IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Dale Coyne Racing

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It’s no wonder Coyne and chaos have become synonymous in the series, as the casualty rate among his crewman approached Chickamauga levels. Dale Coyne had quite possibly his worst year ever and that’s saying something. One incident of hitting a crewman on pit road is too many, two is a real problem. But four wounded team mates is a travesty and deserves serious sanction. The series’ most dubious owner is ultimately responsible for this rank amateurism and must be held to account.

Wins: 0

Podiums: 0

Poles: 0

Three races were marred by three Coyne drivers hitting four Coyne crew members in the pits. At least they were all friendlies who were bashed. Italian Francesco Dracone started it at NOLA, sliding hotly into a wet pit box and violently upending his crewman. During the Indy 500 the crew sent Aussie driver James Davison out of his pit and into fellow Coyne jockey Pippa Mann’s path. This caused Davison to crash into two of his team’s primary pilot Tristan Vautier’s tire changers, sending one to the hospital with a leg injury. The ugliness repeated itself yet again in the classic at Fontana, where Frenchman Vautier nailed his left front tire changer while coming wildly into the pit box.

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Obviously both the drivers and the crew shared in the calamitousness, but it’s ultimately on the owner whose name is on the transporter. Here’s the problem: Continue reading

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Mid-Ohio Race Review: ‘Graham Being Graham’ Edition

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Finally Graham Rahal won a race on his home track after seven previous starts at Mid-Ohio and nary a podium to show for them. Inheriting the lead after pitting just as a caution flag came out, Rahal determinedly held on for his second win in what’s already his best ever season in IndyCar. Unfortunately Courtney Force wasn’t on hand for her fiance’s big day yesterday, as she brightens up any venue she attends. But who can blame her for skipping Mid-Ohio though, really?

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During the pre race show Katie Hargitt interviewed Graham Rahal about “growing up at Mid-Ohio.” Graham mentioned remembering camping there as a youth, seamlessly worked in his sponsor Steak ‘N Shake and spoke of generally “terrorizing the place.” We wonder why there are never any Maxim references from Rahal. His helmet for the race resembled the Ohio State Buckeyes football headgear, right down to the buckeye stickers awarded for good play. Graham mentioned he wanted to introduce helmet stickers to his pit crew for performance, citing “competition.” It must have worked, as his crew performed well all day long.

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Coming off an American sweep in Iowa, Mid-Ohio was packed in anticipation of a home town hero emerging and the fans weren’t disappointed. NBCSN’s competent coverage on CNBC included all the usual angles, as Katie Hargitt also interviewed Sage Karam, asking him about the recent dust-ups with Ed Carpenter and Graham. Sage first played the pity card before calling Rahal out.

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“I think a lot of people are picking on the rookie, to be honest. Continue reading

IndyCar 2015 Mid Season Grades

The car driven by Helio Castroneves, of Brazil, is airborne after hitting the wall in the first turn during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Wednesday, May 13, 2015.  (AP Photo/Joe Watts) ORG XMIT: NAA107

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IndyCar’s had an interesting season from a dangerous start with flying aero kit pieces to the emergence of a certified new American star. Although we at IRR admittedly tend to bitch a lot we’ve enjoyed the year thus far for the most part, though a rain-marred race at NOLA and cars flipping in practice at Indy were highly forgettable moments.

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How’s ten races into a fifteen race schedule in any way mid season, you ask? The schedule‘s simply too short and we feel cheated out of several races – Brazil and Toronto #2 to name a couple. Don’t get us started on the lack of ovals. Plus, in college the timing of midterms varies widely and since the IndyCar Series sometimes resembles a frat house, we find the break in the schedule to be a good time to assess individual teams’ performances this season.

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Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing: B+

Josef Newgarden’s breakthrough wins at Barber and Toronto have made the team’s merger look brilliant and established a genuine American star – a non-legacy star, at that. The team’s 1-2 finish in Ontario almost made up for a string of bad luck that stretched from Indy to Texas. Newgarden’s success is no fluke and this new team’s best days lie ahead.

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: B  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

Toronto Predictions & Prognostications: Double Secret Probation Edition

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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

Detroit Two Race Review: Bourdais Haze

May 31, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato (left) Sebastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal celebrate in victory circle after the Dual in Detroit Race 2 at Belle Isle road course. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-225300 ORIG FILE ID:  20150531_lbm_aw3_258.JPG

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Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais prevailed in the rain in Detroit on Sunday for KV Racing for the thirty third win of an IndyCar career that spans a decade.  Happily Bourdais even managed not to drop the trophy off the podium this time. AJ Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato recovered from a poor string of races to finish second ahead of RLL’s Graham Rahal, who was penalized for blocking Sato in the frenzied street fight.

Sebastien Bourdais, of France, drives in the rain during the second race of the IndyCar Detroit Grand Prix auto racing doubleheader Sunday, May 31, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Dave Frechette) ORG XMIT: MIPS109

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The race saw a wet start, a clean and green first half and a second half reminiscent of Saturday’s stinker. After another aero kit explosion of debris thanks to a Penske tussle the race was eventually red flagged for clean up. This set up a mad dash to the finish of a timed race and an exciting ending to a water logged weekend on the border.

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ABC aired a brief fifteen minute pre race show that was typically heavy on the Capn’s team. It didn’t ignore Andretti Autosport though, allowing Carlos Munoz to correct the record and say “it feels good” to have won his first race rather than just “ok.” Graham Rahal also got some air time after his poor showing Saturday. After GM’s CEO gave the command to start engines, another rain race began on Belle Isle. In a double file start which always adds some drama the drivers behaved themselves for a caution free fifty laps of racing.

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First race winner Munoz’s AA Honda went up in smoke in the first ten laps having given its all the previous day. First out of the race, he recklessly drove his car across the racing line to a pull off area, smoke billowing out the back. Fortunately no one hit him as he did so. It was a case of karma for the young Colombian who never should have described an IndyCar win as ok. Continue reading