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

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IndyCar Toronto Preview: Canuck Concrete Car Crusher

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Prepare for carnage, cautions and churlishness in Canada on Sunday. The last four races at Exhibition Place have averaged four cautions each, with a first lap pile up last year and multiple red flags in the rain. Compared to Texas that’s a demolition derby. The course is a challenging combination of concrete and asphalt even in dry conditions, which were almost completely absent in 2014. There was no such excuse for 2013. Historically Toronto’s a Canuck concrete car crusher and a godsend for Italy’s Dallara Automibili. North of the border, it’s free gelato for everyone!

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Appropriate for Canada, last year’s double headers were won by a Frenchman and an Englishman – Sebastien Bourdais and Mike Conway. All this Euro flair occurred on Sunday due to rain completely washing Saturday out and was the first one day double header with full points since 1981. As a result of the humidity both races were shortened and the second was timed. TCGR’s Scott Dixon swept the 2013 double header, winning the crash-fest second race – with a total of seven caution flags – under yellow.

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The thirty first IndyCar race to take place in Toronto looks to be dry for a pleasant change this season and will be a stand-alone race for the first time since 2012. Continue reading

IndyCar News Week in Review: “Talkin’ ‘Bout Practice” Edition

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Misleading Speeds: Andretti Autosport’s cat-like Colombian Carlos Munoz topped the speed charts at Indy this week with a lap of 230.1 miles per hour on Wednesday. It’s a misleading number, however. Without tows from other cars the speeds had been in the high 220s, compliments of Helio, Pags and Chevy’s special new aero pieces. We stand by our prediction that there’ll be no new track records at Indianapolis this year, at least not in qualifying. Possibly in the number of back-flips by a car down the straightaway, though.

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

Photo from ap.org

Helio’s Bad Day: Wednesday’s practice got expensive and scary for Team Penske’s Helio Castro-Neves, who got sideways, hit the wall and then somersaulted down the straightaway ultimately landing upside down on track. Fortunately and thanks to the safety of the Dallara cars he was uninjured. All this after IndyCar slapped him with an iron fisted though admittedly tortoise-paced reprimand subtracting eight points. Talk about adding insult to injury. The penalty was for last Saturday’s punting of Dixie at the start of the Grand Prix of Indy and was deserved, if not obvious. It came four days later – now that’s some decisive decision making from race control for ya.  Continue reading

Grand Prix of Indy Predictions and Prognostications: Gavel Down Edition

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Amidst a hail storm of flying carbon fiber debris and to the surprise of many Simon Pagenaud won last year’s inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. SPM wasn’t considered an upper echelon team at the time, though Pags won two races for Schmidt last year and put the team on the map before going to Penske during the off season’s free agent signing of the year. Following Pags’ departure SPM signed Mayor James Hinchcliffe who’d parted ways with Andretti Autosport to fill the Frenchman’s former seat. Hinch was horrifyingly struck in the helmet by debris, concussed and briefly incapacitated during last year’s GP of Indy in an unsettling sequence of events. These two intertwined drivers and teams will figure largely at Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon.

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Our special prediction for this weekend’s event concerns the greatly increased signage at the Speedway this year. It’s crass commercialism on display. You’ll no doubt notice it immediately upon tuning in, with the gi-normous Angie’s List double banner stretched obstructively across the yard of bricks. We predict the Continue reading

Power’s Feeling The Pressure

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Will Power‘s had a dubious start to the 2015 IndyCar season. Outshined by his team mate JPM at St. Pete, James Hinchcliffe – deemed not good enough at Andretti Autosport – in a swamp and most recently Scott Dixon and eighteen others out west, Power’s undoubtedly feeling the pressure of Penske perfection. After all, this is the IndyCar Series Champion we’re talking about, not some talentless ride buyer or legacy with a name. Power’s an Aussie racing icon for goodness sake, though like the iconic Sydney Opera House his best days may be behind him.

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Now in his eleventh year in big league racing, Power turned thirty four in March. That isn’t particularly old for racing, even in the artistry on wheels that is IndyCar. His team mate Helio Castro Neves turns forty in May and TCGR‘s Tony Kanaan will be forty one in December. They’re but two recent examples of longevity in IndyCar racing. Legendary iron man AJ Foyt started an incredible thirty five consecutive Indy 500s during the sport’s heyday. Regardless of age, Power’s been in a Great Australian Bight sized slump lately – a decline that could definitively demonstrate he’s no Helio, much less AJ.

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The prodigious Power has twenty four wins and forty six podium finishes in his 142 race career, equaling a gaudy 17% winning percentage. That’s the highest average in the series. By comparison, Continue reading

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