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

Advertisements

Barber IndyCar Preview: A Very Veiled View

Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park and Vintage Motorsports Museum opened to little fanfare in 2003 as the nation went to war. The 16 turn, nearly two and a half mile undulating road course allowed for Scott Dixon‘s track record of 124 miles per hour in 2013. We’ll soon see if the injurious, reinforced and ill-advised aero kit experiment allows drivers to top Dixon’s mark. Sadly and for a variety of reasons, that’s likely to be the most exciting part of the entire weekend.

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

Photo from motorsport.com

Barber was designed by Alan Wilson, the same guy who designed NOLA – last mention, we promise. The track was designed for and used primarily by motorbikes, while sports cars and Porsche’s North American driving school also utilize the facility. Oddly, the track has no grandstands at the start/finish line offering only a very veiled view of arguably its best parts.

barberroadracingworldcom

Photo from roadracingworld.com

Known as a “beautiful” and “scenic” circuit in the woods outside Birmingham, the permanent road course may be visually pleasing but it’s not a good fit for IndyCars. Continue reading

Sonoma Predictions – Coca Crazed Charge to Cartagena Edition “You Know”

We predict a fruity bouquet of tedium during the ‘race’ accompanied by dry, earthy background blandness finally followed by dreaded, widespread wine hangovers. For the uninitiated, these are amongst the worst of all hangovers and are surpassed only by very cheap wine hangovers, which are in fact the worst. Very much like the on track action at Sonoma – the worst.

forbescom

Photo from forbes.com

As for the racing – what little there is – we thought it’d be nice to spice the predictions up a little, salsa style. IRR boldly predicts JPM will win in spite of Bored to Tears Point Raceway cartel style by forcing Mad Will Power off the track. He’ll then go on to win the championship by winning Fontana. Wrap your minds around Montoya’s epic and forceful return to IndyCar dominance race fans, ‘cuz it’s a comin’. All hail el Presidente Montoya! That’s right and you heard it here first – and it’s so madcap, quite probably here alone.

tri-cityheraldcom

Photo from tri-cityherald.com

Montoya’s currently sixth but still has a long shot at it, assuming his teammates oblige by running into walls and gravel pits. The way JPM’s been going, the possibility of him banging Mad Will Power out of his way again ala Pocono isn’t out of the question. Plus this way we get to root actively against that Aussie lunatic, as if we needed a reason. The Colombian’s been on a coca crazed charge to Cartagena lately, one unseen since circa 2001. To quote JPM, he’s been “you know” fun to watch most of the year. By the way, how rigid is IndyCar’s drug testing program anyway?

WillPower

Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

Apart from Penske, Kalkoven and Vasser’s team has been either very good or more typically very bad this season with the two Sebastians. They’ll be some of both this weekend again, while having nothing to do with the championship battle. How on Jimmy’s green earth does the non-French one hold on to his ride next year? Or next race?

foxsportscom

Photo from foxsports.com

Sato also needs a strong finish, which at Sonoma means a top six start for Foyt else he faces losing his ride. While we’re at it, how long does Briscoe stick with Ganassi this time? You know the Chipster’s always itching to axe someone. Remember too race fans that Josef Newkid’s keeping his options open for next year and remains uncommitted as of this writing.

Finally, there’s the ravenous AA, rumored to be considering both a 7th and 8th car for next year while they’ve been utterly lost lately with four. RHR admitted his points race chances “went up in smoke” at the Mile and the other Andretti Autosport-sters chances had disappeared long ago. RHR won Barber earlier this year, so he could pull it off at this equally exciting track with some breaks and better luck than at Milwaukee. Then his championship hopes suddenly would materialize again, as if from a puff of smoke – like magic.

???????????????????????????????

Marco’s first win came at Sonoma – with a little help from his team mates, wink wink, nudge nudge – way back in 2006 (see “Marco, Where Have You Gone?”). That was eight years ago and he’s had only one win since. Can all AA’s IndyCar men put Marco’s race game back together again? Doubtful, though an un-assisted second win in wine country would assuage many doubts, most of them seemingly ours.

We’re definitely looking to improve the statistical averages of our predictions this week, so without further infuriating IndyCar’s elites here’s the latest stomp of the ol’ grapes –

% correct in previous 4 races

Pole Winner – Will Power or Juan Pablo Montoya                                                0%

  Race Winner – Juan Pablo Montoya or Ryan Hunter-Reay                                  25%

First Out of Race – Sebastian Saavedra or Carlos Huertas                                    0%

Biggest Surprise of Race – Marco Andretti or Jack Hawksworth                             0%

 

Sonoma Preview – The Extra Dry Edition

We hate to be a buzz-kill but this weekend the IndyCar series visits one of the two or three worst tracks on the schedule in Sonoma, California – formerly known as Sears Point Raceway. The term ‘Raceway’ is used left coast loosely when it comes to Sonoma, as little if any actual racing will occur disappointingly. To quote Walter, it’s “very un-Dude.”

dailycallercom

Photo from dailycaller.com

The real Duder-ino racetrack comes next weekend in So Cal for the “fun-tastic” 500 mile finale, but that’s next week’s preview. In the spirit of positivity, we can at least write that Sonoma’s in northern California wine country and part of the colossal California championship crescendo. Yeay.

As you may have read or noticed on your grocer’s bill, there’s a disastrous drought going on in Cali at present along with several other man-made disasters The state’s usually a baked out beige color in August anyway and that’s on a normal year. For television viewers the scenery simply doesn’t translate well, much like the racing. There will be plenty of brownish grassy hillsides on display this weekend and that Serengeti-like scenery will certainly rival the snaking on track action in terms of visual stimulation.

racesonomacom

Photo from racesonoma.com

Like Mid-Ohio, the track’s simply too narrow with too many turns of the wrong speed and straights of the wrong length and undulation to allow for much entertaining IndyCar racing. However, if motorbikes or processionals are your thing then you’re cooking with wine. It’s obviously not our favorite track, however it’s not quite as bad as Mid-Ohio (see “Down with Mid-Ohio”).

The DW-12 Dallara Automobili help the racing at ‘Bored to Tears Point’ as on other road circuits, so that’s a positive. We at IRR wonder if it’s the scent of the vineyards that brings out the performance in the enigmatic Italian IndyCar chariots. The so-called six way championship race may interest things up as well, although three of the contenders are Penske teammates, while the others are Pagenaud, Dixon and Hunter-Reay. Credit to RHR for frankly stating after his Milwaukee debacle that his championship hopes were “up in smoke.”

???????????????????????????????

Watching Juan Pablo Montoya drive an IndyCar also should be a plus for the race, as he’s been on a fiery fast track to the front lately. KVSH’s Sebastians plural will be a wine barrel full o’ fun to watch – both good and bad – as wildcards this weekend.  Perhaps least importantly to the fans “the series” likes going to No Cal – so much so in fact that the Andrettis & Foyts both bought wineries there. That’s right, AJ and wine. We’re guessing some cheese, too.

usatodaycom

Photo from usatoday.com

It’s vintage that there are so many wineries nearby. We recommend hitting several on your way to the track for a more pleasurable race day experience. Or, if you’re watching from home like the rest of the three hundred thousand of us who care but won’t be in attendance, grab an extra bottle or three of vino from the cellar. You’ll likely need them for anything approaching a watchable race. “In vino, veritas.”

winefollycom

Photo from winefolly.com

Glossary of IndyCar Racing Terms

The modern world’s confusing and chaotic enough without new, additional jargon bombarding us and complicating our daily lives. We at IRR realized that complex terminology affects all of us in IndyCar association of states and decided to break it down, as the kids used to say. It’s yet another free service we provide for our fellow fans of fast.

N

Relief of Napoleon the wise from his tomb in Paris

Our goal is to make the series we love more understandable to the average ignorant American and therefore more appealing to the entire Idiocracy-trending nation. Obviously IRR aims to please. So here’s our Glossary of IndyCar Racing Terms, with additions surely to come.

 

Aero kits – what used to be called the chassis, or body shape of the car and now are becoming changeable and disposable like an expensive pair of dress socks

BC bud – particularly potent strain of weed, or “chume” as the President calls it from the western Canadian province of British Columbia and one of the few redeeming products out of Canada

Canuck – member of the Canadian race; a derogatory slur – see Paul Tracy as a former example

Chip the Hutt – IRR’s Star Wars bar scene-inspired nickname for Chip Ganassi, head of TCGR

Claire McCaskill – anti-racing U.S. Senator “Buzzkill” and embarrassment from MO

Glossary – a list, usually alphabetized, with additional information and definitions

Helio-ism – an utterance of Helio Castro-Neves, usually grammatically incorrect and always said with a smile

IndyCar association of states – IndyCar’s sleeker, more selective alternative to the overly accepting behemoth NASCAR nation

Kent – the garden spot of England, southeast of London & home of Indy jockey Mike Conway

Kentish – describing a person from Kent, a Kentish jockey for example

Methuselah Mile – IRR’s affectionate Biblical term for Milwaukee, meaning it’s old

Mid-Ohio – predictably poor racing, adequate camping facilities

National Guard – former coveted racing sponsor/militia that spent many millions of taxpayer dollars over several years  for zero ICS wins

Newkid – IRR’s affectionate nickname for Tennessee’s own Josef Newgarden

Off-weeks – breaks in the IndyCar schedule leading to periods of intense boredom, usually due to some event at IMS such as a bike or other series race, that bring about inane posts like this

Parity – close entertaining racing resulting from the use of standardized, spec equipment (see aero kits)

Racing eggs – portable delicious deviled snacks that are a traditional compliment to racing chicken and racing beer, although the resulting flatulence they induce often act as a repellant to racing chicks

Sonoma Testing  – widespread snoring, napping

Sonoma Race – slightly less snoring, napping

Streets of Toronto – concrete car crusher that hosts IndyCar races under “crack smoking” Mayor Rob Ford’s watchful, bloodshot eyes

Tag Heuer – Hour or time of Day (in English)

Twitter – insidious form of social media that cruelly limits the number of characters one can use when trying to solicit complete strangers to read your racing blog

Will Power – certifiable, completely and madly insane Team Penske driver (who’s not surprisingly quite successful)

Zzzzzzzz – the sound emanating from race fans at tracks like Barber, Mid-Ohio & Sonoma

We Go to Milwaukee – The Methuselah Mile

Finally, after weeks of being wet blanketed by that previous race we move on to Milwaukee – after another delay of two weeks. None too soon and not soon enough. Thank you Father Time – now let’s move it along, gramps. We’ve got some good old fashioned oval racing to look forward to! Yip-piiee!

Milwaukee

Photo from milwaukeeindyfest.com

Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus blares blissfully in our heads as we contemplate breaking out some celebratory morning beers ’round the conference table. We simply can’t wait for the annual Mash-up at the Mile, not because it’s our favorite track (it isn’t), or because we enjoy the taste of beer in the morning (only some days) but rather to cleanse the bitter, mostly ethanol-y taste of Mid-Ohio from our mouths.

Milwaukee is at least an oval, which means it should provide better racing than we’ve had in a while. We write “should” because it has so little banking that it drives like a roval and presents a challenge to many teams and drivers, while others seemingly have its number. It’s the level character of the track itself that’s out of the ordinary.

In good years it can even provide competitive and entertaining  racing which is the entire point, at least for the few hundred thousand fans scattered around the mid west who make up IndyCar association of states. In bad years, it resembles a Sonoma-level race only on a track entirely viewable from the grandstands. That’s a distinct advantage ovals like Texas, Fontana (now known for two kinds of speed) and Iowa  enjoy over road/street circuits by the way, for which they rarely receive credit – superior spectating for fans at the tracks.

The Milwaukee Mile has a tradition dating back to the 19th century as a horse track (“Sport of Kings”), then as an automobile dirt track from 1903 until the 1950s when it was paved (sport of warriors). IndyCar racing began at Milwaukee in the 1930s on the dirt track when eventual  three-time Indy 500 winner Wilbur Shaw won the first “Big Car” race held there in 1933, as per the Wisconsin State Fair’s “History of the Milwaukee Mile.”

Interestingly, the track is surrounded by and a part of the state fairgrounds. It’s the oldest race track still in use in the world, although IndyCar and another series both took a hiatus from the struggling track in 2010. So one could say the race died and then miraculously came back to life.


Milwaukee2

Photo from milwaukeeindyfest.com

Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay historically has been outstanding at the Mile, winning the race a decade ago in CART and then back to back the last two trips in IndyCar. He certainly should be ready to race after his excruciatingly poor showing in Palookaville, OH and is the driver most happy to have witnessed the track’s resurrection.  Early pre-prediction:  the question will be can he make it three in a row at the Methuselah Mile?

???????????????????????????????

Other drivers due some luck include Joseph Newgarden, although like another deserving young American named Rahal he’s not quite figured out the ovals yet. Speaking of which Takuma Sato will be racing in front of his sponsor’s hometown crowd – again – and needs to finish the race.

Towering (5′ 5”) talent Tony Kanaan is due to break out at any race now – just return to the poppin’ red paint livery, huh fellas? Then there’s Marco whose  struggles  already have been chronicled on this site. He needs a strong finish desperately and is luckily on the right team to do it (and the team promoting the race, and that’s won the last two here, and that his dad happens to own).

Marco

Since its inception over a century ago, legends from AJ, Parnelli and Wilbur to Ryan, Dan and Dario have thrilled race fans at the Milwaukee Mile. It’ll be a refreshing change and should thoroughly cleanse IndyCar fans’ pallets. We recommend you enjoy it with a nice light white wine (or more likely beers) and some heavy Wisconsin cheese. Badger-appétit!

wisconsin-cheesePhoto from wisconsinmade.com

Mad Cap Mid-Ohio Recap: We’ve Seen This Race Before

Although missing by a mile with some of our Mid-Ohio predictions IRR did accurately and unfortunately foresee the results of race winner and in runaway fashion. Foresight as they say is a terrible burden. Haven’t we all seen this race before? about five times now?

The results led to bummed feelings as it was a predictably boring race due to an inferior race course (Down with Mid-Ohio) but also less than bummed feelings as Dixon’s dominance at least partially vindicated our shaky prognostication abilities (and practically everyone else’s). It feels like coming in 5th in a lights race.

Dixie

Before the green flag on this beauty at the camp grounds even flew, trouble struck Helio who pitted with a stuck throttle. His early troubles added a drop of drama to a race that needs an ocean and cost Helio mightily – 4 laps and the championship lead. He took it in characteristic style, exclaiming “Man that sucked!” before flashing his famous smile in post race.

The beginning of the race was more interesting than all last year’s strung-out strategy-showcase with a first turn, first lap melee begun by NewKid and TK banging together. TK spun doing a 180 and Marco plowed directly into him. Unfazed, NewGarden sped away as others including Hinch ran wide or off course to avoid them. Sato was caught up in the carnage and continued, becoming even more of a non-factor than usual. More importantly the Marco mash-up knocked the third place starter and funny man Kanaan out of the race, eliminating a top contender though saving viewers a headache from his unusually ugly paint scheme.

Quickly enough the field strung out and it became the sort of race we hate about Mid-Ohio. What kind of track starts and restarts on the backstretch, anyway? Surprisingly like a celebrity stumbling into the wrong party some actual racing briefly appeared as Briscoe and Pags battled fiercely in mid-pack. Hunter-Reay had an eventful but disappointing day moving up from 5th, then spinning off course and stalling after incurring a penalty for speeding on pit lane. He finished 10th and let an opportunity to gain large in the points against the Penskes slip away as Mad King Power finished where he started in 6th.

NewKid started and ran second for much of the first half, eventually taking the lead from the pole sitting Frenchman Bourdais before being called to pit lane for service. Upon entry to his box the #67 car ran over an air hose carelessly left lying in its path by the crew. The right rear changer whose hose got caught on the car was dragged violently to the ground.

The crewman’s mistake and resulting disastrous pit stop cost Newgarden a shot at his first win, leaving him 12th at the checkers. That’s the same crew Sarah Fisher had just effusively praised as “a good group” from her pit box mere minutes before. Wonder if NewKid would agree.

It was then for the fifth time Dixon’s race at Mid-Ohio to lose once he passed the early leader Bourdais. The finish was remarkable only in the sense Dixon had started dead last after a spin in qualifying before cruising away, but it’s wacky Mid-OH so anything can happen except an entertaining race. The only question that remained was fuel and Dixie’s the master of saving it – and therefore of Mid-Ohio. Again.

cropped-100_3199.jpgBest Post Race Quote – “We kept our guns.”  a distraught but composed Joseph Newgarden

2nd best Post Race Quote – “Man, that sucked!” Helio Castro-Neves on “what’s it like out there”

10 Race Day Headlines We’ll Never Read

As lifelong fans of the IndyCar Series, we at IRR experience that exhilarating buzz of excited Race Day anticipation like all fans do. Every Race Day is a holiday ’round here – a real celebration  – with feasting, libations and merriment (unfortunately though not for some of us on staff who have to work covering the race).

Those of us not working feel like expectant children on Christmas Eve, even when the series stops at a sub-par track like Mid-Ohio (the feeling today is of poorer kids but still pretty good). So in honor of Race Day Holiday, here are some ICS news headlines we’ll likely never read.

1. Roger Penske Goes Broke as  Americans Quit Cars

2. Sebastian Saavedra Wins Race – Entire Rest of Field Suffers Mechanicals

3. Sato Accident-Free for Third Straight Race, AJ Credits New Found Love of Sushi

4. Paul Tracy Fits into a Driving Suit; Hell Turns Frosty

5. Frenchman is Undisputed Darling of IndyCar Fans

6. Ganassi Voted Sexiest Owner, Fan Favorite

7. Arie, AJ Kiss & Make Up, Vacation Together in Amsterdam

8. Dixon Excited & Giddy after Ohio “Race,” Castro-Neves Calm & Subdued

9. Coyne Wins 3rd Straight Title, Promises his Dozens of Fans Free BBQ for Life

10. Andrettis Happy with Everything, Upbeat & even Chatty with Press

Down with Mid-Ohio

midohfoxsportscom

Photo from foxsports.com

In IRR’s wet t-shirt clear view, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is among the worst of all the venues past and present on the IndyCar Series schedule. Our intrepid reporters have even attended a race at Gateway Speedway, just outside of lovely East St. Louis with stunning views of landfills in every direction, and preferred it to Mid-Ohio. It’s just not an appropriate track for the artistry on wheels that is IndyCar.

A rural road course/drive through the woods, it has neither the pretty flowers of Barber nor the high desert baked-out brownness of Sonoma. It’s middling. More importantly, Mid-Ohio provides less passing and on track action than it does destination dining.

slow

As a racecourse, it’s simply there in the middle of nowhere begging to be used for something other than the odd motorbike race. Not surprisingly, Mid-Ohio is available for cheap to host the ICS’s annual single file parade and camping jamboree. Seriously, you and a few friends can rent the whole joint out for a weekend, it’s that classy. The racing product is consistently un-compelling. No wonder television ratings will be down this week – again.

Built in the early sixties, the track is old and out of date enough to be too narrow for modern IndyCars, but new enough to the ICS to completely lack any history or gravitas, like Milwaukee and Long Beach enjoy. “Ohio’s premiere motorsports destination” is their slogan, which speaks volumes doesn’t it? It’s kinda like a (nicer) part of Oakland plunked down in Buckeyeland, with “no there there.”

Last year’s race was memorable, barely, only because it was Charlie Kimball’s first series victory. He’s a likeable enough chap, an American, and someone who has an inspiring story to tell as a racer with Diabetes. Good for him.

Otherwise, the race was typical Mid-Ohio. It was unremarkable and even downright boring, featuring heavy doses of “strategy.” That means teams focus on fuel and tire saving while hoping to get lucky on pit stop timing. Or, the polar opposite of racing.

As lifelong fans of the sport it pains us to write, but it’s true. Down with Mid-Ohio. This series can – and should – do better.