2017 IndyCar Season Review

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The series’ recently concluded campaign proved predictable – at least to us – and lacked both a sense of rhythm and any real rivalries. While having its moments, overall 2017 missed out on the excitement and drama of previous years.

This season’s highlights included breathtaking oval racing at Pocono and – to a lesser extent, thank you Tony Kanaan – Texas. Even the racing at Gateway was much improved over the last time they visited a decade ago and an additional oval on the schedule – no matter how inadequate its layout – is welcome change.

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Lowlights involved beyond tedious racing at the usual suspects like Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen and the season finale at Sonoma. Even St. Pete was a stinker this year and as usual the Indy Grand Prix was nearly unwatchable. Iowa‘s daytime race – as opposed to the superior night races of years past – earned the biggest flop award, with Phoenix a close second in the balloting. Iowa Speedway already announced a Sunday date in early July, meaning it’ll be another day race next year.

Easily the most absurd moment of the year was f-ing F1 invader Fernando Alonso being gifted the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award over Ed Jones, or “The Great Hardware Robbery,” as we termed it. This was closely followed by Alo’s team owner Michael Andretti’s brief flirtation with Chevy after winning the last two 500s with Honda and Sam Schmidt beginning to mimic Andretti’s dumb Indy 500 decisions.

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The most shocking moment by far Continue reading

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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

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

IndyCar Driver Test: Mikhail Aleshin

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IndyCar’s first Russian driver in nearly a century features menacingly in our latest driver test.

In an age when seemingly everything’s tied to Vladmir Putin – either rightly or wrongly – it’s surprising Aleshin hasn’t been similarly smeared yet. To the contrary, he enjoys warm relations with Americans as allegations of undue influence are unfounded. The upcoming 2017 season will be his third in IndyCar, all of them for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

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Baron de Rachewsky was the only other driver from Mother Russia ever to race an Indy car. Putin shirtless on horseback obviously doesn’t count. Rachewsky’s lone U.S. effort came in Atlantic City in 1926 on a wooden track. Harry Hartz won the three hundred mile race as the baron’s Bugatti boisterously blew up.

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Getting poured through the sieve of international sanctions (it’s not what you strain, it’s who you strain), Aleshin missed out on all but one race of the 2015 season due to funding issues related to Russia’s rough behavior. The Muscovite’s had some limited success in his two seasons, winning the pole Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Fake News Edition

Ragin’ Graham Rahal recently said “there’s no fake news” in IndyCar.

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Russian Reruns, Again: SPM confirmed what most expected in the return of Russkie Mikhail Aleshin to the number 7 car for the 2017 campaign. He’ll be paired with comedic Canuck James “happy to be alive” Hinchcliffe for the second consecutive season. Reigning champ and Frenchman Simon Pagenaud called the series “better and way more fun” with the cruisin’ Cossack back in the car. For once, we agree with the fickle frog.

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Media Day Matters?: Apparently another IndyCar media day came and went, with the usual lack of real news. Same schedule, largely the same roster of drivers, etc. Here’s a tip for the series: choose another time besides Super Bowl week – any other time – if you truly want to stand out. Also, try generating some real news. Otherwise, it’s worse than fake news – it’s no news at all.

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Out of Date Oreos: ESPN’s highly overrated John Oreovicz Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: The More Things Change Edition

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New Year, New Look . . . Next Year: So-called “uniform body kits,” spec chassis set to replace the aborted IndyCar aero kits, will be previewed in a test on February 10th at PIR. Unfortunately, they’re not set to debut in action until 2018. Brant James recently agreed with us on the egregious aero kits, writing of the “unpopular and expensive assemblies” going away after this season – and none too soon.

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He also quoted IndyCar president of competition ol’ Jay Frye on the mysterious appearance of the forthcoming chassis, who cited “cool” looking “bits and pieces” from “the past twenty years,” with “a lot of retro.”  Encouragingly, Frye claimed the new design would be “lower, sleeker, what an IndyCar has historically looked like.” Perhaps over-promising, the competition president predicted the experience would be “aesthetically exciting for the fans.” Depends upon the quality of the grid girls, obviously. Chassis that aren’t aesthetically appalling would be an improvement, and we hope he’s not speaking of NASCAR fans.

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Optimism Abounds, Apparently: Between Frye’s gushing about the next generation of chassis and Mark Miles‘ ebullience about Continue reading

Initial Ideas and Insights Into IndyCar’s Impending Imminence

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Are Foyt’s Fixes Finally Functional? With two new pilots, brand new Chevy engines and in the midst of an exhilarating era in which it seems almost anything’s possible, A.J.’s team just might stand a chance at success in 2017. Finally. The ornery octogenarian‘s outfit will be one to watch, with the caveat of consistently disappointing performances since at least the IRL days.

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Can Ganassi Going Geisha Garner Gains? The change back to Honda comes after a Hillary level disappointing season, with neither a 500 win nor a championship to the Chipster’s credit, not to mention Target’s departure after a quarter century of sponsorship. Dixon’s still an ace, especially on the roadies, and Charlie “fearless” Kimball’s improving. But TK, the aged one? And TBD, meaning perhaps the return of Englishman Max “Paris” Chilton? Seems Ganassi could have developed a deeper bench. Meanwhile, Sage Karam‘s coaching wrestling.

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Which Andretti Autosport Are You Asking About? On this Jekyll and Hyde team, Continue reading