IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

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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.

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The Rahal with hair atop his head also Continue reading

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IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Dale Coyne Racing

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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.

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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 IndyCar Finale Preview: Determined Joy Edition

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The show must go on as the old saying goes and in this case the race must take place. IndyCar’s season finale will occur on Sunday and as we move on from the tragic loss of Justin Wilson we do so saddened and humbled, yet also grateful and appreciative for the decade of racing we all had rooting for him. JWil was a true gentleman and talented racer who made the world a better place; it’ll be a poorer, less joyous world without him.

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We hate to say it but the trajectory IndyCar’s been on lately we wouldn’t be surprised if either massive wildfires engulf the entire track this weekend or – and also God forbid – the big one finally hits California and breaks the whole kit and caboodle off into the sea, or possibly both. One seriously wonders what the formerly Golden state did to deserve such luck, until remembering Hollywood, Simi Valley, Charlie Manson, Watts, Willie Brown, Napa Valley, Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, The Gover-nator, Riverside, and on and on and on.

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But barring such calamities or the intervention of political villains, there’ll be a champion crowned at the end of it all – funnily the race winner almost always gets overshadowed by the champ at the conclusion of the finale –  and like him or not we’re starkly faced with the fact it’ll be the last IndyCar race until at least next spring. So by God we are resolutely determined to enjoy it. Justin would have wanted us to and as we were all rudely reminded this week, one never knows when it’ll be your last race.

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The Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma Continue reading

Pocono Race Review: Tragedy in Pennsylvania

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Ryan Hunter-Reay crossed the finish line first for Andretti Autosport at Pocono Sunday evening, but there were no celebrations and no confetti in a subdued victory lane. His team mate Justin Wilson had already been airlifted to the hospital and as yet no one at the track knew his status. It was the strangest scene after a race in memory as a pall hung heavily over the gathered crowd.

Wilson was hit in the head by debris from Sage Karam’s car, which disintegrated when he spun and hit the wall while leading the last portion of the race. Karam injured his right foot in the wreck, but he got off lightly compared to Justin. Slumped forward in the cockpit, Wilson was clearly already knocked unconscious as the car hit the inside wall and came to a stop. Today Wilson remains in a coma in critical condition. Sadly Justin passed away Monday night. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Englishman’s family.

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The incident isn’t dissimilar to the case of F-1 driver Jules Bianchi, Continue reading

Fontana Predictions & Prognostications: ‘Estimated Prophet’ Edition

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“Rainbows end down that highway, where ocean breezes blow.”

IRR estimates good things at Auto Club Speedway, including a full five hundred miles of ecstasy inducing oval racing on Saturday. IndyCar – when not fouled up by over-officious, busy-body race stewards in the interest of “safety” – provides lots of passing, side by side racing and an edge of your seat, scintillating show. Since it’s California, happily there’s no chance of a rain out in the only place on the planet enduring a years’ long drought that still releases millions of gallons of fresh water into the ocean annually. Only the land that gave us the Grateful Dead could inspire such wondrously wacked “Estimated Prophets.”

“California – a prophet on the burnin’ shore.”

Back to racing and a special prediction we have for this week’s glorious oval race. In honor of California’s own late great Jerry Garcia who famously had his own brushes with the law, we prophesied lots and lots of penalties in SoCal. This season’s been rife with infractions, fines and even double secret probation being handed out by IndyCar’s iron fist of justice, also known as race control. Drivers throughout the field are feeling the heat both literally and figuratively and Saturday’s gonna look like the parking lot at a Dead concert. With twice the usual amount of racing and only five races to go at its conclusion, the MAVTV 500 should keep Brian Barnhart and company busy enforcing all afternoon long.

Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda and Sebastien Bourdais, KVSH Racing crash

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“Still I know I lead the way, they tell me where I’ll go.”

Pole position – which means less in this race than perhaps any other on the schedule – 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