IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Dale Coyne Racing

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It’s no wonder Coyne and chaos have become synonymous in the series, as the casualty rate among his crewman approached Chickamauga levels. Dale Coyne had quite possibly his worst year ever and that’s saying something. One incident of hitting a crewman on pit road is too many, two is a real problem. But four wounded team mates is a travesty and deserves serious sanction. The series’ most dubious owner is ultimately responsible for this rank amateurism and must be held to account.

Wins: 0

Podiums: 0

Poles: 0

Three races were marred by three Coyne drivers hitting four Coyne crew members in the pits. At least they were all friendlies who were bashed. Italian Francesco Dracone started it at NOLA, sliding hotly into a wet pit box and violently upending his crewman. During the Indy 500 the crew sent Aussie driver James Davison out of his pit and into fellow Coyne jockey Pippa Mann’s path. This caused Davison to crash into two of his team’s primary pilot Tristan Vautier’s tire changers, sending one to the hospital with a leg injury. The ugliness repeated itself yet again in the classic at Fontana, where Frenchman Vautier nailed his left front tire changer while coming wildly into the pit box.

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Obviously both the drivers and the crew shared in the calamitousness, but it’s ultimately on the owner whose name is on the transporter. Here’s the problem: Continue reading

(That Was) Qualifications? Instant Reaction

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Either IndyCar’s qualifying rules need to be clarified in the event of rain or NBCSN’s Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Steve “Whoa!” Matchett need to do a better job of communicating them. By the way, we’d also appreciate more screen time for Kelly Stavast and less for Marty Snider. As usual, race control was fighting last week’s war, overly concerned with cars impeding traffic when that wasn’t the issue at Barber Saturday.

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For the second time in four races rain affected qualifications – or maybe it didn’t, we’re still not quite sure. Lots of live radar shots set the discombobulated tone for the session and conflicting, confusing messages from the commentators about rain, lightning and new procedures didn’t help matters. Capturing the atmosphere as well as possible Marty actually said late in round two, “Yeah, it’s definitely almost raining at this point.”

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Championship leader Juan Montoya struggled mightily, failing to advance to the second round and as a result will start fifteenth. Continue reading

Race Review, Long Beach: Quite a Reach

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New Zealand’s Scott Dixon triumphed for the first time in nine tries in his storied career at the Long Beach Grand Prix. Surprisingly, the Target driver’s best previous finish and only top ten at the track nearest his homeland was a 4th place in 2010. It’s the “Ice Man’s” thirty sixth IndyCar win putting him fifth all time behind Al Unser and Michael Andretti, whose records are both well within reach. Dixon passed Castro-Neves during pit stops as Helio hesitated waiting for Tony Kanaan to enter his pit box directly in front, and then opened up an insurmountable lead.

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The Penskes swept positions two through four with Helio, Montoya and Pagenaud, the former two battling it out to the very end. TCGR’s Kanaan took fifth, followed by KV’s Sebastian Bourdais and CFHR’s Josef Newgarden in 7th. Marco Andretti rebounded at Long Beach with an 8th place finish and top Honda after starting 10th. His team mate Carlos Munoz finished ninth while Sebastian Saavedra came in 10th in his first race back since a disappointing 2014. Penske’s 2014 Champion Will Power struggled all weekend, starting 18th and finishing twentieth after stalling on pit road. Hoosier Conor Daly jumped into the Coyne car as a late substitute and raced from 21st to 17th, making the biggest gain of the race.

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Fan reaction was split in regard to Long Beach, which is an improvement compared to the overwhelmingly negative reception the first two races enjoyed. Continue reading

Long Beach Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: Cautionary Edition

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With a dry California track in the forecast and two awful aero kit era races already in the books, IndyCar’s due for a classic duel on the beach, or at least a watchable show. A third consecutive clunker of a race following Brazil’s jilting of the series would be devastating, but happily won’t occur. IRR’s soothsaying  division has been on a hot buttery roll with our predictions as of late – that is, if you discount that farce last week in the swamps of NOLA – so let’s get right to the prognostications.

The specialty prediction of this week’s as sunny as the California coastline. Fortunately for fans there’ll be no flying debris showering the grandstands or smacking innocent, paying spectators upside the head at Long Beach. That shouldn’t happen again until at least the Indy GP; however, since Sebastian Saavedra‘s now back in the series we strongly recommend helmets for fans in the first twenty five rows, as a precaution.

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That leads us to our initial weekly prediction, who’ll be first out of the race. Continue reading

IndyCar NOLA Predictions and Prognostications: All Wet Edition

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How’d our crack crystal ball division do predicting last race, you ask? Fairly well. We accurately predicted the pole winner as well as the winning team, if not the winning driver. Also that there’d be a surprise winner, which JPM sort of was. Stefano “faster than Andretti” Coletti was a bit of a disappointment, but after all it was only his first IndyCar race.

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Obviously New Orleans is likely to be wet, as the race is being held in a swamp in April. If you’ve ever visited Louisiana, then you know that the entire southern half of the state’s one giant mass of menacing, brackish swamp water so some amount of discomfort will come as no surprise. Plus there’s rain in the forecast. This week’s out of the ordinary prediction is that a local gator makes a surprise appearance at the track, so be sure to mind those hands and feet! Also, lots of those hilarious, James Carville-awful Cajun accents will be on display so it won’t be an entirely joyless race.

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The couple hundred thousand viewers who bother to tune in to the race will notice the difference in coverage from ABC, assuming they have the “No Body Can See Network.” Continue reading

Qualifications: Instant Reaction

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IndyCar’s first ever qualifying session using aero kits occurred yesterday, though few noticed. Fans were forced to watch a dodgy web stream if they cared to see it. As predicted, Mad Will Power won the pole with a new track record and his Penske team mates took the other top three spots. Chevrolet was dominant, sweeping eight of the top ten quickest times. Unfortunately aero kits are bringing greater disparity between teams and Team Penske will continue to benefit from it this season.

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Marco Andretti was out-qualified by a his new part time team mate who was out of the car all last year Simona De Silvestro. Even further back, Graham Rahal‘s starting 15th. It appears there are no legacies in IndyCar, at least not lately. Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Burgers, Cars & Money

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Money, Money: IndyCar announced an increase to Leader’s Circle monies to be paid out by about a quarter million dollars plus other larger “bonuses.” The hike brings the total paid per entrant to $1.25 million, reflecting both higher costs and revenues. These funds are paid by IndyCar to full time teams in lieu of decent race purses aside from the ever present Indy 500 exception.

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Image from telegraph.co.uk

The 2015 Leader’s Circle includes twenty one entrants, but Simona de Silvestro in Andretti Autosport’s fourth car, Simon Pagenaud in Penske’s fourth car and Jack Hawksworth in AJ Foyt’s second car aren’t covered. These drivers in particular need to perform well for their sponsors and owners, who’ve risked something to provide their rides.

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Questioning the Kits: Will the new aero kits be quicker than the old Dallaras and will track records begin to fall? Continue reading