Sonoma Season Finale Race Review: S&M Edition

Racing at Sonoma through the years has often been painful to watch, and the season finale was no different. Admittedly, there were a few moments of pleasure along with hours of punishment.

Scott Dixon clinched his fifth championship Sunday in dominant fashion, totally overshadowing Ryan Hunter-Reay who abused the competition from pole in IndyCar’s final race at the dungeon like track. In a curious move by the series’ sole broadcast partner, NBCSN viewers missed an eventful start due to preemption by a NASCAR crash and delay at Vegas. Of course it proved to be one of few interesting segments of the day, and for fans it really hurt.

As Hunter-Reay led the field to the green his teammate Alexander Rossi suffered a brain fade typical of his youth and inexperience. Entering turn 1 the championship contender inexplicably ran into the back of teammate Marco Andretti, damaging his front wing and right front tire and all but eliminating his title hopes. Rossi would battle back and almost make it interesting by the end, but couldn’t surpass Dixon’s maturity and experience.

Cars quickly strung out single file as normalcy returned to Sonoma. Continue reading

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Season Finale Preview: Sayonara, Sonoma!

Sayonara Sonoma!

IRR’s preview of the 2018 finale illustrates how the sake’s about to hit the fan with a Japanese race winner, a Kiwi in the points lead and a long overdue kiss off for one particular track.

Following fourteen interminable years of visiting northern California – primarily because the Foyts and Andrettis own wineries there and most certainly not for the racing – the IndyCar party at Sonoma’s over at long last. Now the hellacious hangover begins, as the geniuses responsible for IndyCar’s schedule failed to replace it with a decent track, like the big, beautiful oval at Fontana, home of exquisite racing in years past.

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Photo from sfhracing.com

No, next season the series swaps one inferior road course finale at Sonoma for another one down the coast at Laguna Seca. The 2019 schedule Continue reading

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

Gateway Preview: Awake and Alert Edition

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

2018’s final oval track race will be held Saturday night outside St. Louis. With only three races remaining in the season and the title chase intensifying, the fast cars under the lights will be fascinating to watch, particularly coming less than a week after Robbie Wickens’ horrific, injury sustaining crash at Pocono.

IndyCar’s return to East St. Louis last season saw Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan crash on the parade lap before the race had even begun. Then, on lap one, Will Power spun and crashed collecting Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato. It was yet another of those kind of starts. On his championship run, an alert Josef Newgarden bravely bump-passed his teammate Simon Pagenaud for the win with thirty laps remaining. Newkid’s victory in Illinois was his third out of the last four races, and Pags wasn’t pleased.

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Photo from indycar.com

Prior to last year, IndyCar hadn’t raced at Gateway Motorsports Park in fourteen years – a race IRR staff attended, but weren’t thrilled about. Continue reading

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

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

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

Road America Race Review: Absolutely No Action Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden won from pole for the first time at Elkhart Lake on Sunday, scoring his tenth career triumph in a paltry parade round a track unworthy of hosting a major league race. So what does IndyCar do, hot on the heels of being dropped from Phoenix, one of a few, dwindling oval tracks left? They reward Road America with a three year extension. Great. Meanwhile, in the utter dumbing down of the sport, ovals are being systematically eliminated from the schedule.

Newkid led 53 of the almost agonizingly boring 55 laps, with what little engaging entertainment there was emerging deep in the field or, in reality, when the tipsy though not unattractive blonde crashed Josef’s champagne spraying party in victory lane. His patting her ass is epic, especially in this age of outrage assassins. Otherwise, the highest drama occurred when race control was reviewing several on track fracases, usually involving Rossi and in every single case – except those involving the pits – offering no action whatsoever. Just exactly like the racing.

The Penske front row didn’t last long as Power dropped like a stone once the green flag flew, shouting “engine!” into his mic. Turned out to be a header issue and  Continue reading