IndyCar News Week in Review: Silliest Season

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Mess Kits: Aero kit testing began Sunday at NOLA and then continued Monday and Tuesday at Barber Motorsports park in nearby Alabama. The Chevys showed the speed as Target driver Scott Dixon topped day one of testing at Barber with a lap time of just over a minute and seven seconds. The NOLA laps were untimed. KV’s rookie Stefano “faster than Andretti” Coletti was second quick on day two behind Power and was in fact faster than Marco by nearly a second. Will Power‘s time of a minute seven point three seconds for Penske topped day two, which translates to a whopping 123 miles per hour on the undulating road course. Dixon’s previous track record without the benefit of aero kit still stands at nearly a second quicker than Power’s Tuesday time.

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Accidents Happen: Rookie Ganassi driver Sage Karam broke a bone in his right hand in a scary accident leaving the track at Barber Monday. We affectionately call it Karam’s carom. Continue reading

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IndyCar News Week in Review: Goaaal! Edition

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UPDATE: AP is reporting the season opening IndyCar race scheduled in Brasilia, Brazil has been canceled by local authorities. The costly construction and renovations at the race course have been ongoing for some time and could well be the issue. This is truly a crisis for IndyCar and makes an already short season even shorter. We’ve offered alternatives to a race in Brazil as well as skepticism towards holding a race there for months now. It was another poor decision by the series to schedule a race in Brazil to begin with and now once again it’s the fans who suffer due to a further abbreviated schedule.

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Brian Barnhart Battles Back: IndyCar announced Wednesday that Brian Barnhart will resume his former duties as Race Director. He’d served in that role from 1997 until 2011, after which ‘Beautiful’ Beaux Barfield took over due to controversies at New Hampshire and elsewhere. The system, described as being like a “jury,” will consist of three stewards who make the calls and assess the penalties collaboratively. Mindful of the anti-Barnhart and anti-IRL sentiment that exists in some quarters, we say anybody but Beaux.

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Drivers’ Meeting in Indy: The Barnhart announcement was made at the winter drivers’ meeting at IMS. Of note were some of the drivers in attendance, including Americans Conor Daly and Zach Veach, British brothers Justin and Stefan Wilson, and Colombians Carlos Huertas and Sebastian Saavedra. Continue reading

IndyCar’s Chopping Block: A Gory Recent History

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It’s a bloody business ending people’s careers, although not so long ago it was a good deal worse when one’s fate literally rested in the executioner’s hands. At the risk of sounding unsympathetic or even – gasp! – ‘mean spirited,’ IndyCar’s a business and personnel changes are a grim but necessary aspect of the sport. Besides these folks get paid handsomely to ‘work’ in IndyCar, which would be a dream job for millions. Sentimentality aside, let’s cut to the chase and review the recent terminations and potential axing of some of IndyCar’s more recognizable faces.

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Living the dream until lately, Sebastian Saavedra made fifty seven big league starts and has absolutely no results. Never coming close to a win, the quirky Colombian failed to crack the top five and only recorded three top tens in the equivalent of four seasons. He’s finished at the very bottom of the field with KVSH two years running now. You may recall his one highlight turned out to be a disaster, as pole position at the inaugural Indy Grand Prix led to a stall and spectacularly expensive carbon fiber shower. In SeSaav’s case as in others it was high time a quick cut was made.

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Ryan Briscoe had a decent IndyCar career over the last decade with seven wins, but it appears to be in the past tense.   Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Double Secret Edition

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Aero Kits Finalized, On Strict Need To Know Basis: If you’ve already hit the pay wall you may have missed Indy Star’s wacky ‘reporter’ Curt Cavin’s piece on the more hype than substance IndyCar aero kits, Chevy and Honda’s soon to be introduced body work. Apparently the series has finalized the designs and decided to keep them secret for at least a few more days, with Derrick Walker promising a release of photos – something! – from the manufacturers “soon.” We recommend you prepare yourselves for a major let down when we finally are allowed to see them.

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Irritatingly, Walker admitted that the designs of Chevy and Honda  may not even look that dissimilar. Continue reading

IndyCar News Year in Review: Top Fourteen Stories of 2014 Edition

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1. Pags to Penske: The hottest free agent available this off season signed with the often froggy and widely reviled Team Penske. This is easily the biggest story of the year as well as the most unsettling for other teams. Plus there’s the fact that Pags is a likeable Frog, or was until turning coats to the dark side. IndyCar needs more villains, so the Frenchman’s foreign legion service for the Captain will be entertaining to watch.

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2. An American Actually Wins America’s Biggest Race: Continue reading

(Not) Racing in an Indy Wonderland

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Engines silenced, are you hearing

‘Round the world, tempers searing

We’re pissed off tonight, ’cause they’ve got no right

They’re not racing in an Indy wonderland

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Continue reading

We’re Thankful For IndyCar

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We’re thankful for IndyCar and all its glory,

For Helio and Will’s tight championship story.

We’re grateful for speed and artistry on wheels –

And AJ’s recovery, in hopes that he heals. Continue reading

Bye-Bye Beaux Barfield

After the thrilling Fontana finale and awards ceremony crowning Will Power Champ, IndyCar again changed the subject and announced that Race Director Beaux Barfield was out and being replaced effective immediately. His tumultuous three year stint with the series brought much criticism and some outrageous calls – as well as non-calls – to the races he officiated. The attention Barfield generated was rarely positive or wanted by the series. Scott Dixon and other drivers received their wish last week, as calls for Barfield’s firing from drivers and others go back several seasons.

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The move by IndyCar looked a little amateurish but no more than usual, as Barfield only took the position in 2012 under then IndyCar head Randy Bernard. He joined IndyCar after officiating for the American Le Mans Series for four seasons. He’d also had a role in the Champ Car Series before that and therefore caused some concern immediately amongst IRL loyalists. He now returns to whence he came, joining another sports car series for next season. Bye bye Beaux. 

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Robin Miller cheer-led for Barfield and praised his hiring, asserting that he’d straighten out the superspeedway sized mess his predecessor Brian Barnhart had created in his fifteen years in the role. The infamous restart in the rain at New Hampshire in 2011 that led to Will Power’s very public tantrum proved to be Barnhart’s downfall and eventually led to Barfield’s hiring. Miller was happy and fans anxiously awaited the needed coming change.

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Controversy is simply a part of the job of race director, who like umpires and referees in other sports makes many judgment calls. As we’ve previously noted here however, officials should not be a large part of the story of any race or series. The flamboyant Barfield seemed to be a story more often than he wasn’t, seemingly confusing his role as ref with the role of star driver. Fans aren’t following IndyCar because of the officiating, even if the officials are hipsters who wear cool shades and facial hair.

Barfield missed the Two in Toronto last year after encountering problems at the Canadian border and being denied entry to the country. Ah, that’s our never-boring Beaux. But his bumbling didn’t end there. One of Beaux’s babies while boss was the Baltimore race and it’s ridiculous chicane and surrounding controversy. The track was such a disaster running the cars over a light rail track after a curbed momentum-killing chicane in the middle of a straightaway that it lasted only three shaky years on the schedule before being cancelled by the city itself.

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He ran race control during the introduction of the new Dallara DW-12 but had little to do with the cars by the time he joined the series as most of the testing and work on them had been done already. Major rule book modifications were implemented during his reign though, with some less than clear rules resulting that caused even more confusion and upset. This is especially true with the new blocking rule, which is still extremely vague and largely up to the race director’s discretion. So both calls and non-calls have continued to inflame drivers from Scott Dixon to Will Power to Marco Andretti and the position of IndyCar race control has remained unstable and at times an embarrassment.

Jan Beekhuis joined the newly formed race control triumvirate late this season and his role remains to be seen. Brian Barnhart wasn’t fired but merely demoted, so what his responsibilities will be going forward also will be interesting to watch. Will another outside person be added to race control or will a promotion from within occur? IndyCar head Derrick Walker has some serious reformation ahead of him this offseason and the decisions he makes will be crucially important for the future of the series. Here’s hoping his wise judgment prevails and we avoid another disastrous director.