Barber IndyCar Preview: A Very Veiled View

Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park and Vintage Motorsports Museum opened to little fanfare in 2003 as the nation went to war. The 16 turn, nearly two and a half mile undulating road course allowed for Scott Dixon‘s track record of 124 miles per hour in 2013. We’ll soon see if the injurious, reinforced and ill-advised aero kit experiment allows drivers to top Dixon’s mark. Sadly and for a variety of reasons, that’s likely to be the most exciting part of the entire weekend.

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

Photo from motorsport.com

Barber was designed by Alan Wilson, the same guy who designed NOLA – last mention, we promise. The track was designed for and used primarily by motorbikes, while sports cars and Porsche’s North American driving school also utilize the facility. Oddly, the track has no grandstands at the start/finish line offering only a very veiled view of arguably its best parts.

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Known as a “beautiful” and “scenic” circuit in the woods outside Birmingham, the permanent road course may be visually pleasing but it’s not a good fit for IndyCars. Continue reading

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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

Long Beach Grand Prix Predictions and Prognostications: Cautionary Edition

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With a dry California track in the forecast and two awful aero kit era races already in the books, IndyCar’s due for a classic duel on the beach, or at least a watchable show. A third consecutive clunker of a race following Brazil’s jilting of the series would be devastating, but happily won’t occur. IRR’s soothsaying  division has been on a hot buttery roll with our predictions as of late – that is, if you discount that farce last week in the swamps of NOLA – so let’s get right to the prognostications.

The specialty prediction of this week’s as sunny as the California coastline. Fortunately for fans there’ll be no flying debris showering the grandstands or smacking innocent, paying spectators upside the head at Long Beach. That shouldn’t happen again until at least the Indy GP; however, since Sebastian Saavedra‘s now back in the series we strongly recommend helmets for fans in the first twenty five rows, as a precaution.

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That leads us to our initial weekly prediction, who’ll be first out of the race. 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

IndyCar News Week in Review: Goaaal! Edition

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UPDATE: AP is reporting the season opening IndyCar race scheduled in Brasilia, Brazil has been canceled by local authorities. The costly construction and renovations at the race course have been ongoing for some time and could well be the issue. This is truly a crisis for IndyCar and makes an already short season even shorter. We’ve offered alternatives to a race in Brazil as well as skepticism towards holding a race there for months now. It was another poor decision by the series to schedule a race in Brazil to begin with and now once again it’s the fans who suffer due to a further abbreviated schedule.

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Brian Barnhart Battles Back: IndyCar announced Wednesday that Brian Barnhart will resume his former duties as Race Director. He’d served in that role from 1997 until 2011, after which ‘Beautiful’ Beaux Barfield took over due to controversies at New Hampshire and elsewhere. The system, described as being like a “jury,” will consist of three stewards who make the calls and assess the penalties collaboratively. Mindful of the anti-Barnhart and anti-IRL sentiment that exists in some quarters, we say anybody but Beaux.

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Drivers’ Meeting in Indy: The Barnhart announcement was made at the winter drivers’ meeting at IMS. Of note were some of the drivers in attendance, including Americans Conor Daly and Zach Veach, British brothers Justin and Stefan Wilson, and Colombians Carlos Huertas and Sebastian Saavedra. Continue reading

IndyCar’s Chopping Block: A Gory Recent History

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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.

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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.

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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

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

We’re Thankful For IndyCar

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We’re thankful for IndyCar and all its glory,

For Helio and Will’s tight championship story.

We’re grateful for speed and artistry on wheels –

And AJ’s recovery, in hopes that he heals. Continue reading

Simona Seeks Series Return, Ride Rumors Revving Up

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The silly season rumor mill has been working overtime lately as IndyCar’s game of musical seats cranks back to life. Since saying a week ago she’d made a mistake in leaving and wanted to come back to IndyCar with all forgiven, Simona de Silvestro’s been a hot um, topic. Speculation has swirled as many wondered where the twenty six year old from Thun, Switzerland might end up if indeed the jilted series were to take her back with open arms.

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IndyCar News Week in Review

Lights Show Resurgence: Indy Lights suffered mightily in 2014 from low participation – only eight or ten cars in some races  – and accompanying lack of interest, but appears to be making a comeback with a new car! and an uptick in involvement from teams according to a piece from Mazda Road to Indy on indycar.com. The new Dallara chassis’ appearance is definitely an improvement over the old, dated cars and the upgrade was long overdue. The story states that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is the latest team to order multiple new Dallaras for the upcoming campaign. SPM is always a solid contender in the Lights series, having won more championships than any other team  – seven – in their last decade racing, and was expected to buy in – the big news would have been if they didn’t.

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Indycar.com’s Incompetence: There’s the unpleasant matter of more disappointing errors on indycar.com, most recently in the aforementioned press release from Mazda Road to Indy. The author wrongly implied that Schmidt has won eight Lights championships, when in fact he’s won seven.  He also incorrectly cited “stanch” support for the series rather than the correct word, staunch. On the upside, one figure quoted – presumably accurately – in the article predicted between fifteen and twenty cars on the Lights grid in 2015. Testing of the new chassis resumes in December.

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DCR’s Long Over Due Maturation: Dale Coyne gave an interview to racer.com and showed off the continuing renovations to the team’s Chicago shop. The mercurial owner also announced the team’s embarking on an “aggressive” shock program to make the team “better and stronger,” according to Coyne.  He also said the team’s not only kept the staff on for the busy off season, but also added employees to the effort. It’s about time you upgraded your IndyCar operation, Dale.

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“Dollar Dale” divulged some “news” as well, hinting at more change – as usual – to his driver lineup. He referred to post-season testing already done with Venezuelan Rodolfo Gonzalez and another rookie or two slated to test with the team prior to Christmas. This begs the question, which of his current winning drivers may be seeking a new ride, veteran Justin Wilson who’s won seven races in his career or rookie Carlos Huertas who won a race in Houston in 2014? Our prediction: whomever brings the least amount of sponsorship money with them.

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Sinking Feeling SeSaav: Sebastian Saavedra was featured on indycar.com, which ran the usual puff-piece by Dave Lewandowski praising the young driver’s skills and so forth. For obvious reasons the site doesn’t publish frank, honest assessments of drivers, though there’s enough of that on this site, at least. So, the positive spin wasn’t totally unexpected. A straightforward take on his performance such as in Horsepower Rankings – Drivers would be far too brutal for indycar.com.

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Searching harder for highlights than a reviewer of a James Franco movie, Lewandowski ill-advisedly mentioned Saavedra’s pole position at the inaugural Indy Grand Prix. He didn’t mention that Saavedra’s brightly colored KVSH car stalled out on the standing start, leading to a spectacularly catastrophic crash where Mikhail Aleshin slammed into him from behind after others narrowly missed him. If this is the pinnacle of one’s second full season in the series, then standards have sunk even lower than before in 2014. If Saavedra – who’s finished at the very bottom for two years running – has a ride in 2015 and Huertas doesn’t, then sadly that sinking trend continues into the foreseeable future.

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