IndyCar Grand Prix Race Review: Empty Seats Edition

Photo from twitter.com

Empty suited Frenchman Simon Pagenaud passed Scott Dixon with two laps to go to win the rain soaked IndyCar Grand Prix, coming from eighth starting position to take his third victory – and Team Penske’s sixth – out of six so-called races ’round the infield of IMS. It was a race held before a nearly empty – though admittedly cavernous – racetrack. Dixon’s discernible disappointment at finishing second after leading much of the race was plainly palpable.

The crowd of hangers-on flooding pit road during the pre-race was nearly as large as those poor, drenched paying customers in the sparsely populated stands. Chairman George gave the command to fire engines and the cars were quickly underway. The green flag gave way to the usual first lap problems with Alex Rossi getting rudely run into by Pato O’Ward, sending the 500 winner into the wall, his right rear suspension grievously wounded, ruining his day. The Coyne-ster was penalized for avoidable contact, though came back for a strong – if unjust – showing until the end. Rossi’s teammate Zach Veach got hit by Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan, knocking the youthful, son of Dracula looking American out of the way and into the curb. The aged TK of course faced no such sanction.

Meanhile up front, Jack Harvey went to second around Dixon as rookie Felix Rosenqvist quickly lept out to a comfortable, albeit short-lived, lead. Continue reading

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Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Race Review: Ridin’ Bitch Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

Alexander Rossi forced the rest of the field to ride bitch Sunday at Long Beach, winning his second consecutive grand prix by over ten seconds from pole. It was one of those sleep inducing street course races that we’re constantly railing against, one that would’ve been totally forgettable but for a bit of late race controversy over the low step on the podium between Scott “Forrest” Dixon and Ragin’ Graham Rahal. But in the end, even that was less than dramatic.

Rossi featured mightily on the pre-race show but hell, if you’d have read our predictions you could have saved yourself some time and already known all that. Sorry to Alex – and almost everyone else – but the GP is NOT a close second to the Indy 500. It’s only about a third as old, much less prestigious and it’s a frickin’ street course, to boot. A couple of positives from the pre-race pageantry were F-18s doing a flyover and the hottie Mickey Guyton singing the national anthem. Candidly, we were surprised the kooky Californios let her sing it at all. Additionally, there was a second consecutive audio connection with the two seater passenger – some gal from The Bachelor who, not surprisingly, could hardly contain her enthusiasm.

At Long Beach there are a whopping two passing zones, according to Townsend Bell and – whoopie! – it showed. The start saw Dixon immediately dart behind Rossi, with the only change being Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) bumping and then getting around Frenchman Simon Pagenaud for fifth. Continue reading

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Predictions and Prognostications: Acura-cy Edition

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In an era where veracity is increasingly viewed by many as valueless, we at IRR strenuously strive for it above all else. Problem is, predictions don’t always work out so perfectly.

It’s no secret that our previous prognostications for Barber weren’t exactly spot on. More correctly, they reeked. But when we make mistakes we admit them, acknowledge the error and move on. Wouldn’t it be a much better world if everyone – including race control – did the same? That leads us to our special prediction for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, which entails often controversial caution flags.

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The recent history of the Grand Prix shows yellows playing a determining factor in both the racing and the outcome. Last year’s race was a prime example. When there are several cautions the racing’s superior. But when there aren’t any, the racing tends to suck. After that sleeping pill of a race at Barber, the series is due for both some concentrated canary flagging and an engaging contest, so expect some carnage and concomitant cautions come Sunday.

Pole prediction’s also a precisely crafted one. Continue reading

Barber Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Race Review: Inverted Edition

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Pole sitter(!) Takuma Sato’s lead was seldom in doubt – except when he ran completely off course and nearly flipped in characteristic fashion with five to go – as the 500 winner cruised to only his fourth career IndyCar victory in a truly inverted race in Alabama. The previous run-on sentence is not a joke. He credited his Rahal Lanigan Letterman team for a “fantastic effort,” despite an incredibly slow first pit stop due to a lethargic left rear tire changer. Equally incredibly, Scott Dixon claimed his sixth 2nd place finish at Barber – out of ten races – as Honda swept its own podium with Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais coming home in third.

An inadvertently inverted starting grid with the Penskes oddly bringing up the rear led to a decidedly upside down result. One of the few highlights of the weekend occured when a street sweeper rolled over onto its side while at speed in between practices, nearly inverting itself. The accident was a good thing, as NBCSN’s abbreviated pre-race show had little to offer, although they did manage a real rarity in connecting on air with the two seater passenger. Oh, and Continue reading

IndyCar Classic Race Review: All Hail Emperor Herta!

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The record books were rewritten Sunday in Texas, as the youngest driver in IndyCar history – 18 year old American legacy pilot Colton “Joaquin” Herta – incredibly won only the third start of his career. It was a popular finish throughout the paddock, as Bryan Herta’s son and Brian Barnhart’s team, Harding Steinbrenner Racing (partnered with Andretti) took their first ever series victory.

Swedish love dished out during pre-race proved badly misplaced, as Felix Rosenqvist was crashed out by James Hinchcliffe in the only full course caution of the day – after earlier spinning on his own. Fellow Scandinavian Marcus Ericsson earned a late penalty in the pits for contacting another car, dropping him to the rear of the field and sealing a fifteenth place finish. The start was clean except for Zach “son of Dracula” Veach, who made contact with Graham Rahal and ran off course, falling to last place as he was forced through and around COTA’s gravel traps.

Scott Dixon made it three wide through turn one, which is allowed under the no limits policy, followed wide right by Rahal who was then contacted by Veach. Herta split Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) to move up a position to third for a taste of things to come. Meanwhile Ganassi’s Rosenqvist dropped back two positions to eighth. Alexander Rossi challenged Will Power for the lead briefly but remained in second with Herta, Hunter-Reay and Dixon making up the top five.

Single file racing rapidly set in, with Power comfortably out front. Continue reading

St. Pete Race Review: New Season? Newgarden

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Photo from indycar.com

In a predictably prominent Penske affair, Josef Newgarden cruised to his eleventh career win at St. Pete over Scott Dixon. “It just worked out perfectly,” the positive pilot postulated post race.

During the pre race show, Paul Tracy exclaimed “there are Swedes everywhere!” Sounds like an ideal beach party to us. Also included was a nice update and interview with Robert Wickens, who vowed to come back from his devastating, paralizing injury last season at Pocono.

A controversial qualifying session, which saw Dixon initially miss the top twelve before not only making the fast six but starting fourth, had Will “Sour Grapes” Power on pole, again predictably. In fact, an all Penske front row rounded out by Newgarden was trailed by an all Ganassi second row – with the Swedish rookie Rosenqvist actually outpacing defending champ Dixie – and an all Andretti third row of 500 winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi. In other qualifying news, only Marco can manage to run out of fuel without turning a single lap.

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The start saw a slight delay thanks to the cumbersome two seater and – as usual – failed radio communication with same. Why they insist upon trying to talk to the backseat rider time after time in vain is simply beyond us. Continue reading

St. Pete Predictions and Prognostications: Live PD Edition

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A recent high profile IndyCar related arrest put IRR in an increasingly incarcerating mood for Sunday’s season opener. As Davey Hamilton, Jr. might say, “stop resisting!”

The Firestone Grand Prix takes place just south of Pasco County, Florida, equally famous for both its recurring spots on Live PD and its 3rd grade educated, meth addled criminal class. In honor of this and the adorable K-9 officer Shep – along with his equally adorable handler (at least according to this author’s girlfriend) – we’ll get to our picks quicker than Dan Abrams can come up with a poorly worded police related pun.

Our special prediction for 2019’s inaugural event is that it’ll be about as engaging as a Nye County welfare check thirty minutes out. Afterward you’ll wish the entire series hierarchy were thrown behind bars or, better yet, put under the jail for so persistently insisting upon such shoddy street circuits. Particularly when there’s a perfectly serviceable yet thoroughly unused oval track down in Homestead. Swedish imports NOT in a vodka bottle or bikini? Check. Starting the year off with yet another buzz killing street course?? Check. Allowing Marco, Max “Paris” Chilton and TK all to take the green??? Check. It’s profoundly criminal, and more than enough to make us wanna fire up Florida’s famed ol’ sparky.

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Prognostication for pole sitter invokes our personal favorite Live PD peace officer, Richland County’s Lieutenant “Downtown” Danny Brown. Why, you ask? Because in IndyCar nowadays, pole’s as easy to sniff out as a blazin’ blunt from the car full of extremely confident fellows directly upwind from you. Continue reading

Sonoma Season Finale Predictions & Prognostications: A Frenchman, A Kiwi & A Mexican Walk Into A Wine Bar . . .

bar scene sonoma IRR

With season’s end in sight, so too are the soon to be crowned champ, race winner, first to exit and – thanks to IRR’s amazing powers of prognostication – various other hilarity inducing outcomes.

The special prediction not only for the season finale but also for the last IndyCar race at Sonoma – at least for a while, considering this series’ schizophrenic schedule one never says never – is that the place won’t be missed. At all. Rather, the so-called racing there‘ll be about as sorely missed as a severe wine hangover.

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Our pick for pole is Will “not so super” Power, again. It’ll be his fifth of the season and fifty fifth pole of his career. He trails only Mario Andretti’s mark of 67 poles on the all-time list and could well break it in the future – especially if his competition continues their joke like qualifying efforts. Power topping Mario, A.J., or any of the other greats in IndyCar annals strikes us as being in incredibly bad taste.

First out of the finale will be one of Harding Racing’s multiple rookie entries. Our pick is Indy Lights champ Patricio O’Ward in what will be his first career start for the upstart outfit. The 19 year old Mexican impressed in the junior series, winning over half the races and poles he contested and finishing every one. With struggling Harding however, expect that run to come to a halt Sunday – quicker than a south of the border street burrito races through whomever’s dense enough to eat it.

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Photo from fabwags.com

Biggest surprise to IndyCar fans Continue reading

Portland Race Review: Cluster Edition

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing had quite the day at the Portland Grand Prix, with one driver in victory lane and the other ripping the racing, the stewards and the series. Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato scored another victory, while his teammate Ragin’ Graham Rahal was along with several others caught up in another frightening first lap pileup that for once was no fault of his own. However, his scathing criticisms of blatant incompetence in race control had us grinning from ear to ear.

After qualifications but prior to the race, two Andretti Autosport teammates who factored largely in the outcome poignantly diverged in their assessment of the place. And after eleven years away, why not? Ryan Hunter-Reay praised the braking zones as portending engaging racing, while his teammate Alexander Rossi said flatly, “we all know it’s hard to pass here.” In the long run, Rossi was the more correct – though less lucky – on the day.

Photo from indycar.com

Once the green flag flew, Rossi sped around Josef Newgarden for second, with RHR gaining too, until trouble struck. In the back Simon Pagenaud initially encountered problems going off track, followed by fellow Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais. Then the latest frightening first lap crash occurred due to contact between rookie phenom Zach Veach and James Hinchcliffe in turn 3. Hinch spun, causing a trailing Marco Andretti to spin and roll backwards over Hinch’s car, flipping upside down in the process. After Pocono, it was the last thing anyone wanted to see, although Portland’s configuration – specifically the chicane – invites it. Remarkably, and once he was turned right side up, Marco jumped out of the car unscathed, though covered in dirt. He spoke of being “really lucky,” and of his head being “on the ground,” thanks to Rahal hitting him from behind.

Ganassi’s potentially soon to be ex Ed Jones was victimized in the incident and out of the race, his helmet scarred from the crash. Hinch’s car was repaired and he was able to get back out, though many laps down. Another victim of course was the aforementioned Rahal, who made his feelings on the accident crystal clear. “It was a cluster. . . . Oh yeah, Veach – I mean come on now, give him some room. There’s no room there at all … So it’s just wrong, and then the officials take no action, which is typical of our officiating crew. It’s disappointing.”

Driver Marco Andretti was involved in a four-car crash Sunday at the start of the Portland Grand Prix at Portland International Raceway.

Image from oregonlive.com

Included in the carnage was championship leader Scott Dixon, who Continue reading

Portland Preview: It’s Been A Long, Long, Long Time

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As IndyCar’s Magical Mystery Tour heads northwest for the first time in over a decade, IRR’s got your Ticket to Ride.

The legendary George Harrison couldn’t have been writing about Portland International Raceway in his 1968 song “Long, Long, Long,” as the facility didn’t yet exist. Besides, he and the boys were halfway ’round the globe in India with the Maharishi at the time. Nevertheless, it truly has been a Long, Long, Long time since big league racing turned a Revolution in the locale of . . . Oregon. Eleven long years, to be exact. One could say we’re Back in the P-I-R, though the northwest never fails to make us think of Rain.

Photo from portlandraceway.com

The Long and Winding Road in Portland – two miles long, in fact – contains twelve turns and sits near the banks of the Columbia River. Contrary to some reports, Continue reading