Road America IndyCar Race Review: Dixon’s Cheese Edition

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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.

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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

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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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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

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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.

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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

101st Indy 500 Predictions and Prognostications: An American Tradition

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The Indianapolis 500 is an American tradition like no other. Now into its second century, the 500 remains one of America’s great contributions to the world, as millions of Spaniards are about to discover thanks to Fernando Alonso.

Our special prediction for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing concerns the show itself, the racing. Expect highly exhilarating, edge of your seat, 230 mph ecstasy on the ancient oval Sunday – the way all racing should be. Of course that’s assuming the weather cooperates. Pay particular attention to the truly unique start, with eleven glittering, growling rows of three cars. It’s among the very best moments in all of sport.

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First lap leader will come from the outside of row 1 and he’s led before, even recently. It’s 100th Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi. The American prevailed on strategy and fumes last year, was impressive in qualifications last weekend and is still young and inexperienced enough to go for it early. Prepare for a vocal crowd reaction when he shoots into the lead.

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The mid-race leader prediction sees the introduction of a villain into the story, a real heavy Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Preview: Second Thoughts Edition

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As race day approaches a number of issues become secondary, while others rise to primary importance.

The two days of qualifying were, as f-ing F1’s Alonso says, intense. Sebastien Bourdais was putting up the month’s fastest laps on Saturday when he crashed horribly in turn 2, ending his day and season with a broken pelvis and hip. Post surgery, Dale Coyne‘s pilot Tweeted thanks for the support and that he’ll “be back at some point.” Meantime, James Davison will drive the 18 car in the 500 and start last.

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Sunday’s round was less eventful as everyone managed to avoid Bourdais’ fate, if not the turn 2 wall entirely. Pushing their cars to the limit, several drivers slapped the safer barrier on the backstretch, including Takuma Sato and Charlie Kimball.

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It was Scott Dixon‘s day, as his four lap average of 232.1 mph was the fastest qualifying speed since 1996 – when Arie Luyendyk set the record – and good enough for pole. Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Practice Five: Not All Bad Edition

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Fast Friday was a day at the Speedway where if it could go wrong it probably did, although there were a few silver linings. For instance, happy hour happened despite rainfall for the second year in row. And even though a Frenchman was quickest, it’s this weekend’s qualifications that count.

After some limited action the rains came, delaying Fast Friday several hours while the track was dried. Happily it wasn’t as bad as last year’s downpour, as Conor Daly reminded us. Once the cars emerged on track, the crashes came; fortunately both drivers were all right. It was that kind of a day in Speedway.

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Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais ran quickest at 233.1 mph, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and his hyphen here to stay second quick at 232.1 mph. The Dale Coyne and Andretti Autosport cars were followed by two more AA entries in Sato and Alonso, who occupied fourth for the third day in a row. Penske’s “What’s wrong with” Juan Montoya – the lone Chevy representative in the bunch – rounded out the top five.

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The fast frog was fastest without the tow too at 231.1 mph, until RHR edged him out with a 231.2 mph run late in the day. Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Practice Three: Scaredy Penske Edition

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Windy conditions kept the Cap’n’s crew – quickest the previous practice, at least in the tow – largely off of Indy’s oval Wednesday. Only Newkid made an appearance, for eleven whole laps. Luckily other teams weren’t deterred by some mere gusts – not entirely.

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Early on Ed Carpenter Racing held the top two spots no matter the tow, with Ed and J.R. 1-2 in their respective Chevys, tops in both categories. Recall that Ed led the way with the highest non-tow speed Tuesday, with J.R. not far behind. By the end of the session, the series’ only owner/driver again owned the quickest lap at over 222.8 mph.

Dixon was second quick for Ganassi, his Honda doing nearly 222.6 mph, while J.R. was third. Fernando Alonso  turned in the fourth best speed – more on him later – and our man Conor Daly completed the top five, Tweeting he was “really happy with the changes overnight.” Way to go, Conor!

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A few questions occurred to us after three days of practice for the greatest spectacle in racing. Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Practice Two: A Slow Day at IMS

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Team Penske’s Will Power made a showing with the top speed of 224.6 mph in Tuesday’s Indy 500 practice, while Ed Carpenter and his eponymous team were in the dough with the fastest non tow speed of 222.8 mph.

Speeds were down even from Monday, as high temps and winds made conditions less than ideal on the famed two and half mile oval. With the weather expected to worsen this week every minute of practice becomes more and more crucial, particularly for the rookies.

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Helio, Gabby “Pat” Chaves (!), RHR and Sage Karam rounded out the top five tow speeds, while Charlie “pinball” Kimball, ECR’s J.R. Hildebrand, “Sour Grapes” Power and Dixon completed the top five on the no tow speed chart. Chevy took both categories Tuesday, while Honda did on Monday.

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Happily there were no incidents involving the wall, Continue reading

Indy Grand Prix Race Review: ‘You’re All Fired!’ Edition

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During a week of high profile terminations, we’ve a few to suggest for IndyCar after the Indy Grand Prix.

Will Power‘s job is secure after his first win of the year and the Cap’n’s third consecutive. He led three quarters of the entirely green race while Scott “runner up” Dixon took second and Ryan Hunter-Reay made an impressive surge from eighth to third. Graham Rahal again had the drive of the race though, improving fourteen spots to sixth.

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While the traditional Indy GP first lap, first turn pileup was averted, some carnage still occurred. Marco ass-ended TK, sending two cars off course and the past expiration date Kanaan to the pits. Perhaps fearing for their jobs, race control was strangely alert, actually penalizing Andretti for avoidable contact with a drive through penalty. It ended his race and should end his largely fruitless decade plus stint in the series.

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Speaking of firings, the ABC crew of Goodyear, Cheever and the other guy acted exactly like they’d just been shown the door. At one point, Eddie was briefly on fire. After offering Goodyear an opportunity to clean his Borg-Warner replica, Cheever predicted “Ryan Hunter-Reay will get to the front.” He proved prescient.

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While there wasn’t a battle at the front all afternoon, there was some passing on track Continue reading

Indy Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: Sympathetic Edition

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Sometimes sympathy is an appropriate response – when it can be convincingly summoned.

A certain uneasy feeling shot through IndyCar teams this week faster than Ganassi flees a bar tab. Those paradoxical Penskes provoke paranoia in the paddock – with good reason – as it’s presumed they’ll probably prevail once the pageantry’s concluded. So should fans expect yet another pitiable GP weekend they’ve seen before, one which merely adds to Roger’s riches?

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Our special prediction is yes, the Cap’n’s embarrassment of wealth will grow even more mortifying this month. Penske practically owns the joint, with sixteen Indy 500 triumphs dating back to the early 1970s. Plus, Pagenaud excels on the ramshackle road course, winning two thirds of the time. If you’re a fan of Team Penske, get ready for a fun few weeks – just have sympathy for the rest of us.

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Pole position will be no different, as both Helio and Power have been superior in qualifying. Penske’s pilots have won ’em all so far this season, taking a decidedly unfeeling approach to the rest of the field. Continue reading