IndyCar News Week in Review: Surgical Edition

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Hinch’s Comeback: After four months off convalescing outside of the car, lucky to be alive Canadian funnyman James Hinchcliffe returns to his SPM machine this week for testing at Road America in Wisconsin. The Mayor of something or other nearly lost his life due to a “dagger through the bottom of the seat” in his crash at IMS in May, losing copious amounts of blood and undergoing multiple surgeries. After the trying ordeal Hinch is thankful he’ll be back behind the wheel of his car. We’re glad the crazy Canuck’s back, too and hopeful he avoids further surgery for at least a few months.

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Newgarden Stays in Troubled Marriage: For at least another season, Josef Newgarden will stay put at CFH Racing after agreeing to a one year contract extension. The young American had a terrific season Continue reading

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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)

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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.

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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.

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Another problem for Pocono Continue reading

Grand Prix of Indy Predictions and Prognostications: Gavel Down Edition

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Amidst a hail storm of flying carbon fiber debris and to the surprise of many Simon Pagenaud won last year’s inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. SPM wasn’t considered an upper echelon team at the time, though Pags won two races for Schmidt last year and put the team on the map before going to Penske during the off season’s free agent signing of the year. Following Pags’ departure SPM signed Mayor James Hinchcliffe who’d parted ways with Andretti Autosport to fill the Frenchman’s former seat. Hinch was horrifyingly struck in the helmet by debris, concussed and briefly incapacitated during last year’s GP of Indy in an unsettling sequence of events. These two intertwined drivers and teams will figure largely at Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon.

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Our special prediction for this weekend’s event concerns the greatly increased signage at the Speedway this year. It’s crass commercialism on display. You’ll no doubt notice it immediately upon tuning in, with the gi-normous Angie’s List double banner stretched obstructively across the yard of bricks. We predict the 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

IndyCar News Week in Review: Youth Edition

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The Speedway’s Makeover: IMS announced numerous changes to the Month of May’s schedule, including open aero kit oval testing and longer practices leading up to the 500. The earlier starting and later ending sessions are not only to allow more track time but also to recapture the old, pre time change happy hour conditions on track. More shadows on the front stretch equals higher speeds. The change is aimed at setting a “New Track Record!” and corrects a chronological mistake. Between practice and qualifications, there’ll be eight straight days of action on the famed oval prior to the 500. These changes represent precisely the sort of ideas we’ve been advocating at IRR. We applaud the Speedway’s moves and highly encourage more of them for next year’s hundredth running.

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Florida? Sounds Fun: Continue reading

If We Owned an IndyCar Team

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If we owned an IndyCar team, it’d be called 1st Place Racing

We’d have a portable bar and shiny metallic cars

For our drivers, who would excel at pacing

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If we owned an IndyCar team, it would rival Penske and Ganassi

It would smoke Coyne, Foyt and Schmidt – or else that’d be it

And be focused on stomping the Andrettis

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Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: The Poor Decisions Edition

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Fisher Leaves Retirement, Goes to Oklahoma: In the questionable call of the young year, ever emotional Sarah Fisher will return to her midget racing roots next week in OK nearly five years after retiring from a winless IndyCar career. The ‘Chili Bowl’ – Tulsa’s annual indoor midget races that take place in mid January – contains an extra dose of spice this year with Fisher’s participation. Bring your own spoons; NASCAR’s supplying the cheese and crackers. In light of Tony Stewart’s disastrous experiences in 2014, we seriously wonder if the 34 year old mother of two’s decision to race is a good idea.

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Andretti Autosport Poaches Veteran Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Employee: Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: The New And Unimproved Edition

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Rule Book Revisions:  A number of changes to IndyCar’s rule book were announced Tuesday amidst the usual outcry from fans. Double points will be awarded for the Indianapolis 500 and the Sonoma finale only, causing a torrent of upset and gnashing of teeth on Twitter. This is a reflection of displeasure with the finale’s location as much as the attempt to manufacture championship drama. It means the triple crown for 500 mile events sadly is gone. Mercifully there will be no standing starts in 2015, as the “fastest drivers on the planet” couldn’t seem to master them despite numerous, often aborted attempts. Then there was the inaugural Indy Grand Prix start, which spelt the end of both standing starts and quite possibly Sebastian Saavedra’s brief IndyCar career.

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Continue reading

IndyCar Driver Test: James Hinchcliffe

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Popular and slightly off-kilter racer James Hinchcliffe was born outside Toronto in Oakville, Ontario in December, 1986 back when “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Platoon” were also new. After a breakthrough third season in 2013 scoring an impressive three wins, Hinch had a disappointing 2014 and recently changed teams leaving Andretti Autosport after three up and down seasons. That’s not the only conversion the comic Canuck has undergone recently, either.

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Last week the madcap Mayor of Hinchtown announced his signing with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in usual style – at an Indy brewery over some “oat sodas.” Before that he became an ordained minister through the wonderful convenience of the web, performing the ceremony at his friend and fellow driver Charlie Kimball’s late September wedding. A few years back, Hinch hilariously dawned a long black wig while replacing Danica (more diva than driver) in the late GoDaddy ride at AA. Today’s question of the quirky, quotable Canadian comedian is, did he pass the driver test?

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In his fun filled four year IndyCar career, Hinch has a gaudy eighteen top five finishes and thirty four top tens to go with his three wins. He’s also led over four hundred laps in his career, although funnily he’s never earned a pole. A past winner of the Tony Renna Rising Star Award, the racin’ reverend displays obvious driving talent. Even after an off year in 2014, his winning percentage in sixty eight big league races is an impressive 4.4%, better than most in the field. Without question Hinch is in the top half of IndyCar drivers, but that’s not the only part of this rigorous, uncomfortable and thoroughly invasive driver’s test. Now reverend, turn your head and cough.

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The other half of the exam is how well the driver handles media and public relations, as well as interaction with fans. In this regard, James’ talent may well surpass his on track gifts, which are bountiful. From his virtual Hinchtown site to his practical jokes and unorthodox, goofy-cool style, the mayor excels in the realm of media and PR. More than that he embraces his comedic racing role and enjoys it to the hilt, adding some much needed funniness to the sometimes somber, strangely sober series.

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A merry prankster, our humorous man of the (greasy) cloth lightens the mood wherever he goes, his charismatic personality nearly as infectious as a giggling fit in church. Joining his third team in less than five years, Hinch has made light of this inconstancy and likened his wandering ways to that of another waifish star, calling himself “the Taylor Swift of racing.” James is an exceptionally likeable and funny guy who’s not afraid to laugh, especially at himself. That quality translates extremely well in the modern age of racing, media and widespread weirdness.

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We at IRR salute and congratulate Hinchcliffe on his recent off track accomplishments – for weddings be sure to book early – and commend his silly slapstick style and Python-esque panache to other, less media-savvy drivers in the paddock (most of whom certainly will need a backup career). Hinch is easily the most likeable Canuck since John Candy – at a quarter his size – and along with his WAG is just adorable. How could a guy with the talent, face and personality of our favorite fast funnyman not pass the test? As Sam Schmidt may well have sung to the Rev of revs (and if he didn’t he should have), “Get out of my dreams, get into my car.”

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2014 IndyCar Horse Power Rankings – Teams

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Team Rankings:

1. Team Penske

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2. Andretti Autosport

3. Target CG Racing

4. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

5. Ed Carpenter Racing (soon to be defunct)

6. KV Racing

7. Dale Coyne Racing

8. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (soon to be defunct)

9. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

10. AJ Foyt Racing

11. Herta Autosport

 

Observations:

Chevy & Honda split the top 4 rankings although Chevy took first & third, with the former winning the engine manufacturers’ race and the latter winning the Indy 500. 

There’s been no other silly season news as of yet, although that could change affecting the Horse Power Rankings. Stay tuned for updates. 

The series will be down to ten teams next year unless a new one joins full time. That’s old AFL levels, folks. Fan Force United, are you reading?

Target rose through the rankings during the last quarter of the season along with Penske, while Andretti fell. Momentum for 2015?

The introduction of aero-kits in 2015 will almost certainly affect the Horse Power rankings, also.