum to feature, for sure.

The thing about predicting how the races will turn out in bizarro IndyCar is that it’s just so damned . . . well, unpredictable. Did we mention this year’s 500? Oh, yeah. In light of all that, here go some rather unexpected, unorthodox picks for this weekend.

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Photos from twitter.com and usatoday.com

Pole sitters for the two races will be unusual in the sense that they won’t include Frenchman Simon Pagenaud for a change. In an unbelievably hoggish display he occupied point for both races last year, edging Ryan Hunter-Reay and stable mate Helio Castro-Neves. Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Race Review: Stunned Disbelief

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Takuma Sato shocked the racing universe by winning the Indianapolis 500 in his eighth start on the famed oval. He prevailed by two tenths of a second over Helio Castro-Neves. The first Japanese to triumph in the 500, he called it “the best win in my life,” adding “I still just cannot believe it.”

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The mild mannered, likable Andretti Autosport pilot wasn’t the only one in stunned disbelief. Taku had faced much criticism for his past performances at the Speedway as well as other tracks, with crashes commonplace. The 40 year old’s single win in eight seasons of racing brought derision from some quarters, as did his hiring by Andretti before the season. All of that was wiped away Sunday afternoon.

The start was clean following the parade laps and it remained that way until lap 53, when a major accident brought out a rare red flag. Already laps down, Jay Howard drifted high into the turn 1 wall and then careened down the track and into the path of pole sitter Scott Dixon. Dixon’s car flipped into the air, caught the catch fence and disintegrated before coming to a stop. Both drivers emerged unhurt, although Dixon was wearing a boot later in the day. Castro-Neves narrowly avoided the melee.

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There were nine cautions in addition to the red flag, with three for debris and three more for mechanicals. Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Predictions and Prognostications: An American Tradition

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The Indianapolis 500 is an American tradition like no other. Now into its second century, the 500 remains one of America’s great contributions to the world, as millions of Spaniards are about to discover thanks to Fernando Alonso.

Our special prediction for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing concerns the show itself, the racing. Expect highly exhilarating, edge of your seat, 230 mph ecstasy on the ancient oval Sunday – the way all racing should be. Of course that’s assuming the weather cooperates. Pay particular attention to the truly unique start, with eleven glittering, growling rows of three cars. It’s among the very best moments in all of sport.

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First lap leader will come from the outside of row 1 and he’s led before, even recently. It’s 100th Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi. The American prevailed on strategy and fumes last year, was impressive in qualifications last weekend and is still young and inexperienced enough to go for it early. Prepare for a vocal crowd reaction when he shoots into the lead.

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The mid-race leader prediction sees the introduction of a villain into the story, a real heavy Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Practice Five: Not All Bad Edition

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Fast Friday was a day at the Speedway where if it could go wrong it probably did, although there were a few silver linings. For instance, happy hour happened despite rainfall for the second year in row. And even though a Frenchman was quickest, it’s this weekend’s qualifications that count.

After some limited action the rains came, delaying Fast Friday several hours while the track was dried. Happily it wasn’t as bad as last year’s downpour, as Conor Daly reminded us. Once the cars emerged on track, the crashes came; fortunately both drivers were all right. It was that kind of a day in Speedway.

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Photo from twitter.com

Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais ran quickest at 233.1 mph, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and his hyphen here to stay second quick at 232.1 mph. The Dale Coyne and Andretti Autosport cars were followed by two more AA entries in Sato and Alonso, who occupied fourth for the third day in a row. Penske’s “What’s wrong with” Juan Montoya – the lone Chevy representative in the bunch – rounded out the top five.

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The fast frog was fastest without the tow too at 231.1 mph, until RHR edged him out with a 231.2 mph run late in the day. Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Practice Four: One Off Edition

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Indy 500 one off and Englishman with two first names Jay Howard topped the speed charts at 226.7 mph Thursday. The SPM pilot was followed by Ryan-Hunter Reay, the reappearing Marco, one off Fernando, Newkid – more on those two later – and yet another one off Sage “wild man” Karam. That’s three one offs in the top six!

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The non tow leaders included some equally surprising names like Sato, who ran 224.7 mph, and Charlie “pinball” Kimball at 224.6 mph. Rahal, Hunter-Reay, Carpenter and Dixon rounded out the top six as sanity returned further down the list. It seems Hondas had a decent day at the Brickyard.

Josef Newgarden suffered the second wall related incident of the month, getting loose and losing it in the exit of turn one while running in traffic. Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Practice Two: A Slow Day at IMS

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Team Penske’s Will Power made a showing with the top speed of 224.6 mph in Tuesday’s Indy 500 practice, while Ed Carpenter and his eponymous team were in the dough with the fastest non tow speed of 222.8 mph.

Speeds were down even from Monday, as high temps and winds made conditions less than ideal on the famed two and half mile oval. With the weather expected to worsen this week every minute of practice becomes more and more crucial, particularly for the rookies.

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Helio, Gabby “Pat” Chaves (!), RHR and Sage Karam rounded out the top five tow speeds, while Charlie “pinball” Kimball, ECR’s J.R. Hildebrand, “Sour Grapes” Power and Dixon completed the top five on the no tow speed chart. Chevy took both categories Tuesday, while Honda did on Monday.

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Happily there were no incidents involving the wall, Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Practice One: Fly on the Wall

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Early Speeds: Marco “practice warrior” Andretti was quickest in today’s first Indy 500 practice at over 226.3 mph, followed by Scott Dixon, Ed Carpenter, Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Note the two 500 winners in the group. However, the all important non-tow speeds where cars run by themselves saw Ganassi’s Tony Kanaan and Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay both going over 223.5 mph with Scott Dixon topping 222 mph.

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Fernando Flew: F-ing F1 driver Fernando Alonso flew in to Indy for practice after finishing twelfth at his home GP in Barcelona Sunday. He’d previously flown through rookie orientation May 5th in a private session. The Spaniard wasn’t exactly flying today at the track though, managing only nineteenth at just over 223 mph. Afterward he mentioned looking forward to “listen[ing]” to his teammates and that “the most difficult thing will be the race itself.” That, or all that flying.

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Harvey Wallbanger: Rookie Englishman Jack Harvey suffered the only incident of the first day, Continue reading

Indy Grand Prix Race Review: ‘You’re All Fired!’ Edition

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During a week of high profile terminations, we’ve a few to suggest for IndyCar after the Indy Grand Prix.

Will Power‘s job is secure after his first win of the year and the Cap’n’s third consecutive. He led three quarters of the entirely green race while Scott “runner up” Dixon took second and Ryan Hunter-Reay made an impressive surge from eighth to third. Graham Rahal again had the drive of the race though, improving fourteen spots to sixth.

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While the traditional Indy GP first lap, first turn pileup was averted, some carnage still occurred. Marco ass-ended TK, sending two cars off course and the past expiration date Kanaan to the pits. Perhaps fearing for their jobs, race control was strangely alert, actually penalizing Andretti for avoidable contact with a drive through penalty. It ended his race and should end his largely fruitless decade plus stint in the series.

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Speaking of firings, the ABC crew of Goodyear, Cheever and the other guy acted exactly like they’d just been shown the door. At one point, Eddie was briefly on fire. After offering Goodyear an opportunity to clean his Borg-Warner replica, Cheever predicted “Ryan Hunter-Reay will get to the front.” He proved prescient.

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While there wasn’t a battle at the front all afternoon, there was some passing on track Continue reading

Phoenix Race Review: Single Handed

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J.R. Hildebrand gave fans someone to root for other than those paradoxical Penskes in a flawed though mildly entertaining show in the desert.

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Photo from edcarpenterracing.com

Simon Pagenaud and the Penskes prevailed going away as the first oval and night race of the year looked like 2016 in microcosm. Thankfully there were other stories, or rather a single other story, on NBCSN. If we heard about it once, we heard it a thousand times. Hildebrand‘s comeback race from a broken hand at Long Beach – requiring “a plate and eight screws” as Paul Tracy read from a card – saw him finish an impressive third. It was Ed Carpenter Racing‘s best result in some time and a remarkable feat by the team’s shorthanded newcomer.

We couldn’t help but think of the sound of one hand clapping during the race, as the crowd looked sparse on television and the Saturday night time slot is challenging for ratings to begin with. After seeing the start though, maybe that’s not all bad.

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The race began embarrassingly with a first lap caution as Mikhail Aleshin lost it and spun in turn two collecting Marco, Rahal, Chilton and Bourdais – Hondas all. Continue reading