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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Indy 500 Predictions and Prognostications: Emotional Edition

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Finally, the 500’s fast approaching, folks! So in the spirit of the world’s most prestigious race, let’s speedily – though in a manner that’s thoroughly under control – get to our ever popular picks.

The special prediction for the race is how much fun it’ll be to watch this year. With so many enjoyable storylines, NBC’s telecast, slick, speedy cars, an actual oval race after an egregious nine month drought and – most wonderfully for IRR – watching the glorious 500 for the first time with our gorgeous, stunning and brilliant new wife. How awesome is that?! We at IRR only hope you’ll be having half the time we are.

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Photo from indycar.com

Projected as first out of the 500 – other than Alonso and McLaren of course, he he – will be Kyle Kaiser. The young American who dramatically bumped the F1 star from the field Continue reading

Indy 500 Preview: Hasta La Vista, Alonso!

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A soggy, disjointed weekend of qualifying for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing sent one of F1’s biggest stars packing after he failed to produce the speed needed to make the show.

Fernando Alonso and his McLaren team suffered devastating disappointment, unable to qualify for the world’s greatest race after lots of hype and hoopla. This shocking development came despite his team receiving last minute help from both Andretti Autosport and Team Penske, heavyweights of the sport. To Alonso’s undying credit though he handled the blow well, even refusing an offer from McLaren to buy him a ride for the 500. Every crisis presents opportunities however, and young American drivers Kyle Kaiser and Sage Karam seized them in Sunday’s final session, setting the last row and sealing Alonso’s fickle fate.

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Simon Pagenaud put Penske’s Chevy powered day glow Menard’s car on pole by the slightest of margins, but he didn’t detract from Ed Carpenter Racing’s efforts in taking three of the top four starting positions for Sunday’s race. Continue reading

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

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Race Review: Ridin’ Bitch Edition

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Alexander Rossi forced the rest of the field to ride bitch Sunday at Long Beach, winning his second consecutive grand prix by over ten seconds from pole. It was one of those sleep inducing street course races that we’re constantly railing against, one that would’ve been totally forgettable but for a bit of late race controversy over the low step on the podium between Scott “Forrest” Dixon and Ragin’ Graham Rahal. But in the end, even that was less than dramatic.

Rossi featured mightily on the pre-race show but hell, if you’d have read our predictions you could have saved yourself some time and already known all that. Sorry to Alex – and almost everyone else – but the GP is NOT a close second to the Indy 500. It’s only about a third as old, much less prestigious and it’s a frickin’ street course, to boot. A couple of positives from the pre-race pageantry were F-18s doing a flyover and the hottie Mickey Guyton singing the national anthem. Candidly, we were surprised the kooky Californios let her sing it at all. Additionally, there was a second consecutive audio connection with the two seater passenger – some gal from The Bachelor who, not surprisingly, could hardly contain her enthusiasm.

At Long Beach there are a whopping two passing zones, according to Townsend Bell and – whoopie! – it showed. The start saw Dixon immediately dart behind Rossi, with the only change being Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) bumping and then getting around Frenchman Simon Pagenaud for fifth. Continue reading

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Predictions and Prognostications: Acura-cy Edition

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In an era where veracity is increasingly viewed by many as valueless, we at IRR strenuously strive for it above all else. Problem is, predictions don’t always work out so perfectly.

It’s no secret that our previous prognostications for Barber weren’t exactly spot on. More correctly, they reeked. But when we make mistakes we admit them, acknowledge the error and move on. Wouldn’t it be a much better world if everyone – including race control – did the same? That leads us to our special prediction for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, which entails often controversial caution flags.

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The recent history of the Grand Prix shows yellows playing a determining factor in both the racing and the outcome. Last year’s race was a prime example. When there are several cautions the racing’s superior. But when there aren’t any, the racing tends to suck. After that sleeping pill of a race at Barber, the series is due for both some concentrated canary flagging and an engaging contest, so expect some carnage and concomitant cautions come Sunday.

Pole prediction’s also a precisely crafted one. Continue reading

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview: Weather Or Not

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This weekend the sexy fast cars vector toward a land known for its knock-out weather – and women – if nothing else.

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Following a tsunami-like stunning result at the conclusion of an uneventfully dry race down south, IndyCar heads out west for its annual visit to the concrete canyon course just upwind of la-la land. It’s one date on the racing calendar that consistently yields greater atmosphere than actual agreeable racing; though what do you expect from a race on a temporary street circuit? Much less one in a state where mud slides, wildfires, earthquakes and wicked winds named for a bandito are the norm.

Speaking of which, did anybody else catch Ryan Hunter-Reay’s appearance on TWC with Steph Abrams last week? It was one occasion – at least for us – when racing definitely took a back seat to the scenery. Talk about high temps! [Although, believe it or not, our girlfriend’s waaaay hotter.]

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Image from twitter.com

The last four winners at the Beach – representing four different teams – are Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon. They were the first ever wins at the smoggy, supposed track for each driver and part of multi-win seasons for all of them except Continue reading

Barber Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Race Review: Inverted Edition

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Pole sitter(!) Takuma Sato’s lead was seldom in doubt – except when he ran completely off course and nearly flipped in characteristic fashion with five to go – as the 500 winner cruised to only his fourth career IndyCar victory in a truly inverted race in Alabama. The previous run-on sentence is not a joke. He credited his Rahal Lanigan Letterman team for a “fantastic effort,” despite an incredibly slow first pit stop due to a lethargic left rear tire changer. Equally incredibly, Scott Dixon claimed his sixth 2nd place finish at Barber – out of ten races – as Honda swept its own podium with Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais coming home in third.

An inadvertently inverted starting grid with the Penskes oddly bringing up the rear led to a decidedly upside down result. One of the few highlights of the weekend occured when a street sweeper rolled over onto its side while at speed in between practices, nearly inverting itself. The accident was a good thing, as NBCSN’s abbreviated pre-race show had little to offer, although they did manage a real rarity in connecting on air with the two seater passenger. Oh, and Continue reading