IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Bryan Herta Autosport

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The odd little one car team piloted by Gabby “Pat” Chavez had an indeterminate year considering the many challenges they face, including a dearth of funding, resources and experience – but boy, have they got spunk! The unisex twenty two year old Colombian earned Rookie of the Year awards for both the Indy 500 and season, a feat not accomplished since 2006 when Marco accomplished it. With a less than famous name, we certainly hope Pat’s career results are better than Marco’s after a decade in the sport.

Wins: 0

Podiums: 0

Poles: 0

In some ways Herta’s Honda regressed slightly this year compared to last, when rookie Englishman Jack Hawksworth at least scored a podium finish at the forgettable Houston “track,” coming in third behind  Pags and Aleshin in the totally unnecessary second race. While other sports joke about playing in a parking lot, IndyCar disgustingly does it – sometimes twice in the same weekend. [Audible groan.]

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But back to the guy er, um driver in question, Gabby. In addition to other accolades, we’re pleased to announce Chavez is the winner of our 2015 Bruce Jenner/Caitlyn Jenner Gender Bender Award, or the BJCJGBA. Continue reading

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IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: AJ Foyt Racing

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The newly expanded group has gone from bad to worse and the ailing AJ can’t be happy about it, despite his public pronouncements. Here are the numbers for what the Texas based team itself recently called a “tough season.”

Wins: 0

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

The Team’s eponymous and ornery octogenarian owner’s health remains a major concern, but their troubles go well beyond AJ’s age. All the Honda teams struggled early in the season with those hideously overdone aero kits and lack of power; however, Rahal nearly won the championship and Ryan Hunter-Reay rebounded for a decent year – both in Hondas – so some success certainly was attainable. For AJ Foyt Racing though, it wasn’t. Their nadir unfortunately came during the series’ biggest event – our Indy 500 race review was tellingly entitled “Foyt’s Foul Ups Edition.”

Stefano Coletti, of Monaco, (4) hits the car driven by Sebastian Saavedra, of Colombia, as Jack Hawksworth, right, of England, hits the wall in the closing laps of the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Kirk Stierwalt) ORG XMIT: NAA147

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AJ’s two drivers Continue reading

Sonoma Finale Predictions and Prognostications: Rock ‘n Roll Edition

It’s been a trying week so let’s get right to the good stuff – our rip roarin’ Jimmy Page inspired crystal balling, of course. This week’s special prediction for IndyCar’s final race of the season and Championship decider is that there’ll be no driver-rattling, frightened-it’s-the-big-one, Fred Sanford-type earthquake hit Sonoma this year, at least not hours prior to the green flag like last visit.

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To quote Juan Pablo Montoya on 2014’s rockin’ act of God who come to think of it sounded a bit like Redd Foxx, “Awful, like awful. My shit . . . was shaking.” And since there’ll be no rockin’ and rollin’ pre-race – or probably during the race at all in “So Mind Numbing Sonoma,” thank you Indycar schedulers – we’ve supplied an excellent musical selection of our own choosing. Thought it’d be appropriate to have England’s greatest rock band provide it this week.

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Like a hot poker up the pee hole, picking Power for pole pains us plenty. Prognosticating “Mad” Will to prevail in anything just seems crazy and wrong. Moving right along first out of the race will be rookie Stefano “reckless-er than Andretti” Coletti, who seems to have trouble keeping his KV machine in one piece, whether it’s in practice or a race, on an oval or a crappy road course. In other words, Coletti doesn’t rock.

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The biggest surprise of the race and arguably the season Continue reading

Pocono Predictions And Prognostications: Problems Edition

Our problem – one of about 500 of them – is that after nearly a month off our powers of prognostication are really rusty. It’s a good thing our picks have been weaker than an IndyCar penalty all year or else it could’ve been a real problem. Perhaps a month off’s exactly what was needed and everyone can just get back to racing at Pocono problem-free. Yeah, right – at this point IndyCar’s about as problem-free as the drug-addled punk rockers the Sex Pistols.

LONG POND, PA - JULY 6, 2014: The Verizon IndyCar Series Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco race is held at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA on July 6, 2014 (2014 pixelcrisp)

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In honor of “NASCAR‘s Tricky Triangle,” we’ve a series of special predictions, though they’re probably problematic for fans of the artistry on wheels that is IndyCar – you’ve been warned. Tragically it’ll most likely be the series’ last trip to Pocono, like Fontana, at least for a while. Sigh. Befitting the mood of the occasion, in their first on track meeting since Iowa Sage “Wildman” Karam and Ed “The Finger” Carpenter won’t tangle with each other again or even make unkind gestures. It’d be just too juicy and beneficial for a series that has so many problems it doesn’t seem worthy of a good break.

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Despite his prowess in 500 milers, Team Penske championship leader Juan “You Know” Montoya will encounter problems during the course of the marathon race and fail to repeat at Pocono. This’ll present Graham Rahal and other title contenders with a golden opportunity at Long Pond before heading into the season finale. Looks like it’s not the Cap’n’s year, as even Penske isn’t immune to Pocono’s plentiful problems.

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Another problem for Pocono Continue reading

Iowa Race Review: Sage Gone Wild

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Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay won Iowa for the third time Saturday night, but twenty year old rookie Sage Karam stole the show, swerving and chopping his way to third for his first IndyCar podium finish. Clearly on a roll the last several races, in short Sage went wild. Josef Newgarden led much of the latter stages of the frantic race only to finish second while Graham Rahal led another charge from seventeenth to fourth making it an American sweep in the heartland. Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz rounded out the top five in a favorable night for Andretti‘s team.

Jul 18, 2015; Newton, IA, USA; IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay (28) reacts after winning the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-230374 ORIG FILE ID:  20150718_lbm_ad1_319.JPG

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Sparks flew throughout the last half of the race as intense racing and hectic traffic around the tiny oval led to drivers being either exhausted or enraged or both. Karam enjoyed another rocket ride to the front in the number eight car. Were it not for a slow right front tire change during his last pit stop he might have fared even better. At one point Sage simultaneously showed his immaturity and fearlessness, screaming about Jack Hawksworth on the radio. “Dude, I’m alongside him and he won’t back out!” Ed Carpenter appeared high on the list of drivers Karam managed to offend on his charismatic, choppy charge as the veteran gestured repeatedly from the car and then confronted the Ganassi driver immediately after the race.

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Ambling angrily down pit lane with cameras following, IndyCar’s only owner-driver animatedly got in the youngster’s face and loudly lectured him about “respect.” Continue reading

IndyCar 2015 Mid Season Grades

The car driven by Helio Castroneves, of Brazil, is airborne after hitting the wall in the first turn during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Wednesday, May 13, 2015.  (AP Photo/Joe Watts) ORG XMIT: NAA107

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IndyCar’s had an interesting season from a dangerous start with flying aero kit pieces to the emergence of a certified new American star. Although we at IRR admittedly tend to bitch a lot we’ve enjoyed the year thus far for the most part, though a rain-marred race at NOLA and cars flipping in practice at Indy were highly forgettable moments.

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How’s ten races into a fifteen race schedule in any way mid season, you ask? The schedule‘s simply too short and we feel cheated out of several races – Brazil and Toronto #2 to name a couple. Don’t get us started on the lack of ovals. Plus, in college the timing of midterms varies widely and since the IndyCar Series sometimes resembles a frat house, we find the break in the schedule to be a good time to assess individual teams’ performances this season.

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Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing: B+

Josef Newgarden’s breakthrough wins at Barber and Toronto have made the team’s merger look brilliant and established a genuine American star – a non-legacy star, at that. The team’s 1-2 finish in Ontario almost made up for a string of bad luck that stretched from Indy to Texas. Newgarden’s success is no fluke and this new team’s best days lie ahead.

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: B  Continue reading

Toronto Predictions & Prognostications: Double Secret Probation Edition

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First let’s predict who won’t win – it’s not going to be a Honda team, Dale Coyne freshman “un-Speedy” Gonzalez, Sebastien Saavedra or a certain reckless rookie from Monaco. Stefano “faster than Andretti” Coletti now finds himself on IndyCar’s version of double secret probation after speeding and ignoring lanes in the pits at Texas. Already on probation having racked up numerous crashes – sometimes multiple accidents in one weekend – and a penumbra of penalties and fines to boot, for KV’s Coletti it was the Dean Wormer speech. “One more slip up, one more mistake and you’re finished at Farber!” When IndyCar has taken to showing a close up of your car and number above the penalties announcement, you know you’re on thin ice.

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Our specialty prediction for the concrete car crusher known as Toronto is widespread confusion and disappointment amongst the gathered throngs of Molson-fogged Canucks in attendance. When they finally figure out that there’s only one race this year, the only Canadian in the series is sidelined due to injury AND they’ve only two Brits in the entire field to root for, the War of 1812 may break out again on the bicentennial of its conclusion. Our advice for Americans making the trek to the great white north? Prepare for a hasty though not re-enacted retreat south and be super polite to those border guards.

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Our pick for pole is Penske’s Will Power and not because we’re a fan of the champ. Continue reading

Texas Race Review: Dixie Does Dallas

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New Zealander Scott Dixon won going away Saturday night in Texas during a nearly entirely green flag race, shattering the track record with a race average of 191.9 mph. His margin of victory was almost eight seconds over Ganassi team mate Tony Kanaan in a race that lacked a dramatic conclusion but included plenty of close racing and passing if not outright speed. It was Dixon’s second win at Texas – the other back in 2008 – and he led ninety seven laps out of two hundred and forty eight.

Scott Dixon (9), of New Zealand, leads Tony Kanaan (10), of Brazil, out of Turn 4 late in the Firestone 600 IndyCar auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday June 6, 2015. Dixon won the race and Kanaan finished in second. (AP Photo/Larry Papke) ORG XMIT: TXTG135

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Chevy’s dominance continued, taking their seventh race out of nine. Oddly there were no crashes and only a single caution for debris all night long north of Dallas, resulting in only four cars on the lead lap at the conclusion. That said, the caution was too long as usual dragging out for over a dozen laps. The one restart saw exciting three wide racing break out on track again, though it was short lived. Dixon and Kanaan showed no team sympathies in their intra-TCGR battle for supremacy at TMS.

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The NBCSN pre-race coverage had some interesting segments. There were several morbid moments during a Robin Miller interview with the ornery octogenarian legend A.J. Foyt. Repeatedly referring to death as well as age and longevity, Miller missed in keeping it either light or informative in his talk with AJ. The four time Indy 500 winner did manage to say “Whoever you go with, you gotta stand up with ’em, good or bad. I’m not happy on their [Honda’s] air package . . ., as far as the body I think they’re out to lunch.”

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After talking to AJ, Miller then went on to do an abbreviated “grid run” of little worth. Continue reading

Detroit One Race Review: Half Assed Half Race Edition

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After Saturday’s half assed half race, we feel IndyCar owes its fans at least another race this season, if not two. We’ve had a cancelled race and now two rain shortened ones and we’re just halfway through the schedule. Of course the good folks at IMS can’t control the weather – yet – but it does point out how spoiled we’d all become during IndyCar’s years long stretch of good conditions for its races.

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Due to the weather and IndyCar’s recent proclivity to fill up the first half of its tv window, there was no pre race show and cars were already rolling in the rain on ABC at 2:30 Central. Downpours and debris marked Detroit’s first race of 2015 and had it been a complete race there may not have been many cars left to race on Sunday.

For the third race in a row now, a driver committed a first lap pile up. At least this time it was a rookie, Continue reading

Indy 500 Race Review: Foyt’s Foul Ups Edition

Sage Karam, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises crash

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Veteran driver Juan Pablo Montoya from Colombia won his second Indianapolis 500 Sunday a record fifteen years after a dominating win in his first appearance at the Brickyard. That’s appropriate, as Montoya received two warnings from race control – though no penalties – for running over an air hose and blocking. The ABC commentators said something about a “rules change” regarding the pit equipment which was fitting since rules changes have been the theme of the month at IMS. That controversy wasn’t even close to AJ Foyt Racing’s performance on the sport’s grandest stage though, which was utterly pathetic.

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Once it finally got started, the Indy 500 proved to be an entertaining race with a remarkable thirty seven lead changes among ten different drivers. Montoya beat Power to the line by a tenth of a second, the fourth closest margin of victory in race history. It also marked the fifth year in a row there was a last lap lead change. American Charlie Kimball rounded out the podium with a strong third place finish for Ganassi while Graham Rahal was top Honda in fifth. Super sub Ryan Briscoe gained an impressive nineteen spots in James Hinchcliffe’s SPM car and finished twelfth despite spinning.

Ryan Briscoe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda spins

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Both the weather and the rules tweaks made to the cars cooperated on a gorgeous day in Indy. JPM’s win was Roger Penske’s 16th Indy 500 triumph, both deserved and a bit surprising considering the month he’d endured at Indianapolis. Montoya qualified poorly in fifteenth behind two of his team mates, experienced a horrible Carburetion Day with a serious lack of speed and to top it all off  he was hit from behind by Simona de Silvestro under caution after the failed start of the race.

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The race was far from perfect with six cautions for forty seven laps as a ragged false start to the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 got things started poorly. Continue reading