Barber Preview: Broken Record Edition

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More records are likely to be broken as IndyCar screeches into Alabama this weekend, the series’ third consecutive race since inexplicably skipping an entire month after the St. Pete opener. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but Team Penske’s success at Barber is nearly as unblemished as a mint condition Beatles vinyl still in the original packaging.

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Josef “new American hero” Newgarden (according to Robin Miller) has swiped two of the last three at the deep south’s premier motorbike track, an undeniably impressive album of work. Continue reading

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Phoenix Predictions and Prognostications: Critical Edition

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Following a decade long absence and two run of the mill races since its return, IndyCar’s upcoming foray to Phoenix could make or break the series there.

Fully swathed in the spirit of dazzling open wheel oval track racing – and knowing the series’ crucial need of more of it – here’s our interpretive soothsaying for the season’s first egg shaped track.

Critical – from the Latin criticus, referring to a disease related crisis.

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Our special prediction is when the Saturday night race finally does arrive, no matter how it goes, the racing will be criticized. If it isn’t the drivers apologizing all over themselves again, it’ll be the so-called writers. If not them, then the segment of fans who somehow find fault in 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

Toronto IndyCar Preview: Dallara’s Dollar Devising Dream Date

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IndyCar heads north to the Canuck concrete car crusher for arguably Dallara Automobili’s most consistently lucrative stop on the schedule. That – among other things – makes Toronto one of the series’ absolute worst tracks for viewing fans.

Following last year’s embarrassment of a race on the crumbling streets of Exhibition Place, IRR advocated an end to such nonsense north of the border until those LaBatt loving second raters constructed a decent track. Sadly and obviously, our schedule recommendations haven’t been implemented as of yet. So we’ll see IndyCar return for a thirty third time to a city that really doesn’t deserve it, judging by the overall lack of quality of late.

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Toronto averages about four cautions per race in recent years, although counting red flags it ballooned to seven in 2014. That’s rather high for a road race, though it’s no wonder when the crappy Canadian course disintegrates during competition. From what Hoosier Conor Daly called a “crazy” curved pit lane to Canuck curbs coming apart mid race, as usual IndyCar can and must do better.

When Toronto hasn’t ended under caution – as it has a third of the time lately – the average margin of victory is over two seconds. IndyCar’s Canadian token isn’t exactly the track of dreams, is it? That is, unless you’re the series’ exclusive chassis supplier. Cha-ching!

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Now for the series’ other Canadian token, James Hinchcliffe, a confessed Justin Bieber fan by the way. Continue reading

Long Beach Predictions & Prognostications: Environmental Edition

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Prepare for a festival of fuel saving in sanctimoniously green California – but do fuel economy and racing really mix?

The word most commonly invoked in describing the Grand Prix of Long Beach is “atmosphere,” a catch-all term meant to capture the partying, sites and sounds of the decades old ocean side event. An atmospheric problem for IndyCar is that none of this translates very well to television. Still another is the typically dreadful racing there of late, which leaves fans looking a bit green around the gills.

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Now for the special prediction of the Grand Prix, which concerns that pesky Penske paradox. The PP reared its ugly head last year when Pags won a real snoozer, apart from some drama over a blown call from race control. Happily last year’s amphibian outrage won’t recur, and the winner will be somewhat less green.

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In twin victories for middle aged people everywhere, Helio won the pole the last two years running after Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) claimed it in 2014. Notwithstanding, our pick is Continue reading

Is IndyCar Becoming Too French-ified?

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Both the new crowned series king and the lone 2017 victor hail from France, so the question seemed obvious. Especially when the wine and cheese league is on the verge of becoming the full blown Verizon Jean Girard Series, Presented by Crepes.

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Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud are Frenchmen on fire in IndyCar. Storming to 1-2 at St. Pete, they appear truly tough to beat. Who could have imagined a few short years ago that these musketeers would be dueling it out atop asphalt parapets, like Athos and Aramis?

The fast frogs in question have greedily gobbled up nearly half the races going back to 2015, with a whopping nine wins between them. Despite Seb’s highly suspicious trailer fire last spring, the two apparently harbor no animosity. There’s a distinct absence of rudeness.

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Instead, they tend to be respectful and even complimentary of each other, as evidenced following the opener. Continue reading

St. Pete Predictions and Prognostications: The Penske Paradox

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IndyCar’s best team is also by far the worst.

Team Penske has won the lion’s share of the races lately, taking ten of sixteen in 2016 on the way to a championship. That’s one awfully rude lion. The four horsemen of the Penske paradox also have won the last three St. Pete season openers in a row.

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In the twelve year history of the event – not counting Paul “nearly won the 500” Tracy’s 2003 win in CART – Penske pilots have won an astounding eight races. That’s two out of every three on the west Florida streets.

Predictable doesn’t describe the sort of dominance RP’s team enjoys in IndyCar’s initial race. Tedious comes close.

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Which brings us to the worst part of Team Penske. Continue reading

St. Pete Preview: Russian Revolutions

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Ominously, IndyCar kicks off the 2017 season Sunday in a city named for the cradle of the Russian Revolution. In light of all the fake news headlines involving Russia lately, is this mere coincidence? We think not. It gets even weirder still, as – get this – there’s even a Russian driver in the field. [Cue threatening music.] Recent rumors that Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has never met with him are patently false.

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These facts raise some sobering (booo!) questions. Should IndyCar CEO Mark Miles – who scheduled the season opener in St. Pete – be forced to recuse himself for even talking to Muscovite Mikhail Aleshin? Or better yet, should Miles – who’s planning a race in communist China of all places – be impeached for the Russkie’s mere presence in the series? Finally, what exactly is Miles’ relationship with Premier Kissoff?

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The mystery surrounding these Russian connections only deepens. Is Aleshin actually a sinister Putin plant designed to damage IndyCar? Continue reading

Barber Race Review: Friends Edition

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So much for a friends reunion at IndyCar’s annual parade ’round a motorcycle track in Alabama. None were made and, what’s worse, auld acquaintances fractured under the pressure Sunday afternoon.

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The Cap’n’s Frenchman Simon Pagenaud – who has few friends – dominated the road course race winning from pole. It’s his second straight triumph and sixth overall, a trend that won’t win him many new friends in the IndyCar paddock. The fuel saving and “coasting” exhibited yet again during the affair won’t win the series many new fans, either.

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It was a fugly start, with AA‘s Carlos “unfriendly” Munoz smashing into Mad Russian Mikhail Aleshin. Continue reading