IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

rahalmidosportsusatodaycom

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

A tremendous effort by “Son of ‘Stache” and for the most part his crew earned the single car team high marks. RLL underwent a maturation from last year to this, growing into a certified championship contender. Improving three full letter grades, Rahal made the biggest turnaround in the entire paddock. This follows a dreadful season, another winless campaign and loss of a major sponsor. The diminutive team pulled off quite an achievement, especially considering it was all accomplished with Honda – and without a mustache.

Wins: 2

Podiums: 4

Poles: 0

The series’ latest all American star – at least since Josef Newgarden in April – Graham won at both Fontana and Mid-Ohio, prevailing in the former with a fuel hose attached to his car for a portion of it. Certainly it can be said that he won at one entertaining race track, anyway. In fact he nearly triumphed in several more races coming within a whisker of doing it, finishing second both at Barber funnily enough and the Grand Prix of Indy – the 500 it isn’t.

rahalfontanaindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

The Rahal with hair atop his head also Continue reading

Advertisements

IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: KVSH Racing

vasserkalkautosportcom

Photo from autosport.com

The oft overlooked team upped its performance thanks to its fickle yet fast Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais. They had reason to celebrate this year, as well as reason for concern. The vino intake of owner Jimmy Vasser – dressed above as a burglar – alone makes this the most wine loving team on the circuit, and that list includes several winery owners.

Wins: 2

Podiums: 0

Poles: 0

Bourdais had a solid season, winning the rust belt races in Detroit and Milwaukee – the latter because he got high – and contending for wins elsewhere. Tenth in points, he turned in four top fives and eight top tens, running at the end of fourteen races. These eye catching results include a fourth place finish at the GP of Indy and fifth at Toronto. Bourdais now owns thirty four major open wheel victories in his long career, tied with Al Unser, Jr for seventh on the all time list. Wine and cheese, indeed!

Sebassmkeap

Photo from ap.org

Rookie Stefano “more reckless than Andretti” Coletti on the other hand did not impress, drawing double secret probation and numerous penalties while struggling to keep his car intact. Continue reading

IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Dale Coyne Racing

1dc

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.

draconespindailymailcouk

Photo from dailymail.co.uk

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

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

dixonsonomaindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

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

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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

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

rahalmidosportsusatodaycom

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

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?

1courtneyexaminercom

Photo from examiner.com

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.

midousatodaycom

Photo from usatoday.com

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.

karamdpccarscom

Photo from dpccars.com

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

Mid Ohio Preview: Oh No – Not Again!

midohfoxnewscom

Photo from foxnews.com

After a hiatus thanks to a half empty Brickyard 400 – making us wonder if those bean counters running Indy Car will ever learn to walk and chew gun at the same time – we’re finally back to racing. Too bad it’s at one of the lesser tracks on the schedule, Mid-Ohio. How’s that for IndyCar building momentum – a week off followed by a trip to a sports car track in the sticks?

midohiopinterestcom

Photo from pinterest.com

More fitting for a walk than a race, Mid-Ohio’s like Barber without the “beautiful setting” part. At least Barber manages to put on a watchable race every few years. To be fair, it’s nearby Indy and apparently the camping’s adequate. To be unfair, we advocate ditching this race in favor of Road America in Wisconsin plus a few ovals, reiterating our long held view “Down With Mid-Ohio.”

chipmotorauthoritycom

Photo from motorauthority.com

Making matters worse, the undulating country sports car course is almost always won by Scott Dixon – five times now, yawn – or another Ganassi driver like Charlie Kimball, who broke through in 2013. When asked via Twitter if he expected to demolish the field with a four car sweep, The Chipster Continue reading

About Those IndyCar Penalties, Or Under-Officious Jerks

bbindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

Seems to us IndyCar’s iron fist of justice has turned a bit well, limp lately. The faceless, mysterious and secretive force known only as “race control” has obviously changed direction this season, taking a delayed approach to penalty enforcement – if bothering at all. Remember black flags? Drive through penalties? Disqualifications? As we all learned in government class and more recently in Ferguson, Baltimore and movie theaters everywhere, lax enforcement leads to disregard of the rules, which in turn leads to chaos. IndyCar’s chaotic enough without adopting Russian mob rules.

fontanasportsusatodaycom

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

In taking a wait and see approach to penalties, IndyCar is bucking the long standing tradition of penalizing drivers for infractions during the race in which they committed them so as to affect the offending drivers’ outcomes. IndyCar has three stewards and new, supposedly state of the art video equipment, so why not use them? Instant assessment of penalties not only discourages bad behavior and rule breaking – both of which are occurring this season – but also eliminates the speculation, whining and questioning that inevitably lingers long after the incidents themselves. Seen Twitter lately? After all, when it comes to officiating it’s an issue of basic fairness.

Sebassmkeap

Photo from ap.org

Little was written or said about the Milwaukee winner’s misdeeds as the series ploddingly plowed its way into Iowa. Bourdais‘ team 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

Iowa Predictions & Prognostications: ‘300’ Edition

300iowa

There’s going to be a fight of epic proportions Saturday night, one for the history books. The Iowa Corn 300 will resemble history’s bloody Battle of Thermopylae, the heroic stand against invaders made famous to modern readers by the Hollywood movie “300.” As in the film, Spartans in glistening helmets will be bravely battling their enemies, only this time they’ll be on track, knee deep in IndyCar gore and in normal color. We can guarantee gobs of good ol’ gladiatorial gamesmanship in the arena amongst the cornfields near Newton, Iowa. Long live Sparta!

Saturday, July 31, 2010 - Iowa Speedway

Photo from iowaspeedway.com

In its shape, size and utility, Iowa Speedway resembles a Greek coliseum and like its ancient precursor the speedway will be filled with screaming spectators ready to see the show. IndyCar drivers bring a warrior mentality to those chariots of theirs as well they should, for another oval track battle royal is about to take place. Here’s what else our oracles ordained to occur this weekend in Iowa.

sebracingaporg

Photo from racing.ap.org

Our special prediction for Iowa is 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