IndyCar: It’s About Time

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

After an unprecedented seven month sabbatical, it’s about time the 2015 IndyCar season began. For fans of artistry on wheels, it’s also about time in a larger sense of the word. Two significant events in recent history – Brazil’s abrupt and embarrassing cancellation of IndyCar’s season opener and a thoroughly critical viewing of NASCAR’s – caused us to look at racing in a new and timely way.

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Photo from upi.com

The old adage remains true – time is precious, valuable and fleeting. IndyCar features shorter races than NASCAR, in part a factor of much faster race cars – as much as thirty miles per hour, or some 15% speedier. A casual viewing of races from both series illustrates NASCAR’s timed tardiness, even on television and with certain commentators attempting to obscure the facts.

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Pit stops, pit in laps, pit out laps and lap times in general are all considerably quicker. Continue reading

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Media Day Mashup With Live Updates

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Image from media.gm.com

Top Story: Chevrolet unveiled depictions of its road and short oval aero kits, stealing the march on Honda with a slick presentation, including a video. It’s been safety checked, tested by Team Penske and TCGR and we must point out looks rather odd with the “flicks” – all the little winglets and doo-dads on the front and rear wings, in particular. IRR asked in a tweet whether the Hondas and Chevys would truly be discernible on track this season, even with the new aero kits. After all that along with increased speeds was the main point of the program.

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Image from media.gm.com

Less is More?: Sage Karam was confirmed at Target in the 8 car for St. Pete only, representing a contraction for Target to three cars. Same goes for Andretti, though they don’t even have a fourth car set for the opener. We predicted this here and here.

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

Wrong, wrong wrong: Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review

Early 500 WTF: Bryan Herta Autosport announced forgotten Brit racer Jay Howard as the pilot of their entry in the 99th Indy 500. Six months early, it appears Herta and Howard wanted to get the news out ahead of the Black Friday rush. Howard hasn’t raced in the series for years and only started fourteen total races in his IndyCar career, this after winning the 2006 Indy Lights championship. Apparently Wade Cunningham wasn’t available for the ride. Images were released of a putrid lime green and white car. Our advice is to try again – if not with the driver, then certainly with the pee green livery, fellas.

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Photo from motorauthority.com

The Rich Get Way Richer: Reports have Kyle Moyer leaving Andretti Autosport after decades with the team and its precursors and heading to Team Penske as new competition director. First the highly sought after Pags went all Penske and now the respected veteran Moyer. It was also reported that Ben Bretzman will join Team Penske as Pags’ engineer, a role he’s filled at SPM the last three seasons. Heading into 2015 Penske truly has an embarrassment of riches. As for AA, they’re reeling with the loss of Moyer after already saying sayonara to funnyman James Hinchcliffe.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Schedule Schizophrenia: Reaction to the schedule has been split and ranges from paranoid to institutional. Curt Cavin wrote of the 2015 schedule that “it does represent a balance of the circuits. Six ovals, six road courses and four street circuits.” How the hell six versus ten can be considered balanced is beyond our explanation. Classic Cavin craziness.

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Photo from 1070thefan.com

Cajun Cookin: On Wednesday, a tweet mentioned IndyCar would have a presence at this weekend’s LSU and Saints home games down in Louisiana. This is a PR push in advance of next April’s inaugural GP of Louisiana at NOLA Motorsports Park south of the Big Sleazy. Andretti, Power & the two-seater will be there all weekend publicizing the series. Good for IndyCar for getting the word, stars and cars out there – or down there, in this case. It’s just too bad the race isn’t on a decent oval track instead of a road course, or near a decent city. Judging by the aerial views of NOLA, it looks like the crowd could be on a smaller scale even than Iowa.

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Photo from indycar.com

Cavin’s Crumbs: We give Curt a lot of grief here at IRR and much of it is deserved, but we have to admit that while he may not be the best writer or most intelligent reporter, he does have something as valuable: access. He reported this week that fifty one year veteran of the Speedway Bill Spoerle died. Spoerle managed the IMS restoration unit since 1963 and restored many of the historic Indycars on display at the museum. He was 80 years old and lived a dream working with cherished chariots of speed. Also, Cavin noted some potential bad news for fans of ovals, as Auto Club Speedway President Jillian Zucker resigned this week. Zucker was instrumental in IndyCar’s return to Fontana several years ago and has left to join the NBA’s Clippers. The potential future loss of Fontana from the schedule would be unforgivable, so it’ll be important to keep an eye on her replacement.

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Photo from ap.org

Odds n’ Ends: Iowa Speedway announced an additional support race for next summer’s IndyCar visit, doubling the number of junior league races that few care about or pay to see. The Brasilia race seems to be coming together with the usual amount of third world delays and overruns, per reports on indycar.com. It’s about time but par for the course in South America. Money man Jeff Belskus is retiring after nearly three decades with Hulman & Co. and for a few years head of IMS. The Indiana State University graduate replaced Tony George at IMS in 2009 at the conclusion of the Great Schism.

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Photo from IndyRaceReviewer

Imagine Attaining Schedule Perfection

Imagine attaining schedule perfection

On the day of a nation-wide election,

Where there are ovals aplenty

With fans following intently

And no worries of trips to Dubai.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review

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Photo from IndyRaceReviewer

SPECIAL UPDATE: Series Sponsor Verizon settled a damaging lawsuit late this week, agreeing to pay out millions of dollars to customers the communications company overcharged for years. This affected not only millions of Verizon subscribers, but also the rest of us as apparently the entire internet was impacted by Verizon’s shenanigans. Ripping off your customers certainly isn’t the sort of sleazy corporate behavior IndyCar wants or needs to be associated with one would think, nor is slowing down the whole of the web in the nation that invented it, although in light of the 2015 schedule perhaps Verizon’s the perfect sponsor for Miles’ new tennis racket approach to racing.

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Photo from  espn.go.com

The Hawk Has Landed: AJ Foyt Racing announced this week it’s expanding to a two car operation, and we don’t just mean at Indy. Inexplicably, Takuma Sato is back with the team and will be joined as co-recipient of AJ’s wrath by upstart northern Englishman Jack Hawksworth. Hawk is formerly of Bryan Herta Autosport, who formerly drove for AJ Foyt Racing. IndyCar’s a bit like the Hapsburgs of Europe and many modern day workplaces – an incestuous little circle.

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Photo from foytracing.com

Schedule Announced and Many Pounced: The IndyCar Series unveiled its thinly veiled schedule for 2015 and there wasn’t an abundance to be excited about and even fewer surprises. Initial reaction to it is here and it hasn’t changed much. More ovals, please. Brasilia and NOLA will be new road courses, hurray. We hope everyone makes it back safely from these exotic, crime-ridden third world destinations. Dubai didn’t make the cut, although it appears to remain under consideration for the future. Why? We have no idea. As trumpeted by Curt Cavin and others, “Dollar Dale” Coyne’s driver and race winner Carlos Huertas posted “Dubai Feb 22” on his website earlier in the week. Perhaps he meant in 2016.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Testing, Testing: Also according to the ever accurate Twitter, Rahal Letterman Lanigan failed to show at the test at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on Monday, possibly significant of larger problems for the floundering team.  Maybe Graham was just hung over, or all loved up by Courtney Force. Graham, Bobby, Dave and company had a horrible year as documented in IndyCar Season Grades and missing off season tests isn’t a positive sign. Apparently the late night talk show business isn’t what it once was, but then again what is?

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Photo from examiner.com

Flipping Formula 1: Lesser known F-1 Teams are dropping like bribery charges against Billionaire Bernie Ecclestone lately. First Marussia went bankrupt, then Caterham bowed out of the next two races, also reportedly belly up and entering receivership. Respected British newspaper The Telegraph called F-1 a sport “no one can afford” and described it as being very much “in crisis.” Maybe IndyCar doesn’t look quite so bad in comparison after all.

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Photos from bbc.co.uk and dailymail.co.uk

Odds, Ends & Tweets: At Monday’s test, unemployed driver/Indy 500 crasher J.R. Hildebrand drove the Fuzzy’s number 20 car normally reserved for Ed Carpenter of newly merged CFH Racing. No grand theft charges have been filed to date, so evidently J.R.’s joy ride was legit. Curiously Kentish Mike Conway was no where to be seen and rumors have him out. In a Tweet from Barber Motorsports Park, Carp’s teammate Josef Newgarden called it “the most consistent track” they race. Perhaps surprisingly to our readers we at IRR wholeheartedly agree. Barber is consistent – consistently tedious and boring. Finally, the flow chart at CFH Racing seems to be taking shape as another official Tweet referred to “Team Manager Andy O’Gara.” Andy is of course Sarah Fisher’s husband. We wonder if Ed knows of the news yet? Incestuous little circles.

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Photo from cbsnews.com

2015 Schedule: Initial Reaction

At first blush, the schedule announced today leaves much to be desired. Like a bad movie, it has too little action, aging quasi-stars and a bad ending. In other words, there aren’t enough ovals in merely retaining last year’s group, the leading men are starting to disappear over the hill and holding the finale on a non-oval is well, anti-climactic.The addition of Brasilia and NOLA are a push as they’re both road courses and winding down in west coast wine country leaves a dry, bitter taste on the pallet. Oh well, at least they’re not dragging the circus to see the sultans of Arabia.

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Photo from IndyRaceReviewer

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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Photo from autoevolution.com

  • 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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Photo from espn.go.com

  • 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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Photo from pinterest.com

  • 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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Photo from blogs.wsj.com

  • 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.

Interesting Ideas for International IndyCar Races

While the 2015 IndyCar schedule hasn’t been formally announced yet and several questions remain, the idea of an international portion of the schedule has existed for years coming out of the Boston Consulting Group’s recommendations to improve IndyCar. Overseas races are nothing new, as CART in particular made several foreign forays going back to the 1980s and 1990s. On the whole, these haven’t tended to be successful events. Nevertheless, IndyCar is rumored to be considering places like Dubai in the Middle East and yet another new venue in Brazil. Ugh.

Since the current leadership at 16th and Georgetown is taking their sweet time in announcing where the racing will occur next year, we thought it would be helpful to propose some interesting ideas for international IndyCar races for Mssrs. Miles, Walker and Cotman to consider. Besides, it’s about time to dust off the passport and continue filling it up with stamps – 18 and counting!

South America:

IndyCar trips traditionally have been to Brazil, but it may be time for a change. Brazilian drivers have been an important part of the series for decades now going back to Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi. However, the interest in IndyCar seems to be moving north away from Brazil and toward Colombia. Well it should. 

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Photo from seecolombia.travel

This very year Colombians Huertas, Munoz and Montoya swept the podium at a race in Houston and they now outnumber the Brazilian drivers in the series. With that in mind IndyCar brass should consider a race in Colombia, which has advanced far beyond the drug cartel and FARC violence of the 1980s and is now a welcoming destination for American tourists. From beaches to mountains, Colombia has much to offer with the added benefit of being a shorter trip than Brazil. Crowds will throng to see their fellow Colombians race – can you imagine the reception Montoya would receive?

Europe:

When it comes to racing on the Continent it’s a far more complex proposition due to a variety of factors. Drivers from Britain, France, Italy and even Russia currently compete in the IndyCar series. Obviously F-1 races primarily in Europe along with some foreign dates as well, so saturation becomes a consideration. Some countries like Switzerland have even outlawed motor racing, adding another layer of complexity. With the number of British drivers and the common culture, a race in the UK makes imminent sense. It could be held either at Brand’s Hatch or another existing circuit, unless ol’ David Cameron’s willing to build a nice short oval in the southeast in Kent.

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One area of exciting potential lies in central and eastern Europe. Other than the Austria Grand Prix and Hungary Grand Prix, there aren’t any big league races in this portion of the old world providing an opening for IndyCar. Eastern Europeans absolutely adore Americans (unlike some other western Europeans) and would welcome the economic and cultural exchange. From personal experience Bratislava, Prague and Vienna are all historic, beautiful and pleasant cities to visit and the people are lovely. The beer, wine and food are outstanding. This area would be a rewarding choice for drivers and fans alike.

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Austral-Asia:

Due to the distances involved, visits to Australia and Asia obviously would be combined. Start off at the established track on Australia’s east coast with the streets of Surfer’s Paradise. The event has history and has done decently in the past, not to mention all the Aussies and New Zealanders in the series including the champ. There’s also the common language for the most part, and good beer. From there, it’s on to Asia – with a twist.

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Photo from beertripper.com

IndyCar already lacks oval tracks on the schedule and this is exacerbated by overseas racing where oval tracks are even rarer. So make an offer to nations from India to South Korea – build a state of the art mile and a half to two mile oval track with the necessary infrastructure and amenities and IndyCar will guarantee races there for the next decade. That offer in addition to the positive publicity and tourism potential may well attract some interest on mainland Asia and be the start of a long term racing relationship with the highest bidder. It’s a win-win-win as more exciting oval racing would be added along with an exotic foreign destination, plus reaching the millions of potential race fans there.

Eleven Reasons to Embrace the Endless Off Season

1. There’s time for pursuits other than IndyCar. For example, did you know Emerson Fittipaldi had a brother named Alexis DeJoria who drag races? Or so we gather. 

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2. There’s more time for non-racing pursuits, like drinking and jousting.

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3. Less caffeine, fewer blog posts and more sleep!

4. Other sports can fill the void, like water football.

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Photo from dailymail.co.uk

5. Bonfire preparation – Guy Fawkes Night is coming.

6. Sunny Florida!

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7. If it’s anything like last winter, snow sports.

8. Time to catch up on our banking.

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Photo from telegraph.co.uk

9. “Rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight, if it’s not too dear.”

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10. Sit back and polish our “Bloggy Awards.”

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11. Apologize to certain important individuals in IndyCar for all the mean posts we’ve written about them before next year, when we plan to do it all over again – only better.

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Photo from foxsports.com.au

Milwaukee Mile Madness

The race entertained as promised with plenty of passing, traffic and action on the flat oval track. Before qualifications even commenced though the silly season news heated up. SFHR and ECR announced they’re joining forces next year to become a multi car team, consolidating into one big happy All American family.  Except for Conway that is, who’s a part time driver and full time Englishman. The series loses two teams but gains one, and we hope CFHR have success together. They cited the coming of aero kits, the need for shared data and the advantages of a two car team in the decision. We’d love to see Sarah back behind the wheel next year, but that ain’t gonna happen.

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Power started and won the race from pole, leading most of the race in dominating fashion. Team Penske finished 1-2 with Montoya also running a strong race despite a rough pit stop and looking solid heading into the last two races. He received a warning for running into a tire in his pit box but no penalty, as it seems Penske rules were in effect again for race control. The race was run almost entirely under green flag conditions with drivers generally behaving themselves all day. Kanaan and Dixon took third and fourth for Target Chip Ganassi Racing while Josef Newgarden took fifth for SFHR.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

Andretti Autosport had a disappointing weekend, with all four cars qualifying poorly and Hinchcliffe who’d been quickest hitting the wall with minutes to go in the final practice, wrecking a perfectly good car. Hunter-Reay had the most entertaining drive of the race, storming from the rear of the field to near the front and gaining fourteen positions before his suspension finally gave up on him. After he climbed out of his car a dejected Hunter-Reay said “Our championship hopes are up in smoke.” AA rookie Munoz struggled all weekend and made the only contact with the wall all race, finishing last.

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Photo from indycar.com

In pre-race, Robin Miller amused viewers on NBCSN as usual with his grid run. In a brief encounter with J.R. Hildebrand, he raised the possibility of him driving a third car for the new CFH Racing. He then spoke with Larry Foyt about expanding to two cars and of the possibility of “half the grid being Americans next year.” We can only hope. Miller also mentioned the field being even stronger next year, which really would be something.

The grandstands looked to be only about half full for the race, if that, but we’re happy to pass along news reports stating that the IndyCar series will return to the historic mile next year. At least there’s some stability when it comes to oval tracks on the schedule. The oval track racing proved exciting with two and even three wide passing throughout the afternoon.

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One of the biggest moments of the race was the start, where Sato in mid pack got extremely loose and nearly caused a pile up on the first lap. He recovered but was never a factor in another disappointing performance in front of his sponsor’s home town crowd. This after Larry Foyt told Miller in pre race that “the pressure’s on” Sato who “needs to finish the season strong.”

The grand old mile put in a good showing yesterday, providing challenging and entertaining racing for drivers and spectators alike. Power’s prime position in the points was strengthened as was Montoya’s, while Helio’s standing suffered with an 11th place finish. It was one of those pure Penske days in Milwaukee and sets up an exciting final two races of a rapidly dwindling season.