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

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Photo from indycar.com

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

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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

IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Team Penske

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Tired of the Pope’s visit yet? Us too. Writing about the Pope of IndyCar proves difficult however without at least mentioning Roger Penske’s majestic reign. With more wins than any team owner and more money than God, Penske’s Papal presence in the sport and over a great many fans fortunately doesn’t affect us in the slightest. IRR is in fact unafraid to point out painful truths – even at the risk of heresy – and report that it wasn’t the best season for Pope Penske. His Holiness’ IndyCar efforts fell well short of infallible.

Wins: 3

Podiums:  12

Poles: 11

Penske’s supposedly sainted drivers gave the Pontiff even more reason to be ashamed this season, as if Will Power weren’t already enough. Power and Montoya’s utterances at Fontana were distasteful, unbecoming and wrong. There were also the bitter intra-faith squabbles, like when Helio and Power took each other out in Detroit‘s second race. In the season finale at Sonoma the expanded four car team couldn’t crack the top five, failing to attain another championship  – and their lofty goal.

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Photo from indycar.com

Juan Cardinal Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 before humbly screaming into his headset, “Yes! So Bad! That’s how you do it!” In the end however he failed Continue reading

IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Chip Ganassi Racing

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Photo from ap.org

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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Photo from indycar.com

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

Indy 500 Predictions and Prognostications: Humble Edition

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Photo from indycar.com

The Indy 500 remains the most preeminent event on the American racing calendar, whether most people know it or not. Indy represents the high point of the IndyCar season and will be watched by several hundred thousand people at IMS and millions more on television around the globe. Disturbingly, for the first time in many years there exists real doubt surrounding driver and fan safety in the world’s biggest race. It’s a humbling thought, isn’t it?

Photo from Motorsports Snippets

We’re tempted to predict rain for the race on Sunday the way IndyCar’s year has gone so far. Let’s recap the first third of the season – a canceled opener in Brazil, an injured fan due to flying debris and a couple other races that nearly bored viewers to death. Now there’s the somersaulting car problem and most recently Hinch‘s serious injury, both troubling issues indeed. In reality a rain postponement – it’s in the forecast – which would bring out a smaller crowd and shrunken press coverage may be the safest outcome for a series in the midst of another crisis, humbled once again.

James Hinchcliffe, of Canada, hits the wall in the third turn during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Monday, May 18, 2015.  (Jimmy Dawson/The Indianapolis Star via AP) ORG XMIT: ININS101

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Conventional  wisdom holds the 500 will be a crash-fest – particularly if practice has been any indication – and it could well be. But we think not. Continue reading

GP of Indy Race Review: The 500 It Isn’t

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Photo from indystar.com

Eddie Cheever summed up the early portion of the season succinctly during Saturday’s ABC broadcast, saying “Come next week, they’re in their Indy cars.” We had to chuckle and also agree – enough of the road courses already, let’s get to some entertaining oval track racing. The abbreviated ABC pre-race show was highlighted by a Nancy Hulman George appearance as she joined Mary onstage for the traditional command to start the engines. We’d very much enjoy seeing more of the beauty/heiress, perhaps even an extended photo layout.

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Photo from indymotorspeedway.com

For the second year in a row on the IMS road course a first lap pileup marked a messy start. At least this year the pole sitter Power didn’t stall it, though overly aggressive driving by others up front led to cars going off course and another shower of carbon fiber debris. The first turn, first lap collisions ruined the races of Dixie, Newgarden and others while helping Rahal and Bourdais move up due to the carnage. A French civil war erupted on track as Pags and SeBass battled back and forth and Penske’s Simon Pagenaud ran up front most of the day until his Chevy blew up. The defending race winner screamed “Something’s burning!” over the radio as he stopped and hurriedly exited the car.

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Photo from indystar.com

The crowd looked sparse on television in the quarter million seat facility, sparser than the estimated 40,000 and down from last year. For the second race in a row Graham Rahal had the drive of the day only to fall just short. Continue reading

Barber Race Review: Wow, Were We Wrong

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Photo from usatoday.com

Almost incredibly, a real live IndyCar race broke out for the first time in six visits to the amazingly gorgeous and beautiful facility outside Birmingham. Tennessee’s native son Josef Newgarden prevailed, making co-owner Sarah Fisher exceptionally happy. She’s stuck by him for four years and it finally paid off on a day Newkid’s dad not only made the broadcast, but also called him a “bad ass” on live television. Newgarden’s benefited greatly from his team’s switch to Chevy this year and it showed. When you’re seeing three wide racing at Barber – not to mention ten lead changes – you know it’s going to be an unusually entertaining race. It was one of those magical Sundays in IndyCarland that keep we fans coming back for more.

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Photo from indycar.com

The race didn’t start out that magically however, with a Penske front row for the fifth consecutive race and the TCGR cars lurking nearby. But also there at the front of the field and largely overlooked was young Josef Newgarden, who’d had a decent season already and started fifth. The twenty four year old would hang tough all day and eventually take the lead for good as his competitors had penalties, pit issues and other problems to contend with in addition to CFHR’s road course ace. Newgarden proved too stout for the field, cruising to his first IndyCar victory in fifty five races and providing his team with its coveted first win.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Graham Rahal turned in the drive of the race, steadily storming to the front for a second place finish after starting eighth. Continue reading

IndyCar Barber Predictions and Prognostications: Bike Wreck

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The less said about the Long Beach edition of predictions the better. Happily we did at least accurately foresee that no fans would be grievously injured by flying aero kit debris. With only one caution all race, that proved to be prescient. Unfortunately little else we published was as Montoya managed only second. That’s why they call it prognosticating, after all.

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

The series heads south for a visit to Alabama and we can confidently predict repeated references by commentators to the “beauty” of Barber’s “gorgeous facility.”  While that assessment may be accurate, it certainly doesn’t mean the track provides entertaining racing, because it doesn’t. Little passing and strung out fields are hallmarks of IndyCar on this motorcycle track in the woods, and this year’s race will be no different.

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Photo from beyondtheflag.com

Don’t expect many cautions at Barber either as teams are still short of parts like $20,000 front wings, particularly KV Racing. Thank you Stefano Coletti. With numerous driver changes taking place already this season – at Coyne, Ganassi, and Coyne – the pilots will be on their best behavior again on Sunday. Continue reading

Long Beach Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: Cautionary Edition

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Photo from latfusa.com

With a dry California track in the forecast and two awful aero kit era races already in the books, IndyCar’s due for a classic duel on the beach, or at least a watchable show. A third consecutive clunker of a race following Brazil’s jilting of the series would be devastating, but happily won’t occur. IRR’s soothsaying  division has been on a hot buttery roll with our predictions as of late – that is, if you discount that farce last week in the swamps of NOLA – so let’s get right to the prognostications.

The specialty prediction of this week’s as sunny as the California coastline. Fortunately for fans there’ll be no flying debris showering the grandstands or smacking innocent, paying spectators upside the head at Long Beach. That shouldn’t happen again until at least the Indy GP; however, since Sebastian Saavedra‘s now back in the series we strongly recommend helmets for fans in the first twenty five rows, as a precaution.

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Photo from foxsports.com

That leads us to our initial weekly prediction, who’ll be first out of the race. Continue reading

Circular Reasoning: Fitting a Square Series into Round Tracks, Part Two

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

When Brian began discoursing again, we were forced to open another bar tab after just having closed one out. It isn’t the first time we’ve had to do this, but with a sense of duty we gladly did so once again on IRR’s account. Wouldn’t miss the rest of BC‘s remarks on oval racing’s decline for the world.

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Photo from Brian Carroccio

“A second thing to think about is the content – or lack thereof – at many of the IndyCar oval events. Pocono, for example, had an  eight car Indy Lights race on a 2.5-mile track as the support event. Where’s the value for the paying customer there? Fontana had a vintage IndyCar showcase as the only support event. I love vintage cars, but that’s not giving the paying customer much bang for the buck.”

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Photo from openwheel33.com

Yet more controversy from Mr. Carroccio – we were absolutely loving it. So much so in fact that we ordered him another White Russian, along with another round for ourselves. Such truth telling deserved a reward, we rationalized. These drinks like all the others went on IRR’s tab. Continue reading