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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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

Road America IndyCar Preview: This Replaced Milwaukee Why?!

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No kidding – not yet, at least – 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal recently called Road America “THE best circuit in North America” and among the “top ten in the world.” Well, Mr. Mustache, pardon the hell out of us if we beg to differ.

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Last year’s Wisconsin visit typified REM inducing road racing. This despite others’ – and admittedly even our own – efforts at optimism leading up to the event. The series hadn’t raced there in a decade and every track deserves a shot, it’s thought. Except NOLA. And Baltimore. And Boston. And Brasilia. And . . . but we digress. The series’ big return was an absolute laugher, with Sour Grapes Power running away from the field. Stop us – and road racing – if you’ve seen this before.

One problem was – and there were many – only one caution flag. As previously exposed on this site, IndyCar road racing needs a shot in the arm, nay – a salvation – before it bores fans to a tedious, road weary death. Squirrely tracks – especially a super long, scary circuit like RA – need LOTS of flags to make it even remotely interesting. Oh, and rain tires. And penalties. And grid girls.

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At least it’s a road course Scott Dixon didn’t run away with, like Mid-Ohio or Sonoma. Continue reading

Texas IndyCar Race Review: Attrition Edition

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The racing was breathtaking Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway – as usual – when they weren’t screwing it up. Cautions breed cautions the saying goes, but apparently the same isn’t true for red flags. Instead, the thrilling race petered out under yellow with Will Power anticlimactically taking his second win at Texas.

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There were accidents galore, with a dozen cars retiring due to contact. By contrast, the race saw only one mechanical when pole sitter Charlie Kimball’s Honda expired. Nine cautions flew for 66 laps including the red flag stoppage. There were no fewer than seven crashes including James Hinchcliffe’s pit lane fiasco as well as six on track incidents. The race had it all. Ed Carpenter even did a 360 on a lap 102 restart, spinning on the front straight before amazingly saving his car and avoiding everyone else.

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Alexander Rossi was first out, the victim of a Ganassi sandwich as he got bounced like a basketball between the blue cars and into the wall. It wouldn’t be the last time Tony Kanaan was involved in an on track fracas. Continue reading

Texas IndyCar Preview: World Edition

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Texas Motor Speedway’s 20th anniversary promises to be memorable when IndyCar arrives at the fast, recently reconfigured mile and a half oval this weekend. Expect the racing to be worlds apart from what we saw in Detroit.

The series has held twenty eight races and counting since TMS opened, with almost all of them being extremely entertaining wheel to wheel wonderment. The repave and reconfiguration of the banking in turns 1 and 2 lessened it from 24 to 20 degrees and widened the track from 60 to 80 feet. Four time Texas winner Helio called it “completely new” and Pags called it “a different layout” after testing there in April. Honda teams were limited in their testing, with several not participating due to mileage concerns. We certainly hope all these changes didn’t screw up the track or the racing. That’d be earth shattering.

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Ragin’ Graham Rahal won a riveting race – weather disruptions aside – in the closest IndyCar finish at the track last year. That’s saying something.  Continue reading

Detroit Grand Prix Race Review No. 1: Squirrely Edition

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Fittingly for Detroit the rodents ruled while the racing bit in another atrocious street “race” on Belle Isle. A track already known for enormous rats roaming the island saw a squirrel artfully dodging cars in one of the few highlights of a tedious afternoon of racing.

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Courtney’s dragster blew up Friday and her husband Graham Rahal, not to be upstaged, went out and won his fifth career IndyCar race the next day. Following last week’s horrifying crash, Scott Dixon held on to second for Ganassi and SPM’s James Hinchcliffe recovered from a first lap brush with the wall – which brought out the first caution – to a best ever third place result at Detroit.

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In an easy to root for effort for our veterans, Rahal raised nearly four thousand dollars in the Turns for Troops car. He Tweeted that he was “proud,” at the same time “thankful,” and again “proud.” 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 Preview: Second Thoughts Edition

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As race day approaches a number of issues become secondary, while others rise to primary importance.

The two days of qualifying were, as f-ing F1’s Alonso says, intense. Sebastien Bourdais was putting up the month’s fastest laps on Saturday when he crashed horribly in turn 2, ending his day and season with a broken pelvis and hip. Post surgery, Dale Coyne‘s pilot Tweeted thanks for the support and that he’ll “be back at some point.” Meantime, James Davison will drive the 18 car in the 500 and start last.

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Sunday’s round was less eventful as everyone managed to avoid Bourdais’ fate, if not the turn 2 wall entirely. Pushing their cars to the limit, several drivers slapped the safer barrier on the backstretch, including Takuma Sato and Charlie Kimball.

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It was Scott Dixon‘s day, as his four lap average of 232.1 mph was the fastest qualifying speed since 1996 – when Arie Luyendyk set the record – and good enough for pole. 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 Three: Scaredy Penske Edition

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Windy conditions kept the Cap’n’s crew – quickest the previous practice, at least in the tow – largely off of Indy’s oval Wednesday. Only Newkid made an appearance, for eleven whole laps. Luckily other teams weren’t deterred by some mere gusts – not entirely.

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Early on Ed Carpenter Racing held the top two spots no matter the tow, with Ed and J.R. 1-2 in their respective Chevys, tops in both categories. Recall that Ed led the way with the highest non-tow speed Tuesday, with J.R. not far behind. By the end of the session, the series’ only owner/driver again owned the quickest lap at over 222.8 mph.

Dixon was second quick for Ganassi, his Honda doing nearly 222.6 mph, while J.R. was third. Fernando Alonso  turned in the fourth best speed – more on him later – and our man Conor Daly completed the top five, Tweeting he was “really happy with the changes overnight.” Way to go, Conor!

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A few questions occurred to us after three days of practice for the greatest spectacle in racing. 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