Pocono, You Know: ABC Supply 500 Preview

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Photo from jalopnik.com

Great Jules Goux’s ghost  are we glad to get back to some good old IndyCar oval track racing. This season’s oval finale ABC Supply 500 will be run at Pocono Raceway Sunday afternoon and in our view it can’t get here quickly enough. After a three week layoff, anticipating the exciting, side by side racing IndyCar generally displays on ovals is a given, although so you know Pocono’s a bit roval-esque for our particularly refined racing tastes.

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Photo from cbssports.com

A technical track, Pocono’s a tri-oval with different banking in each of its three unique corners – a triangular shaped track and a really odd duck. Turn one was modeled after the old Trenton Speedway, two after Indianapolis Motor Speedway and turn three after the flat Milwaukee Mile. Apparently they couldn’t think of a track for a fourth turn. Drivers and teams must make compromises in their setups to navigate each corner smoothly, although there’s usually at least one corner the car doesn’t like. Clearly “NASCAR’s Tricky Triangle” as it’s irksomely billed isn’t your typical oval, don’t you know.

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

You know IRR’s definitely jazzed about another 500 mile IndyCar race, but at the same time sad that it’ll be the last until next Memorial Day weekend, especially in the wake of Fontana’s loss. From what we’re hearing, ticket sales had better improve ASAP in northeastern PA or else it may be the last 500 miler – or IndyCar race of any distance – at Pocono. Tragically it may truly be “NASCAR’s triangle” after this weekend. That is at least until a certain head we’ve requested comes in, you know.

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

Sadly like many IndyCar races at NASCAR owned and controlled tracks, Pocono – which is privately owned, despite its billing –  Continue reading

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’16 Schedule Stupor: ‘Too Stupid’

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In everyone’s excitement over the announcement of Road America returning to IndyCar’s schedule after a nearly decade long absence, a crucial and rather alarming fact was overlooked. The announced date for next year’s race at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin coincides with Fontana’s late June date this year. Road America may be the greatest road course on the planet for all we care, but three of them couldn’t make up for the loss of the awe-inspiring Auto Club Speedway in Southern California. Famous for thrilling, edge of your seat oval racing, this year’s MAVTV 500 proved to be one of the greatest races many have ever witnessed. IndyCar refusing to race there next year would be the height of stupidity.

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Not helping matters, the date of the Fontana race has been a moving target the last few years, going from season finale in 2014 to the solstice season this summer. Seems as though heat’s a huge factor for Californian race fans – as well as drought, earthquakes, wild fires & crime – though the racetrack does have lights the series has utilized to escape the heat of the day. Outgoing competition president Derrick Walker acknowledged Fontana’s issues when asked about its return recently. Although he called this year’s race one of the most entertaining races ever, his response wasn’t overly encouraging.

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Photo from foxsports.com

Said Walker Continue reading

Fontana Preview: Save The Ovals!

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Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California has played host to some thrilling IndyCar races over the two decades since it opened. Built on the site of an old steel mill that helped the arsenal of western civilization save itself in World War II, the track was completed in 1996. It began hosting CART races the next year. On the other side of the split the all oval IRL began holding competing races there in 2002, with the re-unified series holding its first race at Fontana in 2012. In an age of oval subtractions from the schedule, the addition of Fontana made imminent good sense.

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Photo from ap.org

Previous winners among former drivers include KV Racing owner/wine connoisseur Jimmy Vasser who, like Sam Hornish, Jr won twice at Fontana along with recently retired Dario Franchitti. Ed Carpenter, Will Power and Tony Kanaan are the active winners in the field this year, while Juan Pablo Montoya will be a threat to take his second five hundred mile win of the season in as many attempts. Interestingly, Scott Dixon and Carlos Munoz both won SoCal’s fiesta in Indy lights, the quick Colombian winning consecutively in 2012 and 2013. We can’t help but wonder if those wins were simply “OK.” Hmmm, Carlos?

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Twenty years of racing at the Southern California track have witnessed wild fires, drought, incredible finishes and speeds over 235 miles per hour. Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Death & Decline Edition

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Milwaukee Mile Moribund?: Rumors have Michael Andretti grumbling about lack of fan interest in the upcoming Milwaukee race, threatening to pull his group’s promotion of the historic event. This may simply be Michael playing hardball and attempting to up his company’s revenue in advance of the race, though it could be more . . .

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No More NOLA?: Andretti’s currently in litigation over the NOLA race seeking more money from the local honchos in Louisiana – we say good luck with that. Additional issues with a cherished oval track like Milwaukee would spell serious trouble for a series with too few non-street course events as it is. The loss of NOLA? Much less of a concern in our view, as “One Stop’s Enough.” All this bears watching, and you can bet as always we’ll be wondering, “What’s Michael Andretti Thinking?”

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Image from Indy Race Reviewer

Filippi Fined For Fuel: Continue reading

Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Wrigley Field: Sports Shrines

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  Images from Indy Race Reviewer & chicago.cubs.mlb.com

Sui generous. Hallowed ground. Witness to history. Host of legendary greats and unforgettable events. All these phrases and more apply to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as its Midwestern sister stadium Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The over century old venues – IMS was built in 1909 while Wrigley was constructed five years later – stand proudly as symbolic gems from the past while retaining their modern relevance. They’re not mere stadiums, they’re sports shrines.

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Photo from Indy Race Reviewer

That’s truly a rare combination in a time and place where buildings, mountains, monuments and men are routinely torn down to make way for the new. In Chicago and Indy, progress has swirled like a tempest around these landmarks of longevity, yet thankfully they remain standing. Imagine for a minute if there were no IMS and no Wrigley Field. Then recall that it almost happened, as both sacred spaces were slated for demolition at certain points in their history. Interrupted only by the occasional world war or – rarer still – millionaires on strike, IMS and Wrigley have stood witness to hundreds of races and thousands of games. All while the whole world changed around them, then changed again.

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Photo from usatoday.com

IMS and Wrigley have changed too, yet they always remain somehow the same. 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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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%

 

Race Day Rattlings

Eleven Race Day Rattlings & Ruminations:

Sarah Fisher (O’Gara) Hartman Racing plus Ed Carpenter Racing equals a whole lot a racing. Will the combined CFHR remain the underdogs we enjoy rooting for?

What’s next we can only imagine. Ever heard a’ Herta Foyt Racing?! We’d take the sharp looking black 14 car back on track.

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Photo from espn.go.com

Our pole predictions were extremely close, missing it by that much. Right team, wrong Penske and 2nd choice TK starts 2nd. Our picks to win? Starting 19th & 20th. Ouch.

How about that pole speed? 169.262 mph – over a mile per hour slower than Marco’s record last year.

Perhaps Penske’s perpetually perturbed Power prevails from pole?

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Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au

Does JPM’s resurgence continue, increasing the pressure on Will and Helio?

Will AA’s surprising recent struggles at the Mile persist? Marco’s their top qualifier – in 9th.

Is Tony Target’s best shot at victory at the Mile? Or is it Briscoe? What an off year for Dixie and the whole Ganassi team.

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Do either of the newly paired Newkid or Carpenter have a shot at victory circle? It’d complete a big weekend for them. 

Can Sato turn in a strong showing and actually finish in front of his sponsor’s home crowd? We’re dubious but hopefully wrong. 

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We’re high on Munoz, but which rookie makes the most of his maiden Milwaukee Mile?

Milwaukee IndyFest Eve Edition – Wildcards for the Race

Our friends in the business of guessing the weather have divined a potential wildcard for this weekend’s IndyCar festivities – rain. Don’t fret, as the rain’s forecast for Saturday night while race day Sunday actually looks clear. IRR’s guaranteed prediction of our full money’s and mile’s worth for the race still stands. Nevertheless rain Saturday night still will affect Sunday’s race. To counter rocker Steve Miller’s line from “Jungle Love,” in IndyCar not everything’s better when wet.

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Photo from firestoneracing.com

Rain washes the surface of a track, removing the rubber build-up from the racing line that’s been laid down during practice and qualifying. In the strange, through the looking glass land of auto racing – and only there – buildup is considered good and desirable by the drivers and teams. A downpour results in what is called a “green” track surface, which is very slippery with little to no grip.

IndyCars’ hundreds of horsepower combined with high performance racing slick tires make them hard enough to control on a track that’s been “rubbered in.” Beginning a race on a green track makes it tricky indeed for the drivers, especially the handful of rookies who haven’t raced at the Methuselah Mile at all. A sketchy start on a green track is our first wild card of the weekend, and the concrete walls of Milwaukee stand at the ready to perform the function for which they were built.

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Photo from examiner.com

Which leads us to the second wild card of Milwaukee – the rookies in the race. The Mile’s a difficult oval to drive under ideal conditions, especially with an ill-handling car. Struggling cars then are quickly lapped by the leaders and become dreaded “traffic.” This will likely give a couple of the rookies and other drivers multiple challenges, although happily the beer glass is half full on the second wildcard, as well.

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Photo from indycar.com

A couple of the rookies are exceptionally talented and may well excel at the track. In fact one of our predictions to win the race is rookie AA driver Carlos Munoz, who’s leading the ROY honors comfortably and has shown flashes of brilliance on the ovals dating back to last year’s 500. The young Colombian’s one to watch in these final three races of the season. Just a couple of things to consider for tomorrow’s race, which should be an exciting one to behold.

Predictions for Milwaukee – The Good News! Edition

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The good news this week is that IndyCar association of states motors to Milwaukee for the Andretti Autosport promoted Indyfest. Yippieee! We fans have AA to thank for resuscitating the Methuselah Mile from certain death due to old age, indifference and mismanagement. AA helped save a good ol’ track – bully for them!

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Photo from usatoday.com

Don’t think AA was being purely magnanimous though, as they’ve tended to dominate races at the Mile lately. Specifically American Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay who’s won the last two straight at the Mile and three in his career. He’s also still luke-hot, winning the last oval race at the 7/8s mile Iowa bull ring in mid-July. Can he make it three straight in neighboring Wisconsin?

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Photo from Getty Images

There’s more good news too, as Milwaukee is not only an oval, but an historic one dating back to 1903 when cars were a model year newer than horseless carriages. That makes it the oldest still-used racetrack in the world. With little banking, the Mile drives like a roval and presents a challenge to many teams and drivers, while others seemingly have it figured out.

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Photo from milwaukeeindyfest.com

The good news keeps on coming as unlike certain street affairs it will not be a timed race. We fans get our full  money’s and mile’s worth, all 250 thank you. As an oval track race it’ll be much more watchable than Mid-Ohio, too. That’s guaranteed. Finally and perhaps best of all – and another guarantee – it won’t result in Target winning its sixth of the last eight races held there. Huzzah!

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IRR’s been on a hot, buttery roll with our prognostications lately, so without further delay here are our Milwaukee Indyfest Race Predictions with supporting data.

 

%  correct in previous three races

Pole Winner – Tony Kanaan or Helio Castro-Neves                                        0%

Race Winner – Ryan Hunter-Reay or Carlos Munoz                                      33%

First Out of Race – Takuma Sato or Sebastian Saavedra                               0%

Biggest Surprise of Race – Ryan Briscoe or James Hinchcliffe                      0%

 

Ten Reasons We Love Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee is a famous Midwestern American city with lots of enticing, interesting activities to offer. Its heritage of German immigrant beer brewers including Pabst and Miller makes it a little taste of Bavaria right here in the U.S. Or so we’ve read, as none of us at IRR has ever actually visited the city, although Bavaria’s quite lovely.

Nevertheless as big fans of beer we feel qualified to sing its praises in advance of the upcoming Milwaukee Indyfest.  We figure any place other than Palookaville, OH is a vast improvement.  So we look forward to the IndyCar race in Milwaukee with high hopes and culinary anticipation dripping from our taste buds.

Ten Reasons We Love Milwaukee, Wisconsin

1. BEER – with pizza, cheese steak and everything else

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2. Brewer baseball – with indoor AND outdoor options (though limited beer options at Miller Park)

3. Cheese – on pizza, cheese steak and everything else

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Photo from wisconsinmade.com

4. Brats – grilled with onions, peppers and BEER

5. It’s the hometown of Jeff Dahmer, serial killer & “the Milwaukee cannibal”

6. The Milwaukee (or affectionately, Methuselah) Mile, dating back 111 years

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Photo from milwaukeeindyfest.com

7. ABC Supply Co and their extremely patient sponsorship of AJ Foyt Racing

8. The Pabst Mansion – gilded age decadence at its best

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Photo from pabstmansion.com

9. Lake Michigan shoreline – modern day decadence AND bikini bodies

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Photo from 8thingstodo.com

10. And finally, it’s “the city that BEER built”