What’s Michael Andretti Thinking This Time? Or: Michael’s Motor Mix Up Madness

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The mercurial motorsports owner’s the subject of still more baffling rumors – yet again.

Victorious team principle in the last two Indianapolis 500s and three of the last four – all with Honda – Michael Andretti is supposedly considering an engine manufacturer change. Bizarre, but that’s just like our Michael. The scion of the famous Andretti clan – and apparently the last real IndyCar driver the family will produce – has had a lot on his plate, starting with Marco’s flailing, failed decade in the sport.

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Publicly, the colorful owner comes off as a real hoot and this latest flirtation’s in keeping with his unpredictable nature. Continue reading

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IndyCar News Week in Review: Turkey Day Edition

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Introducing IndyCar’s Turkey Power: It’s best plucked, washed and Jay Fryed.

UPDATE: IndyCar finally heeded IRR’s advice and significantly altered its aero kits after nearly a year. Changes include tethers, flaps, a domed undercarriage and a Rahal at Fontana change to new engine control units for pits stops. Read all about our long time take on the kits here and here.

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Needs More Sage: Distressing news emerged from the Ganassi camp over the weekend which had nothing to do with dressing. Mike Hull said a fourth car for next year is iffy due to a lack of funding, which means Sage “Wild Man” Karam could well be out of a ride, at least with Butterball Chip. That’s disappointing, as the irascible rookie had a solid albeit partial season – Ed Carpenter, Graham Rahal and race control’s opinions notwithstanding. The probationary Pennsylvanian scored a couple of top five and top ten finishes, including a thrilling race to third at Iowa (of all places) for his first ever podium result. This PLUS impressively managing to piss off half the field, all within a mere twelve races. We say to hell with shirts, how about A RIDE for Sage?

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Courtney’s Gone a Courtin’: As previously reported rather wistfully by IRR, the talented and gorgeous Courtney Force Continue reading

IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Andretti Autosport

Jul 18, 2015; Newton, IA, USA; IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay (28) reacts after winning the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-230374 ORIG FILE ID: 20150718_lbm_ad1_319.JPG

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The Andretti bunch had a wild year that began poorly, turned around in the last portion yet ended in tragedy. It strongly resembled a Sam Peckinpah movie, come to think of it. Legal issues notwithstanding, 2015 was so turbulent it may well make AA want to start drinking again. For all Michael and Hunter-Reay’s talk of being “lost” with Honda early on, the “autosport” actually bounced back for a decent year on track equaling last year’s win total.

Wins: 3

Podiums: 6

Poles: 0

The team’s top driver and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay scored oval wins at Iowa and Pocono along with four top five finishes including second at the Sonoma finale. He came back strong to finish sixth in points, helped by the fact that he was running at the end of thirteen out of sixteen races.

Marco Andretti (27) heads into a turn during IndyCar testing at Barber Motorsports Park, Monday, March 16, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. Drivers are testing the new aerodynamic packages on their cars. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

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Marco’s years’ long difficulties continued, Continue reading

Pocono Race Review: Tragedy in Pennsylvania

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Ryan Hunter-Reay crossed the finish line first for Andretti Autosport at Pocono Sunday evening, but there were no celebrations and no confetti in a subdued victory lane. His team mate Justin Wilson had already been airlifted to the hospital and as yet no one at the track knew his status. It was the strangest scene after a race in memory as a pall hung heavily over the gathered crowd.

Wilson was hit in the head by debris from Sage Karam’s car, which disintegrated when he spun and hit the wall while leading the last portion of the race. Karam injured his right foot in the wreck, but he got off lightly compared to Justin. Slumped forward in the cockpit, Wilson was clearly already knocked unconscious as the car hit the inside wall and came to a stop. Today Wilson remains in a coma in critical condition. Sadly Justin passed away Monday night. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Englishman’s family.

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The incident isn’t dissimilar to the case of F-1 driver Jules Bianchi, Continue reading

Pocono Predictions And Prognostications: Problems Edition

Our problem – one of about 500 of them – is that after nearly a month off our powers of prognostication are really rusty. It’s a good thing our picks have been weaker than an IndyCar penalty all year or else it could’ve been a real problem. Perhaps a month off’s exactly what was needed and everyone can just get back to racing at Pocono problem-free. Yeah, right – at this point IndyCar’s about as problem-free as the drug-addled punk rockers the Sex Pistols.

LONG POND, PA - JULY 6, 2014: The Verizon IndyCar Series Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco race is held at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA on July 6, 2014 (2014 pixelcrisp)

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In honor of “NASCAR‘s Tricky Triangle,” we’ve a series of special predictions, though they’re probably problematic for fans of the artistry on wheels that is IndyCar – you’ve been warned. Tragically it’ll most likely be the series’ last trip to Pocono, like Fontana, at least for a while. Sigh. Befitting the mood of the occasion, in their first on track meeting since Iowa Sage “Wildman” Karam and Ed “The Finger” Carpenter won’t tangle with each other again or even make unkind gestures. It’d be just too juicy and beneficial for a series that has so many problems it doesn’t seem worthy of a good break.

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Despite his prowess in 500 milers, Team Penske championship leader Juan “You Know” Montoya will encounter problems during the course of the marathon race and fail to repeat at Pocono. This’ll present Graham Rahal and other title contenders with a golden opportunity at Long Pond before heading into the season finale. Looks like it’s not the Cap’n’s year, as even Penske isn’t immune to Pocono’s plentiful problems.

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Another problem for Pocono Continue reading

Pocono, You Know: ABC Supply 500 Preview

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Great Jules Goux’s ghost  are we glad to get back to some good old IndyCar oval track racing. This season’s oval finale ABC Supply 500 will be run at Pocono Raceway Sunday afternoon and in our view it can’t get here quickly enough. After a three week layoff, anticipating the exciting, side by side racing IndyCar generally displays on ovals is a given, although so you know Pocono’s a bit roval-esque for our particularly refined racing tastes.

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A technical track, Pocono’s a tri-oval with different banking in each of its three unique corners – a triangular shaped track and a really odd duck. Turn one was modeled after the old Trenton Speedway, two after Indianapolis Motor Speedway and turn three after the flat Milwaukee Mile. Apparently they couldn’t think of a track for a fourth turn. Drivers and teams must make compromises in their setups to navigate each corner smoothly, although there’s usually at least one corner the car doesn’t like. Clearly “NASCAR’s Tricky Triangle” as it’s irksomely billed isn’t your typical oval, don’t you know.

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You know IRR’s definitely jazzed about another 500 mile IndyCar race, but at the same time sad that it’ll be the last until next Memorial Day weekend, especially in the wake of Fontana’s loss. From what we’re hearing, ticket sales had better improve ASAP in northeastern PA or else it may be the last 500 miler – or IndyCar race of any distance – at Pocono. Tragically it may truly be “NASCAR’s triangle” after this weekend. That is at least until a certain head we’ve requested comes in, you know.

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Sadly like many IndyCar races at NASCAR owned and controlled tracks, Pocono – which is privately owned, despite its billing –  Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Vacation Edition

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Andretti Sued By His Own Company: Only in IndyCar would a prominent owner and face of the sport be sued by his own company. Leave it to Curt Cavin to report that Andretti Sports Marketing is suing Andretti Autosport in Marion County Superior Court. In a statement Michael Andretti – the CEO of both outfits – singled out complainants President John Lopes and Treasurer Starke Taylor as “disingenuous and self serving” in their attempt “to impact our family name.” Sounds like recent cutbacks at ASM have led to disgruntled employees and hard feelings. Wonder if Michael wants to get away?

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Testing For The Centennial: Six cars from four teams are testing today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Marco and Helio will be testing Firestone tires while Carpenter, Kanaan, Pags and RHR will be doing some team testing on the historic oval. Looks like no vacation for these six drivers, or at least a slightly shorter one. It’s wise to test the cars, tires and aero kits earlier as opposed to later, as hopefully next year won’t see a rash of cars flying through the air at Indy.

The car driven by Helio Castroneves, of Brazil, is airborne after hitting the wall in the first turn during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Wednesday, May 13, 2015.  (AP Photo/Joe Watts) ORG XMIT: NAA107

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USF2000, Pro Mazda To Get NEW CARS!: Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Seconds Edition

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Rahal’s Reeling ‘Em In: With his surprising hometown win at Mid-Ohio, Graham Rahal jumped to second pulling within nine points of the championship lead with two races to go. It’s been an incredible year for Rahal, who’s won twice, scored multiple podium finishes and an impressive eight top fives. At the same time, Montoya’s fading in the homestretch not even having appeared on the podium in months. JPM did win Pocono last year though, and can’t be counted out yet – no matter how much we might like to do so.

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Television Ratings Rise: For the fourth race in a row on NBCSN, viewership of IndyCar was up for Mid-Ohio. The combined numbers for the live showing on CNBC and the later re-air on NBCSN rivaled ABC races with nearly seven hundred thousand viewers. That’s the highest ever rated IndyCar race on the cable sports network, which now also shows NASCAR. For a sport where seconds count that’s an outstanding trend and one that could continue, though it’ll have to withstand a withering three week break before Pocono.

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Return of the Mad Russian: SPM announced Mikhail Aleshin Continue reading

Mid-Ohio Race Review: ‘Graham Being Graham’ Edition

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Finally Graham Rahal won a race on his home track after seven previous starts at Mid-Ohio and nary a podium to show for them. Inheriting the lead after pitting just as a caution flag came out, Rahal determinedly held on for his second win in what’s already his best ever season in IndyCar. Unfortunately Courtney Force wasn’t on hand for her fiance’s big day yesterday, as she brightens up any venue she attends. But who can blame her for skipping Mid-Ohio though, really?

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During the pre race show Katie Hargitt interviewed Graham Rahal about “growing up at Mid-Ohio.” Graham mentioned remembering camping there as a youth, seamlessly worked in his sponsor Steak ‘N Shake and spoke of generally “terrorizing the place.” We wonder why there are never any Maxim references from Rahal. His helmet for the race resembled the Ohio State Buckeyes football headgear, right down to the buckeye stickers awarded for good play. Graham mentioned he wanted to introduce helmet stickers to his pit crew for performance, citing “competition.” It must have worked, as his crew performed well all day long.

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Coming off an American sweep in Iowa, Mid-Ohio was packed in anticipation of a home town hero emerging and the fans weren’t disappointed. NBCSN’s competent coverage on CNBC included all the usual angles, as Katie Hargitt also interviewed Sage Karam, asking him about the recent dust-ups with Ed Carpenter and Graham. Sage first played the pity card before calling Rahal out.

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“I think a lot of people are picking on the rookie, to be honest. Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Derrick, We Hardly Knew Ye

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Walker Walks: Mark Miles announced Derrick Walker’s resignation as IndyCar President of Competition Thursday, effective at season’s end. Walker’s brief two year tenure leaves yet another void in series leadership, using the term loosely. His biggest challenge was overseeing the introduction of the costly and controversial aero kits this season in an effort to differentiate the look of the cars.

Mike Hull, Target Chip Ganassi Racing team manager

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Walker’s Wake: It’s become a freakin’ turnstile at 16th & Georgetown and speculation about a replacement for Walker has already begun. Curt Cavin pointed to Ganassi honcho Mike Hull as a likely replacement, but we just don’t see it. Hull has the knowledge and experience, but he’s an extremely odd duck and like Walker would struggle as a face of the series with the press. Walker’s impending departure at the end of August also means we’ve a lame duck in charge of race control for the final three races, so don’t expect an immediate uptick in rational calls or a more even application of penalties. Sadly such inconsistency will be Walker’s legacy as competition chief.

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Expected Engine Infractions: Several Honda teams, including Andretti Autosport, Continue reading