Indy 500 Race Review: The Pagenaud Show

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Simon Pagenaud became the first Frenchman in ninety nine years to win the Indy 500 on Sunday, retaking the lead from Andretti Autosport’s former 500 winner Alex Rossi with two laps to go. In his 50 years at IMS, Roger Penske now owns eighteen 500 victories, winning 36% of all he’s entered.

Mike Tirico actually mentioned the word patriotism during the pre-race show, which was nice to hear on Memorial Day weekend, though frankly we could have done without Dale, Jr.’s dim-witted drawling. Same goes for Danica – and Lance Armstrong, for goodness’ sake. At times during the broadcast it seemed almost like the NASCAR Indy 500.

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The crowd was decent making for fairly full stands, but with noticable tarpaulins and swaths of empty seats the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 was definitely not a sellout. Happily the weather held and the over two hundred thousand fans in attendance enjoyed an action packed race.

Rookie phenom and race winner Colton “Joaquin” Herta was first out of the contest, Continue reading

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IndyCar Grand Prix Race Review: Empty Seats Edition

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Empty suited Frenchman Simon Pagenaud passed Scott Dixon with two laps to go to win the rain soaked IndyCar Grand Prix, coming from eighth starting position to take his third victory – and Team Penske’s sixth – out of six so-called races ’round the infield of IMS. It was a race held before a nearly empty – though admittedly cavernous – racetrack. Dixon’s discernible disappointment at finishing second after leading much of the race was plainly palpable.

The crowd of hangers-on flooding pit road during the pre-race was nearly as large as those poor, drenched paying customers in the sparsely populated stands. Chairman George gave the command to fire engines and the cars were quickly underway. The green flag gave way to the usual first lap problems with Alex Rossi getting rudely run into by Pato O’Ward, sending the 500 winner into the wall, his right rear suspension grievously wounded, ruining his day. The Coyne-ster was penalized for avoidable contact, though came back for a strong – if unjust – showing until the end. Rossi’s teammate Zach Veach got hit by Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan, knocking the youthful, son of Dracula looking American out of the way and into the curb. The aged TK of course faced no such sanction.

Meanhile up front, Jack Harvey went to second around Dixon as rookie Felix Rosenqvist quickly lept out to a comfortable, albeit short-lived, lead. Continue reading

IndyCar Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: Penske Primacy’s Paramount

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Since they insist upon continuing to place this clunker on the schedule, Billionaire Roger Penske should be sponsoring the IndyCar Grand Prix. Particularly since no one else will.

In the five year history of this “event,” Team Penske has won ’em all. Will Power’s won three – including the last two – and his teammate Simon Pagenaud won the other two, taking that fiasco that was the injurious inaugural and also topping the podium again three years ago. Due to such predictable Penske primacy, our special prediction for this rare Saturday race is that once it’s over, you’ll have wished you’d spent the day mowing your yard instead, or even going to a wedding.

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Other than Sebastian Saavedra’s disastrous non-start from P1 in 2014, resulting in a horrifying crash that hairlipped the honorary starter, Indy’s Mayor, Team Penske has Continue reading

IndyCar Grand Prix Preview: What’s New Edition

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After an astonishingly absurd month long layoff – talk about a buzz kill – IndyCar finally stirs back to life at the world’s most awe inspiring racetrack. Too bad it’s not on the actual racing surface, or at least not much of it, but instead on the flat, pusillanimously pedestrian infield access roads. With each passing year, our contempt for this supposed “race” – exactly like our feelings for Mark Miles – continues to sink to new depths.

In the wake of such an interminable hiatus, it seems almost like a new season – and in some respects it is. For oval track racing enthusiasts such as ourselves – who’ve only waited nine months since the last oval race – the promise of a fresh oval season, however abbreviated, isn’t far off now with the glorious 500 up next. Still, when only a third of the series’ races – in a sport built on and by oval track racing, mind you – are on ovals, it’s cold comfort. This Tony George spawn of a slot filler typifies what an unprecedentedly lousy schedule the egg heads at 16th and Georgetown have been providing the last several years – and, in a relatively new twist, how they’re all about the money, not the racing.

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The “advanced frontal protection” pieces debuting on the cars are also something new starting with the race ’round IMS’ infield. That’s a fancy, techo-babble term for Continue reading

101st Indy 500 Preview: Second Thoughts Edition

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As race day approaches a number of issues become secondary, while others rise to primary importance.

The two days of qualifying were, as f-ing F1’s Alonso says, intense. Sebastien Bourdais was putting up the month’s fastest laps on Saturday when he crashed horribly in turn 2, ending his day and season with a broken pelvis and hip. Post surgery, Dale Coyne‘s pilot Tweeted thanks for the support and that he’ll “be back at some point.” Meantime, James Davison will drive the 18 car in the 500 and start last.

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Sunday’s round was less eventful as everyone managed to avoid Bourdais’ fate, if not the turn 2 wall entirely. Pushing their cars to the limit, several drivers slapped the safer barrier on the backstretch, including Takuma Sato and Charlie Kimball.

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It was Scott Dixon‘s day, as his four lap average of 232.1 mph was the fastest qualifying speed since 1996 – when Arie Luyendyk set the record – and good enough for pole. Continue reading

Indy Grand Prix Race Review: ‘You’re All Fired!’ Edition

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During a week of high profile terminations, we’ve a few to suggest for IndyCar after the Indy Grand Prix.

Will Power‘s job is secure after his first win of the year and the Cap’n’s third consecutive. He led three quarters of the entirely green race while Scott “runner up” Dixon took second and Ryan Hunter-Reay made an impressive surge from eighth to third. Graham Rahal again had the drive of the race though, improving fourteen spots to sixth.

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While the traditional Indy GP first lap, first turn pileup was averted, some carnage still occurred. Marco ass-ended TK, sending two cars off course and the past expiration date Kanaan to the pits. Perhaps fearing for their jobs, race control was strangely alert, actually penalizing Andretti for avoidable contact with a drive through penalty. It ended his race and should end his largely fruitless decade plus stint in the series.

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Speaking of firings, the ABC crew of Goodyear, Cheever and the other guy acted exactly like they’d just been shown the door. At one point, Eddie was briefly on fire. After offering Goodyear an opportunity to clean his Borg-Warner replica, Cheever predicted “Ryan Hunter-Reay will get to the front.” He proved prescient.

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While there wasn’t a battle at the front all afternoon, there was some passing on track Continue reading

Indy Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: Sympathetic Edition

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Sometimes sympathy is an appropriate response – when it can be convincingly summoned.

A certain uneasy feeling shot through IndyCar teams this week faster than Ganassi flees a bar tab. Those paradoxical Penskes provoke paranoia in the paddock – with good reason – as it’s presumed they’ll probably prevail once the pageantry’s concluded. So should fans expect yet another pitiable GP weekend they’ve seen before, one which merely adds to Roger’s riches?

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Our special prediction is yes, the Cap’n’s embarrassment of wealth will grow even more mortifying this month. Penske practically owns the joint, with sixteen Indy 500 triumphs dating back to the early 1970s. Plus, Pagenaud excels on the ramshackle road course, winning two thirds of the time. If you’re a fan of Team Penske, get ready for a fun few weeks – just have sympathy for the rest of us.

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Pole position will be no different, as both Helio and Power have been superior in qualifying. Penske’s pilots have won ’em all so far this season, taking a decidedly unfeeling approach to the rest of the field. Continue reading

Indy Grand Prix Preview: Pagenaud, the Destroyer

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Pags and the Penskes have been destroying it lately, eliciting widespread fear – and worse.

“Paranoia, the Destroyer” as the Kinks artfully put it runs rampant throughout IndyCar. Specifically, Penske paranoia – a creeping, deep seeded fear that Pagenaud the Destroyer and crew will win every remaining blasted race.

You blow it all with paranoia.

You’re so insecure, you self destroyer.

Pagenaud has won a lot lately, so much so that we’re getting tired of his winning. He won the previous race either way you look at it – both at Phoenix and last season’s Indy GP. It’s starting to become habitual for the Frenchman. His seemingly unending tear dates back over a year now, as he absolutely ran away with it at Phoenix, just like 2016’s procession around the IMS infield.

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Feelin’ guilty, feelin’ scared.

Hidden cameras everywhere!

It’s no wonder why the other teams are fearful of the Cap’n’s outfit. Continue reading

IMS’s Latest Dirty Trick

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Poor decisions and IndyCar leadership have unfortunately become synonymous.

A recent announcement revealed that a midget dirt track of all things is being constructed on the hallowed grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This lunacy is to honor retiring NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. It’s a filthy, crass idea, a dirty trick and a roundly regrettable decision.

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This turn three tragedy is a retirement gift for the popular though troubled racer with ISIS links, and strikes us a smokescreen for publicity and profit from the speedway cum cash cow. All this – a brand new 3/16s of a mile track built to host exhibition events – for Smoke? Hell, living legend A.J. Foyt didn’t even get a new suite built for him and he actually won the Indy 500 – four times. He never bolted IndyCar for another series, either. Besides, Stewart hardly punches above his weight.

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Several questions arise from this troubling trend in Speedway. Are still more taxpayer dollars to be used for this travesty? How will historic IMS – and the big league racing held there – be affected? Will the fan experience be harmed by this PR stunt? Finally, what’s the point? Couldn’t they find another suitable piece of property nearby for such gimmickry?

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IMS President Doug Boles Continue reading

GP of Indy Preview: Get On With It Already

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Blame Mark Miles and his sclerotic schedule for the long hiatus, not us. Also for the latest IndyCar humiliation with Boston flat out telling the series they don’t want a race in their city. That’s the second cancellation of a race by a city under Mark Miles’ miserable reign and at this rate we’ll be down to the Indy 500 and half a dozen Detroit double headers for a schedule next year. Oh, and we can’t forget the second rate race at IMS, the GP of Indy.

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It’s a tabletop flat 2.4 mile road course with a flabbergasting fourteen turns. Both previous races on the IMS infield – which, let’s face it, was made for partying and not for an IndyCar race – featured fugly first lap pileups. What’s worse, the catastrophic carnage turned out to be the highlight of both. In 2014, Sebastien Saavedra Continue reading