Toronto Race Review: Penske’s Pulled A Fast One

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Photo from twitter.com

The Penske’s pulled a fast one on the paying public Sunday.

With leader Frenchman Simon Pagenaud running low on fuel and fellow Penske pilot Josef Newgarden – the championship points leader – nursing home a damaged car in fourth after hitting the same stretch of wall for a second consecutive year, an uninteresting sleeping pill of a race looked like it might finally become eventful on the last lap. When suddenly third Penske teammate Will Power uncharacteristically – and all by himself – ran straight into a tire barrier, ending the race under caution and guaranteeing both a win for Pags and a continued grip on the points lead for Newkid. Coincidence? We think not. We believe the Penske’s pulled a fast one.

What sometimes saves the racing in Toronto – and in deed, its only redeeming quality – are multiple caution flags. Sunday’s affair had two and therefore technically qualified, but they were too few and far between to liven up the show. NBCSN’s pre-race coverage included the gobsmackingly dreadful condition of the supposed track in Toronto and, on a happier note, Robert Wickens’ return to IndyCar driving the specially configured pace car in his home country less than a year after his tragic accident at Pocono. During his pacing duties, which necessarily carried them close to the walls, his fiancee rode anxiously along screetching at one point, “Don’t be stupid!”

The green flag flew and fans were at least treated to a clean first turn as pole sitter Simon Pagenaud led Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi. But problems quickly began with hometown boy James Hinchcliffe bumping into Marco and getting by him. Continue reading

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Toronto Preview: Canadian Goose Chase

Canadian Goose Chase IRR

It almost certainly won’t be a Canuck goosing the gas toward victory lane come Sunday, so who might it be? Let’s take a gander.

Of five street course races so far this year – as opposed to equally unwatchable, though slightly different natural terrain road courses – Josef Newgarden’s won two while Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud have a win apiece. The cobbled together, part concrete, part asphalt and all bad track in Toronto most closely resembles dilapidated Detroit, which would seem to favor both Dixie and Newkid. Occasionally some exciting racing breaks out north of the border though, or what passes for it on a street course, which also sometimes happens in St. Pete where Josef won to kick off the fledgling season.

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Photo from toronotograndprixtourist.com

Like Belle Isle, the race track itself is too narrow, winding and rough for much side by side racing, let alone passing. We unaffectionately refer to it as the Canuck concrete car crusher. Continue reading

Texas Race Review: Brain Fade Edition

Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi on track Texas

Photo from indycar.com

On a night chock full of miscues and head scratchers, the driver and team who made the least mistakes in Texas won.

Widely known for brain fades, Takuma Sato sat on pole alongside Scott Dixon as they led the field to the green flag with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Frenchmen Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud making up the top five. Josef Newgarden battled with Spencer Pigot for eighth, the two black cars menacingly swapping positions. In other nearly identical looking cars, rookie Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi began a battle that’d last nearly all night. Still another Andretti Autosporter, Zach Veach, charged forward, going high around Graham Rahal for eleventh. Son of Dracula ran decently, but a late race screw up sent his car into the wall and spinning, relegating him to a twentieth place showing.

Pitting from a comfortable lead, Taku’s brain fade fully engulfed the proceedings. He slid hot into his pit box, recklessly slamming into a crewman and sending him flying through the air. Continue reading

Detroit 2 Race Review: Rear Ended Edition

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If an IndyCar driver wasn’t involved in a rear end collision Sunday at Detroit, he probably won.

NBC’s rather amateurish broadcast was delayed this time by tennis from France, which after the Indy 500 was appropriate enough. While the weather proved much better than Saturday, the perfunctory Pagenaud platitudes didn’t. Qualifying was also missed due to a water delay – not from rain, but from a tire barrier – even though the recording was set for an extra half hour in case of such eventualities. Nevertheless we did get to hear “O’Canada” sung out loud as well as STP’s new front man do the US national anthem, which was superlative. Scott Dixon said he felt “very, very, very lucky” to be recognized by the Queen with an Order of Merit listing for his racing skills. Certainly no rear ending there.

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Josef Newgarden and Alex Rossi made up the first row, and Colton “Joaquin” Herta and Zach “Son of Dracula” Veach the second with Conor Daly driving . . . the two seater. Continue reading

Detroit GP Predictions and Prognostications: Mixed Bag Edition

MixedBagIRR

Resembling a hot rod hodgepodge the last half decade, racing on the roads of Belle Isle varies widely when it comes to viewing quality. Fortunately though, something of interest almost always occurs during the medley that is IndyCar’s only annual doubleheader. So you’re getting two times the racing – and predictions! – for the price of one.

Our special prediction for the Detroit Grand Prix is that it’ll be a mixed bag, a melange if you will, with an entertaining race (for a street course) one day and an absolute laugher the next. This race has seen squirrels and other rodents feature prominently, the pace car crash and the track surface literally crumble and fall apart – and that’s only lately. Oh, and let’s not forget that the home team Penske stumbles and falls in Detroit fairly regularly. This last one’s enough in the mixture to keep us coming back for more.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

Pole sitters for this weekend’s extravaganza of speed will be an interesting combination. Continue reading

Detroit GP Preview: French Fried Edition

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Photo from mysanantonio.com

With one Frenchman winning the 500 and another notorious for chewing up and spitting out the competition on the streets of Belle Isle, prepare yourselves for what may well feel like a weekend long foodie’s junket to France. Only with better options on television and the web.

Detroit was originally a French town. Judging by the area’s blight, it’s also a prime candidate to give back to them. Or Quebec. The track itself has been improved in recent years, but Belle Isle’s still a definite dump. Adding insult to injury for fans, an outstanding large oval track lies just to the southwest of Detroit called Michigan International Speedway. Tragically, it’s going unused again this season – at least by IndyCar.

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Photo from michigan.org

Fear not, for it’s not all overpriced wine, hairy pits and stinky cheese. Continue reading

Indy 500 Race Review: The Pagenaud Show

Photo from indycar.com

Simon Pagenaud became the first Frenchman in ninety nine years to win the Indy 500 on Sunday, retaking the lead from Andretti Autosport’s former 500 winner Alex Rossi with two laps to go. In his 50 years at IMS, Roger Penske now owns eighteen 500 victories, winning 36% of all he’s entered.

Mike Tirico actually mentioned the word patriotism during the pre-race show, which was nice to hear on Memorial Day weekend, though frankly we could have done without Dale, Jr.’s dim-witted drawling. Same goes for Danica – and Lance Armstrong, for goodness’ sake. At times during the broadcast it seemed almost like the NASCAR Indy 500.

Photo from indycar.com

The crowd was decent making for fairly full stands, but with noticable tarpaulins and swaths of empty seats the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 was definitely not a sellout. Happily the weather held and the over two hundred thousand fans in attendance enjoyed an action packed race.

Rookie phenom and race winner Colton “Joaquin” Herta was first out of the contest, Continue reading

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

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

Alexander Rossi on track Long Beacj

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

AccuracyIRR

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