IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Schmidtspmindycom

Photo from spmindy.com

Sam Schmidt’s team – we’ve no idea who this Peterson fellow is – endured a severe reversal of fortunes after a moderately successful 2014. The seemingly snake-bit SPM dealt with a host of issues apart from having two brand new drivers – the Two Jameses, Hinchcliffe and Jakes – as well as humpback Hondas. The poorly performing team failed to overcome devastating injuries, spectacular wrecks and more than their fair share of rotten racing luck. The group regressed this season and received low marks as a result.

Wins: 1

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

Their tough year started quickly at St. Pete where a perfectly healthy team couldn’t crack the top fifteen, a harbinger of the season to come. Canuck funny man Hinchcliffe won at swampy NOLA – where one stop was enough – before being gravely wounded during practice for the Indy 500. His injuries at IMS resulted from a one hundred and twenty five G-force collision with the wall due to the failure of a right front suspension part.

Hinchnolaindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

Upon impact, a suspension arm penetrated the cockpit, striking him in the thigh and gouging his artery. Schmidt likened it to “a dagger through the bottom of the seat.” Suffering extreme blood loss, Hinchcliffe Continue reading

Advertisements

Sonoma IndyCar Finale Preview: Determined Joy Edition

JWilIndy09

The show must go on as the old saying goes and in this case the race must take place. IndyCar’s season finale will occur on Sunday and as we move on from the tragic loss of Justin Wilson we do so saddened and humbled, yet also grateful and appreciative for the decade of racing we all had rooting for him. JWil was a true gentleman and talented racer who made the world a better place; it’ll be a poorer, less joyous world without him.

IZOD IndyCar Series Firestone 500

Photo from gettyimages.com

We hate to say it but the trajectory IndyCar’s been on lately we wouldn’t be surprised if either massive wildfires engulf the entire track this weekend or – and also God forbid – the big one finally hits California and breaks the whole kit and caboodle off into the sea, or possibly both. One seriously wonders what the formerly Golden state did to deserve such luck, until remembering Hollywood, Simi Valley, Charlie Manson, Watts, Willie Brown, Napa Valley, Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, The Gover-nator, Riverside, and on and on and on.

canews.nationalgeographiccom

Photo from nationalgeographic.com

But barring such calamities or the intervention of political villains, there’ll be a champion crowned at the end of it all – funnily the race winner almost always gets overshadowed by the champ at the conclusion of the finale –  and like him or not we’re starkly faced with the fact it’ll be the last IndyCar race until at least next spring. So by God we are resolutely determined to enjoy it. Justin would have wanted us to and as we were all rudely reminded this week, one never knows when it’ll be your last race.

stimpyimgarcadecom

Image from imgarcade.com

The Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma Continue reading

Pocono Predictions And Prognostications: Problems Edition

Our problem – one of about 500 of them – is that after nearly a month off our powers of prognostication are really rusty. It’s a good thing our picks have been weaker than an IndyCar penalty all year or else it could’ve been a real problem. Perhaps a month off’s exactly what was needed and everyone can just get back to racing at Pocono problem-free. Yeah, right – at this point IndyCar’s about as problem-free as the drug-addled punk rockers the Sex Pistols.

LONG POND, PA - JULY 6, 2014: The Verizon IndyCar Series Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco race is held at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA on July 6, 2014 (2014 pixelcrisp)

Photo from poconoraceway.com

In honor of “NASCAR‘s Tricky Triangle,” we’ve a series of special predictions, though they’re probably problematic for fans of the artistry on wheels that is IndyCar – you’ve been warned. Tragically it’ll most likely be the series’ last trip to Pocono, like Fontana, at least for a while. Sigh. Befitting the mood of the occasion, in their first on track meeting since Iowa Sage “Wildman” Karam and Ed “The Finger” Carpenter won’t tangle with each other again or even make unkind gestures. It’d be just too juicy and beneficial for a series that has so many problems it doesn’t seem worthy of a good break.

edsageusatodaycom

Photo from usatoday.com

Despite his prowess in 500 milers, Team Penske championship leader Juan “You Know” Montoya will encounter problems during the course of the marathon race and fail to repeat at Pocono. This’ll present Graham Rahal and other title contenders with a golden opportunity at Long Pond before heading into the season finale. Looks like it’s not the Cap’n’s year, as even Penske isn’t immune to Pocono’s plentiful problems.

jpmusatodaycom

Photo from usatoday.com

Another problem for Pocono Continue reading

Iowa Race Review: Sage Gone Wild

sagekaramusatodaycom

Photo from usatoday.com

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

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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.

iowa2sportsusatodaycom

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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

Milwaukee Race Review: ‘Because He Got High’ Edition

Jul 12, 2015; West Allis, WI, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Sebastien Bourdais (11) during practice for the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee Mile Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-230510 ORIG FILE ID:  20150712_ads_bv1_019.JPG

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

First time pole sitter Josef Newgarden could have won the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 after leading over a hundred laps Sunday, but faded in the middle portion of the race due to pit stops and traffic, ultimately finishing fifth because he got high. The same could be said for other drivers in the highly entertaining show, though none reached the heights of Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais who took his thirty fourth career IndyCar win at the Milwaukee Mile. Helio Castro Neves started dead last – behind even Pippa Mann – then steadily sped through the field to a highly surprising second place finish for the Cap’n‘s best result. Helio also could have won the race, but he got high. Third place was as high as Graham Rahal could hold on to, but Bobby’s boy continued his strong 2015 season with another highly satisfying podium finish.

On the other end of the blunt, Ed Carpenter‘s horrid year continued at the Milwaukee Mile. Early in the contest he held up the race leader and his team mate JoNew for several laps before finally letting him – and  those pursuing him – past. They got around him, high. It was reported during the race that Ed fired his spotter after crashing both his team’s cars and then calling the spotter out at Fontana, replacing him with former 500 winner Buddy Rice. Apparently the spotter wasn’t the problem at Milwaukee, as Carpenter eventually struggled home in tenth. That’s his highest result of the year, as the Fuzzy’s Vodka car hadn’t completed an oval race until Sunday.

edcarpenterindystarcom

Photo from indystar.com

Getting high on the flat oval seemed to be the key to speed for those running up front as many cars experienced ill handling most of the day. Race control in its infinite wisdom slowed the competitors down to a snail’s pace of fifty miles per hour on pit lane in the ever tiresome interest of safety, and for a change none of Dale Coyne’s drivers hit a crewman. Not surprisingly there was a pit lane speed violation by Juan Montoya, however. His speed was judged to be too high.  Continue reading

Fontana Race Review: Shut Up And Drive Edition

fontanasportsusatodaycom

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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.

rahalfontanaindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

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.

rahalfontanaindystarcom

Photo from indystar.com

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

Texas Race Review: Dixie Does Dallas

texas1foxsportscom

Photo from foxsports.com

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

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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.

RMracinglinetvcom

Photo from racinglinetv.com

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.”

jonbeekhuisbuzz

Image from Indy Race Reviewer

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

IndyCar Texas Preview: Bigger Is Better

DSC00380

Photo from Indy Race Reviewer

Delightfully delivering up delicious dishes of daredevil driving for decades, Texas Motor Speedway’s consistently been one of the most exciting tracks IndyCar visits, a real highlight of the schedule and an all around big deal. Located north of Fort Worth and just south of Denton, it’s an area that’s been hit hard by flooding in recent weeks. Happily the floodwaters are receding and the forecast looks good for Saturday.

antiCARTfanscaranddrivercom

Photo from caranddriver.com

A spectacular oval staple on the schedule, TMS opened in 1997 and has hosted twenty six IndyCar races in its history, not counting CART‘s cancellation fiasco in 2001.Two visits per year were common in the good ol’ days with winning margins in the thousandths of seconds and championships regularly decided. They say in Texas everything’s bigger and both TMS and IndyCar racing there certainly measure up.

bracktexasmotorsportretrocom

Photo from motorsportretro.com

Its high banked mile and a half racing surface has witnessed terrifying crashes, victory lane smack downs and some of the most memorable finishes of the modern era of the sport. Continue reading

Indy 500 Race Review: Foyt’s Foul Ups Edition

Sage Karam, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises crash

Photo from motorsport.com

Veteran driver Juan Pablo Montoya from Colombia won his second Indianapolis 500 Sunday a record fifteen years after a dominating win in his first appearance at the Brickyard. That’s appropriate, as Montoya received two warnings from race control – though no penalties – for running over an air hose and blocking. The ABC commentators said something about a “rules change” regarding the pit equipment which was fitting since rules changes have been the theme of the month at IMS. That controversy wasn’t even close to AJ Foyt Racing’s performance on the sport’s grandest stage though, which was utterly pathetic.

500sportsusatodaycom

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

Once it finally got started, the Indy 500 proved to be an entertaining race with a remarkable thirty seven lead changes among ten different drivers. Montoya beat Power to the line by a tenth of a second, the fourth closest margin of victory in race history. It also marked the fifth year in a row there was a last lap lead change. American Charlie Kimball rounded out the podium with a strong third place finish for Ganassi while Graham Rahal was top Honda in fifth. Super sub Ryan Briscoe gained an impressive nineteen spots in James Hinchcliffe’s SPM car and finished twelfth despite spinning.

Ryan Briscoe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda spins

Photo from motorsport.com

Both the weather and the rules tweaks made to the cars cooperated on a gorgeous day in Indy. JPM’s win was Roger Penske’s 16th Indy 500 triumph, both deserved and a bit surprising considering the month he’d endured at Indianapolis. Montoya qualified poorly in fifteenth behind two of his team mates, experienced a horrible Carburetion Day with a serious lack of speed and to top it all off  he was hit from behind by Simona de Silvestro under caution after the failed start of the race.

simexaminercom

Photo from examiner.com

The race was far from perfect with six cautions for forty seven laps as a ragged false start to the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 got things started poorly. Continue reading

IndyCar’s Chopping Block: A Gory Recent History

yeocb

Image from Indy Race Reviewer

It’s a bloody business ending people’s careers, although not so long ago it was a good deal worse when one’s fate literally rested in the executioner’s hands. At the risk of sounding unsympathetic or even – gasp! – ‘mean spirited,’ IndyCar’s a business and personnel changes are a grim but necessary aspect of the sport. Besides these folks get paid handsomely to ‘work’ in IndyCar, which would be a dream job for millions. Sentimentality aside, let’s cut to the chase and review the recent terminations and potential axing of some of IndyCar’s more recognizable faces.

sebsaavautosportcom

Photo from autosport.com

Living the dream until lately, Sebastian Saavedra made fifty seven big league starts and has absolutely no results. Never coming close to a win, the quirky Colombian failed to crack the top five and only recorded three top tens in the equivalent of four seasons. He’s finished at the very bottom of the field with KVSH two years running now. You may recall his one highlight turned out to be a disaster, as pole position at the inaugural Indy Grand Prix led to a stall and spectacularly expensive carbon fiber shower. In SeSaav’s case as in others it was high time a quick cut was made.

foxsportscom

Photo from foxsports.com

Ryan Briscoe had a decent IndyCar career over the last decade with seven wins, but it appears to be in the past tense.   Continue reading