Road America IndyCar Preview: This Replaced Milwaukee Why?!

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Photo from indycar.com

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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Photo from theapricity.com

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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Photo from imgth.com

At least it’s a road course Scott Dixon didn’t run away with, like Mid-Ohio or Sonoma. Continue reading

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

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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.

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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

Scott Dixon’s Helmet, Or: A Tale of Two Pities

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An embarrassing equipment failure at Sonoma typified Scott Dixon‘s season with Chip Ganassi Racing.

IndyCar’s defending champion suffered mightily on Sunday, floundering at a track he’d won on multiple times. Already losing his primary sponsor immediately after the race, Dixon limped home to a seventeenth place finish. Equipment issues and slow pit service stemming from a faulty wire doomed his chances at the largely passing-free Sonoma Raceway. It was truly a pity.

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Photo from racedepartment.com

With a malfunctioning radio and no communication with his team, Dixon was forced to swap helmets on his second pit stop. Continue reading

Sonoma Finale Race Review: Egregious Ending Edition

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won the whole kit ‘n caboodle at Sonoma’s so-called Raceway Sunday, leading all but nine laps in another regrettable road course runaway. Clinching a fourteenth IndyCar championship for the Cap’n in his 50th year in racing, it was Pags’ first IndyCar title in a decade in the sport. Yes and predictably, the season finale was truly that bad.

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

There were some redeeming moments. Second fiddle stable mate Will Power couldn’t even keep the title hunt mildly interesting beyond lap thirty eight, suffering a clutch failure and falling out of contention. “Power down,” we gleefully Tweeted. The awful Aussie finished twentieth, eight laps off the pace. Always entertaining Graham Rahal ran a strong second for Honda, followed by the mercurial Juan Montoya in a Penske kind of day. Interestingly, it sounds as though Montoya won’t be back with the super team in 2017.

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We plan to address the former Team Target‘s trials and tribulations in the forthcoming article “Scott Dixon‘s helmet,” Continue reading

IndyCar Championship: Evil of Two Lessers

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For the first time in over a decade the IndyCar championship isn’t a truly compelling competition. Making matters worse, it’s down to two unlikable, prickly Penske pilots jockeying for the crown. Considering the situation, sadly there’s very little to root for next Sunday. After all, the only race for the next six months is at Sonoma.

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There’s no more ignoring it. The points leader and heavy favorite is – gasp – a Frenchman. Will the 2016 champion be the irascible King Pags, or (possibly) worse, the off-kilter, ill-tempered Aussie bushwhacker? Does anyone outside Team Penske really still care about the championship at this point?

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

What an option for fans – a Frenchman or a madman. Remind you of any other races involving two contenders you can’t get even the least bit excited about?  Continue reading

Watkins Glen Preview: Kinda Like Mid-Ohio

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Photo from indycar.com

Try not to become discombobulated, disturbed or disoriented Sunday when the contest at the Glen seems eerily similar to certain other races on the schedule.

As the name implies, the “IndyCar GP” wasn’t originally scheduled to take place at all, thrown together in two weeks’ time immediately after Boston followed Brazil‘s suit and jilted the series. When’s the last time a NASCAR race was cancelled? Hurriedly announced in mid May, it was just as hurriedly forgotten coming in the middle of all the 100th Running hoopla.

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Photo from autoweek.com

It may be better than no race at all as some say, but unfortunately it also strongly resembles Mid-Ohio. Strongly as in stench, or disagreement. Enough of these risible road courses already – Penske’s frog Pagenaud and chief whiner Power have swept every single pole and race on ’em this season. Like at Mid-Ohio.

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Photo from indycar.com

It’s been six years since IndyCar last roared into upstate New York and now the race’s closer to its old, traditional fall date. Continue reading

Our Ideal IndyCar Schedule

2016 Ideal Schedule

There’s still no IndyCar schedule for 2016, but when it is finally announced (assuming it is) rest assured we’ll have a rip-snortin’ reaction. A big league series should strive for consistency in scheduling with annual racing dates and locales – none of this fly by night, here one year and gone the next BS. The lineup should also contain twenty-plus races and obviously be announced before late October.

Barring that, IRR offers up our ideal slate of races with the added bonus of a brief description of each. Readers will notice a heavy dose of good ol’ fashioned oval tracks and a corresponding dearth of road courses, as it should be. Of course this would require some balls from IndyCar “leadership” and above all else the firing of series boss/mouthpiece Mark Miles. Ah, if only it were so.

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Fontana: The track offers breath-taking open wheel racing and is a must for the schedule. Why not open the season with a thrilling five hundred miler before it gets too hot for those trendy, fair weather fans in California? The Dude abides.

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Image from thefix.com

Long Beach: It’s a street circuit with some tradition, so unlike many others it survived the cut. The Beach is vastly superior to Sonoma, which doesn’t make our list. Sorry winos, but we prefer beer – and good racing.

Phoenix: Obviously PIR Continue reading

Imagine Attaining Schedule Perfection

Imagine attaining schedule perfection

On the day of a nation-wide election,

Where there are ovals aplenty

With fans following intently

And no worries of trips to Dubai.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review

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Photo from IndyRaceReviewer

SPECIAL UPDATE: Series Sponsor Verizon settled a damaging lawsuit late this week, agreeing to pay out millions of dollars to customers the communications company overcharged for years. This affected not only millions of Verizon subscribers, but also the rest of us as apparently the entire internet was impacted by Verizon’s shenanigans. Ripping off your customers certainly isn’t the sort of sleazy corporate behavior IndyCar wants or needs to be associated with one would think, nor is slowing down the whole of the web in the nation that invented it, although in light of the 2015 schedule perhaps Verizon’s the perfect sponsor for Miles’ new tennis racket approach to racing.

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Photo from  espn.go.com

The Hawk Has Landed: AJ Foyt Racing announced this week it’s expanding to a two car operation, and we don’t just mean at Indy. Inexplicably, Takuma Sato is back with the team and will be joined as co-recipient of AJ’s wrath by upstart northern Englishman Jack Hawksworth. Hawk is formerly of Bryan Herta Autosport, who formerly drove for AJ Foyt Racing. IndyCar’s a bit like the Hapsburgs of Europe and many modern day workplaces – an incestuous little circle.

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Photo from foytracing.com

Schedule Announced and Many Pounced: The IndyCar Series unveiled its thinly veiled schedule for 2015 and there wasn’t an abundance to be excited about and even fewer surprises. Initial reaction to it is here and it hasn’t changed much. More ovals, please. Brasilia and NOLA will be new road courses, hurray. We hope everyone makes it back safely from these exotic, crime-ridden third world destinations. Dubai didn’t make the cut, although it appears to remain under consideration for the future. Why? We have no idea. As trumpeted by Curt Cavin and others, “Dollar Dale” Coyne’s driver and race winner Carlos Huertas posted “Dubai Feb 22” on his website earlier in the week. Perhaps he meant in 2016.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Testing, Testing: Also according to the ever accurate Twitter, Rahal Letterman Lanigan failed to show at the test at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on Monday, possibly significant of larger problems for the floundering team.  Maybe Graham was just hung over, or all loved up by Courtney Force. Graham, Bobby, Dave and company had a horrible year as documented in IndyCar Season Grades and missing off season tests isn’t a positive sign. Apparently the late night talk show business isn’t what it once was, but then again what is?

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Photo from examiner.com

Flipping Formula 1: Lesser known F-1 Teams are dropping like bribery charges against Billionaire Bernie Ecclestone lately. First Marussia went bankrupt, then Caterham bowed out of the next two races, also reportedly belly up and entering receivership. Respected British newspaper The Telegraph called F-1 a sport “no one can afford” and described it as being very much “in crisis.” Maybe IndyCar doesn’t look quite so bad in comparison after all.

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Photos from bbc.co.uk and dailymail.co.uk

Odds, Ends & Tweets: At Monday’s test, unemployed driver/Indy 500 crasher J.R. Hildebrand drove the Fuzzy’s number 20 car normally reserved for Ed Carpenter of newly merged CFH Racing. No grand theft charges have been filed to date, so evidently J.R.’s joy ride was legit. Curiously Kentish Mike Conway was no where to be seen and rumors have him out. In a Tweet from Barber Motorsports Park, Carp’s teammate Josef Newgarden called it “the most consistent track” they race. Perhaps surprisingly to our readers we at IRR wholeheartedly agree. Barber is consistent – consistently tedious and boring. Finally, the flow chart at CFH Racing seems to be taking shape as another official Tweet referred to “Team Manager Andy O’Gara.” Andy is of course Sarah Fisher’s husband. We wonder if Ed knows of the news yet? Incestuous little circles.

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Photo from cbsnews.com

IndyCar 2014 Season Grades

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Under new leadership yet again for the 2014 campaign Indycar instituted several changes, apparently operating under the philosophy ‘if it’s kinda broke, then half-ass fix it.’ One modification brought a more compact schedule with fewer gaps but lasting less than six months and concluded by Labor Day. While the more concentrated schedule with less momentum-killing layoffs was an improvement, we’d still like to see more races and an earlier start to the season.

Next year’s schedule hasn’t been released yet to the consternation of many, but this is standard operating procedure for IndyCar. While leaks and snippets have caused angst amongst some, we’re taking a largely wait and see approach to 2015. The subtraction of Houston from next year’s lineup is a positive move though, as the track was a dangerous and thrown together creation on a parking lot, for goodness sake. It’s the track that nearly killed Dario and big league racing can do better. 

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Photo from dailymail.co.uk

The series also relied upon double header races at three different street venues again in 2014 to reach eighteen races for the season. For the three 500 mile races double points were awarded in an effort to balance the increasingly road and street course-heavy schedule. This trend is not helpful because the on-track product suffers when fewer oval tracks are visited. Tracks like Michigan, Kentucky, Phoenix and others all should be brought back to IndyCar. Re-instituting the 500 mile triple crown this season added an extra element of racing (as well as more mileage) and should be continued along with some 400 mile events.

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Photo from sfhracing.com

Penalties were another focal point of 2014, with both calls and non-calls making headlines and causing outrage across IndyCar association of states. Race control added Jan Beekhuis as a steward late in the season as it seems rules related issues are still being sorted out by Derrick Walker and Beaux Barfield. Most races went fairly smoothly even in spite of an earthquake at Sonoma, although it seemed race control was a larger part of the story this year, which isn’t a positive development. Refs aren’t what fill the stands or gain viewers.

With a few exceptions like the usual suspects Barber and Mid-Ohio, the racing was highly entertaining and exciting this season. Weather intruded on a couple of races such as Toronto so the new rain tires made their debut, but overall there were few major glitches. It was also a relatively safe season thankfully, although Aleshin’s accident in the final practice was no minor crash.

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The series’ crown jewel Indianapolis 500 once again proved thrilling and one of the better races of the year with winner Ryan Hunter-Reay making an agreeable face of IndyCar. Fontana provided an exciting finale as usual, marking an astounding nine years in a row the last race has decided the championship and rewarding Tony Kanaan with a deserved win. Overall, we give IndyCar a solid grade of B for the season – above average with some room for improvement.

Team Grades :

AJ Foyt Racing

Race Wins: 0

Podiums: 0

Poles: 2

Sato and the team failed to impress with season high finishes of fourth and fifth after winning a race last year. Another disappointing year means there could be changes in AJ Foyt Racing’s future, starting with the driver.

Bonus Points: Underfunded increasingly rare one car team nominally headed by an IndyCar legend.

Overall Grade: D-

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Photo from speedsport-magazine.com

 

Andretti Autosport

Race Wins: 3

Podiums: 9

Poles: 1

Carlos Munoz ran an impressive rookie campaign, winning ROY honors and taking three podium finishes.

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Photo from indycar.com

Hunter-Reay won the Indy 500 and two other races making the team’s season. Hinchcliffe and Marco were disappointing, as were the team’s qualifying efforts.

Bonus Points: RHR’s first Indy 500 victory and AA’s first since Dario won in 2007.

Overall Grade: B-

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Photo from Getty Images

 

Bryan Herta Autosport

Race Wins: 0

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

English rookie Jack Hawksworth ran well at times taking a podium at Houston race 2, but still has some development to undergo. Herta’s little team like Foyt’s is a dying breed.

Bonus Points: Underfunded one car team with a hungry young Englishman driving.

Overall Grade: D

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Photo from jackhawsksworth.co.uk

 

Dale Coyne Racing

Race Wins: 1

Podiums: 0

Poles: 0

Carlos Huertas won in Houston race 1 as a rookie, but the team was a non-factor everywhere else and the track’s gone from next year’s schedule. Talented veteran Justin Wilson struggled consistently throughout a difficult season.

Bonus Points: Underfunded two car team run by a quirky former ‘driver.’

Overall Grade: C-

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Photo from racing.ap.org

 

Ed Carpenter Racing

Race Wins: 3

Podiums: 1

Poles: 1

Conway won Long Beach and Toronto race 2 while Ed won Texas and took the pole at Indy as owner/driver. Next year the team merges with SFHR, which probably can’t hurt.

Bonus Points: One car shared by two drivers, plus Ed’s a true underdog.

Overall Grade: B+

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KV Racing

Race Wins: 1

Podiums: 1

Poles: 3

Frenchman Bourdais won Toronto race 1 and finished second at Mid-Ohio. Saavedra struggled mightily all year and in his one highlight he disastrously stalled it on pole at the Indy GP.

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Photo from foxsports.com

Bonus Points: The number one pilot is a Frenchman. None.

Overall Grade: C-

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Photo from usatoday.com

 

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Race Wins: 0

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

Rahal finished second at Detroit Race 1 and later predicted a win by year’s end. He still only has one IndyCar series victory after seven seasons.

Bonus Points: One car team for most of the year, working through a difficult father-son relationship. They lost their main sponsor for next year and appear to be in some disarray.

Overall Grade: D-

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Photo from motorsport.com

 

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

Race Wins: 0

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

Josef Newgarden finished second at Iowa and had several second place starts in a frustrating season. No wins yet from Newkid after three seasons but a teammate will help.

Bonus Points: One car outfit with lots of potential and merging with ECR in 2015.

Overall Grade: D

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Photo from espn.go.com

 

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Race Wins: 2

Podiums: 1

Poles: 1

Great job by Pagenaud and the underfunded team to battle Penske in the championship right to the end. Pags & Aleshin finished 1-2 at Houston race 2 and Pags won the inaugural Indy Grand Prix. Aleshin showed potential but is currently recovering from serious injuries suffered in the year’s final practice.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Bonus Points: Schmidt’s an IndyCar guy we all want to root for with two interesting, off beat European drivers. The team represents a future threat provided Pags doesn’t jump ship to Andretti as rumored.

Overall Grade: B-

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Photo from autosport.com

 

Target Chip Ganassi Racing

Race Wins: 3

Podiums: 8

Poles: 1

Dixie and Kanaan came through toward the end of the campaign, but Kimball and especially Briscoe struggled all year in a disappointing 25th anniversary for Target. They should be even more adept with the bow tie next year and carry substantial momentum.

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Photo from chipganassiracing.com

Bonus Points: It’s Chip Ganassi. None.

Overall Grade: C+

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Team Penske

Race Wins: 5

Podiums: 11

Poles: 9

The team swept the top two spots in the championship with Power prevailing at Fontana. Helio and Montoya both contributed race wins, podiums  and poles with Montoya doing so after more than a decade out of the car. They’re top of the class for reasons, folks.

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Photo from tri-cityherald.com

Bonus Points: None.

Overall Grade: A

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