IndyCar News Week in Review: Surgical Edition

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Hinch’s Comeback: After four months off convalescing outside of the car, lucky to be alive Canadian funnyman James Hinchcliffe returns to his SPM machine this week for testing at Road America in Wisconsin. The Mayor of something or other nearly lost his life due to a “dagger through the bottom of the seat” in his crash at IMS in May, losing copious amounts of blood and undergoing multiple surgeries. After the trying ordeal Hinch is thankful he’ll be back behind the wheel of his car. We’re glad the crazy Canuck’s back, too and hopeful he avoids further surgery for at least a few months.

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Newgarden Stays in Troubled Marriage: For at least another season, Josef Newgarden will stay put at CFH Racing after agreeing to a one year contract extension. The young American had a terrific season Continue reading

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IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: CFH Racing

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For Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing it was an almost Dickensian tale of two seasons, which is altogether fitting because until this year they were two teams. Josef Newgarden performed brilliantly in a break out year scoring his first two career wins, while by contrast Italian Luca Filippi and especially Ed Carpenter who platooned in the #20 car performed rather poorly.

Wins: 2

Podiums: 1

Poles: 1

Newgarden had an outstanding year, winning in fine fashion at both Barber and Toronto – where Filippi finished second – and scoring his first ever pole position at Milwaukee’s Methuselah Mile. In his best season yet, the young Tennessean came in seventh in the championship with five top fives and nine top ten finishes. He was running at the finish in thirteen out of sixteen races and remember, one of those DNFs was when Ed crashed him out at Fontana.

In ten starts on road courses, Filippi managed twenty first in the championship with the one top five and four top tens. Not having Ed to dodge helped, Continue reading

Pocono Qualifications: Instant Reaction

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Helio Castro Neves wrested the forty fifth pole of his decades long IndyCar career away from his team mate Simon Pagenaud Saturday at Pocono Raceway. He did so at over 220 miles per hour and then proceeded to hoot and giggle girlishly in the post qualifications interview. Team Penske swept the top three spots with “Mad” Will Power on the inside of row two in tomorrow’s five hundred mile race, while CFH Racing’s Josef Newgarden and championship contender Graham Rahal –  the quickest Honda – round out the top five.

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Fourth Penske entry and points leader Juan Pablo Montoya encountered a problem on his first lap, drifted up the track and lifted off the throttle. He qualified poorly as a result, starting nineteenth. When asked about his bobble in an interview Montoya replied, “It’s racing.” A big thanks to Paul Tracy, who guaranteed Montoya would be a contender tomorrow thereby jinxing him utterly. This along with Juan’s screw up in quals makes our prediction look better and better. Curiously, JPM declined interviews all day before qualifications, though not with IRR. We didn’t request one.

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Charlie Kimball who’d been quickest in practice spun and crashed during his qualifying run  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

Honda 200 Predictions and Prognostications: Camp Edition

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Maybe several coats of pretty pastel Sherwin-Williams paint could spruce up the fifty something sports car course and campground, but as for the racing this weekend don’t count on much to look at. We at IRR can’t remember the last remotely watchable race at Mid-Ohio and although we’ve been fooled once this season by the racing on a road course unfortunately it’s highly unlikely Sunday. The track’s simply unsuitable for IndyCars and if they want fans squealing with delight then the series really ought to find a better place to camp next season.

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Anticipating abject and unrelenting tedium in the woods we’ll be Live Tweeting the “event” in the hopes of adding some spice and maybe even a touch of camp. Those noisy IndyCars at rustic Mid-Ohio – it’s all just a bit too manly for our tastes. Our special prediction for the race involves the campers at Mid-Ohio, or rather a large contingent of “glampers” invading the track this weekend. Largely city boys out for a thrill, there’ll be some spontaneous weddings break out on the lovely, wooded hillsides where methanol fumes magically intermingle with wispy campfire smoke. Sometimes and especially this year IndyCar needs a feminine touch – and the glampers won’t disappoint.

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Our prediction for pole sitter – such a deliciously descriptive term, isn’t it? – started second last year and has been hotter than a gay pride parade ever since. CFH’s Josef Newgarden – an attractive young man in great shape and with even better hair – has given Americans of all orientations someone to lustily cheer for in 2015. He’s just so cute!

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At the other end of the happy scale, first out of the race will be Continue reading

Mid Ohio Preview: Oh No – Not Again!

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After a hiatus thanks to a half empty Brickyard 400 – making us wonder if those bean counters running Indy Car will ever learn to walk and chew gun at the same time – we’re finally back to racing. Too bad it’s at one of the lesser tracks on the schedule, Mid-Ohio. How’s that for IndyCar building momentum – a week off followed by a trip to a sports car track in the sticks?

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More fitting for a walk than a race, Mid-Ohio’s like Barber without the “beautiful setting” part. At least Barber manages to put on a watchable race every few years. To be fair, it’s nearby Indy and apparently the camping’s adequate. To be unfair, we advocate ditching this race in favor of Road America in Wisconsin plus a few ovals, reiterating our long held view “Down With Mid-Ohio.”

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Making matters worse, the undulating country sports car course is almost always won by Scott Dixon – five times now, yawn – or another Ganassi driver like Charlie Kimball, who broke through in 2013. When asked via Twitter if he expected to demolish the field with a four car sweep, The Chipster Continue reading

Iowa Predictions & Prognostications: ‘300’ Edition

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There’s going to be a fight of epic proportions Saturday night, one for the history books. The Iowa Corn 300 will resemble history’s bloody Battle of Thermopylae, the heroic stand against invaders made famous to modern readers by the Hollywood movie “300.” As in the film, Spartans in glistening helmets will be bravely battling their enemies, only this time they’ll be on track, knee deep in IndyCar gore and in normal color. We can guarantee gobs of good ol’ gladiatorial gamesmanship in the arena amongst the cornfields near Newton, Iowa. Long live Sparta!

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In its shape, size and utility, Iowa Speedway resembles a Greek coliseum and like its ancient precursor the speedway will be filled with screaming spectators ready to see the show. IndyCar drivers bring a warrior mentality to those chariots of theirs as well they should, for another oval track battle royal is about to take place. Here’s what else our oracles ordained to occur this weekend in Iowa.

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Our special prediction for Iowa is Continue reading

Fontana Preview: Save The Ovals!

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Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California has played host to some thrilling IndyCar races over the two decades since it opened. Built on the site of an old steel mill that helped the arsenal of western civilization save itself in World War II, the track was completed in 1996. It began hosting CART races the next year. On the other side of the split the all oval IRL began holding competing races there in 2002, with the re-unified series holding its first race at Fontana in 2012. In an age of oval subtractions from the schedule, the addition of Fontana made imminent good sense.

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Previous winners among former drivers include KV Racing owner/wine connoisseur Jimmy Vasser who, like Sam Hornish, Jr won twice at Fontana along with recently retired Dario Franchitti. Ed Carpenter, Will Power and Tony Kanaan are the active winners in the field this year, while Juan Pablo Montoya will be a threat to take his second five hundred mile win of the season in as many attempts. Interestingly, Scott Dixon and Carlos Munoz both won SoCal’s fiesta in Indy lights, the quick Colombian winning consecutively in 2012 and 2013. We can’t help but wonder if those wins were simply “OK.” Hmmm, Carlos?

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Twenty years of racing at the Southern California track have witnessed wild fires, drought, incredible finishes and speeds over 235 miles per hour. Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Death & Decline Edition

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Milwaukee Mile Moribund?: Rumors have Michael Andretti grumbling about lack of fan interest in the upcoming Milwaukee race, threatening to pull his group’s promotion of the historic event. This may simply be Michael playing hardball and attempting to up his company’s revenue in advance of the race, though it could be more . . .

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No More NOLA?: Andretti’s currently in litigation over the NOLA race seeking more money from the local honchos in Louisiana – we say good luck with that. Additional issues with a cherished oval track like Milwaukee would spell serious trouble for a series with too few non-street course events as it is. The loss of NOLA? Much less of a concern in our view, as “One Stop’s Enough.” All this bears watching, and you can bet as always we’ll be wondering, “What’s Michael Andretti Thinking?”

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Filippi Fined For Fuel: Continue reading

IndyCar 2015 Mid Season Grades

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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IndyCar’s had an interesting season from a dangerous start with flying aero kit pieces to the emergence of a certified new American star. Although we at IRR admittedly tend to bitch a lot we’ve enjoyed the year thus far for the most part, though a rain-marred race at NOLA and cars flipping in practice at Indy were highly forgettable moments.

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How’s ten races into a fifteen race schedule in any way mid season, you ask? The schedule‘s simply too short and we feel cheated out of several races – Brazil and Toronto #2 to name a couple. Don’t get us started on the lack of ovals. Plus, in college the timing of midterms varies widely and since the IndyCar Series sometimes resembles a frat house, we find the break in the schedule to be a good time to assess individual teams’ performances this season.

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Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing: B+

Josef Newgarden’s breakthrough wins at Barber and Toronto have made the team’s merger look brilliant and established a genuine American star – a non-legacy star, at that. The team’s 1-2 finish in Ontario almost made up for a string of bad luck that stretched from Indy to Texas. Newgarden’s success is no fluke and this new team’s best days lie ahead.

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: B  Continue reading