Toronto Predictions & Prognostications: Double Secret Probation Edition

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

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

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IndyCar Toronto Preview: Canuck Concrete Car Crusher

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Prepare for carnage, cautions and churlishness in Canada on Sunday. The last four races at Exhibition Place have averaged four cautions each, with a first lap pile up last year and multiple red flags in the rain. Compared to Texas that’s a demolition derby. The course is a challenging combination of concrete and asphalt even in dry conditions, which were almost completely absent in 2014. There was no such excuse for 2013. Historically Toronto’s a Canuck concrete car crusher and a godsend for Italy’s Dallara Automibili. North of the border, it’s free gelato for everyone!

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Appropriate for Canada, last year’s double headers were won by a Frenchman and an Englishman – Sebastien Bourdais and Mike Conway. All this Euro flair occurred on Sunday due to rain completely washing Saturday out and was the first one day double header with full points since 1981. As a result of the humidity both races were shortened and the second was timed. TCGR’s Scott Dixon swept the 2013 double header, winning the crash-fest second race – with a total of seven caution flags – under yellow.

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The thirty first IndyCar race to take place in Toronto looks to be dry for a pleasant change this season and will be a stand-alone race for the first time since 2012. Continue reading

Indy 500 Predictions and Prognostications: Humble Edition

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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

Long Beach IndyCar Preview: Glitz, Glam and Godly Acts

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Last time the IndyCar series visited California an act of God nearly derailed the whole show. In August an earthquake struck Sonoma valley, rattling and rocking the entire area for several seconds early on race morning. As Juan Pablo Montoya described the ordeal,  “Awful, like awful. Like my shit – my, the bed was shaking. Anything in the bathroom went to the floor. It was bad.”

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His team mates were similarly terrified by the experience. Will Power blurted out, “Man I thought it was all over. I didn’t think we’d have the race. Oh my God – such a shock. I thought I was gonna die – uh.” Helio‘s reaction was priceless. “Not what you want. Man, it was amazing. I never knew we had that. Man, wow – that was the scariest thing of my life.” Of course we fervently hope The Big One doesn’t hit SoCal, at least not until next week after teams have cleared out with the cars and haulers.

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Long Beach is the first of a trio of left coast races on the schedule this year, but it’s by far the glitziest. Continue reading

An Interview with Brian Carroccio Previewing IndyCar’s 2015 Season, pt 2

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The conversation moved to one of our favorite topics, the Indianapolis 500. We asked Carroccio who he thought would win the ninety ninth running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

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BC: “Montoya. Penske is due for a win at Indy and Montoya was in my opinion the best driver in the three 500 milers last season. So, if I have to pick someone right now to win Indy give me JPM.”

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IRR: Do you think Busch will be back with Andretti Autosport for Indy in light of his legal troubles? Should he be asked back to Indy?

BC: “To be honest, I haven’t followed the Busch case closely. It was sad to see that things went south for him, because at Indy last year he seemed to be in a really good place. Whatever ends up happening is a matter for the courts to decide. The one thing I’ll add is that last May went about as well as could have been expected for Andretti Autosport, KB and IndyCar. I was amazed how well Busch seemed to adapt and his approach was very professional. I think if they do give it a second go, it will be hard to replicate the success they had.”

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The IRR crew composed ourselves as best we could for the mere mention of Busch makes us fighting mad – though not nearly as angry as what would come next. Continue reading

An Interview with Brian Carroccio Previewing IndyCar’s 2015 Season

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Image from Brian Carroccio

Widely read AutoRacing1 columnist and one of IRR’s favorites is Brian Carroccio, a thirty eight year old family man who hails from Rockville, Maryland near our nation’s crime and politician ridden capital. Charmingly Brian or BC as we call him doesn’t know how many Twitter followers he has – it’s in excess of a thousand – though he does know good racing, has attended the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and plans to do so again. Interestingly, he said the most surprising country in which his readership can be found is the Ukraine.

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Photo from Indy Race Reviewer

BC loves his family, the Washington Redskins and racing, and we say two out of three ain’t bad. He grew up a Newman-Haas IndyCar fan in a racing household with his dad doing duty in sports car pits on weekends. Brian began watching IndyCar in its latter day hey day with superstars Mears, Unsers, Andrettis, Sullivan, Rahal and Foyt battling it out on track. His favorite drivers growing up were Al Unser, Sr. and Paul Tracy. He also admits to following soccer – some club called Man U – but we’re willing to overlook that. Rooting for the Redskins however is unpardonable.

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We began the interview by asking BC about the Andrettis and their legacy in IndyCar. His response was rather surprising.

BC: “Mario’s Mario, a legendary winner. What can you say? As far as Michael, he was a vastly under-appreciated driver who had an epic career. To have raced and won against the level of competition that Michael did is amazing, and that was with the Andretti name and all its expectations. But as good as he was as a driver, he’s an even better owner. What he does for the sport, from team building to promotion to resurrecting Milwaukee, exceeds what the other owners have done.”  Continue reading

Will The New CFH Racing Marriage Last?

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The amalgamation of Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing officially occurred in late 2014, forging the fabled new CFH Racing. Perhaps not since Ferdinand and Isabella’s marriage unifying Spain in the 15th century has a union been so momentous. On the surface the IndyCar marriage makes sense, as both capital deprived single car teams could use a team mate’s help, data and support. The thinking was that two marginally to mildly successful groups would join forces and become greater than the sum of their parts – like medieval Spain, a new force to be reckoned with. Scratch the surface on that shiny new IndyCar edifice however, and the crucial process of integration has a ways to go.

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Continue reading

Fool, Britannia! An IndyCar Intervention

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Having lived, loved and taught in England, your author has a special fondness in his heart for almost everything British (with the exceptions of the food and weather), but most especially her people. It’s an endlessly historic and fascinating nation full of wonderfully accented, polite and thin folks. As The Stranger once said, “and in English, too.”

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Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review

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SPECIAL UPDATE: Series Sponsor Verizon settled a damaging lawsuit late this week, agreeing to pay out millions of dollars to customers the communications company overcharged for years. This affected not only millions of Verizon subscribers, but also the rest of us as apparently the entire internet was impacted by Verizon’s shenanigans. Ripping off your customers certainly isn’t the sort of sleazy corporate behavior IndyCar wants or needs to be associated with one would think, nor is slowing down the whole of the web in the nation that invented it, although in light of the 2015 schedule perhaps Verizon’s the perfect sponsor for Miles’ new tennis racket approach to racing.

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Photo from  espn.go.com

The Hawk Has Landed: AJ Foyt Racing announced this week it’s expanding to a two car operation, and we don’t just mean at Indy. Inexplicably, Takuma Sato is back with the team and will be joined as co-recipient of AJ’s wrath by upstart northern Englishman Jack Hawksworth. Hawk is formerly of Bryan Herta Autosport, who formerly drove for AJ Foyt Racing. IndyCar’s a bit like the Hapsburgs of Europe and many modern day workplaces – an incestuous little circle.

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Photo from foytracing.com

Schedule Announced and Many Pounced: The IndyCar Series unveiled its thinly veiled schedule for 2015 and there wasn’t an abundance to be excited about and even fewer surprises. Initial reaction to it is here and it hasn’t changed much. More ovals, please. Brasilia and NOLA will be new road courses, hurray. We hope everyone makes it back safely from these exotic, crime-ridden third world destinations. Dubai didn’t make the cut, although it appears to remain under consideration for the future. Why? We have no idea. As trumpeted by Curt Cavin and others, “Dollar Dale” Coyne’s driver and race winner Carlos Huertas posted “Dubai Feb 22” on his website earlier in the week. Perhaps he meant in 2016.

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Testing, Testing: Also according to the ever accurate Twitter, Rahal Letterman Lanigan failed to show at the test at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on Monday, possibly significant of larger problems for the floundering team.  Maybe Graham was just hung over, or all loved up by Courtney Force. Graham, Bobby, Dave and company had a horrible year as documented in IndyCar Season Grades and missing off season tests isn’t a positive sign. Apparently the late night talk show business isn’t what it once was, but then again what is?

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Flipping Formula 1: Lesser known F-1 Teams are dropping like bribery charges against Billionaire Bernie Ecclestone lately. First Marussia went bankrupt, then Caterham bowed out of the next two races, also reportedly belly up and entering receivership. Respected British newspaper The Telegraph called F-1 a sport “no one can afford” and described it as being very much “in crisis.” Maybe IndyCar doesn’t look quite so bad in comparison after all.

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Photos from bbc.co.uk and dailymail.co.uk

Odds, Ends & Tweets: At Monday’s test, unemployed driver/Indy 500 crasher J.R. Hildebrand drove the Fuzzy’s number 20 car normally reserved for Ed Carpenter of newly merged CFH Racing. No grand theft charges have been filed to date, so evidently J.R.’s joy ride was legit. Curiously Kentish Mike Conway was no where to be seen and rumors have him out. In a Tweet from Barber Motorsports Park, Carp’s teammate Josef Newgarden called it “the most consistent track” they race. Perhaps surprisingly to our readers we at IRR wholeheartedly agree. Barber is consistent – consistently tedious and boring. Finally, the flow chart at CFH Racing seems to be taking shape as another official Tweet referred to “Team Manager Andy O’Gara.” Andy is of course Sarah Fisher’s husband. We wonder if Ed knows of the news yet? Incestuous little circles.

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Sonoma Recap: Rockin’ Race Review

To our pleasant surprise, Sonoma provided glimpses of real IndyCar magic on Sunday afternoon. Even a blind racetrack can find a decent race once in a while. Racing broke out after an earthquake jolted the area overnight, Will Power inexplicably remained un-institutionalized and Sebastian Saavedra somehow received another series start. Hats off to Scottie Dixon who stealthily stalked the leaders most of the afternoon to take the win. It’s only his and Target’s second win of the year, but thirty-fifth of “the ice man’s” impressive career.

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It threatened to be another Power-from-the-pole snoozer like we’ve become accustomed to at Bored to Tears Point, but acts of God have a funny way of changing things up. The race was very much like a six foot long sub sandwich – good at first, then there’s the long middle part but boy is it exciting to finish.

It started with a first lap pile up that saw Hinch spin for about the eighth time of the weekend and collisions involving Helio, Sato and others receiving damage in the corner. The accident was precipitated by Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais who like the others continued on until the wild finish. A skittish Bourdais later tangled with his teammate (two Sebastians come together!) and finally with Will Power on the last lap ending up in the wall. Helio’s race would be at the rear of the field and he’d soon be joined by teammate and championship leader Mad Will Power, a massive mistake adding some unexpected drama to Bored to Tears Point.

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

Power controlled the race and pulled away under largely green though dusty dry conditions. Nearly halfway through the race however, he uncharacteristically spun coming off of a corner in traffic, losing the lead and the race and dropping to twentieth. Like Helio he continued on for points sake, but wouldn’t be a factor in the outcome. This put the race up for grabs and led to an extremely entertaining though jarring finish. Less Power means more drama at tracks like Sonoma.

As they dashed to the finish line behind leader Scott Dixon, cars raced all over the track, bumping and grinding and several even running out of gas. It proved to be a finish worthy of the quake rattled weekend, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud filling out the podium in fairly close fashion. Conway who led the race for Ed Carpenter Racing ran out of gas and coasted across the line before stopping on course.

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Bourdais was driven into the wall as they came banging three wide to the line with Power finishing tenth despite some controversy with his final placement. Sato comported himself well finishing fourth and Montoya charged back coca crazed style to a fifth place finish after also starting in the back. There was another brief yellow brought out during the middle portion of the race by Coyne’s Carlos Huertas who stopped on course. We predicted Huertas as first out, as well as Power on pole but missed with winners RHR & Montoya who fell just short.

The race sets up a grand finale for the championship as usual in IndyCar. With no contrived chase system like other series, IndyCar consistently has championship drama through the final race of the season. The double points Fontana offers as a 500 miler makes it a three way battle between the Penske duo Power and Helio and remarkably Frenchman Pagenaud for Sam Schmidt. Fontana will make for a thrilling conclusion to what’s been an entertaining season.

The coverage of the race by NBCSN although with the B team was colorful and competent, as usual. We just wonder how much they get paid to call the area “beautiful,” as unless you really like dusty brown, Sonoma just doesn’t do it aesthetically. Sam – you know – did all right as a new announcer, Townsend’s tolerable and PT’s ok for a Canuck. Leigh Diffy is preferred over his stand in, though. We particularly loved finally getting to see Courtney Force on camera. Damn, Graham needs to lead more races.  


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Earthquake Quotes –  

“Man I thought it was all over. I didn’t think we’d have the race. Oh my God – such a shock. I thought I was gonna die-uh.” – Will Power

“Not what you want. Man, it was amazing. I never knew we had that. Man, wow, that was the scariest thing of my life.” – Helio Castro Neves

“It was exciting – first earthquake ever.” –  Simon Pagenaud

“Yeah it was crashing and banging and stuff flying across the room.”  – Mike Conway

“The building was swaying so much. It was pretty big.” – Graham Rahal

“It was weird, man, I’d never been through an earthquake.” – James Hinchcliffe

“Awful, like awful. Like my shit- my, the bed was shaking. Anything in the bathroom went to the floor. It was bad.” – Juan Pablo Montoya