IndyCar Sonoma Season Finale Preview: Bouquet Edition

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Not prone to flowery descriptions, a sometimes acidic tongued IRR stopped in Sonoma wine country to smell the season finale roses – or rosé, as it were. Instead we found a big, fat turd bouquet. Northern California wines may be fine, but unfortunately for fans of fast the racing there’s regularly near the bottom of IndyCar’s barrel.

“In vino, veritas” as the Romans said, but even from a clear-eyed, sober view of things the racing at Sonoma honestly stinks. Like other regrettable road courses on the schedule – Watkins Glen, Barber, Mid-Ohio – the twisted track’s an affront to the olfactory senses. Bouquet, indeed!

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Sonoma’s simply not suited to IndyCars and fails to provide anything approaching intoxicating action. In fact, the lack of passing, speeds and thrills is all rather dry and pedestrian. The series’ choice of venue for the season finale tends to leave an unpleasant, vinegary aftertaste.

Like the local produce, reigning series champion Simon Pagenaud comes across as fruity, often with a hint of bitterness. This was especially the case following his spicy encounter with Penske teammate Josef Newgarden at Gateway. Let it suffice to say Pags was less than vintage during the podium celebration.

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But the earthy Frenchman suddenly vaulted back into the title hunt after Newkid’s disastrous stumble at Watkins Glen, Continue reading

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IndyCar Schedule Instant Reaction: Missed It By A Miles (The Musical)

IndyCar’s finally set to announce its 2016 slate and boy is it a duesie. Honestly, we simply grew tired of waiting and it goes without saying the lineup is nowhere near our idea of an ideal schedule. Spread out over a month longer than last year, there’s still merely sixteen races though many of them can scarcely be called that. Hell, you get more pee-wee league soccer games in a season, and certainly more penalties in a football game. This Halloween, IndyCar’s schedule’s as scary as a trip through a Stephen King nightmare. It’s so disconcerting that the great Gyorgy Ligeti must have done the score for this terrifying beaut.

Boston?! Another unremarkable street course, this time on the massive taxpayer funded boondoggle called “the big dig.” It’s destined to be another bore, just like Baltimore. One difference is that it may not last even three years; we can only hope. For a new race IndyCar could have at least picked a city people want to visit. It’ll be another embarrassing footnote for a series that already has quite enough of those, thank you Mark Miles. Suffice it to say, we don’t ‘love that dirty water.’

Speaking of urban hell holes, Continue reading

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: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

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Sam Schmidt’s team – we’ve no idea who this Peterson fellow is – endured a severe reversal of fortunes after a moderately successful 2014. The seemingly snake-bit SPM dealt with a host of issues apart from having two brand new drivers – the Two Jameses, Hinchcliffe and Jakes – as well as humpback Hondas. The poorly performing team failed to overcome devastating injuries, spectacular wrecks and more than their fair share of rotten racing luck. The group regressed this season and received low marks as a result.

Wins: 1

Podiums: 1

Poles: 0

Their tough year started quickly at St. Pete where a perfectly healthy team couldn’t crack the top fifteen, a harbinger of the season to come. Canuck funny man Hinchcliffe won at swampy NOLA – where one stop was enough – before being gravely wounded during practice for the Indy 500. His injuries at IMS resulted from a one hundred and twenty five G-force collision with the wall due to the failure of a right front suspension part.

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Upon impact, a suspension arm penetrated the cockpit, striking him in the thigh and gouging his artery. Schmidt likened it to “a dagger through the bottom of the seat.” Suffering extreme blood loss, Hinchcliffe Continue reading

IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Chip Ganassi Racing

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Team honcho and toad lookalike Chip Ganassi took a tumble recently celebrating another IndyCar championship, injuring himself in a cycling accident and busting his collarbone. Just imagine Chip on a bike! He’ll be fine, though previously we’d thought the idea of a fish riding a bicycle was amusing, but that’s nothing compared to a toad. CGR’s top gun Scott Dixon won his fourth championship at Sonoma in a dramatic conclusion to a somewhat perilous season. As longtime readers know, anyone who can beat Team Penske is all right in our book. Plus, there’s Scott’s lovely wife Emma who’s worth a few extra credit points by any measure.

Wins: 3

Podiums: 7

Poles: 2

After its usual slow start the team showed much improvement after the mid season report card starting with Texas, where Dixie did Dallas definitively. He’d won Long Beach earlier in the year, but neither he nor the team had any further luck until venturing deep into the heart of the metroplex. In Target’s twenty sixth year in the sport – though at a diminished level – Dixie delivered the goods yet again. In addition to his three wins and two poles, Dixon had seven top fives, twelve top tens and was running at the finish in an impressive fifteen races out of sixteen.

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Grizzled IndyCar veteran Tony Kanaan had a lackluster year failing to win a race. The big-nosed Brazilian 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

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

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

IndyCar News Week in Review: Seconds Edition

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Rahal’s Reeling ‘Em In: With his surprising hometown win at Mid-Ohio, Graham Rahal jumped to second pulling within nine points of the championship lead with two races to go. It’s been an incredible year for Rahal, who’s won twice, scored multiple podium finishes and an impressive eight top fives. At the same time, Montoya’s fading in the homestretch not even having appeared on the podium in months. JPM did win Pocono last year though, and can’t be counted out yet – no matter how much we might like to do so.

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Television Ratings Rise: For the fourth race in a row on NBCSN, viewership of IndyCar was up for Mid-Ohio. The combined numbers for the live showing on CNBC and the later re-air on NBCSN rivaled ABC races with nearly seven hundred thousand viewers. That’s the highest ever rated IndyCar race on the cable sports network, which now also shows NASCAR. For a sport where seconds count that’s an outstanding trend and one that could continue, though it’ll have to withstand a withering three week break before Pocono.

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Return of the Mad Russian: SPM announced Mikhail Aleshin Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Rule 9.3.8 Edition

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Boob Tube Views News: Television viewership increased for the third straight race – that’s third straight oval race, thank you very much – on NBCSN. It’s welcome news for the series and network, although at roughly 500,000 it’s kinda like being voted prettiest woman who was formerly a male decathlete. [Rule 9.3.8 violation] Then the rule 9.3.8 controversy – which we had nothing to do with – sprang forth and sucked all the air out of IndyCar’s room. Oh well. We’re already looking forward to the last remaining oval contest at Pocono – the racing’s been superb on the circular tracks, particularly Fontana and Iowa – and predict that Mid-Ohio won’t have either the racing or the ratings IndyCar’s been enjoying. [Rule 9.3.8 violation]

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Iowa’s Intensity: Sage Karam violently burst onto the niche cable sports channel stage Saturday night for the few hundred thousand viewers who tuned in to see the show. Attendance at the track looked off a bit as Ryan Hunter-Reay won again which we’ve all seen before – three times now and twice in a row – but the race itself was outstanding. Bonus drama broke out with Ed “Macho Man” Carpenter getting into “Wild Man” Sage’s face and letting the f-bombs fly. And all completely penalty free, to boot. Finally, it looks like “Indy Rivals” may be starting to get some actual rivals for a change. [Rule 9.3.8 violation]

17-18 July, 2015, Newton, Iowa USA Sage Karam ©2015 Scott R LePage  LAT Photo USA

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Penalties Are Passe: As predicted no drivers were penalized for the mayhem in Iowa, Continue reading