A.J. Gets Bigger, Brit Hawk Lands in Texas

Silly season news fell to earth today in Texas and Indianapolis, as A.J. Foyt Racing announced its expansion to a two car effort for the 2015 IndyCar season. Yeee-haw! Now A.J.’s got twice the number of drivers to yell at. Twenty three year old rookie from Bradford, England Jack Hawksworth who drove for BHA this year will pilot the number 41 car. Other than Indianapolis, Foyt hasn’t regularly run a second car in years and longtime sponsor ABC Supply is behind the effort. The expansion for the Honda team is interesting news and puts the new shop in Speedway, Indiana announced a couple of weeks ago in perspective. The fact that Sato’s back for another year with the team is also news and could be easily overlooked. More to come in IndyCar News Week in Review.

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IndyCar Driver Test: James Hinchcliffe

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Photo from usatoday.com

Popular and slightly off-kilter racer James Hinchcliffe was born outside Toronto in Oakville, Ontario in December, 1986 back when “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Platoon” were also new. After a breakthrough third season in 2013 scoring an impressive three wins, Hinch had a disappointing 2014 and recently changed teams leaving Andretti Autosport after three up and down seasons. That’s not the only conversion the comic Canuck has undergone recently, either.

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Last week the madcap Mayor of Hinchtown announced his signing with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in usual style – at an Indy brewery over some “oat sodas.” Before that he became an ordained minister through the wonderful convenience of the web, performing the ceremony at his friend and fellow driver Charlie Kimball’s late September wedding. A few years back, Hinch hilariously dawned a long black wig while replacing Danica (more diva than driver) in the late GoDaddy ride at AA. Today’s question of the quirky, quotable Canadian comedian is, did he pass the driver test?

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Photo from foxsports.com.au

In his fun filled four year IndyCar career, Hinch has a gaudy eighteen top five finishes and thirty four top tens to go with his three wins. He’s also led over four hundred laps in his career, although funnily he’s never earned a pole. A past winner of the Tony Renna Rising Star Award, the racin’ reverend displays obvious driving talent. Even after an off year in 2014, his winning percentage in sixty eight big league races is an impressive 4.4%, better than most in the field. Without question Hinch is in the top half of IndyCar drivers, but that’s not the only part of this rigorous, uncomfortable and thoroughly invasive driver’s test. Now reverend, turn your head and cough.

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Photo from racing.ap.org

The other half of the exam is how well the driver handles media and public relations, as well as interaction with fans. In this regard, James’ talent may well surpass his on track gifts, which are bountiful. From his virtual Hinchtown site to his practical jokes and unorthodox, goofy-cool style, the mayor excels in the realm of media and PR. More than that he embraces his comedic racing role and enjoys it to the hilt, adding some much needed funniness to the sometimes somber, strangely sober series.

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A merry prankster, our humorous man of the (greasy) cloth lightens the mood wherever he goes, his charismatic personality nearly as infectious as a giggling fit in church. Joining his third team in less than five years, Hinch has made light of this inconstancy and likened his wandering ways to that of another waifish star, calling himself “the Taylor Swift of racing.” James is an exceptionally likeable and funny guy who’s not afraid to laugh, especially at himself. That quality translates extremely well in the modern age of racing, media and widespread weirdness.

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We at IRR salute and congratulate Hinchcliffe on his recent off track accomplishments – for weddings be sure to book early – and commend his silly slapstick style and Python-esque panache to other, less media-savvy drivers in the paddock (most of whom certainly will need a backup career). Hinch is easily the most likeable Canuck since John Candy – at a quarter his size – and along with his WAG is just adorable. How could a guy with the talent, face and personality of our favorite fast funnyman not pass the test? As Sam Schmidt may well have sung to the Rev of revs (and if he didn’t he should have), “Get out of my dreams, get into my car.”

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IndyCar News Week in Review

  • Pags to Penske: The most significant IndyCar news of the week wasn’t even a close race – it was a Penske sweep. The championship winning team landed the hottest free agent on the market in 2014, ironically a Frenchman. Pagenaud to Penske is major news, creating a four car powerhouse team, a first for Penske for a full season. Looks like the Cap’n grew tired of watching Andretti’s and Ganassi’s cars outnumber his on track, so he’s upping the count. For fans of underdogs, this adds another reason to root against the former CART Cardinal turned Captain and his dominant team.

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  • Hinch Marries Kimball?! On September 27, Charlie Kimball married long time girlfriend Kathleen Thompson in a ceremony in Indianapolis officiated by Canadian James Hinchcliffe. Apparently the madcap mayor obtained a ministerial license online from a shadowy group known as American Marriage Ministries. We wish the newlyweds all the happiness in the world and the Mayor of Hinchtown a very  blessed day in his new career. It could really pay off for him if his on track performance doesn’t improve.

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  • Other Silly Season News: Mayor/Minister Hinch remains unsigned, but Pagenaud’s vacant seat at Schmidt is said to be his for the taking. Schmidt has tested several lesser known drivers recently, although signs point to the quirky Canadian being paired with the mad Russian for next season. This should make an intriguing international combination for one of the few IRL era teams left in the paddock. Speaking of the good ol’ days, as predicted here at IRR months ago Sato’s ride with AJ Foyt Racing is apparently in jeopardy, as other drivers including rookie Englishman Jack Hawksworth have been rumored to be under consideration by the King of IndyCar.

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  • Career Change? Former series driver Swiss Miss Simona de Silvestro’s Formula 1 dreams have been obliterated, as Swiss team Sauber announced it’s moving in a different direction. De Silvestro departed IndyCar in 2013 after scoring her first podium finish with a second place finish in Houston. Enduring several unsuccessful seasons in IndyCar, Simona’s latest failed F-1 venture is considered by some as her last chance in big league racing. We wish her the best in her future endeavors and would enjoy seeing her return to IndyCar, though we’re not holding our breath.

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  • Odds & Ends: There was a Firestone tire test at IMS recently, and it was uneventful according to reports.  Ed Carpenter, whose team is transitioning to two cars as he merges with SFH, participated in the test while his new teammate Josef Newgarden watched. Newkid Tweeted some snaps of his boss and it looked to be a perfect fall day in Indianapolis, the Rome of motorsport. Testing of the new aero kits hasn’t begun, but will be a crucial component for teams this off season. In other news, Honda’s scrambling to keep up with Chevy as they continue to hemorrhage top drivers and teams, most recently Pags.

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IndyCar News Week in Review

  • The latest bad idea acknowledged as under consideration by series honcho Derrick Walker is canopies. That’s right, canopies on gorgeous open wheel, open cockpit cars that have had the same general look since they were invented over a century ago (DW-12 ass pods notwithstanding). Attention IndyCar brass: rich traditions and history are not mere nothings to be sloughed off by the people who happen to be in charge of IndyCar’s sacred stewardship at the moment.

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  • Rather than using unsightly canopies, we suggest airbags as alternatives. Advanced, ultra-safe airbags similar to but stronger than those in passenger cars could solve the perceived problem, which is protecting drivers’ heads during catastrophic collisions. They would accomplish the goal without altering the characteristic open-topped aesthetic appeal of IndyCars. In keeping with another hallowed and ancient IndyCar tradition, the development of such revolutionary airbag technology has all sorts of safety applications for the citizenry, from motorbikes to passenger vehicles to the military. This would enhance IndyCar’s long legacy of safety and technology innovations – including rear view mirrors and safer barriers – while not radically altering tradition, the unique look or inherent riskiness of the sport.

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  • Honda’s misery deepens as they continue to lose teams as well as championships. Most recently the newly fused Carpenter-Fisher-Hartman Team announced they’d be utilizing Chevrolet power in 2015. This wasn’t surprising considering ECR’s success this year using Chevy to the tune of three wins, a podium and pole position at Indianapolis. On the other side of the steering wheel SFHR and Josef Newgarden didn’t wow the crowds with Honda in 2014 and willingly accepted the change for next year. Big things are expected of the newly merged team, due in part to the bow tie power plants. Of course the aero-kits of both Honda and Chevy and their overall effects upon the racing in 2015 remain to be seen and are a true wildcard. They’re supposed to make the cars faster.

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  • As for silly season news, there really is none. Interestingly, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud who’s been driving for Sam Schmidt the last few years is the hot free agent this off season. Recent rumors linked him to Penske, whereas earlier rumors had him at Andretti. No signing has been announced as of yet, so it’s all been pure speculation. IRR only knows this – we’d hire him.

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  • The final bit o’ IndyCar news this week concerns the schedule. The long rumored race in Brazil – at yet another new venue in the capital Brasilia apparently made with leftovers from the World Cup building frenzy – will in fact take place early March, 2015.  Unfortunately it’s an additional street course. This flies in the face of IRR’s sound advice to the series to instead race in Colombia, which is not only a nicer and safer destination for tourists but also the home nation of no fewer than four series participants, three of whom swept one of the podia in Houston this year. But no, IndyCar seems determined to go about things in the same old way while expecting different results – and that’s just crazy.

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  • In spite of IndyCar’s obtuseness and flat out refusal to accept our wise counsel, we’ll conclude by  offering a few other helpful bits of advice. First, include more oval tracks on the schedule, as they are the sport’s heritage and provide by far the best racing. Second, start listening to your fans and supporters while you still have some left. And third, can the campy canopy idea.

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Photo from leicestermercury.co.uk

  • On a related note, there was some international news this week as Scotland voted whether to secede from the United Kingdom and discard a mutually beneficial and peaceful union of three hundred and seven years. Fortunately for most concerned including the United States, the large majority of Scots kept their senses and voted no. The IndyCar connection? It’s three time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti, tiny Scotland’s only recent series participant. The former driver’s stance on the historic decision of his countrymen when asked directly by an IRR reporter? A resounding no comment.

Danica: More Diva Than Driver, Part 2

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Danica endured a disappointing 2010 IndyCar season though she remained well lighted under the media klieg lights. The pressure mounted on her to prove that the historic 2008 win at Motegi wasn’t merely a fueling fluke, an accidental outcome as it started to appear. She managed only eight top ten finishes in seventeen races that year, though she did score a couple of podiums at Texas and Homestead along the way. There was nary a win in sight and it’d been nearly three years since her triumph in Japan.

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The same fans, press and admirers who had helped propel her to such dizzying heights of driver-diva fame now demanded more from her, or else the media machine threatened to move on from “Danica-mania” to the next fabricated folksy focal-point of their choosing, say Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus. Undoubtedly, her star had dimmed over the last couple years as the up and down cycles of big league racing took their toll. That glorious Danica glow already had begun to fade amongst the fans, if not yet amongst her dedicated followers in the press corps.

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By 2011 it was apparent that Danica would be leaving IndyCar and her on track results showed it. Emotionally she’d already moved on that final year in IndyCar, merely going through the motions and acting interested, all the while secretly looking forward to trading up for obscene riches. In one of her worst years in racing she managed only seven top ten finishes in seventeen starts, not counting the Las Vegas finale, which was canceled after Wheldon was tragically killed. Her best finish was fifth at the Milwaukee Mile, but it was her only top five finish all year with a couple of paltry sixth place results at New Hampshire and Baltimore for good measure. She led ten laps at Indy but finished a disappointing tenth in her final appearance to date in the Greatest Spectacle in racing.

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Then in 2012 with the usual amount of hoopla and media fanfare she married into NASCAR and its multi-millions, leaving IndyCar jilted, attention-starved and somewhat stunned at its losses. As Elvis once asked, “Are you lonesome tonight?” The divorce complete, her relationship with suddenly shaky IndyCar was behind her and the desirous diva-driver didn’t look back. Whether or not she actually could drive a hulking stocky behemoth around a racetrack was another matter altogether, as her waifish size and weight were no longer advantageous in her new series.

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If DP’s record of one win in a hundred sixteen IndyCar starts was poor, then her record in NASCAR has been even worse. She’s currently oh for seventy seven and counting, with a best finish of sixth quite recently in Atlanta. She has three top ten finishes so far this year along with two ninth place finishes last year. That’s it in two-plus lengthy – by which we mean seemingly never ending – NASCAR seasons.

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The media hype surrounding the driver-diva remains disproportionate to her performance to this very day, and it’s been that way since she made her debut a decade ago. It’d be another matter if she were a consistent or even sporadic winner, but such effusive media coverage starts to become insulting after so many years without results. Just ask her dumped ex-IndyCar colleagues.

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No other racer with one win in nearly two hundred starts gets a fraction of the attention she does. Clearly, Danica’s far more of a diva than she is a driver. The record – both photographic and otherwise – proves it. The only question is, will the media finally wake up and roll over for a clear eyed, sober morning view of their bodacious bedfellow to acknowledge the obvious fact? We predict no, and that she eventually moves on from NASCAR to fall for her next passionate love interest (media, anyone?), when yet again her utter lack of results will be completely ignored.

Paging Dr. Miles: IndyCar’s Health Status, Stat

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Sorry about the long wait and hope you found the waiting room and reams of bureaucratic paperwork not too disagreeable. Now that you’ve showed up and filled out the requisite forms, your doctor appointment will be in two months. We’re kidding, it’s just that IndyCar and healthcare both get our hearts to racing and we dislike seeing either in decline. The three metrics of IndyCar’s health we’ll examine under the microscope today are attendance, viewership and sponsorship. So remove your shirt and breathe deeply.

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To our semi-trained eyes, attendance was generally down this year at many IndyCar events with some hopeful exceptions like Indianapolis. It’s a difficult subject to find much information on believe you me, as few tracks give much of an indication attendance-wise. So we’re left with aerials on tv, media speculation and bloggers’ grousing. Yippie!

Attendance it seems is more closely guarded than the most sensitive state secrets in this Snowden era of laxity and leaking. A lot of open aluminum showed up on broadcasts however, and attendance is down all across motorsports. Interestingly major league baseball and even both kinds of football have seen fewer fanatics at the gates this year.

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Viewership on television for 2014 was reportedly up over 30% on NBCSN & double digits for ABC races this year over last year. Of course those figures can be misleading because last year’s numbers were fairly horrible. On a related note, we’re told this is the season of recovery for the U.S. economy – for the sixth year in a row now. Yeah, right. Still it’s a tentatively positive sign so we’ll take it and hope that it bodes well for the future of IndyCar.

As fans, let’s all make a pledge to go to at least one IndyCar race next year, shall we? Provided of course any of us can still afford it by then. For any of you forward looking individuals considering scouting some European locations, we make an excellent tour guide service during the off season.

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Sponsorship ideally includes profitability but it’s much more than that, entailing marketing, exposure, cross-promotions and the like. Essentially it’s all about money. A classic scene from Casino comes to mind, where Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone discuss “sponsorship” just prior to an intensely intimate moment on the couch. You know, right before everything in Vegas turns tits up.

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A focus of sponsorship should be the long term health of the client, in this case our beloved artistry on wheels. IndyCar’s sponsorship overall still seems middling, even though they’ve brought in a platoon of new folks for the express purpose of improving and a big name title sponsor like Verizon. It just feels a little trailer-ish, you know?

2014 may be paying off for the series itself, but it’s not so rosy everywhere in IndyCarLand. While IMS and IndyCar reported profits for this year and a few races had title sponsors, many teams continue to seek adequate funding. The teams are without question the lifeblood of the sport. We’ve pointed out the loss of some pretty big sponsors by certain teams recently like Red Bull and National Guard, as well as the addition of some new ones including Novonordisk and UFD.

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Sports Business Daily quoted Mark Miles as saying IMS and IndyCar “had a very good year” in 2014 for the first time in a while. Perhaps they sold a lot of baking soda at Clabber Girl, because the above metrics weren’t that much better than last year’s, truth be told. Miles credited consolidation, the abbreviated schedule and new strategies for the success. Well and good for IMS and the series, but what about the effects on individual teams? After all, without strong thriving teams and the 500 IMS is simply a glorified motorbike track that like so many other venues hosts one so-so N@$C@R race a year.

Fontana Finale Race Review: Mea Culpa Edition

Allow us to begin with a mea culpa, as congratulations are in order for Will Power. He didn’t blow the finale as we predicted, but rather triumphed to win the IndyCar Championship in fine fashion. He did not melt down, embarrass himself or his homeland of Australia, or go berserk – much less stark raving lunatic mad – on live television as we envisaged. He performed brilliantly and proved us utterly wrong. Good on you, mate. Finally, we assure all our readers once and for all he’s perfectly sane.

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Photo from foxsports.com.au

IndyCar’s finale Saturday night delivered an action packed and thrilling conclusion to a compact 2014 campaign. Seems like it just began at St. Pete the other weekend, doesn’t it? The race entertained the sparse looking crowd, settled the championship and provided the eleventh different winner in eighteen races, which ties the record. Thankfully after Aleshin’s terrible crash in Friday night’s practice it remained safe throughout with only a single caution brought out late by Hunter-Reay’s spin, and he deftly managed to avoid the wall and competitors.   

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The pre-race was a drawn out affair lasting over an hour and recapping the entire season, including each race winner, interviews with three quarters of the field and a full points rundown. It was disappointing there was no Miller grid run (our favorite!) in all that programming and despite its length the pre race show still seemed somehow rushed. There was the usual comic relief during the build up when viewers couldn’t hear the command to start engines due to a dead mic. Happily they were fired anyway and we could hear the two-seater’s mic. By the way that’s the last two races in a row where we’ve heard from the contest winner, which surely must be a record.

When the green flag finally flew on the rows of three the action proved intense with three and four wide passing through the corners. There was near constant battling at speeds over 215 mph throughout the field most of the night. The 500 miler was another exceptionally clean race as it seemed like the Russian’s destructive accident twenty four hours earlier had put the fear of God into the drivers. Long stints of green flag racing ruled and other than Huertas’s very unusual retirement due to illness for Coyne (when’s the last time you remember that occurring? we’re currently investigating the matter) neither engine reliability nor debris on track became an issue as some had feared. In fact every other car besides Coyne’s finished the lengthy race.

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Starting second to last and remaining there initially, Power steadily advanced through the field and even led the race at one point. He finished ninth which was enough for the championship as Helio led too, but then drew a costly penalty for a rules violation. Committing an uncharacteristic mistake, he swerved late off the track entering pit lane which is a no no. After being penalized – they actually did penalize Team Penske – Helio’s race was effectively over as he struggled to stay in contact with the leaders and finished 15th.

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Unfortunately Pags lost a teammate the night before and wasn’t a factor in the championship battle or race. Going seven laps down after experiencing early problems the Frenchman never recovered. Sam Schmidt did give a positive update on Aleshin’s health during the broadcast and mentioned looking forward to having him back in the car again next year, both good signs.

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Power shed tears of joy after finishing the race and winning his first championship after three straight years as runner up. “I can’t believe I won it,” he said emotionally afterward. We can’t believe it either, Will, we really can’t. At the front Tony Kanaan finally broke through taking his first win of the year and with his new team Target, which celebrated three late victories after a rather slow start in its 25th anniversary year.

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TK’s teammate Dixie rallied to second and remarkably finished third in points with a late race and season surge. Carpenter ran solidly on track despite a pit lane speed violation advancing to finish third in his swansong effort with ECR before the merger. His future teammate Josef Newgarden started second but quickly dropped back, finishing a disappointing tenth to end a somewhat frustrating year for the young driver. Juan Montoya “you know what I mean?” capped off a strong comeback to the IndyCar series with a fourth place result while Hinch and Sato both performed well to round out the top six.

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Photo from sfhracing.com

Obviously we absolutely adore Auto Club Speedway and the exciting racing IndyCars routinely display there. SoCal saw a thrilling 500 mile extravaganza as advertised and we’re looking forward to next year’s race already. In the meantime IndyCar fans all must endure a long off season with Will Power as Champion, our newly crowned IndyCar King. We fear it’s going to be an extremely down under reign.

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Sonoma Recap: Rockin’ Race Review

To our pleasant surprise, Sonoma provided glimpses of real IndyCar magic on Sunday afternoon. Even a blind racetrack can find a decent race once in a while. Racing broke out after an earthquake jolted the area overnight, Will Power inexplicably remained un-institutionalized and Sebastian Saavedra somehow received another series start. Hats off to Scottie Dixon who stealthily stalked the leaders most of the afternoon to take the win. It’s only his and Target’s second win of the year, but thirty-fifth of “the ice man’s” impressive career.

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It threatened to be another Power-from-the-pole snoozer like we’ve become accustomed to at Bored to Tears Point, but acts of God have a funny way of changing things up. The race was very much like a six foot long sub sandwich – good at first, then there’s the long middle part but boy is it exciting to finish.

It started with a first lap pile up that saw Hinch spin for about the eighth time of the weekend and collisions involving Helio, Sato and others receiving damage in the corner. The accident was precipitated by Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais who like the others continued on until the wild finish. A skittish Bourdais later tangled with his teammate (two Sebastians come together!) and finally with Will Power on the last lap ending up in the wall. Helio’s race would be at the rear of the field and he’d soon be joined by teammate and championship leader Mad Will Power, a massive mistake adding some unexpected drama to Bored to Tears Point.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

Power controlled the race and pulled away under largely green though dusty dry conditions. Nearly halfway through the race however, he uncharacteristically spun coming off of a corner in traffic, losing the lead and the race and dropping to twentieth. Like Helio he continued on for points sake, but wouldn’t be a factor in the outcome. This put the race up for grabs and led to an extremely entertaining though jarring finish. Less Power means more drama at tracks like Sonoma.

As they dashed to the finish line behind leader Scott Dixon, cars raced all over the track, bumping and grinding and several even running out of gas. It proved to be a finish worthy of the quake rattled weekend, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud filling out the podium in fairly close fashion. Conway who led the race for Ed Carpenter Racing ran out of gas and coasted across the line before stopping on course.

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Bourdais was driven into the wall as they came banging three wide to the line with Power finishing tenth despite some controversy with his final placement. Sato comported himself well finishing fourth and Montoya charged back coca crazed style to a fifth place finish after also starting in the back. There was another brief yellow brought out during the middle portion of the race by Coyne’s Carlos Huertas who stopped on course. We predicted Huertas as first out, as well as Power on pole but missed with winners RHR & Montoya who fell just short.

The race sets up a grand finale for the championship as usual in IndyCar. With no contrived chase system like other series, IndyCar consistently has championship drama through the final race of the season. The double points Fontana offers as a 500 miler makes it a three way battle between the Penske duo Power and Helio and remarkably Frenchman Pagenaud for Sam Schmidt. Fontana will make for a thrilling conclusion to what’s been an entertaining season.

The coverage of the race by NBCSN although with the B team was colorful and competent, as usual. We just wonder how much they get paid to call the area “beautiful,” as unless you really like dusty brown, Sonoma just doesn’t do it aesthetically. Sam – you know – did all right as a new announcer, Townsend’s tolerable and PT’s ok for a Canuck. Leigh Diffy is preferred over his stand in, though. We particularly loved finally getting to see Courtney Force on camera. Damn, Graham needs to lead more races.  


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Earthquake Quotes –  

“Man I thought it was all over. I didn’t think we’d have the race. Oh my God – such a shock. I thought I was gonna die-uh.” – Will Power

“Not what you want. Man, it was amazing. I never knew we had that. Man, wow, that was the scariest thing of my life.” – Helio Castro Neves

“It was exciting – first earthquake ever.” –  Simon Pagenaud

“Yeah it was crashing and banging and stuff flying across the room.”  – Mike Conway

“The building was swaying so much. It was pretty big.” – Graham Rahal

“It was weird, man, I’d never been through an earthquake.” – James Hinchcliffe

“Awful, like awful. Like my shit- my, the bed was shaking. Anything in the bathroom went to the floor. It was bad.” – Juan Pablo Montoya

Instant Reaction to Sonoma Qualifying

Apparently JPM was “OVER THE LINE!” One of our picks to win will be starting in the rear. 

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Hinchcliffe makes top six – impressive and surprising after quals spin. Newkid quickest into fast six! Briscoe making a showing with Helio, Dixie and Power in finals. SeBass 7th, TK starting 8th. Our other pick to win RHR starts 10th. 

Mad Will Power’s been seemingly toying with the field and he’s performed well winning multiple times at this track. Will it hold up against the young American’s charge?

Helio does some plowing of a field leaving the track through a corner and ruining his chances at pole. He’ll start sixth. Power goes off track in same spot but remains in the pole position. NewKid starts 2nd, Dixon third. Mad Will Power said you need to start top three at Sonoma to win – we’ll see after the winery crawl Sunday. 

Newkid post quals quote: “I’m happy, but . . . you don’t want to be second.” Perhaps a harbinger of change for the Tennessean next year?

Eleven Ways to Improve the Race Experience at ‘Bored to Tears Point’

Because we’re “you know” all about solutions. 

1. Install sprinklers and off track shortcuts throughout the race track.

2. Jan Beekhuis acting as chief wine steward as well as race steward.

3. Pre-race wet t-shirt competition.

4. Beux Barfield in clown makeup doing tricks and juggling.

5. A smiling Sam Hornish, Jr.

6. Two free bottles of wine with admission.

7. More Wives & Girlfriends tv air time both pre- and post-race, bikinis optional (though strongly encouraged).

8. Robin Miller’s grid run blindfolded on a segue scooter.

9. Mandatory 2 lap “interest” yellow flags every 15 laps.

10. One lap head start for the back half of the field. 

11. Winery crawl commencing at 8:00 am race day and lasting through the green flag.