IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Andretti Autosport

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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The Andretti bunch had a wild year that began poorly, turned around in the last portion yet ended in tragedy. It strongly resembled a Sam Peckinpah movie, come to think of it. Legal issues notwithstanding, 2015 was so turbulent it may well make AA want to start drinking again. For all Michael and Hunter-Reay’s talk of being “lost” with Honda early on, the “autosport” actually bounced back for a decent year on track equaling last year’s win total.

Wins: 3

Podiums: 6

Poles: 0

The team’s top driver and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay scored oval wins at Iowa and Pocono along with four top five finishes including second at the Sonoma finale. He came back strong to finish sixth in points, helped by the fact that he was running at the end of thirteen out of sixteen races.

Marco Andretti (27) heads into a turn during IndyCar testing at Barber Motorsports Park, Monday, March 16, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. Drivers are testing the new aerodynamic packages on their cars. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

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Marco’s years’ long difficulties continued, Continue reading

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IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: AJ Foyt Racing

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The newly expanded group has gone from bad to worse and the ailing AJ can’t be happy about it, despite his public pronouncements. Here are the numbers for what the Texas based team itself recently called a “tough season.”

Wins: 0

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

The Team’s eponymous and ornery octogenarian owner’s health remains a major concern, but their troubles go well beyond AJ’s age. All the Honda teams struggled early in the season with those hideously overdone aero kits and lack of power; however, Rahal nearly won the championship and Ryan Hunter-Reay rebounded for a decent year – both in Hondas – so some success certainly was attainable. For AJ Foyt Racing though, it wasn’t. Their nadir unfortunately came during the series’ biggest event – our Indy 500 race review was tellingly entitled “Foyt’s Foul Ups Edition.”

Stefano Coletti, of Monaco, (4) hits the car driven by Sebastian Saavedra, of Colombia, as Jack Hawksworth, right, of England, hits the wall in the closing laps of the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Kirk Stierwalt) ORG XMIT: NAA147

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AJ’s two drivers Continue reading

Sonoma Finale Race Review: ‘Damn It, Man!’ Championship Edition

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In a result few outside of Chip Ganassi‘s Star Wars bar scene inner circle saw coming, Kiwi Scott Dixon won both the Sonoma GoPro Grand Prix and the IndyCar championship Sunday, his third win of the year and fourth title of Dixie’s storied career. It was thanks in large part to Team Penske and Juan Montoya‘s monumental collapse. Leading since St. Pete it was Montoya’s title to lose, and he did so in spectacular fashion. Banging into and spinning team mate Will Power who was leading the race on the first restart, Montoya damaged the nose of his own car and threw the championship away in a single turn. JPM had enjoyed a substantial points lead going into the finale – thirty four over Rahal and forty seven over Dixon – but thanks to this epic brain fade finished second in a tie breaker on wins.

Aug 30, 2015; Sonoma, CA, USA; Pit crew for IndyCar Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya bring the car to the grid before the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

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The first half of the contest was fairly humdrum and typical of a Sonoma race as Leigh Diffey himself admitted in the latter stages. From pole Power sped away from the field and dominated the race until Montoya foolishly punted him. It being a Penske affair, of course no penalty was forthcoming. The first caution was a questionable flag for Filippi who hit  nothing but was supposedly slow on course. This was the beginning of race control rearing its ugly heads though, and unfortunately it would have an effect on the outcome. For the first time in months they penalized drivers during the contest with drive through penalties including one for Sebastien Bourdais who hit Graham Rahal from behind, spinning him out and costing him any chance at the title. Rahal angrily confronted Bourdais afterwards on pit lane, saying “Good job . . . you knew exactly where I was going and you drove like a f___ing d__k! ”

Graham Rahal, right, and Charlie Kimball (83) compete during the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma auto race Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) ORG XMIT: CAER108

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Josef Newgarden ran well in second but Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud parked it on pit road obstructing the young American’s exit from his pit box. Continue reading

Pocono Race Review: Tragedy in Pennsylvania

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Ryan Hunter-Reay crossed the finish line first for Andretti Autosport at Pocono Sunday evening, but there were no celebrations and no confetti in a subdued victory lane. His team mate Justin Wilson had already been airlifted to the hospital and as yet no one at the track knew his status. It was the strangest scene after a race in memory as a pall hung heavily over the gathered crowd.

Wilson was hit in the head by debris from Sage Karam’s car, which disintegrated when he spun and hit the wall while leading the last portion of the race. Karam injured his right foot in the wreck, but he got off lightly compared to Justin. Slumped forward in the cockpit, Wilson was clearly already knocked unconscious as the car hit the inside wall and came to a stop. Today Wilson remains in a coma in critical condition. Sadly Justin passed away Monday night. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Englishman’s family.

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The incident isn’t dissimilar to the case of F-1 driver Jules Bianchi, Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Vacation Edition

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Andretti Sued By His Own Company: Only in IndyCar would a prominent owner and face of the sport be sued by his own company. Leave it to Curt Cavin to report that Andretti Sports Marketing is suing Andretti Autosport in Marion County Superior Court. In a statement Michael Andretti – the CEO of both outfits – singled out complainants President John Lopes and Treasurer Starke Taylor as “disingenuous and self serving” in their attempt “to impact our family name.” Sounds like recent cutbacks at ASM have led to disgruntled employees and hard feelings. Wonder if Michael wants to get away?

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Testing For The Centennial: Six cars from four teams are testing today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Marco and Helio will be testing Firestone tires while Carpenter, Kanaan, Pags and RHR will be doing some team testing on the historic oval. Looks like no vacation for these six drivers, or at least a slightly shorter one. It’s wise to test the cars, tires and aero kits earlier as opposed to later, as hopefully next year won’t see a rash of cars flying through the air at Indy.

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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USF2000, Pro Mazda To Get NEW CARS!: Continue reading

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

Iowa Corn 300 Preview: Edibles Edition

IndyCar's in Iowa

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Iowa’s known for corn, hogs, related edibles and frankly little else. It’s the home of has been IndyCar blogger Bill Zahren, aka “PressdogTM,” as well as the Iowa Caucuses whatever those are. Apparently it’s some sort of beauty pageant for the rather homely political class, proving the old dictum that politics is celebrity for ugly people. Iowa sounds like it’s got a lot going for it, doesn’t it? We kid, we kid. Seriously, Saturday night should prove to be a tasty treat for fans of artistry on wheels.

Saturday, July 31, 2010 - Iowa Speedway

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The best part of the entire god-forsaken state is Iowa Speedway, a 7/8s mile oval located east of Des Moines in the tiny town of Newton. Thank you, Rusty Wallace. Apparently it’s the one track in the country that can handle both an IndyCar race AND a certain other series race within a few weeks of each other. Now THAT’s tasty. It must be all that gooey corn pollen that makes this possible in the Hawkeye state. Or perhaps it’s the intense, wafting smell of hog shit (aka “money”) that has such a wonderfully efficient effect on the locals. They even have a “bar tent” at the Speedway and actually give away sweet corn during the festivities. Beer and corn – it’s not exactly wine and cheese – but what a culinary combo!

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The hors d’ oeuvres sized “speedway” opened back in 2006 and hosted its first IndyCar race the next year. Retired Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti – hailing from Scotland he’s used to horrible food – narrowly edged Marco Andretti to win the inaugural Iowa Corn 250. The race has been expanded to 300 laps the last couple of years and we’re thankful for the extra helping of fifty, gladly taking all the mouth watering oval track racing we can get. After all, egg shaped tracks are the meat and potatoes of IndyCar.

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Continue reading

Milwaukee ‘IndyFest’ Preview: IndyCar’s History?!

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Prepare to watch fast on NBCSN this weekend for both qualifying and the IndyCar race will occur on Sunday within a few hours of one another, just like the good ol’ days. On a darker note, it may also be the last opportunity you ever have to see artistry on wheels at the historic track in Milwaukee. Ominously, it’ll mark the one hundred thirteenth IndyCar type race at America’s oldest remaining major sports venue – or what we at IRR affectionately refer to as the “Methuselah Mile” – opened way back in 1903.

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The Milwaukee “IndyFest” as it’s now known is an Andretti promoted event with a State Fair always nearby and even a Ferris wheel. Michael’s not only given us that merry moniker but also complaints about low attendance, lack of revenue and the like. It’s gotten to the point where Andretti’s threatening to pull out unless the bottom line improves. Sometimes lost in this is the fact that it’s his promotion company that’s responsible for the success of the event, which revolves largely around attendance. Considering the NOLA fiasco and now this, we’re beginning to question the efficacy of Andretti’s promotional abilities. If you’re a regular reader then you know we often wonder, “What’s Michael Andretti Thinking?

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In fairness we give credit to Andretti for saving the event at Milwaukee several years ago, but would similarly demote him if he were to pull the plug on America’s oldest IndyCar track. If that were to happen and Milwaukee were to disappear from the schedule like a lost city of gold, the loss of another oval – especially such an historic one –  would be beyond tragic. It’d be tantamount to Major League Baseball not visiting Wrigley Field, or the NFL by passing Lambeau. It’d be the end of history.

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Historically Ryan Hunter Reay‘s had success at Milwaukee, 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

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