Mid-Ohio Race Review: This Frenchman’s On Fire!

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Pole sitter Alexander Rossi’s victory for Andretti Autosport was never really in any doubt, as is so often the case at Mid-Ohio, although NBCSN’s superb coverage (on CNBC) of Sebastien Bourdais’ Napoleonic battles from deep in the field made it at times almost seem like it. Demonstrating how Sunday really wasn’t his but rather SeBass’ day for swiping an amazing eighteen positions going from last to sixth, the Indy 500 winner celebrated his race win by embarrassingly high-siding and stalling his NAPA car on track’s edge while attempting, unsuccessfully, to cut donuts.

During pre-race both Rossi and Josef Newgarden mentioned the lack of a morning warm-up, highly unusual for IndyCar. Already putting everyone in the paddock on edge were a string of chaotic practice and qualification sessions, with umpteen incidents and cars leaving the terrible track. Under this foreboding atmosphere, of course the race proceeded under ninety straight green flag laps – though it wasn’t without its incidents.

Rossi and Will Power led the bunched up field to the start, with several drivers back in the pack nearly making and then, in fact, making contact. Rossi’s trudging pace from pole, or what Paul Tracy called a “dirty move,” was reviewed but Continue reading

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Mid-Ohio Predictions and Prognostications: Pretty Vacant

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Scheduled during “Holidays in the Sun” season when no one’s looking, it’s appropriate that Mid-Ohio again will be broadcast on a cable channel no one’s watching. In a phrase, the race is “Pretty Vacant.”

Since this post is cutting into our own precious vacation time, we’ll get right to our special punk rock prediction for this sorry excuse of a race. There will be nothing memorable, much less special, about Sunday’s parade ’round a sports car course in the middle of nowhere. There never is about Mid-Ohio – it’s a nihilist’s dream date. We’ve been watching it closely – requiring no small amount of both endurance and patience, we can tell you – for decades now. It makes us wonder at times like these, where’s a Sid Vicious to wreak havoc when you need him?

Pole winner will probably be Will “Problems” Power, although any Team Penske member could well do it. Truth is, pole matters little this weekend, as usual. Power started P1 last year and finished second behind Josef Newgarden. Pags did win from pole in ’16, but he’s the only driver to do so in the last six years. One has to go back to 2011 when Scott Dixon won from pole – another of his record five victories at Mid-Ohio. He also triumphed after starting dead last in 2014, beating the field into utter “Submission.”

First out of this event inspiring absolutely “No Feelings” would likely be no one, were awful Austrian Rene “wrecking ball” Binder not back in a car. The rookie ride buyer’s season has been, well, regrettable. As for the race, there weren’t any DNFs last year and 2015 saw only one in Takuma Sato, though both 2016 and 2014 saw three apiece, thanks largely to first lap pileups. Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan was the lone car off course in 2013 while Ryan Hunter-Reay with the hyphen-here-to-stay was the only DNF in 2012. His was mechanical – and wasn’t pretty.

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Photo from foxnews.com

The biggest surprise of the whole sham affair will be if Continue reading

Mid-Ohio Preview: Mediocrity On Parade

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The third-rate though conveniently located sports car course makes for some dreadfully boring IndyCar racing and regrettably will do so again for the thirty fourth time next Sunday. Quite possibly the worst circuit the series visits, Mid-Ohio epitomizes a disturbing trend in modern society of willing, almost glad acceptance of the middling. It’s mediocrity on parade.

During the run of the mill track’s big league history, which began fitfully in 1980, both CART and later Champ Car had the good sense to drop it entirely – for years at a time. Yet since 2007 and to our continual chagrin, Mid-Ohio keeps reappearing year after year on IC’s wreck of a schedule, like a meddling, nosy neighbor knocking on your door.

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Photo from foxnews.com

It’s not expecting too much if, as a race fan, one expects more from Mark Miles and crew than merely mundane Mid-Ohio. Meanwhile, perfectly decent oval tracks all across the country – and as nearby as northern Kentucky and Illinois – sit idle.

The past five races there have featured as many different winners including Josef Newgarden last year, Continue reading

Iowa Race Review: ‘How Is Hinch Ahead?!’ Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

In a baffling though entertaining affair at Iowa Speedway, SPM‘s James Hinchcliffe somehow overcame everyone who stood in the way of his first win of the season. It was the second of the Canuck’s career on the diminutive oval, his sixth overall. Taking the lead with less than fifty to go to the surprise of many – not least of which Josef Newgarden – it was a confusing, pro-Canadian conclusion under a Carpenter-induced caution. As usual, everything was the villainous Will Power‘s fault.

Newkid’s teammate was nearly a lap down and not surprisingly acted more like a spoiled schoolchild than a teammate, holding up the defending champ as “lap traffic” with only thirty odd laps to go, handing Hinch the lead and eventual victory. Immediately after being passed for position, an astonished Newgarden asked his crew incredulously over the radio, “How is Hinch ahead?!” Simultaneously, we wondered the exact same thing.

Photo from indycar.com

NBCSN’s pre-race included Townsend Bell telling us day is night and Kevin Lee calling RHR – well over 37 – “young.” On the upside, the until recently MIA Katie Hargitt returned to air. Unfortunately, it was primarily whilst eating during the cooking segment, Continue reading

Texas Race Review: Honestly Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

Team Penske – the clear class of the field starting 1-2-3 – suffered from tire issues all evening, opening the door for Scott Dixon. The five second victory was his third at Texas Motor Speedway, the forty third of his career and put him in rarefied air in third place on the all time wins list. It couldn’t happen to a better guy, honestly.

NBCSN’s pre-race covered the gamut, from the Penske trio up front to Rossi’s 500 win as well as Power’s. Oddly, in the booth they featured three guys – two of them beefy – in powder blue t-shirts. The ever likable Dixon said he “loves driving IndyCars,” and when asked about his place on the list mentioned how cool it is that “AJ, Mario and Michael are all still at these races.” Presciently, he also mentioned “going for race wins.”‘

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Never to be out-trended, even IndyCar now has a cooking segment, for heaven’s sake. Don’t worry, we at IRR will never cook to camera. For some reason, it’s now Kelly Stavast doing pit coverage, and just when we getting used to the adorable Katie Hargitt. A Will Power feature had Robin Miller saying “ten years ago, Will Power hated oval racing.” He still does, Robin – you’ve been fooled. Daffy Leigh Diffey’s Aussie bias shone vividly through as a drone delivered the green flag and the engines were fired.

A clean start saw Newgarden leading with Ryan Hunter-Reay slicing high attempting to pass in a major theme of the evening. Cars were three wide early, as Alexander Rossi got around both TK and Dixon. Wickens moved around Power on the outside and into second by the lap 6. The first caution flew as AJ Foyt Racing’s Matheus Leist’s car became engulfed by fire in a scary moment. Leist threw steering wheel away and quickly jumped out as the flames encroached upon the cockpit.

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Photo from motorsport.com

Following a quick cleanup, the restart came on lap 15 with Newgarden, Power, Pags, Wickens and Rossi the top five.  Continue reading

Detroit Race Review No. 2: ‘Penske’s GM Amateur Hour’ Edition

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Photo from twitter.com

It is entirely appropriate that ABC’s last ever IndyCar broadcast involved a pace car crash during the parade laps that they missed while away at commercial, utterly destroying a brand new Corvette and delaying the start by thirty seven minutes. It was less so that Honda absolutely schooled Chevy in their hometown yet again, sweeping both races rather easily and awarding AA’s Ryan Hunter-Reay the trophy Sunday. Despite a positive public face and Power’s podium, the Cap’n could not have been happy.

RHR earned the victory, for much of the race looked like a Rossi runaway, the 500 winner starting from pole after emerging from a drenched morning qualifications. Overcoming adversity after a podium finish Saturday, the victor spun into the tire barrier during quals Sunday morning and received a penalty for his trouble, losing his fastest two laps of the session. As a result Hunter-Reay started back in tenth position. He wouldn’t be deterred.

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The pre-race consisted of a replay of Hinch’s lap from yesterday and a very subdued command to start engines by Mark Reuss – a senior VP at GM – who then proceeded to crash the pace car on the parade lap, stopping the race before it’d even begun. IndyCar should demand that  Continue reading

Detroit Race Review No. 1: We Freakin’ Nailed It! Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

How did they do it? Who’s the soothsayer? What were they on? These are the questions they’ll be asking about IRR in future annals of IndyCar blogs, at least if we have any input.

Scott Dixon scored his 42nd career win, tying Michael Andretti for third all time behind his dad and AJ, marking his fourteenth consecutive season with at least one win. He won handily over Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi in a Honda parade through the heart of downtown Detroit, though it was his first visit to victory lane since Road America last season.

As for what little pre-race there was, the ABC booth took on the somber tone of a wake, or would have had it not been so sleepy. After the obligatory, outrageous Power 500 recap, Jan Beekhuis spoke with pole sitter Marco, who insists upon repeatedly referring to his many “outside poles,” or what everyone else on the planet refers to as starting second. The legacy driver on an eight year drought fibbed and said he “thinks we can pass pretty well here.” But the bigger story would be his burgeoning feud with a teammate – one who’s actually won the Indy 500.

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The stands looked fairly full on a gorgeous day and ticket sales were “up 15% over last year,” according to Bestwick. Rain’s possible tomorrow, Continue reading

Detroit Grand Prix Preview: Adios! ABC

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If you thought ABC’s coverage of the 500 was dreadful – missed restarts, “Scott Pigot,” that guber Smith, that other guber Goodyear – then prepare to be heartened. After a double dose of Disney’s dismal dimwits from Detroit this weekend, it’s Adios! ABC once and for all. Hip-hip, hooray!

Just imagine it – no more frustratingly confusing calls, no more fretting about whether Bestwick and crew are gonna ruin another race, no more qualifications slights, no more shoddy coverage of the greatest spectacle in racing – ever. Well, at least until NBC too grows complacent and lackadaisical.

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The good news just keeps coming – that is, if such a thing can be written honestly about street racing in Detroit. The Hinch is back! That’s right, race fans – one of IndyCar’s most popular drivers is actually going to be racing Saturday and Sunday. As if (decades of) ABC’s abuse weren’t enough, the racing gods seemed to heap it on the pitiable fans with the Mayor’s recent DNQ at the Brickyard. Happily that’s all forgotten, as the uncanny Canuck definitely will be on track in his SPM Arrow machine since there’ll be no bumping. It’s not Indy, but it is just across the river from his native land. Hinch abides.

Another promising trend concerns the 500 winner, Mad Will Power. Watching his Oz freak-out in victory lane Sunday was hard to do, but happily Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Race Review: It’s A Vegemite Sandwich and We All Gotta Take A Bite

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Photo from foxsports.com.au

Team Penske’s – and all IndyCar’s – least likable driver won the series’ biggest race, sadly. For the Cap’n, it was his seventeenth 500 triumph – a towering record never to be surpassed. AA’s Englishman Stefan Wilson, brother of the late driver Justin, led until the final stages before being forced to pit for fuel.

With seven cautions in all, the race – and particularly the start and restarts – were thrilling, right up until the end when Wilson pulled into the pits with only four to go. This handed Will “sour grapes” Power the event, to every single thinking race fan’s chagrin. It’s one race at long last that he can’t complain about.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

ABC’s pre-race coverage of course featured a lengthy Danica interview, followed by some yahoo named Marty Smith with a NASCAR accent screaming into a mike from the snakepit. Thanks for the memories, ABC.

From the green flag, Danica dropped five spots as predicted, then embarrassingly lifted completely off the throttle in turns during early in-car camera coverage. Her owner Fast Eddy Carpenter led from the pole, while ragin’ Graham Rahal jumped seven spots almost immediately from his dismal starting spot. He’d wind up tenth.

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Photo from indystar.com

Driving AJ Foyt Racing‘s always tenuous third car, James Davison was waaaay loose and waaaay slow, and finally on lap 47 Taku’d had enough and simply Satoed him. The defending 500 winner closed quickly and smacked him from behind in between turns 3 and 4, nearly going airborne and bringing out the first of seven cautions.

Only a few laps following the restart, Continue reading

102nd Indy 500 Practice Day 4: Fast Friday Flop

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Image from fox59.com

Fast Friday lacked urgency, action and speed, though on the bright side the weather cooperated and nobody got hurt. At least not too badly. Maybe drivers and teams feel they’ve adequately prepared the past three days of practice for the four most nerve wracking laps of their lives, or maybe they’re saving all the best moments for this weekend – and next. When the whole world’ll be watching.

Like yesterday, the fastest speeds came early in the running rather than late, an up is down, black is white scenario if ever there were one. Marco “practice warrior” Andretti managed to again turn in the quickest of the tow speeds at 231.8 mph, followed closely by Robert Wickens, Ed Carpenter, Oriol Servia and Will Power. Danica was 20th. The added turbo boost only raised speeds a mile per hour or so, but for some reason the series does it anyway. The fastest non-tow speed belonged to Will Power with a lap of 229.7 mph, trailed by his teammates Josef Newgarden and Pags as well as Ed Carpenter.

Another of the day’s flops occurred shortly before 3:00 p.m. James Davison lost it in turn 2 and spun A.J. Foyt Racing’s gorgeous, red third car, slamming the wall and wrecking it pretty substantially, destroying the gear box. He suffered a banged up knee, but was otherwise all right and cleared to attempt qualifying tomorrow – Continue reading