Iowa Race Review: ‘How Is Hinch Ahead?!’ Edition

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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.

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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

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IndyCar Watkins Glen Race Review: ‘A Really Timely Caution’ or: T-Bell’s Faux Pas Edition

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Alexander Rossi owes a highly dubious second career win to his teammate and fellow Indy 500 winner Takuma “timing is everything” Sato, who committed the racing equivalent of hari kari at the Glen – twice. In NBCSN’s booth, apparently Townsend Bell was under the influence of enough meds to nearly forget his name, which makes us wonder about his urine test for the next race.

For Daffy Leigh Diffey‘s triumphant return to IndyCar there was the ridiculous wet start that wasn’t. That is to say, it wasn’t wet and it wasn’t much of a start. Thank goodness Tony Kanaan made it through the parade laps this time, though he would eventually find pit lane too difficult to navigate, hitting the wall at pit lane exit – right after the championship leader did the exact same thing.

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The start saw Josef Newgarden surging, Scott Dixon dropping and Helio going way wide with no track restrictions in place. After the first lap pit stops for slicks a reshuffle had Helio around Rossi for the lead and Ryan Hunter-Reay up to fourth. Spencer Pigot spun completely around on lap 4 but managed to keep it going and even lead some laps before finishing 12th.

On lap 5 Dixon got around RHR prior to the first of three cautions, as Hinchcliff’s gear box issue and a puff of smoke from his Honda ended his day. The race returned to green on lap nine and as usual Helio jumped the restart ahead of Rossi, Newgarden and Dixie. Dixon soon passed Newkid again and appeared to be on the way to another win at the Glen. However, it wasn’t to be and Helio opened up a sizable lead.

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Then the Townsend Bell blooper reel portion of the broadcast began. Continue reading

Mid-Ohio Race Review: Precious Little Edition

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IndyCar’s least entertaining track lived up to its reputation with precious little passing and even less excitement.

The start especially as well as restarts provided brief glimpses of racing. Cars were three wide on the first lap, the air thick with tire smoke rising from the contact. The field quickly spread out into a procession however, or what we call situation normal at Mid-Ohio. Precious little Penske Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won from pole, padding his points lead. It was a predictably smallish sort of weekend in central Ohio.

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Two caution periods for ten laps seemed too few, as contact and damage were rife during portions of the race. Four penalties seemed insufficient also, considering three were for pit lane violations and two of those were on one driver. Mikhail Aleshin led thirty laps prior to his last stop troubles. Doing his best Francesco Dracone impersonation, the racy Russian hit equipment, crew and Josef Newgarden after prematurely being sent out of his SPM pit.

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Scott Dixon’s awful weekend included a “miscommunication” leading to an eleventh place qualifying effort, breaking his front wing soon after the start and an early retirement due to contact. Continue reading

Toronto Race Review: Just Say No To TO

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The Toronto track’s too narrow, ramshackle and winding, making the racing too processional for our tastes. Especially with the recent changes to pit lane and curbs coming apart mid-race – that’s Detroit level awful. It’s high time to reconsider Toronto’s place on IndyCar’s already sketchy schedule.

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A new ‘S’ shaped pit lane is “ridiculous” as Conor Daly rightly called it after the race. Its forty mile per hour speed limit is an embarrassment. If we wanted to see racing at school zone speeds, we’d watch NASCAR. Throw in the extra short pit stalls and it all adds up to a joke. Perhaps thirty years at Toronto’s enough, as the city seems to have grown apathetic toward the series, at least judging by their “track.”

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As quintessential Canuck Paul Tracy said, “they almost made a full lap” before the first wreck. Continue reading

Iowa Race Review: Feel Good Edition

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A real feel good story emerged Sunday evening in Iowa, with Josef Newgarden winning his third IndyCar race and first since sustaining serious injuries at Texas in June. As usual, Iowa Speedway provided plenty of passing and thrilling oval track racing. In still more good news, the series announced its return for at least the next two years. The positive vibes were everywhere.

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Newgarden was feeling good in the car Sunday, despite his broken clavicle and hand still healing. He lapped and ran away from the field in the Fuzzy’s Vodka machine that was clearly the class of the field. Starting second, he took the lead from pole sitter Simon Pagenaud on the first lap and never let up. Mad Will Power battled his way up to second, while Scott Dixon equaled his best finish at Iowa in third. Racy Russian Mikhail Aleshin was top Honda in fifth for SPM.

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In a largely clean, green race there were three cautions, two for engines and one for a spin. Ryan Hunter-Reay did his best Simona de Silvestro impersonation Continue reading

100th Indy 500 Qualifications Day One: Mayor of Indy?

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Photo from Chad Smith on twitter.com

After more a.m. rain, weepers on the track caused a delay in the first day of qualifying for the greatest spectacle in racing. IMS extended the track window by an hour setting up a helluva climax for ESPNews. Boy, was it a Duesie. The Mayor James Hinchcliffe stole the show – and the pole – in a riveting late happy hour run of 230.946 mph.

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Photo from Chad Smith on twitter.com

Prior to that, Max Chilton was involved in the first accident of the day in practice, losing the car in turn 2 and smashing Chip’s half million dollar bill board up pretty well. Calamity next struck Pippa Mann when her rear wing end fence failed during a qualifying attempt, spinning her out in turn 2. She almost saved it with an evasive maneuver before lightly brushing the wall.

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ABC’s two hour window missed almost everything except Pippa’s spin and the final few qualifiers like 500 winner Buddy Lazier. Continue reading

100th Indy 500 Predictions and Prognostications: History Yet To Be Made

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Auto racing’s most important race ever is mere days away, the 100th running of the Indy 500. A fixture at Indianapolis, one thing’s always certain: history will be made come Memorial Day Sunday.

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Our special 100th Indianapolis 500 prediction is a whole lot of yellow – the angular 100th 500 emblem, countless canary cars, hordes of yellow shirts and yes, also a goodly number of caution flags. In IndyCar, that means lots of twenty minute snack and bathroom breaks for the spectators. With six full fledged rookies, another who barely started the 500, several more Month of May one offs and Takuma Sato in the field there’s bound to be some crashing. As for nearly half the field being yellow liveried, despite the odds we’re predicting a non-yellow car to win.

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There’ll be no track record again this year, far from it. The pole speed won’t hit  Continue reading

Fast Friday Fun

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The day was incident free (though barely) and with additional boost added to the engines the speeds increased, as some topped 231 mph. Over half the field bested 230. Fast Friday was interrupted by rain and for the second time this week track time was lost due to precipitation. But the skies cleared in time for happy hour, which is always fun.

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Team Penske’s resident lunatic Will Power jumped out to an early lead with a top speed of 231.47, while quirky Californian Townsend Bell had the best speed by himself at 231.06 in the early going. The top drivers didn’t change by the end, funnily enough.

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Photo from Chad Smith on twitter.com

Power put up the day’s – and week’s – fastest lap of 232.6 with a tow during happy hour and Josef Newgarden soon jumped to second quick. SPM’s James Hinchcliffe Continue reading

100th Indy 500 Practice 4: Cautionary Edition

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The normally rideless Rookie of the Year Gabby “Pat” Chaves found him/herself atop the speed charts on the fourth/third day of practice. This extreme oddity – in a Dale Coyne car, to boot! – continues a Honda sweep at the top of the charts. There’s a cautionary note or two that accompany this story, though. First, the speed was tow assisted. Plus, a third Honda engine blew up in as many days of practice, never a good sign. Ryan Hunter-Reay’s AA machine belched smoke rolling to a halt on the warm up lane during the afternoon session.

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After Spencer Pigot’s wreck in his yellow car Wednesday, the series was taking no chances. Perhaps they were being overly cautious, like last year. Either that, or an inordinate amount of debris somehow found its way onto the racing surface. Seemed like an awful lot of cautions Thursday, despite the happy absence of wrecks. The speeds were slower, too. Pigot still hasn’t made it back out in his RLL backup car, which he’d described as “bare.” Probably the cautious thing to do.

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Add another yellow and blue car to the field, as f-ing F1 invader Alexander Rossi – who’s been quick this week for Andretti Autosport – makes the field practically half yellow this year. Ray Harroun’s probably spinning in his grave. We took it to the highest levels.  Continue reading

100th Indy 500 Practice 2/3: Tow Edition

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Honda may own the fastest speeds of the month in a tow, but they also own the first two major engine problems as well as the first crash.

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After a washout Tuesday the track was green Wednesday at the shrine of motorsports. Things got off to a wacky start with the numbering. According to IMS, the second day of practice which occurred Wednesday is actually – and officially – day three, not day two. Got that? So we’re using the Lazier/Burns slash and calling it practice 2/3.

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Photo from Jason on twitter.com

RLL rookie Spencer Pigot received a rude welcome to the ancient and unforgiving Speedway. Pigot became the first and only crash victim thus far, spinning in turn 1 and slamming into the end of the safer barrier with his left side. Continue reading