Sonoma Finale Race Review: ‘Damn It, Man!’ Championship Edition

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In a result few outside of Chip Ganassi‘s Star Wars bar scene inner circle saw coming, Kiwi Scott Dixon won both the Sonoma GoPro Grand Prix and the IndyCar championship Sunday, his third win of the year and fourth title of Dixie’s storied career. It was thanks in large part to Team Penske and Juan Montoya‘s monumental collapse. Leading since St. Pete it was Montoya’s title to lose, and he did so in spectacular fashion. Banging into and spinning team mate Will Power who was leading the race on the first restart, Montoya damaged the nose of his own car and threw the championship away in a single turn. JPM had enjoyed a substantial points lead going into the finale – thirty four over Rahal and forty seven over Dixon – but thanks to this epic brain fade finished second in a tie breaker on wins.

Aug 30, 2015; Sonoma, CA, USA; Pit crew for IndyCar Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya bring the car to the grid before the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

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The first half of the contest was fairly humdrum and typical of a Sonoma race as Leigh Diffey himself admitted in the latter stages. From pole Power sped away from the field and dominated the race until Montoya foolishly punted him. It being a Penske affair, of course no penalty was forthcoming. The first caution was a questionable flag for Filippi who hit  nothing but was supposedly slow on course. This was the beginning of race control rearing its ugly heads though, and unfortunately it would have an effect on the outcome. For the first time in months they penalized drivers during the contest with drive through penalties including one for Sebastien Bourdais who hit Graham Rahal from behind, spinning him out and costing him any chance at the title. Rahal angrily confronted Bourdais afterwards on pit lane, saying “Good job . . . you knew exactly where I was going and you drove like a f___ing d__k! ”

Graham Rahal, right, and Charlie Kimball (83) compete during the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma auto race Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) ORG XMIT: CAER108

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Josef Newgarden ran well in second but Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud parked it on pit road obstructing the young American’s exit from his pit box. Continue reading

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Pocono Qualifications: Instant Reaction

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Helio Castro Neves wrested the forty fifth pole of his decades long IndyCar career away from his team mate Simon Pagenaud Saturday at Pocono Raceway. He did so at over 220 miles per hour and then proceeded to hoot and giggle girlishly in the post qualifications interview. Team Penske swept the top three spots with “Mad” Will Power on the inside of row two in tomorrow’s five hundred mile race, while CFH Racing’s Josef Newgarden and championship contender Graham Rahal –  the quickest Honda – round out the top five.

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Fourth Penske entry and points leader Juan Pablo Montoya encountered a problem on his first lap, drifted up the track and lifted off the throttle. He qualified poorly as a result, starting nineteenth. When asked about his bobble in an interview Montoya replied, “It’s racing.” A big thanks to Paul Tracy, who guaranteed Montoya would be a contender tomorrow thereby jinxing him utterly. This along with Juan’s screw up in quals makes our prediction look better and better. Curiously, JPM declined interviews all day before qualifications, though not with IRR. We didn’t request one.

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Charlie Kimball who’d been quickest in practice spun and crashed during his qualifying run  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

Toronto Race Review: Take That NASCAR

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While NASCAR was rain delayed several hours at MIS – a track they stole from IndyCar, thank you Roger Penske – another classic IndyCar street fight broke out in what two time race winner and authentic Canuck Paul Tracy called “one of the best races I’ve ever seen at Toronto.” American Josef Newgarden won his second race of the season and his career as team owner Sarah Fisher – who happens to be female – shed tears of joy after the newly merged team went 1-2 with Italian Lucca Filippi. After disappointing in qualifying, Newgarden won from an 11th place starting position taking his second win in the last seven races.

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Despite absolutely awful renditions of both national anthems by Canadian rock group The Trews – which saw drivers and WAGS trying not to laugh on camera – IndyCar put on a helluva race in Toronto. With collisions galore in the wet and then dry conditions there was hard racing, action and passing all afternoon and merely two yellows – half the recent race average and fewer than expected on the wet streets of Exhibition Place. All the gnashing of teeth about another timed race, NBCSN not showing the number of laps, and so forth was all for naught as the race went the full eighty five laps in the end.

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Team mates got thickly into the fight, with Filippi and Newgarden, Power and Pags, and Gonzalez and seemingly everyone else fighting it out on track. The banging began immediately when Stefano “double secret probation” Coletti hit Frenchman Tristan Vautier on the opening lap, spinning them both. Flaunting his probationary status, the Monacan tangled with others during the course of the event too, later making contact with Charlie Kimball. Fortunately none of those incidents drew a yellow, though further penalties will be forthcoming.

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Surprisingly there were only two cautions the entire race, Continue reading