Phoenix Preview: Casablanka Edition


There’s so much construction taking place at dusty ISM Raceway at present, the facility’s practically a blank slate. Fitting, as so too is the young IndyCar season. No one quite knows how it’ll all end. Exciting possibilities – and temporary setbacks – exist for all involved in the upcoming Phoenix Grand Prix.

Pondering that great roulette wheel in the desert formerly known as PIR, we couldn’t help but think of the Bogey-Bergman gin joint classic Casablanca and that even the director didn’t know the ending. Like magnificent open wheel oval racing, the thoroughly entertaining movie from 1942 winds up to a thrilling crescendo. Similar to the beloved film, IndyCar on oval tracks is unsurpassed in its splendor. Plus, there’s such an intriguing international cast; and get a load of the gams on those new Dallaras! Here’s looking at you, Phoenix.


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IndyCar tested at the soon to be reconfigured ISM (Ingenuity Sun Media, in case you’re wondering) Raceway in February. Takuma Sato led an all Rahal Lanigan Letterman revue. The prospects of Sato on pole alone are enough to conjure the stuff parts bills nightmares are made of. Judging by St. PeteContinue reading


St. Pete Race Review: Crass Commercial Edition


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Riveting racing in IndyCar’s return to action Sunday was largely overshadowed by shabby coverage from the Always Being Crass network in hopefully its last year broadcasting the series. Sebastien Bourdais survived the near constant carnage to repeat at St. Pete in a race featuring a whopping 366 on track passes. Fans maybe got to see ten percent of them. Given the sheer frequency of commercial interruptions, one would have thought the local newscaster the victor.

An asinine infomercial ran until ten minutes before the green flag. With so much new this year – gorgeous cars, rookie drivers and fledgling teams – the hyper abbreviated “pre-race” was in reality a slap in fans’ faces. Considering it’s Bestwicke, Goodyear and Cheever in the booth however, perhaps it wasn’t such a great loss.

Firestone Grand Prix - March 30, 2014

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Will “Sour Grapes” Power’s first lap spin surprised even those of us predicting early trouble, and boy did it materialize. Even Scott Dixon suffered a rare brain fade worthy of a rookie – or worse, Marco – smacking Sato and instigating one of eight caution flags, five of which came in the early going. Old ‘n in the way TK and rookie Zach Veach made contact before Ragin’ Graham Rahal banged into Spencer Pigot, bringing out yet another yellow.

Away for another ubiquitous break, ABC missed multiple restarts as pole sitting newby Robert Wickens enjoyed a comfortable lead throughout most of the race. In a bit of foreshadowing, Bourdais briefly inherited the lead after the first round of pit stops. Continue reading

St. Pete Preview: My God – It’s Full Of Rookies!


The cold, dark and vast vacuum of IndyCar’s off season is finally about to be penetrated – ironically, not on Florida’s space coast, but rather in the western city of St. Petersburg. Spinning, revolutions and centrifugal forces will be on full display during this important inaugural mission of 2018.


No, you’re not tripping. The Firestone Grand Prix will see the most colossal class of rookies since the dawn of man. Aping the veterans, they’ll be strapping into brand new rocket ships for the first time next weekend. An asteroid sized chunk of the field has never raced an IndyCar in anger, much less in the unforgiving confines of St. Pete. These FNGs’ race odyssey begins in earnest with the blastoff of a new age in IndyCar.

Most of this generation were in diapers in 2001, as were their parents in 1968 when Kubrick’s mind blowing film 2001: A Space Odyssey debuted in theaters. Considering their boundless inexperience, let’s just hope come Sunday they don’t forget their friggin’ helmets.


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In the hostile space that is the streets of St. Pete – where the zero gravity toilet is in fact one’s driver suit – Continue reading

Handicapping The Rookies: Greenhorns Galore, Part 1


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Previewing the 2018 IndyCar season from the perspective of those nine new drivers with a combined total experience of the average couch sitting race fan. Alarmingly, rookies will make up a full third of the IndyCar field this season.

Featured first are a pair of teams – one new, one not – opting for rookie teammates of all things. Talk about letting the children lead!

Rene Binder is the first Austrian IndyCar driver since Joseph Jagersberger in 1911, who started the inaugural Indianapolis 500, then called the International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race. Binder’s Juncos Racing team is also brand spanking new, moving up to the big league from Indy Lights, where they won the championship last year. The 26 year old will share the partial season ride with his rookie teammate and Lights champ, Kyle Kaiser. Why Binder, you ask? Because he brings sponsorship with him in the form of Binderholz.


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Though his surname may make one think of Austria, Kaiser’s the American part of Juncos Racing and has enjoyed some success. Like Binder he’ll have a part time schedule sharing the ride for half the team’s eight race schedule, including both oval tracks. The soon to be 22 year old has no sponsorship as of yet, Continue reading

Silly Season ’17: A Succinct Synopsis


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.


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.


Not one to be outdone when it comes to downsizing, the Chipster Continue reading

IndyCar Watkins Glen Race Review: ‘A Really Timely Caution’ or: T-Bell’s Faux Pas Edition


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Alexander Rossi owes a highly dubious second career win to his teammate and fellow Indy 500 winner Takuma “timing is everything” Sato, who committed the racing equivalent of hari kari at the Glen – twice. In NBCSN’s booth, apparently Townsend Bell was under the influence of enough meds to nearly forget his name, which makes us wonder about his urine test for the next race.

For Daffy Leigh Diffey‘s triumphant return to IndyCar there was the ridiculous wet start that wasn’t. That is to say, it wasn’t wet and it wasn’t much of a start. Thank goodness Tony Kanaan made it through the parade laps this time, though he would eventually find pit lane too difficult to navigate, hitting the wall at pit lane exit – right after the championship leader did the exact same thing.


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The start saw Josef Newgarden surging, Scott Dixon dropping and Helio going way wide with no track restrictions in place. After the first lap pit stops for slicks a reshuffle had Helio around Rossi for the lead and Ryan Hunter-Reay up to fourth. Spencer Pigot spun completely around on lap 4 but managed to keep it going and even lead some laps before finishing 12th.

On lap 5 Dixon got around RHR prior to the first of three cautions, as Hinchcliff’s gear box issue and a puff of smoke from his Honda ended his day. The race returned to green on lap nine and as usual Helio jumped the restart ahead of Rossi, Newgarden and Dixie. Dixon soon passed Newkid again and appeared to be on the way to another win at the Glen. However, it wasn’t to be and Helio opened up a sizable lead.


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Then the Townsend Bell blooper reel portion of the broadcast began. Continue reading

IndyCar Bommarito 500 Race Review: Hood Vibrations


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Josef Newgarden won his fourth race of the year Saturday night, making it three of the last four for the blonde American who somehow reminds us of a beach boy. He bested Scott Dixon by seven tenths of a second and was joined by peeved teammate Simon Pagenaud on the podium. Newkid’s late race pass around Pags for the lead was classic.

The race began comically, with the increasingly dangerous Tony Kanaan spinning and crashing on the final parade lap. It was a weird vibe to start a race. After some repairs, he eventually finished many laps down in sixteenth, then refused to do an interview. That’s some fan favorite, huh?


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After the Kanaan debacle was cleaned up, the field had just taken the green flag when pole sitter Will Power spun and crashed into the turn 2 wall. Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato were caught up in the melee, with Ed spectacularly going up and over Power’s car, their races ruined.

Sato posted that he was “hit from behind” in a subsequent Tweet. Ed mentioned the slick track and Lights rubber being a factor, and looked forward to next season. “This year just did not go well,” the owner/driver admitted. His employee J.R. Hildebrand later joined him in the pits after crashing out due to an apparent suspension failure. Power said “it was super slippery,” and that his teammate “Josef took my air” when passing. It’s “unfortunate,” the first to retire summed up, hinting at early dissension in the Penske ranks.


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Following the second brain fade in as many laps, Newgarden took command and pulled away from the field until the second round of pit stops. Continue reading

IndyCar Bommarito 500 Predictions and Prognostications: Nostalgic Edition


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What’s old is new again this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park as times gone by suddenly take on renewed relevance.

It’s been so long since IndyCar raced at Gateway more announcers have won there than drivers. The truly colorful Paul Tracy won the inaugural race in 1997 and talkative Townsend Bell took the checkers in the Indy Lights race in 2000. It’s just too bad Brian Till didn’t race – for more reasons than one. Helio Castro-Neves, who won the last race held there in 2003, is the only current driver to have done so. He did it in a Toyota.


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Juan Montoya won the race in 2000, but he’s only a test pilot at present. It’s interesting to note several current drivers were in diapers for PT’s win. Only two others apart from Helio have ever raced there: Scott Dixon and Tony “past expiration date” Kanaan. Interestingly, Dixie struggled in his only start there finishing 15th, while TK managed a second place showing in four starts.

Our special prediction is there’ll be lots of Sebastien Bourdais coverage as the Frenchman returns to the car for the first time since his injurious accident at Indy. His rapid recovery and return to racing is remarkable, but Continue reading

Toronto IndyCar Preview: Dallara’s Dollar Devising Dream Date


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IndyCar heads north to the Canuck concrete car crusher for arguably Dallara Automobili’s most consistently lucrative stop on the schedule. That – among other things – makes Toronto one of the series’ absolute worst tracks for viewing fans.

Following last year’s embarrassment of a race on the crumbling streets of Exhibition Place, IRR advocated an end to such nonsense north of the border until those LaBatt loving second raters constructed a decent track. Sadly and obviously, our schedule recommendations haven’t been implemented as of yet. So we’ll see IndyCar return for a thirty third time to a city that really doesn’t deserve it, judging by the overall lack of quality of late.


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Toronto averages about four cautions per race in recent years, although counting red flags it ballooned to seven in 2014. That’s rather high for a road race, though it’s no wonder when the crappy Canadian course disintegrates during competition. From what Hoosier Conor Daly called a “crazy” curved pit lane to Canuck curbs coming apart mid race, as usual IndyCar can and must do better.

When Toronto hasn’t ended under caution – as it has a third of the time lately – the average margin of victory is over two seconds. IndyCar’s Canadian token isn’t exactly the track of dreams, is it? That is, unless you’re the series’ exclusive chassis supplier. Cha-ching!


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Now for the series’ other Canadian token, James Hinchcliffe, a confessed Justin Bieber fan by the way. 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