IndyCar Championship: Evil of Two Lessers

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For the first time in over a decade the IndyCar championship isn’t a truly compelling competition. Making matters worse, it’s down to two unlikable, prickly Penske pilots jockeying for the crown. Considering the situation, sadly there’s very little to root for next Sunday. After all, the only race for the next six months is at Sonoma.

King Pags

There’s no more ignoring it. The points leader and heavy favorite is – gasp – a Frenchman. Will the 2016 champion be the irascible King Pags, or (possibly) worse, the off-kilter, ill-tempered Aussie bushwhacker? Does anyone outside Team Penske really still care about the championship at this point?

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What an option for fans – a Frenchman or a madman. Remind you of any other races involving two contenders you can’t get even the least bit excited about?  Continue reading

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IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Team Penske

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Tired of the Pope’s visit yet? Us too. Writing about the Pope of IndyCar proves difficult however without at least mentioning Roger Penske’s majestic reign. With more wins than any team owner and more money than God, Penske’s Papal presence in the sport and over a great many fans fortunately doesn’t affect us in the slightest. IRR is in fact unafraid to point out painful truths – even at the risk of heresy – and report that it wasn’t the best season for Pope Penske. His Holiness’ IndyCar efforts fell well short of infallible.

Wins: 3

Podiums:  12

Poles: 11

Penske’s supposedly sainted drivers gave the Pontiff even more reason to be ashamed this season, as if Will Power weren’t already enough. Power and Montoya’s utterances at Fontana were distasteful, unbecoming and wrong. There were also the bitter intra-faith squabbles, like when Helio and Power took each other out in Detroit‘s second race. In the season finale at Sonoma the expanded four car team couldn’t crack the top five, failing to attain another championship  – and their lofty goal.

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Juan Cardinal Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 before humbly screaming into his headset, “Yes! So Bad! That’s how you do it!” In the end however he failed Continue reading

IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Bryan Herta Autosport

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The odd little one car team piloted by Gabby “Pat” Chavez had an indeterminate year considering the many challenges they face, including a dearth of funding, resources and experience – but boy, have they got spunk! The unisex twenty two year old Colombian earned Rookie of the Year awards for both the Indy 500 and season, a feat not accomplished since 2006 when Marco accomplished it. With a less than famous name, we certainly hope Pat’s career results are better than Marco’s after a decade in the sport.

Wins: 0

Podiums: 0

Poles: 0

In some ways Herta’s Honda regressed slightly this year compared to last, when rookie Englishman Jack Hawksworth at least scored a podium finish at the forgettable Houston “track,” coming in third behind  Pags and Aleshin in the totally unnecessary second race. While other sports joke about playing in a parking lot, IndyCar disgustingly does it – sometimes twice in the same weekend. [Audible groan.]

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But back to the guy er, um driver in question, Gabby. In addition to other accolades, we’re pleased to announce Chavez is the winner of our 2015 Bruce Jenner/Caitlyn Jenner Gender Bender Award, or the BJCJGBA. 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 Qualifications: Instant Reaction

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Helio Castro Neves wrested the forty fifth pole of his decades long IndyCar career away from his team mate Simon Pagenaud Saturday at Pocono Raceway. He did so at over 220 miles per hour and then proceeded to hoot and giggle girlishly in the post qualifications interview. Team Penske swept the top three spots with “Mad” Will Power on the inside of row two in tomorrow’s five hundred mile race, while CFH Racing’s Josef Newgarden and championship contender Graham Rahal –  the quickest Honda – round out the top five.

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Fourth Penske entry and points leader Juan Pablo Montoya encountered a problem on his first lap, drifted up the track and lifted off the throttle. He qualified poorly as a result, starting nineteenth. When asked about his bobble in an interview Montoya replied, “It’s racing.” A big thanks to Paul Tracy, who guaranteed Montoya would be a contender tomorrow thereby jinxing him utterly. This along with Juan’s screw up in quals makes our prediction look better and better. Curiously, JPM declined interviews all day before qualifications, though not with IRR. We didn’t request one.

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Charlie Kimball who’d been quickest in practice spun and crashed during his qualifying run  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

IndyCar News Week in Review: Death & Decline Edition

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Milwaukee Mile Moribund?: Rumors have Michael Andretti grumbling about lack of fan interest in the upcoming Milwaukee race, threatening to pull his group’s promotion of the historic event. This may simply be Michael playing hardball and attempting to up his company’s revenue in advance of the race, though it could be more . . .

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No More NOLA?: Andretti’s currently in litigation over the NOLA race seeking more money from the local honchos in Louisiana – we say good luck with that. Additional issues with a cherished oval track like Milwaukee would spell serious trouble for a series with too few non-street course events as it is. The loss of NOLA? Much less of a concern in our view, as “One Stop’s Enough.” All this bears watching, and you can bet as always we’ll be wondering, “What’s Michael Andretti Thinking?”

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Filippi Fined For Fuel: 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

Toronto Race Review: Take That NASCAR

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While NASCAR was rain delayed several hours at MIS – a track they stole from IndyCar, thank you Roger Penske – another classic IndyCar street fight broke out in what two time race winner and authentic Canuck Paul Tracy called “one of the best races I’ve ever seen at Toronto.” American Josef Newgarden won his second race of the season and his career as team owner Sarah Fisher – who happens to be female – shed tears of joy after the newly merged team went 1-2 with Italian Lucca Filippi. After disappointing in qualifying, Newgarden won from an 11th place starting position taking his second win in the last seven races.

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Despite absolutely awful renditions of both national anthems by Canadian rock group The Trews – which saw drivers and WAGS trying not to laugh on camera – IndyCar put on a helluva race in Toronto. With collisions galore in the wet and then dry conditions there was hard racing, action and passing all afternoon and merely two yellows – half the recent race average and fewer than expected on the wet streets of Exhibition Place. All the gnashing of teeth about another timed race, NBCSN not showing the number of laps, and so forth was all for naught as the race went the full eighty five laps in the end.

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Team mates got thickly into the fight, with Filippi and Newgarden, Power and Pags, and Gonzalez and seemingly everyone else fighting it out on track. The banging began immediately when Stefano “double secret probation” Coletti hit Frenchman Tristan Vautier on the opening lap, spinning them both. Flaunting his probationary status, the Monacan tangled with others during the course of the event too, later making contact with Charlie Kimball. Fortunately none of those incidents drew a yellow, though further penalties will be forthcoming.

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Surprisingly there were only two cautions the entire race, Continue reading

Toronto Qualifications Instant Reaction: Told You So Edition

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Precisely as predicted, Team Penske’s Will Power won his forty first IndyCar pole in the closing minutes of the fast six round of qualifications Saturday. He did so in dramatic fashion, edging his team mates Simon Pagenaud and Juan Montoya and doing it all with a broken thumb sustained at the dual in Detroit. That’s the Mad Will Power we know – quick in quals but often more reticent in the race.

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When people say they “hate to say it, but we told you so,” of course in reality they don’t dislike saying it at all. The reason is because you were wrong, your annoying friends were right and in some significant way that’s human nature in a nutshell. Why do we write all this? Only to say we at IRR told you so, again.

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As for our other predictions, Sebastien Bourdais qualified well in fifth positioning his KV car for another win in Toronto. Continue reading