IndyCar Schedule Instant Reaction: Missed It By A Miles (The Musical)

IndyCar’s finally set to announce its 2016 slate and boy is it a duesie. Honestly, we simply grew tired of waiting and it goes without saying the lineup is nowhere near our idea of an ideal schedule. Spread out over a month longer than last year, there’s still merely sixteen races though many of them can scarcely be called that. Hell, you get more pee-wee league soccer games in a season, and certainly more penalties in a football game. This Halloween, IndyCar’s schedule’s as scary as a trip through a Stephen King nightmare. It’s so disconcerting that the great Gyorgy Ligeti must have done the score for this terrifying beaut.

Boston?! Another unremarkable street course, this time on the massive taxpayer funded boondoggle called “the big dig.” It’s destined to be another bore, just like Baltimore. One difference is that it may not last even three years; we can only hope. For a new race IndyCar could have at least picked a city people want to visit. It’ll be another embarrassing footnote for a series that already has quite enough of those, thank you Mark Miles. Suffice it to say, we don’t ‘love that dirty water.’

Speaking of urban hell holes, Continue reading

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IndyCar Leadership’s As Existent As Bars On Mars

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Combining the words “IndyCar” and “leadership” in the same sentence goes beyond oxymoronic – it blasts into “Total Recall” territory (the good one with Arnold, not the remake). Put another way, the likelihood of sound decisions coming out of 16th and Georgetown is roughly equivalent to the chances of getting some water to go with that bourbon on your next visit to the red planet.

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Derrick Walker still hasn’t been replaced as President of Competition months after his resignation, there’s no announced schedule for 2016 and the interminable six month off season has only just begun. The sport’s been hemorrhaging fans, forgetting its own past and merely managing to limp along. Mark Miles was supposed to be the savior; instead he’s proven to be a dud. Otherwise, things are going well – no disaster to see here.

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In fairness it’s not all doom and gloom, just largely. Positives include competitive racing most of the season, an uptick in viewership Continue reading

IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Chip Ganassi Racing

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Team honcho and toad lookalike Chip Ganassi took a tumble recently celebrating another IndyCar championship, injuring himself in a cycling accident and busting his collarbone. Just imagine Chip on a bike! He’ll be fine, though previously we’d thought the idea of a fish riding a bicycle was amusing, but that’s nothing compared to a toad. CGR’s top gun Scott Dixon won his fourth championship at Sonoma in a dramatic conclusion to a somewhat perilous season. As longtime readers know, anyone who can beat Team Penske is all right in our book. Plus, there’s Scott’s lovely wife Emma who’s worth a few extra credit points by any measure.

Wins: 3

Podiums: 7

Poles: 2

After its usual slow start the team showed much improvement after the mid season report card starting with Texas, where Dixie did Dallas definitively. He’d won Long Beach earlier in the year, but neither he nor the team had any further luck until venturing deep into the heart of the metroplex. In Target’s twenty sixth year in the sport – though at a diminished level – Dixie delivered the goods yet again. In addition to his three wins and two poles, Dixon had seven top fives, twelve top tens and was running at the finish in an impressive fifteen races out of sixteen.

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Grizzled IndyCar veteran Tony Kanaan had a lackluster year failing to win a race. The big-nosed Brazilian Continue reading

IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Andretti Autosport

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

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

The Andretti bunch had a wild year that began poorly, turned around in the last portion yet ended in tragedy. It strongly resembled a Sam Peckinpah movie, come to think of it. Legal issues notwithstanding, 2015 was so turbulent it may well make AA want to start drinking again. For all Michael and Hunter-Reay’s talk of being “lost” with Honda early on, the “autosport” actually bounced back for a decent year on track equaling last year’s win total.

Wins: 3

Podiums: 6

Poles: 0

The team’s top driver and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay scored oval wins at Iowa and Pocono along with four top five finishes including second at the Sonoma finale. He came back strong to finish sixth in points, helped by the fact that he was running at the end of thirteen out of sixteen races.

Marco Andretti (27) heads into a turn during IndyCar testing at Barber Motorsports Park, Monday, March 16, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. Drivers are testing the new aerodynamic packages on their cars. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

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Marco’s years’ long difficulties continued, Continue reading

Sonoma IndyCar Finale Preview: Determined Joy Edition

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The show must go on as the old saying goes and in this case the race must take place. IndyCar’s season finale will occur on Sunday and as we move on from the tragic loss of Justin Wilson we do so saddened and humbled, yet also grateful and appreciative for the decade of racing we all had rooting for him. JWil was a true gentleman and talented racer who made the world a better place; it’ll be a poorer, less joyous world without him.

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We hate to say it but the trajectory IndyCar’s been on lately we wouldn’t be surprised if either massive wildfires engulf the entire track this weekend or – and also God forbid – the big one finally hits California and breaks the whole kit and caboodle off into the sea, or possibly both. One seriously wonders what the formerly Golden state did to deserve such luck, until remembering Hollywood, Simi Valley, Charlie Manson, Watts, Willie Brown, Napa Valley, Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, The Gover-nator, Riverside, and on and on and on.

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But barring such calamities or the intervention of political villains, there’ll be a champion crowned at the end of it all – funnily the race winner almost always gets overshadowed by the champ at the conclusion of the finale –  and like him or not we’re starkly faced with the fact it’ll be the last IndyCar race until at least next spring. So by God we are resolutely determined to enjoy it. Justin would have wanted us to and as we were all rudely reminded this week, one never knows when it’ll be your last race.

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The Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma Continue reading

Pocono Race Review: Tragedy in Pennsylvania

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Ryan Hunter-Reay crossed the finish line first for Andretti Autosport at Pocono Sunday evening, but there were no celebrations and no confetti in a subdued victory lane. His team mate Justin Wilson had already been airlifted to the hospital and as yet no one at the track knew his status. It was the strangest scene after a race in memory as a pall hung heavily over the gathered crowd.

Wilson was hit in the head by debris from Sage Karam’s car, which disintegrated when he spun and hit the wall while leading the last portion of the race. Karam injured his right foot in the wreck, but he got off lightly compared to Justin. Slumped forward in the cockpit, Wilson was clearly already knocked unconscious as the car hit the inside wall and came to a stop. Today Wilson remains in a coma in critical condition. Sadly Justin passed away Monday night. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Englishman’s family.

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The incident isn’t dissimilar to the case of F-1 driver Jules Bianchi, Continue reading

Mid-Ohio Race Review: ‘Graham Being Graham’ Edition

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Finally Graham Rahal won a race on his home track after seven previous starts at Mid-Ohio and nary a podium to show for them. Inheriting the lead after pitting just as a caution flag came out, Rahal determinedly held on for his second win in what’s already his best ever season in IndyCar. Unfortunately Courtney Force wasn’t on hand for her fiance’s big day yesterday, as she brightens up any venue she attends. But who can blame her for skipping Mid-Ohio though, really?

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During the pre race show Katie Hargitt interviewed Graham Rahal about “growing up at Mid-Ohio.” Graham mentioned remembering camping there as a youth, seamlessly worked in his sponsor Steak ‘N Shake and spoke of generally “terrorizing the place.” We wonder why there are never any Maxim references from Rahal. His helmet for the race resembled the Ohio State Buckeyes football headgear, right down to the buckeye stickers awarded for good play. Graham mentioned he wanted to introduce helmet stickers to his pit crew for performance, citing “competition.” It must have worked, as his crew performed well all day long.

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Coming off an American sweep in Iowa, Mid-Ohio was packed in anticipation of a home town hero emerging and the fans weren’t disappointed. NBCSN’s competent coverage on CNBC included all the usual angles, as Katie Hargitt also interviewed Sage Karam, asking him about the recent dust-ups with Ed Carpenter and Graham. Sage first played the pity card before calling Rahal out.

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“I think a lot of people are picking on the rookie, to be honest. 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

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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

Milwaukee Race Review: ‘Because He Got High’ Edition

Jul 12, 2015; West Allis, WI, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Sebastien Bourdais (11) during practice for the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee Mile Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-230510 ORIG FILE ID:  20150712_ads_bv1_019.JPG

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

First time pole sitter Josef Newgarden could have won the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 after leading over a hundred laps Sunday, but faded in the middle portion of the race due to pit stops and traffic, ultimately finishing fifth because he got high. The same could be said for other drivers in the highly entertaining show, though none reached the heights of Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais who took his thirty fourth career IndyCar win at the Milwaukee Mile. Helio Castro Neves started dead last – behind even Pippa Mann – then steadily sped through the field to a highly surprising second place finish for the Cap’n‘s best result. Helio also could have won the race, but he got high. Third place was as high as Graham Rahal could hold on to, but Bobby’s boy continued his strong 2015 season with another highly satisfying podium finish.

On the other end of the blunt, Ed Carpenter‘s horrid year continued at the Milwaukee Mile. Early in the contest he held up the race leader and his team mate JoNew for several laps before finally letting him – and  those pursuing him – past. They got around him, high. It was reported during the race that Ed fired his spotter after crashing both his team’s cars and then calling the spotter out at Fontana, replacing him with former 500 winner Buddy Rice. Apparently the spotter wasn’t the problem at Milwaukee, as Carpenter eventually struggled home in tenth. That’s his highest result of the year, as the Fuzzy’s Vodka car hadn’t completed an oval race until Sunday.

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Getting high on the flat oval seemed to be the key to speed for those running up front as many cars experienced ill handling most of the day. Race control in its infinite wisdom slowed the competitors down to a snail’s pace of fifty miles per hour on pit lane in the ever tiresome interest of safety, and for a change none of Dale Coyne’s drivers hit a crewman. Not surprisingly there was a pit lane speed violation by Juan Montoya, however. His speed was judged to be too high.  Continue reading