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

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Iowa Race Review: Sage Gone Wild

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Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay won Iowa for the third time Saturday night, but twenty year old rookie Sage Karam stole the show, swerving and chopping his way to third for his first IndyCar podium finish. Clearly on a roll the last several races, in short Sage went wild. Josef Newgarden led much of the latter stages of the frantic race only to finish second while Graham Rahal led another charge from seventeenth to fourth making it an American sweep in the heartland. Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz rounded out the top five in a favorable night for Andretti‘s team.

Jul 18, 2015; Newton, IA, USA; IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay (28) reacts after winning the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-230374 ORIG FILE ID:  20150718_lbm_ad1_319.JPG

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Sparks flew throughout the last half of the race as intense racing and hectic traffic around the tiny oval led to drivers being either exhausted or enraged or both. Karam enjoyed another rocket ride to the front in the number eight car. Were it not for a slow right front tire change during his last pit stop he might have fared even better. At one point Sage simultaneously showed his immaturity and fearlessness, screaming about Jack Hawksworth on the radio. “Dude, I’m alongside him and he won’t back out!” Ed Carpenter appeared high on the list of drivers Karam managed to offend on his charismatic, choppy charge as the veteran gestured repeatedly from the car and then confronted the Ganassi driver immediately after the race.

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Ambling angrily down pit lane with cameras following, IndyCar’s only owner-driver animatedly got in the youngster’s face and loudly lectured him about “respect.” Continue reading

Fontana Race Review: Shut Up And Drive Edition

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After the most compelling IndyCar race in many years Saturday at Auto Club Speedway and before an almost completely empty house several drivers embarrassed themselves by bitching about “pack racing,” going so far as repeatedly calling the race “crazy.” The phrase “pack racing” is the newest pejorative in the sport and was oft used in relation to the MAVTV 500. This gratuitous hurling of abuse was unfair in our eyes, not to mention unhelpful and ungrateful. In fact it was a superb record setting race with a stunning eighty lead changes among fourteen drivers, an American winner and relatively few incidents. After all, no one was killed or even injured other than another of Dale Coyne’s crewman, and with a constant rotation of drivers for the shoestring team that’s par for the course. Listening to some drivers after the race though you’d have thought a massacre had just occurred on national television.

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Graham Rahal gained an amazing eighteen spots to win the race which ended under yellow, leading our pick Tony Kanaan to the line. This occurred after a red flag stoppage of the race to clean up an earlier incident caused by Takuma Sato, which we also predicted. It’s Rahal’s second win and first on an oval track in nine years of racing. He overcame a dangerous incident in his pit when his fueler inexplicably shoved the fuel buckeye back into the car as it dropped off the jack and sped away. The fuel hose broke, spilling fuel everywhere on pit lane and the yellow was soon displayed. Oddly, race control opted to fine and dock Rahal points rather than issue a drive through penalty. The thus far unexplained and controversial call ended up affecting the outcome of the race.

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The ghosts of Dan Wheldon and Las Vegas were even evoked in a truly sad display of professional whining by athletes who are well paid to race closely while side by side and entertain fans. They are not paid to degrade the product or to take a giant dump on a classic display of riveting oval track racing, yet that’s precisely what they did. It was an outrageous display of complaining the likes of which we at IRR have never seen in decades of closely following the sport.  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

Texas Race Review: Dixie Does Dallas

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New Zealander Scott Dixon won going away Saturday night in Texas during a nearly entirely green flag race, shattering the track record with a race average of 191.9 mph. His margin of victory was almost eight seconds over Ganassi team mate Tony Kanaan in a race that lacked a dramatic conclusion but included plenty of close racing and passing if not outright speed. It was Dixon’s second win at Texas – the other back in 2008 – and he led ninety seven laps out of two hundred and forty eight.

Scott Dixon (9), of New Zealand, leads Tony Kanaan (10), of Brazil, out of Turn 4 late in the Firestone 600 IndyCar auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday June 6, 2015. Dixon won the race and Kanaan finished in second. (AP Photo/Larry Papke) ORG XMIT: TXTG135

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Chevy’s dominance continued, taking their seventh race out of nine. Oddly there were no crashes and only a single caution for debris all night long north of Dallas, resulting in only four cars on the lead lap at the conclusion. That said, the caution was too long as usual dragging out for over a dozen laps. The one restart saw exciting three wide racing break out on track again, though it was short lived. Dixon and Kanaan showed no team sympathies in their intra-TCGR battle for supremacy at TMS.

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The NBCSN pre-race coverage had some interesting segments. There were several morbid moments during a Robin Miller interview with the ornery octogenarian legend A.J. Foyt. Repeatedly referring to death as well as age and longevity, Miller missed in keeping it either light or informative in his talk with AJ. The four time Indy 500 winner did manage to say “Whoever you go with, you gotta stand up with ’em, good or bad. I’m not happy on their [Honda’s] air package . . ., as far as the body I think they’re out to lunch.”

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After talking to AJ, Miller then went on to do an abbreviated “grid run” of little worth. Continue reading

(That Was) Qualifications? Instant Reaction

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Either IndyCar’s qualifying rules need to be clarified in the event of rain or NBCSN’s Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Steve “Whoa!” Matchett need to do a better job of communicating them. By the way, we’d also appreciate more screen time for Kelly Stavast and less for Marty Snider. As usual, race control was fighting last week’s war, overly concerned with cars impeding traffic when that wasn’t the issue at Barber Saturday.

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For the second time in four races rain affected qualifications – or maybe it didn’t, we’re still not quite sure. Lots of live radar shots set the discombobulated tone for the session and conflicting, confusing messages from the commentators about rain, lightning and new procedures didn’t help matters. Capturing the atmosphere as well as possible Marty actually said late in round two, “Yeah, it’s definitely almost raining at this point.”

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Championship leader Juan Montoya struggled mightily, failing to advance to the second round and as a result will start fifteenth. Continue reading

Race Review, Long Beach: Quite a Reach

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New Zealand’s Scott Dixon triumphed for the first time in nine tries in his storied career at the Long Beach Grand Prix. Surprisingly, the Target driver’s best previous finish and only top ten at the track nearest his homeland was a 4th place in 2010. It’s the “Ice Man’s” thirty sixth IndyCar win putting him fifth all time behind Al Unser and Michael Andretti, whose records are both well within reach. Dixon passed Castro-Neves during pit stops as Helio hesitated waiting for Tony Kanaan to enter his pit box directly in front, and then opened up an insurmountable lead.

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The Penskes swept positions two through four with Helio, Montoya and Pagenaud, the former two battling it out to the very end. TCGR’s Kanaan took fifth, followed by KV’s Sebastian Bourdais and CFHR’s Josef Newgarden in 7th. Marco Andretti rebounded at Long Beach with an 8th place finish and top Honda after starting 10th. His team mate Carlos Munoz finished ninth while Sebastian Saavedra came in 10th in his first race back since a disappointing 2014. Penske’s 2014 Champion Will Power struggled all weekend, starting 18th and finishing twentieth after stalling on pit road. Hoosier Conor Daly jumped into the Coyne car as a late substitute and raced from 21st to 17th, making the biggest gain of the race.

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Fan reaction was split in regard to Long Beach, which is an improvement compared to the overwhelmingly negative reception the first two races enjoyed. Continue reading

NOLA: One Stop’s Enough

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Searching long and hard for positives to report about yesterday’s embarrassment of a race, NOLA featured the only Ferris wheel in the world located in a swamp. On Sunday IndyCar ran half a race that consisted of over half caution periods with half the field going off course and called it good. The race was so slow that Canuck funnyman James Hinchcliffe won it for Sam Schmidt on one pit stop. Summing up the entire weekend the winner tellingly said afterward, “I feel bad for the fans.” We agree and say one stop is enough for NOLA. Surprisingly we also concur with Michael Andretti who referred to it all as “a nightmare,” and even with Chip Ganassi who apologized to the fans for the fiasco.

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The IndyCar season so far has seen the first race cancelled and the next two filled with crashes and cautions. Continue reading

NOLA’s Non-Qualifications: Instant Reaction

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There were several interesting items to come out of the storm cancelled qualifying session including Target’s resurgence and particularly Kanaan’s, a swamp becoming even swampier, and the mouth of the north Paul Tracy squeezing back into the broadcast booth. Heck, NBCSN even put Robin Miller on television again this season. Yet there were two still curiouser stories that emerged Saturday evening that caught our eye.

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The first story of note was a controversial call made by IndyCar’s race control penalizing KV Racing’s Sebastian Bourdais for impeding TCGR driver Tony Kanaan’s lap. Turns out it’s all a moot point with qualifications being called off, but race control docking SeBass his fastest laps looked questionable particularly considering the poor conditions. Bourdais ran off track into a runoff area, turned around and then re-entered the fray ahead of Tony Kanaan who he then let pass. Both cars were set to advance until race control acted with an iron fist. Twitter – partly due to IRR’s instigation we admit – was immediately set alight.

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Owner Jimmy Vasser was livid. Flustered and on live television – always a compelling viewing combination – Continue reading

An Homage to A.J. in Honor of His 80th

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There’s precious little that can be written about legendary racer Anthony Joseph Foyt that hasn’t been said before, which itself speaks volumes about the ornery octogenarian. The man’s an institution and we at IRR admire the hell out of him. After all, he’s the reason we’ve loved IndyCar our entire lives. With legions of fans to this day, the Texan’s popularity is unparalleled in the American racing world and with good reason.

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The first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and only winner of racing’s Triple Crown – Indy, Daytona & Le Mans – most of Foyt’s records likely never will be eclipsed. How many sports record holders can you realistically say that about? A.J. won sixty seven IndyCar races, seven IndyCar championships, twelve overall championships and a gasket blowing one hundred seventy two major league races. Incredibly, he also raced in thirty five consecutive Indy 500s and very nearly a thirty sixth.

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Our fondest memory of Foyt – bittersweet though it was – is seeing his IndyCar driving farewell at Indianapolis in 1993. Continue reading