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

Photo from ap.org

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

Indy 500 Preview: Aero Fits

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Thoroughly entertaining, last year’s Indianapolis 500 ran caution-free for the first three quarters of the race and featured an absolutely thrilling finish. American Ryan Hunter-Reay amazingly edged out Brazilian three-time winner Helio Castro Neves by less than a car length after passing him through the infield grass for the lead. The race was run with spec Dallara chassis, evolutionary cousin to the DW12. Before turning to this year’s 500, we have a serious question to ask. Now that the crown jewel of the sport the Indianapolis 500 has been adversely affected by aero kit madness, why not admit your mistake and go back to the pre aero kit Dallaras of last year, IndyCar?

The car driven by Josef Newgarden slides down the track after hitting the wall in the first turn and going airborne during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Thursday, May 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Joe Watts) ORG XMIT: NAA120

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Practice for this year’s 500 turned out to be a disaster, especially for a number of Chevys which couldn’t manage to keep tires on the track instead getting airborne. The number of Chevys is three, in case you’re wondering. As a result the cars were slowed significantly, everyone was made safe and qualifications went off with a whimper, though there’s no denying the 500 was compromised by the last minute rules changes. Then Monday practice happened and things suddenly took a turn toward the injurious. James Hinchcliffe’s Honda hit the wall in a hard impact, breaking the Canuck Mayor’s leg and eliminating him from the field (and rest of the season) in the painful process. One driver down in the aero kit era at Indy, thirty two to go.

James Hinchcliffe, of Canada, hits the wall in the third turn during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Monday, May 18, 2015.  (Jimmy Dawson/The Indianapolis Star via AP) ORG XMIT: ININS101

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Interestingly there are only two rookies in the field this year – Gabby “Pat” Chavez and Stefano “faster than Andretti” Coletti. Both start at the rear of the field. There are plenty of former 500 winners in the field of thirty three, however. Here’s the rundown of the participating victors: Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Youth Edition

lilicrascalsImage from Indy Race Reviewer

The Speedway’s Makeover: IMS announced numerous changes to the Month of May’s schedule, including open aero kit oval testing and longer practices leading up to the 500. The earlier starting and later ending sessions are not only to allow more track time but also to recapture the old, pre time change happy hour conditions on track. More shadows on the front stretch equals higher speeds. The change is aimed at setting a “New Track Record!” and corrects a chronological mistake. Between practice and qualifications, there’ll be eight straight days of action on the famed oval prior to the 500. These changes represent precisely the sort of ideas we’ve been advocating at IRR. We applaud the Speedway’s moves and highly encourage more of them for next year’s hundredth running.

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Photo from Indy Race Reviewer

Florida? Sounds Fun: Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review

Lights Show Resurgence: Indy Lights suffered mightily in 2014 from low participation – only eight or ten cars in some races  – and accompanying lack of interest, but appears to be making a comeback with a new car! and an uptick in involvement from teams according to a piece from Mazda Road to Indy on indycar.com. The new Dallara chassis’ appearance is definitely an improvement over the old, dated cars and the upgrade was long overdue. The story states that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is the latest team to order multiple new Dallaras for the upcoming campaign. SPM is always a solid contender in the Lights series, having won more championships than any other team  – seven – in their last decade racing, and was expected to buy in – the big news would have been if they didn’t.

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Photo from spmindycar.com

Indycar.com’s Incompetence: There’s the unpleasant matter of more disappointing errors on indycar.com, most recently in the aforementioned press release from Mazda Road to Indy. The author wrongly implied that Schmidt has won eight Lights championships, when in fact he’s won seven.  He also incorrectly cited “stanch” support for the series rather than the correct word, staunch. On the upside, one figure quoted – presumably accurately – in the article predicted between fifteen and twenty cars on the Lights grid in 2015. Testing of the new chassis resumes in December.

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DCR’s Long Over Due Maturation: Dale Coyne gave an interview to racer.com and showed off the continuing renovations to the team’s Chicago shop. The mercurial owner also announced the team’s embarking on an “aggressive” shock program to make the team “better and stronger,” according to Coyne.  He also said the team’s not only kept the staff on for the busy off season, but also added employees to the effort. It’s about time you upgraded your IndyCar operation, Dale.

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“Dollar Dale” divulged some “news” as well, hinting at more change – as usual – to his driver lineup. He referred to post-season testing already done with Venezuelan Rodolfo Gonzalez and another rookie or two slated to test with the team prior to Christmas. This begs the question, which of his current winning drivers may be seeking a new ride, veteran Justin Wilson who’s won seven races in his career or rookie Carlos Huertas who won a race in Houston in 2014? Our prediction: whomever brings the least amount of sponsorship money with them.

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Sinking Feeling SeSaav: Sebastian Saavedra was featured on indycar.com, which ran the usual puff-piece by Dave Lewandowski praising the young driver’s skills and so forth. For obvious reasons the site doesn’t publish frank, honest assessments of drivers, though there’s enough of that on this site, at least. So, the positive spin wasn’t totally unexpected. A straightforward take on his performance such as in Horsepower Rankings – Drivers would be far too brutal for indycar.com.

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Searching harder for highlights than a reviewer of a James Franco movie, Lewandowski ill-advisedly mentioned Saavedra’s pole position at the inaugural Indy Grand Prix. He didn’t mention that Saavedra’s brightly colored KVSH car stalled out on the standing start, leading to a spectacularly catastrophic crash where Mikhail Aleshin slammed into him from behind after others narrowly missed him. If this is the pinnacle of one’s second full season in the series, then standards have sunk even lower than before in 2014. If Saavedra – who’s finished at the very bottom for two years running – has a ride in 2015 and Huertas doesn’t, then sadly that sinking trend continues into the foreseeable future.

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