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

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Indy 500 Qualifications Instant Reaction: Exorcism Edition

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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An exceptionally odd weekend unfolded at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with weather, aero kit caused crashes and high level closed door meetings all playing large roles in the dada-esque Indianapolis 500 qualifications show. Somehow IndyCar pulled it off in a single afternoon without anyone getting hurt or too many thousands of fans growing irate. Qualifications Sunday were in fact uneventful and even boring, just as the series wanted after a harrowing few days of testing, rain forcing a compressed one day schedule and another scary crash in the final practice. Carpenter’s wreck damaged the wall, delayed proceedings past the television window and eventually changed the Indianapolis 500 mile race.

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Decreased funding this year from Target helped Scott Dixon as the third driver on track put up the fastest speed of qualifications at 226.76 mph – over 3 miles per hour off last year’s pole. It’s the New Zealander’s second Indianapolis 500 pole – last time in 2008 he dominated the race and won. “I’m so damn happy – for this team,” he blurted after being forced to watch drivers target his speed all afternoon. Continue reading

Indy 500 Qualifying Predictions and Prognostications: No Track Record Edition

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With a disdain for buzz kills, it’s also our aim to provide accurate, insightful and useful information in our regular feature “Predictions” in advance of it occurring. Sadly and like many a lofty goal it isn’t always achieved, much like the quest for a new track record at Indy this year. The current four lap qualifying record of 236.9 was set by flying Dutchman (and unfortunately named) Arie Luyendyk in a Ford/Cosworth way back in 1996. Ah, the good ol’ days. That record’s stood safely for two decades now and we predict it will remain on the books for at least another year.

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The current combo of small engines and LOTS of new aero kit bits just isn’t going to do it, as the top speeds in practice haven’t even cracked 230 yet without a tow. IndyCar will boost the turbos this weekend, but it still won’t be enough. Worse still, a disturbing trend of cars taking flight has emerged at the Speedway this year, though fortunately thus far the drivers have escaped unscathed. Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Second Thoughts Edition

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Chevy’s Been Very, Very Naughty: The bow tie brand was slapped with penalties this week for switching out faulty valve springs on their engines following their sweep at St. Pete. Hundreds of points were deducted in the manufacturer’s championship for what amounts to a parts recall. As a result Chevy has negative points after one race despite dominating it. The IndyCar manufacturer’s championship rewards reliability as well as wins and the series requires 2500 miles before “non-minor” changes can be made to the power plants. In this case Chevy took the penalty for the early valve spring change rather than risk engine failure. The points deduction approach makes more sense than last year’s ten grid position penalty, which confused fans and those responsible for reporting the starting order alike.

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Already Aero Kit Updates: In the wake of the St. Pete embarrassment and serious injury to a spectator, IndyCar ordered first Honda and then Chevy to strengthen their flimsy aero kits with still more parts and pieces. Honda’s even strengthening their rear tire guards or “ass pods” in the temporary fix, as well. These remedies will supposedly strengthen the cars, though both drivers and manufacturers have pointed out that they aren’t designed for contact and should be driven accordingly especially with a price tag of $20,000. We’re not overly confident the bumping on the road courses in the IndyCar series is going away anytime soon – or the flying near lethal pieces – but we are glad IndyCar heeded our warning about the danger of the new kits.

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Who Got JR?: Famous 500 wall banger J.R. Hildebrand will drive the third car for CFH Racing in both Indianapolis races in May. Continue reading

Qualifications: Instant Reaction

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IndyCar’s first ever qualifying session using aero kits occurred yesterday, though few noticed. Fans were forced to watch a dodgy web stream if they cared to see it. As predicted, Mad Will Power won the pole with a new track record and his Penske team mates took the other top three spots. Chevrolet was dominant, sweeping eight of the top ten quickest times. Unfortunately aero kits are bringing greater disparity between teams and Team Penske will continue to benefit from it this season.

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Marco Andretti was out-qualified by a his new part time team mate who was out of the car all last year Simona De Silvestro. Even further back, Graham Rahal‘s starting 15th. It appears there are no legacies in IndyCar, at least not lately. Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: Double Secret Edition

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Aero Kits Finalized, On Strict Need To Know Basis: If you’ve already hit the pay wall you may have missed Indy Star’s wacky ‘reporter’ Curt Cavin’s piece on the more hype than substance IndyCar aero kits, Chevy and Honda’s soon to be introduced body work. Apparently the series has finalized the designs and decided to keep them secret for at least a few more days, with Derrick Walker promising a release of photos – something! – from the manufacturers “soon.” We recommend you prepare yourselves for a major let down when we finally are allowed to see them.

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Irritatingly, Walker admitted that the designs of Chevy and Honda  may not even look that dissimilar. Continue reading

IndyCar News Year in Review: Top Fourteen Stories of 2014 Edition

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1. Pags to Penske: The hottest free agent available this off season signed with the often froggy and widely reviled Team Penske. This is easily the biggest story of the year as well as the most unsettling for other teams. Plus there’s the fact that Pags is a likeable Frog, or was until turning coats to the dark side. IndyCar needs more villains, so the Frenchman’s foreign legion service for the Captain will be entertaining to watch.

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2. An American Actually Wins America’s Biggest Race: Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: The Less is More? Edition

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Target Just Got Smaller: In particularly ominous news out of North Carolina appropriately enough, retail giant Target is reducing its sponsorship of TCGR’s IndyCar effort after 25 years in IndyCar racing. This despite a spokesman attempting to downplay the horrible news, saying it’s “just reallocating dollars” according to an AP article. Apparently funding for Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan’s #10 car will be cut, though he will return sponsored by NTT Data. The most stinging part of the news is that the funds are going to NASCAR, as well as tv spots with Scott Dixon and Kyle Larson. This is not a positive sign for the health of the series, though not everyone will shed tears for Chip the Hutt.

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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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