102nd Indy 500 Practice Day 3: JR Wallbanger Edition

Photo from fox59.com

One driver was up to his old tricks again today at the Speedway, while another showed an aggressive streak. Neither of them were anywhere near the top of the speed charts.

Ragin’ Graham Rahal turned in the day’s fastest lap of 226 mph, which is a tick slower than Marco’s lap yesterday. He was followed by Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan, Marco “practice warrior” Andretti, Ed Carpenter and Sage Karam in the top five tow speeds. This order was established early in the running and never did change, a first for happy hour this week.

Will “sour grapes” Power owned the quickest non-tow speed of 223.9, followed by Sebastien Bourdais and Charlie “pinball” Kimball. Generally things were less hectic on track with some 2700 laps turned compared to 3300 Wednesday, but there was some close racing nonetheless – at more than one point, a little too close.

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Photo from Kevin Murphy on Twitter

The start of happy hour included some increased action with five or six cars running together, until the last twenty minutes when things heated up as more cars joined the fray. Helio Continue reading

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IndyCar Grand Prix Race Review: Bush League Stuff

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When winner Will Power’s accent degenerates to the point where it’s more affectation than Aussie, you know you’ve landed in IndyCar’s outback. The predictable and unpalatable Penske win from pole was the Cap’n’s 200th in the sport. It was also, to quote Quintana, “bush league stuff.”

During ABC’s unremarkable, out-the-door-and-it-shows pre-race show, Scott Goodyear pontificated that he wasn’t sure his fellow Canuck Robert Wickens “is a rookie.” Well Mr. also-ran, we’re positive that he is. Next, Power predicted a good race with “lots of passing,” all merely proving that he’s a better driver than prognosticator.

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The GP’s Great Leader Tony George gave the command to start engines while in the booth they droned on about the perils of turn 1. Upon taking the green they went at least four wide in what’s hopefully a harbinger of things to come in the 500, going hard into the sharp right hander that is the GP’s first turn. By turn 2 there was the predictable trouble on track.

Upon first glance and according to the booth, ECR’s rookie Jordan King hit Pags, sending both off course and into the gravel pit. After starting seventh, Pags was able to keep it going and bring it home to a respectable eighth place showing. On the same opening lap, Pigot also ran off course after hitting a curb and wildly flying through the air, hitting an unfortunate Sato after landing and bouncing. Poor Spencer was penalized for the avoidable contact, but soldiered on to finish 15th. Meanwhile, his teammate King got stuck in the gravel trap, bringing out the first caution of the day.

Cutting through the ABC crew’s confusion, replays showed Pags only went wide after being hit by his teammate Helio, who is as you may have heard fresh off retirement. Only then, and after checking up, Continue reading

Barber Race Review: Golden Showers Edition

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Showers of various sorts were the major current flowing through Barber the last couple days and an odd Monday finish left fans feeling less than quenched. The weekend was a mess for most, although the heavy showers proved golden for Josef Newgarden, winning for the third time on his home track.

Pouring rain Sunday halted the race after 23 laps, run largely under caution or at caution speeds. Not one but two red flags also appeared, finally delivering the drenched drivers from their soaked cars. Safety was the concern as visibility was nearly non-existent, although that probably should have been clear after the first few laps rather than requiring multiple red flags.

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A single file start under caution proved anticlimactic, or would have if anyone could have seen it. The race went green on the second lap and cars tiptoed around the near constant corners, sliding as they went. The plumes they emitted made viewing – much less driving – extremely difficult.

Marco spun out on the second green flag lap, nearly hitting oncoming traffic a couple of times before finally rejoining the fray. Unfazed by the showers, Newkid opened up a sizable lead over Power, Bourdais, RHR and Dixon as Hinchcliffe dropped back. Continue reading

Long Beach Race Review: Nose-cam Slam Edition

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Photo from twitter.com

On an AA kinda day Californian Alexander Rossi won in utterly jack booted fashion, but the advent, added entertainment value and absurd level of abuse meted out to NBCSN’s nose-cam stole the show at Long Beach.

An above average four caution flags fell at just the right times helping out the racing immensely. Without them, Rossi might’ve lapped the entire field. Twice. One of the pole sitter’s biggest competitors was knocked out prior to the first turn, sadly along with a cherished nose-cam. Thank God they had plenty of the tiny cameras in reserve to significantly enhance the coverage.

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Photo from indycar.com

Ragin’ Graham Rahal ran into Simon Pagenaud from behind on the first lap, sending him spinning into the wall and ending his day. Ryan Hunter-Reay also got caught up in the fracas banging into Dixon, suffering some front wing damage and more importantly destroying the first nose-cam of the day, though happily not before it provided excellent views of the action. Rahal was rightly slapped by race control with a drive through penalty, later apologizing to Pags after battling all the way back to finish fifth.

The restart on lap five set a pattern of Rossi opening up a lead and pulling away. Continue reading

Long Beach Preview: Up in the Air

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IndyCar’s annual whiff of SoCal’s insalubrious smog arrives Sunday and the pending outcome is as up in the air as a juggler’s balls.

Hinch, Pags and Dixie have won the last three Grans Prix, by far the series’ most atmospheric street race. That’s three different teams represented atop the podium since 2015. Go back far enough and some rather wispy outfits indeed have triumphed by the shore, including Ed Carpenter Racing. On a street course. Twice. That’s certainly some rarefied air out west.

Bourdais is a three time winner, stratospherically taking three in a row during the most polluted days of the split. Understandably though, after Phoenix his pit crew may still be a bit sore at him this weekend. Even Will “hot air” Power vaporized the entire field twice at the Beach, though that was several years ago. Heck, Sato won there for Foyt in 2013. Tellingly, it was under caution and the tentative team‘s last win.

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Photo from racer.com

Unassuming Ed Jones stole the show last year with a sixth place finish and second consecutive top ten to start his career. Continue reading

Phoenix Race Review: Take Cover! Edition

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American gunslinger Josef Newgarden obliterated his opposition outside Phoenix Saturday night, leaving a trail of IndyCar carnage stretching clear to Canada. As bad as it was for Robby Wickens, it was Coyne crew members who again got the worst of it.

The race started with an all day-glo – and all French – front row at what Townsend Bell called “this hot, nasty track.” Then again, it almost didn’t. Surprise pole sitter Sebastien Bourdais‘ car stopped dead on pit lane, requiring the help of Robert Wickens’ – or “Wiggins” as TBell calls him – crew to refire his Honda. It wouldn’t be the last issue SeBass had on pit road during the evening.

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Photo from indycar.com

RHR and Marco went high at the start and gained several spots while a now functioning Bourdais pulled away from Pags. Wickens gained a position and joined the top five as the Frenchmen at the front battled early traffic. A hard charging Rossi challenged Pags for the pass before nearly losing it on the apron and drifting high up the track. Narrowly avoiding disaster, he wasn’t done yet.

On lap 41 the first of only two yellows arrived when PFitti got high in turn four and rudely met the wall. Emo’s grandson was first out in his first ever race. During the initial round of pit stops SeBass slid wildly into his pit box, hitting his left front tire changer in an ugly scene. Continue reading

Phoenix Preview: Casablanka Edition

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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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Image from redbubble.com

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