Portland Race Review: Cluster Edition

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing had quite the day at the Portland Grand Prix, with one driver in victory lane and the other ripping the racing, the stewards and the series. Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato scored another victory, while his teammate Ragin’ Graham Rahal was along with several others caught up in another frightening first lap pileup that for once was no fault of his own. However, his scathing criticisms of blatant incompetence in race control had us grinning from ear to ear.

After qualifications but prior to the race, two Andretti Autosport teammates who factored largely in the outcome poignantly diverged in their assessment of the place. And after eleven years away, why not? Ryan Hunter-Reay praised the braking zones as portending engaging racing, while his teammate Alexander Rossi said flatly, “we all know it’s hard to pass here.” In the long run, Rossi was the more correct – though less lucky – on the day.

Photo from indycar.com

Once the green flag flew, Rossi sped around Josef Newgarden for second, with RHR gaining too, until trouble struck. In the back Simon Pagenaud initially encountered problems going off track, followed by fellow Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais. Then the latest frightening first lap crash occurred due to contact between rookie phenom Zach Veach and James Hinchcliffe in turn 3. Hinch spun, causing a trailing Marco Andretti to spin and roll backwards over Hinch’s car, flipping upside down in the process. After Pocono, it was the last thing anyone wanted to see, although Portland’s configuration – specifically the chicane – invites it. Remarkably, and once he was turned right side up, Marco jumped out of the car unscathed, though covered in dirt. He spoke of being “really lucky,” and of his head being “on the ground,” thanks to Rahal hitting him from behind.

Ganassi’s potentially soon to be ex Ed Jones was victimized in the incident and out of the race, his helmet scarred from the crash. Hinch’s car was repaired and he was able to get back out, though many laps down. Another victim of course was the aforementioned Rahal, who made his feelings on the accident crystal clear. “It was a cluster. . . . Oh yeah, Veach – I mean come on now, give him some room. There’s no room there at all … So it’s just wrong, and then the officials take no action, which is typical of our officiating crew. It’s disappointing.”

Driver Marco Andretti was involved in a four-car crash Sunday at the start of the Portland Grand Prix at Portland International Raceway.

Image from oregonlive.com

Included in the carnage was championship leader Scott Dixon, who Continue reading

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Pocono Race Review: A Speedy Recovery

Considering another comically amateurish start followed by a devastating, injurious crash on lap seven, the fact that the remaining able-bodied drivers somehow managed to put on a decent show at all is remarkable. Particularly in light of Robert Wickens’ unknown medical circumstances, which remained a complete mystery for a full hour before his consciousness was announced. The full extent of his wounds still isn’t known.

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Photo from cbc.ca

After a two hour delay for cleanup of the massive debris field plus repairs to the fence, Alexander Rossi drove his NAPA car right up to the wall and to its limits, proving himself yet again the swiftest over 500 miles.

NBCSN’s pre-race included shots of Marco’s Palace and lots of Robin Miller. In other words, it was gaudy and odd. Another laboriously slow, bunched up start to the race from pole sitter Will Power saw Ragin’ Graham Rahal immediately run into Spencer Pigot’s right rear at the back of the field and bring out a caution. Along with the winner we predicted a crash-fest, and it sure started out that way. Power typically blamed Scott Dixon – who was deep in the field! – flashing graphs and pleading that he only did what he was told. Rahal was penalized for the first lap incident and it’s clear he needs to work on his starts, his qualifying – or both.

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Photo from indycar.com

Rossi quickly passed Power for the lead on the lap seven restart. Behind them Wickens tried to get around Ryan Hunter-Reay in turn two Continue reading

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

Toronto Race Review: ‘Get A Fu@&in’ Move On!’ Edition

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Photo from ap.org

Living IndyCar legend Scott Dixon did indeed get a fu@&in’ move on as he so forcefully said Sunday in Toronto, cruising to his forty fourth career victory. It was his third of the season, padding his now comfortable championship lead, particularly with the regrettable Mid-Ohio in the offing and pole sitter Josef Newgarden’s brain fade, slamming the wall from the lead mid-race.

NBCSN’s pre-race included multiple mentions of the Alexander Rossi – Robert Wickens rivalry by Daffy Leigh Diffey, which didn’t play a role at all in the race. More telling was an interview with the eventual victor, who once again took the blame for his qualifying mistake on Saturday, the classy guy that he is, accepting responsibility for starting second rather than pole. Then came the obligatory interview by the ever expanding universe that is Paul Tracy with James Hinchcliffe and Wickens. There was plenty of talk about Canada and in Canadian, as best we could gather.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay jumped forward three spots during a wild, four wide start, although he’d ultimately have a difficult day. Newgarden led Dixon, RHR and Will “sour grapes” Power once things inevitably settled down with Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato soon getting around his fellow 500 winner Rossi into fifth. During that entertaining first lap the two Canuck teammates Hinch and the rookie made contact – as did others – with actual passing briefly appearing in the cobbled together concrete canyon.  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

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.

Photo from indycar.com

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

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

IndyCar Grand Prix Race Review: Bush League Stuff

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Image from youtube

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

Photo from indycar.com

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.

Photo from indycar.com

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

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