IndyCar Sonoma Season Finale Race Review: Ho-hum Edition

 

JoNewchamp3indycarcom.jpg

Photo from indycar.com

Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won the GoPro Grand Prix again on Sunday, while his teammate Josef Newgarden secured his first championship by finishing second in the hum sponsored car. Starting from pole and leading in points, it was Newgarden’s title and race to lose. Unsurprisingly, the first American champion in half a decade brought it home safely for an all Penske podium in a rather ho-hum contest.

The season’s ultimate race proved a mundane affair and went off largely as we’d predicted with no cautions, little passing or on track action and only three leaders – and that’s counting Conor Daly’s three laps led. SPM’s James Hinchcliffe provided some comic relief right from the start, getting hit by Spencer Pigot and spinning off course. He restarted the 5 machine but eventually became the first to retire with an electrical issue. Hinch’s early exit was indicative of his year and provided a prime example of poetic justice for the controversial team.

sonomastart17indycarcom.jpg

Photo from indycar.com

Not to be outdone, Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato drove off the dusty track and dropped back on the first lap too, ruining a fifth place start. Tony Kanaan was forced to pit after another collision caused a flat tire that also sent him off track. He’d go on to finish sixteenth in his last race for Chip Ganassi. As Townsend Bell pointed out, it was TK’s third race in a row with a first lap issue going back to Gateway. It’s becoming painfully obvious that it’s time to call it quits, Tony.

The only other remarkable moment of the finale came during the final pit stop cycle. Continue reading

Advertisements

IndyCar Sonoma Season Finale Predictions and Prognostications: Adios, Aero Kits!

markmilessombrero.jpg

IRR sets forth its final predictions of the 2017 season – including a surprise champion – while bidding adieu to a crime against racing aesthetics.

Our special prediction for the GoPro Grand Prix is while Sonoma may not feature much passing on its twisted, narrow confines, at least it’s the last time we’ll ever have to watch those hideously fugly, dangerous aero kits in action. Their departure alone will make this nearly unwatchable finale held in a dustbowl almost palatable, raising our spirits markedly in the process. That, and the wine.

racesonomacom

Photo from racesonoma.com

Incidentally, since the cars become obsolete Sunday night – it’s about time – we’d love to see a non-points demolition derby held immediately following the podium celebrations. Charlie “pinball” Kimball, J.R. “hair today, gone next year” Hildebrand and Taku Sato would battle for an Andretti Winery gift certificate and Conor Daly’s domestic duties for a day. Which leads us to . . .

Saturday’s fight for pole position will take on special significance at the infamously tedious track, with the championship contenders – Team Penske and Ganassi’s Scott Dixon – vying for the extra point and tremendous advantage starting up front at Sonoma brings. Four of the last five Grands Prix have been won by drivers starting in the top 3, including fickle Frenchman Simon Pagenaud from pole last year and Dixon’s win in 2014 (his win in 2015 came from 9th).

pagsphx17indycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

Saying goodbye to all that, Continue reading

IndyCar Sonoma Season Finale Preview: Bouquet Edition

bouquetIRR.jpg

Not prone to flowery descriptions, a sometimes acidic tongued IRR stopped in Sonoma wine country to smell the season finale roses – or rosé, as it were. Instead we found a big, fat turd bouquet. Northern California wines may be fine, but unfortunately for fans of fast the racing there’s regularly near the bottom of IndyCar’s barrel.

“In vino, veritas” as the Romans said, but even from a clear-eyed, sober view of things the racing at Sonoma honestly stinks. Like other regrettable road courses on the schedule – Watkins Glen, Barber, Mid-Ohio – the twisted track’s an affront to the olfactory senses. Bouquet, indeed!

AP INDYCAR SONOMA AUTO RACING S CAR USA CA

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Sonoma’s simply not suited to IndyCars and fails to provide anything approaching intoxicating action. In fact, the lack of passing, speeds and thrills is all rather dry and pedestrian. The series’ choice of venue for the season finale tends to leave an unpleasant, vinegary aftertaste.

Like the local produce, reigning series champion Simon Pagenaud comes across as fruity, often with a hint of bitterness. This was especially the case following his spicy encounter with Penske teammate Josef Newgarden at Gateway. Let it suffice to say Pags was less than vintage during the podium celebration.

gatewaypodium2indycarcom.jpg

Photo from indycar.com

But the earthy Frenchman suddenly vaulted back into the title hunt after Newkid’s disastrous stumble at Watkins Glen, Continue reading

IndyCar Bommarito 500 Race Review: Hood Vibrations

Gatewaypodiumindycarcom.jpg

Photo from indycar.com

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?

Gatewaycrashsportsusatodaycom.jpg

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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.

Newkidgatewaysportsusatodaycom.jpg

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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

Mid-Ohio IndyCar Predictions and Prognostications: Perilous Edition

Midoh16indycarcom.jpg

Photo from indycar.com

IndyCar’s lucky thirteenth stop on the schedule happens to be the annual trip into the ditch that is Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Get ready for a fuel savin’ extravaganza featuring fewer passes than Columbus’ Corn Princess Parade . . . and menacingly, also a potentially lethal surprise.

This week’s special prediction involves the inherent danger of Sunday’s race. Anytime you tread into “Ganassi’s Paradise” you’re risking both life and limb, but Mid-Ohio holds an additional, less obvious risk. Be forewarned, as it’s a serious threat to viewing fans. The real danger during the race will be folks nodding off in haze of bloviating about pit stop strategy and fuel mileage. In some extreme instances, sleep can be dangerous.

highrisenapbettmanarchive.jpg

Photo from the Bettman archive

Pick for pole position is especially unimportant, as the pole sitter’s only won once out of the last five contests at Mid-Ohio. Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won from pole in his championship season last year, but that’s it. Ragin’ Graham Rahal won from thirteenth simply being himself in 2015, while rarely cautious Charlie Kimball triumphed from fifth in 2013. Scott Dixon’s always a threat there, starting fourth and incredibly even dead last in just his most recent victories in Ohio. Continue reading

Mid-Ohio IndyCar Preview: Ganassi’s Paradise

GanassisParadise

IndyCar’s annual visit to Mid-Ohio brings to mind Coolio’s classic track “Gangsta’s Paradise,” although in actuality it’s Ganassi’s paradise in more ways than one. Both places are plenty dangerous with lots of twists, turns and curves – but only one’s dull as daytime lookout duty. Get the Courvoisier and blunts ready for this one, y’all!

Been spending most their lives
Livin’ in a gangsta’s paradise

dixiebusinessinsidercom.jpg

Photo from businessinsider.com

Scott Dixon’s five wins at the joint most definitely mean he’s ridin’ dirty. They also highlight Chip “G-daddy” Ganassi’s utter dominance of central Ohio’s hood. That’s how he rolls and he definitely woke, yo. Chipster’s stealing seven out of the last ten (excuses for) races is straight dope, man. Charlie “Straight Outta Cali” Kimball’s breakthrough victory in 2013 was one of ’em, going from ghetto to penthouse with that fashizzzle.

Ganassi’s got one bangin’ posse, though there are of course exceptions. Not surprisingly, Tony “old over the hill bastard” Kanaan has never scored in the O. And don’t get us started on G-daddy’s fourth driver Max “Paris” Chilton. He definitely unwoke and ’bout to be replaced by some Swede named Rosenqvist.

grahamandstatuetwittercom.jpg

Photo from twitter.com

Graham “homeboy” Rahal won in 2015 in yet another of those ‘luckily timed pit stops that win you the race’ kind of deals. It’s cool as hell driving for your dad’s team, ain’t it? Continue reading

Toronto IndyCar Race Review: Yellow is the New Orange Edition

JoNewTOsportsusatodaycom.jpg

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

A perfectly timed yellow flag handed the orange DeVilbiss car a victory on the walled streets of Toronto.

Josef Newgarden happened to be pitting when Tony “Time To Call It Quits” Kanaan committed his latest brain fade and careened into the Turn 1 tire barrier. As a result, Newgarden ran away with it for his second win out of the last three times north of the border.

JoNewTO2indycarcom.jpg

Photo from indycar.com

Scott Dixon was rudely hit by “Sour Grapes” Will Power – twice – during a first lap melee bringing out the first of only two cautions on the day. Power limped around the course failing to make it to his pit and would be a surprise first out. Dixon soldiered to a tenth place finish and as usual no infraction was called on the Penske pilot.

In front of all the banging, Helio grabbed the lead from Simon Pagenaud in a ballsy inside move at the start and TK managed to gain five spots, but it was Josef Newgarden’s jump of three positions to fourth that ultimately made all the difference. He’d soon find himself out front and, due to both timing and luck, in possession of another street course victory.

JoNewTOindycarcom.jpg

Photo from indycar.com

The restart saw Indy 500 winners and Andretti Autosport teammates Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato make contact, as Rossi battled nearly everyone on his way to second. Continue reading

Road America IndyCar Race Review: Dixon’s Cheese Edition

RA17startindycarcom.jpg

Photo from indycar.com

Surprisingly an engaging battle broke out Sunday in Wisconsin, although the eventual cheese taker was never in doubt. No runaway like last year, the Kohler Grand Prix managed to keep fans’ interest fully engaged from beginning to end – a remarkable accomplishment for the wine and cheese crowd on a road course.

One after another of Penske’s four horsemen faltered, paving the way for Scott Dixon’s 41st career win. He’s now a mere win away from third on the all time list. The half second victory was the Ganassi ace’s first since September and also his first at Elkhart Lake. Once the confetti had settled, the Cap’n’s crew were highly cheesed.

DixonRA17indycarcom.jpg

Photo from indycar.com

Action occurred right from the start at the series’ longest track, as passing aplenty played out. Owning the first two rows, Team Penske seemed set to figure largely in the outcome. Josef Newgarden who started third fought his way to the lead by lap 13, getting around Will Power and pole sitter Helio Castro-Neves. But with the Cap’n away the Penskes did stray, and for Tim Cindric it turned into a long day.

The first caution was brought out by Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, who left the course and came sliding to an abrupt halt. Continue reading

Ways to Enliven IndyCar Road Racing, Or: Obdurate Ovalista Offerings

midohfoxnewscom

Photo from foxnews.com

Whether it’s some fresh ideas, new rules or simply enforcing existing ones, IndyCar road racing really needs a revival. Since an all oval schedule is unlikely to return anytime soon, here are a few suggestions to liven up the road shows.

As fans of IndyCar it’s no secret we at IRR prefer oval track racing to squiggly courses because speed, passing and excitement are kinda our thing. Having already offered our “Ways To Save Oval Racing,” it’s now time to address the ten times as many curves as straightaways tracks.

emmadixon2twittercom

Photo from twitter.com

The first thing the series could do to improve squirmies is simply enforce the rules. When called at all, penalties are often wildly inconsistent – just see Emma Dixon‘s Twitter feed – with certain teams and drivers (think Penske and Ganassi) seemingly exempt. Last year’s Long Beach non-call on Simon Pagenaud is a perfect example of this. It’s grossly unfair and invites NASCAR type lawlessness.

Race control’s laxness calling penalties leads to drivers getting Kimballed, or what’s worse, Satoed. Recently on the Texas oval nine drivers were Kanaaned, which is in case you’re wondering much worse than a caning – just ask Hinch. Continue reading

Texas IndyCar Preview: World Edition

Texas

Texas Motor Speedway’s 20th anniversary promises to be memorable when IndyCar arrives at the fast, recently reconfigured mile and a half oval this weekend. Expect the racing to be worlds apart from what we saw in Detroit.

The series has held twenty eight races and counting since TMS opened, with almost all of them being extremely entertaining wheel to wheel wonderment. The repave and reconfiguration of the banking in turns 1 and 2 lessened it from 24 to 20 degrees and widened the track from 60 to 80 feet. Four time Texas winner Helio called it “completely new” and Pags called it “a different layout” after testing there in April. Honda teams were limited in their testing, with several not participating due to mileage concerns. We certainly hope all these changes didn’t screw up the track or the racing. That’d be earth shattering.

AP INDYCAR TEXAS AUTO RACING S CAR USA TX

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Ragin’ Graham Rahal won a riveting race – weather disruptions aside – in the closest IndyCar finish at the track last year. That’s saying something.  Continue reading