Monday, April 25, 2016

Winners and Losers: Barber

Here are your winners, losers, and Cone of Shame winner following the 2016 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama:

Winners

Simon Pagenaud
Simon Pagenaud can do no wrong at the moment. All he does is win or finish second. I haven't seen a start to the season quite like this other than Sebastien Bourdais's asterisk season where he won the first four races (I say asterisk cause beating 12 other cars when you have the best equipment doesn't compare to what Simon is doing). For the record, I picked Pagenaud to win the Indy 500 and the championship. Let's see how he continues on.


Graham Rahal
As I said on Twitter, if it wasn't for Graham Rahal, that race would have been downright terrible. Rahal used the same strategy last year that got him to P2, only this time he was in a great position to win. However, Rahal tangled with lapped traffic while trying to pass Pagenaud for the lead. It was an epic finish and Graham still finished P2. I'm glad he was out there to put on a show.


Josef Newgarden
Josef Newgarden has passed Will Power in the same turn three times in two years (at Barber). It was hilarious listening to Josef after the race saying how he couldn't believe Power was letting him get away with it. Stealing a podium from Power with not much time left in the race has to be a victory for Josef, who is still feeling the impact of a last place finish from St. Petersburg.


Juan Pablo Montoya
Juan Pablo Montoya started last and looked to have poor chances of finishing in the top-ten. It didn't hurt that three drivers were moved to the rear of the field at the start, but Montoya still did a great job at weaving his way through the field on his way to a P5 finish. This will be one to remember come September, as Montoya has struggled at Barber in his previous two starts.



Losers

Scott Dixon
Scott Dixon had one of those races we expect Dixon to have early on in the season. See Cone of Shame for more details.


Max Chilton
Max Chilton got another reality call when a rough race saw him finish dead last. After the race, it was determined that one of his rear guards was broken. Long race for Max has to knock his confidence a bit heading into May.


Jack Hawkswroth
I think Jack Hawksworth will make for a great IMSA driver. That's all I really have to say right now.


Dale Coyne Racing
The team that is up against it early on in the season is Dale Coyne Racing. Based on comments from Luca Filippi and Conor Daly, both drivers seem optimistic for the future. But both drivers keep complaining about lack of grip. Filippi seems to qualify well but suffers in the race, while Daly shows good pace but can't string together a good result. With the team fielding four cars for May, hopefully they don't end up being bumped.



Cone of Shame



Sebastien Bourdais
Sebastien Bourdais not only ruined any chance he had at a solid finish, but he ruined Dix's as well. Two great cars that were fast all weekend needed some sort of caution to help switch things into their favor. It never came, and both drivers payed the price. It was Bourdais who got turn five all wrong and smashed Dixon while Dixon was close to exiting the corner. Brutal all around.



Stay tuned for a post later this week.

-Matthew Hickey

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Fantasy Indycar Picks: Barber

Here are your Fantasy Indycar picks for the 2016 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (current points leader highlighted in orange):

Name Twitter Handle                                        Barber
Alan Stewart _alanstewart Power Dixon Hinch Munoz Aleshin
Andy Nagel Gabbahey75 Bourdais Newg Rahal Chilton Dixon
Chris Blackburn  chblackburn23 Kimball Bourdais Newg RHR Power
Chris Mienaltowski CPMski Kanaan Dixon Helio Power Rahal
Conor Daly conordaly22 Newg Rahal JPM Munoz RHR
David Leiting Jr. Dlite_47 Rahal Dixon Kimball Newg Power
David Redner IndyCART Rahal Kimball Dixon Helio Hawk
DJ Jordan Indycardj32 Dixon Chilton Aleshin RHR Rahal
Eric Hall Erock_in_Indy Dixon Kimball Munoz Hawk Rossi
Jake Neely indycarfan25 Pagenaud Rahal Hinch Rossi Kimball
James Alban TheKing0fSwing Pagenaud Daly Hinch Kimball Newg
James Sedlmayr dfd827 Bourdais Power Newg Chilton Dixon
Jerry Cruz Indycar_Raider RHR Dixon Power Hinch Kimball
Jessica Baker bakerjm13 Chilton Hinch Kimball Newg Andretti
Johanna Husband writebend Power Kanaan Newg RHR Sato
Kieran Brughelli  kieranbrughelli Andretti Kimball Power Dixon Helio
Kyle Lewis kylelewis1 Dixon Helio RHR Power Rahal
Lynn Weinberg lynnweinberg Power Daly Bourdais RHR Dixon
Martin Plowman plowey Dixon Chilton RHR Power Pagenaud
Mathew Gruenholz IndycarSTIG Pagenaud Andretti Dixon Power Rahal
Matthew Hickey Indycar_MN Dixon Power RHR Helio Newg
Michael Friedman mfriedman_63 Dixon Rahal Kanaan RHR Munoz
Mike Crawford 7BigMike Power Bourdais Newg Aleshin Sato
Mitch Robinson mitchrobinson_ JPM Daly Hinch Kimball Power
Morgan Polizzi morganpolizzi Dixon Newg Helio RHR Sato
Paige Hill paigehilll Newg Hinch Rahal Aleshin Pagenaud
Rick Snodie  rickfromwi JPM RHR Power Hinch Newg
Sam Klein sklein31 Newg Dixon Kimball Pagenaud Power
Sandy Lamparello npssandy Kimball Dixon RHR Rossi Pagenaud
Sarah Hall SarahHall_528 Daly Dixon RHR Newg Power
Sean Kennedy _6thgear_ Dixon Rossi Newg Sato Chilton
Sophie Hanson Sophie_Hansons3 Dixon Sato Pagenaud Kanaan Rahal
Steven Jenkins ukindyfan Dixon RHR Newg Power Rahal


Penalties
  • Johanna Husband has been given a 50% reduction in points for violation (picks were not turned in on time)
  • Sophie Hanson has been given a 50% reduction in points for violation (picks were not turned in on time)

Let's go racing!

-Matthew Hickey

Monday, April 18, 2016

Winners and Losers: Long Beach

Here are your winners, losers, and Cone of Shame winner following the 2016 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:

Winners 

Team Penske 
Another dominant day from Team Penske, a team that looks poised to win a title. All four of their drivers look capable to win the championship. Simon Pagenaud won, Helio Castroneves controlled a portion of the race, and Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power were towards the front for a majority of the race. This team is scary good and has the potential to be one of the best driver-team combinations ever. Yes, ever.


Chip Ganassi Racing 
Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan had very good days, while Charlie Kimball showed pace in the race. Yes, a win from a Pagenaud penalty would have been nice for Dixon, but Dix is usually sluggish until midseason. The fact that he is off to such a hot start should be a concern for the rest of the field.


Takuma Sato 
Takuma Sato returns to the place where he’s won his only race and performed like a boss. Sato was the lead man for the Honda stable all day, a role that is usually reserved for an Andretti Autosport driver or Graham Rahal. Solid effort from Sato, who has to avoid crumbling in the middle part of the season like he seems to do every year.

James Hinchcliffe 
James Hinchcliffe was on the verge of being relegated to a backmarker before the season even started. Two poor showings so far in the season left me wondering how he would fair at Long Beach. To my relief, Hinch responded like a boss, performing in the top-ten all weekend. Good for Hinch, who can use this momentum to build more good results in the future.



Losers 

Andretti Autosport 
What a deplorable day for Andretti Autosport. Marco Andretti got off to a bad start with a throttle issue, Ryan Hunter-Reay had some issue towards the end that cost him his track position, and Carlos Munoz and Alexander Rossi were virtually nonexistent in the race. This team could be in for a long year if they can’t figure it out on the road courses.


Jack Hawksworth 
Jack Hawksworth continues to under-perform at AJ Foyt Enterprises, especially since his teammate finished in the top-five. Hawksworth may be on thin ice for the remaining portion of the season if he cannot pull it together.


Max Chilton 
Just what in the hell was Max Chilton doing yesterday in turn five? I’m pretty sure if Codemasters was judging his driving, he would have been DQ’d after the second cut (F1 game joke). He literally thought what he was doing is okay. What?? An overall pretty poor showing from Chilton, who was a bit off the pace compared to his teammates.

Honda 
Honda should be able to hang with the Chevrolets on street courses. Guess not.



Cone of Shame 



Indycar Officials..? 
There’s no bullshitting here: what Simon Pagenaud did yesterday was a violation of the rules. The Indycar Officials, who said they would not give out warnings this year, gave Pagenaud a warning. Pagenaud’s minor cut of the blend line gave him just the inch he needed to stay ahead of Scott Dixon. But was it enough to merit a drive through-penalty? Of course not. I would have at least have Simon give the position back to Dix, but people freaking out over a couple inches need to cool it. Yes he broke the rules, no he doesn’t deserve to have the book of punishments thrown at him. It is also worth pointing out that I saw at least two other driver (Helio Castroneves and Carlos Munoz) cut the blend line earlier. Just because the leader of the race does it doesn’t mean we have to selectively enforce it on him. So, my Cone of Shame is a bit confusing. Yes race control screwed the pooch with the call and their prior things they told the press (about not giving warnings), but no I am not salty about the result of the race. Pagenaud could have done a million worse things than barely cutting the blend line. Putting cones out there could make a difference in future years.


Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey

Friday, April 15, 2016

Fantasy Indycar Picks: Long Beach

***Before I get to the picks, I have to mention an error in last week's point scoring. It was brought to my attention by a competitor that their score was off based on their math (which was nice because it actually negatively impacted his score). After doing the math, I realized I gave people who picked Ed Carpenter 19 points instead of 9. I apologize for my mistake and to those it impacts. It is not up-to-date at the moment, but it will be on Sunday after I update the points from Long Beach.***

Here are your picks from the 2016 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (current championship points leader is highlighted in orange):

Name Twitter Handle                                      Long Beach
Alan Stewart _alanstewart Power Dixon Hinch Munoz Aleshin
Andy Nagel Gabbahey75 Daly Chilton Power Bourdais Andretti
Chris Blackburn  chblackburn23 RHR Pagenaud JPM Power Sato
Chris Mienaltowski CPMski RHR Power Pagenaud Bourdais Dixon
Conor Daly conordaly22 Daly Power Newg Hinch Helio
David Leiting Jr. Dlite_47 Power Bourdais Sato Pagenaud RHR
David Redner IndyCART Power Bourdais Newg Pagenaud Daly
DJ Jordan Indycardj32 Pagenaud Kimball Hawk Bourdais Power
Eric Hall Erock_in_Indy Chilton Newg Bourdais Sato Helio
Jake Neely indycarfan25 Power Bourdais Aleshin Newg Filippi
James Alban TheKing0fSwing Helio Kanaan Power Aleshin Rahal
James Sedlmayr dfd827 Power Sato Aleshin Newg Daly
Jerry Cruz Indycar_Raider Power Bourdais RHR Newg Pagenaud
Jessica Baker bakerjm13 Newg Power Bourdais Pagenaud Rahal
Johanna Husband writebend Hinch Pagenaud Rahal Chilton JPM
Kieran Brughelli  kieranbrughelli Power Newg Hinch Bourdais Chilton
Kyle Lewis kylelewis1 RHR Newg Power Rahal Pagenaud
Lynn Weinberg lynnweinberg Dixon Kanaan Newg Pagenaud RHR
Martin Plowman plowey Power Sato Bourdais RHR Newg
Mathew Gruenholz IndycarSTIG JPM Dixon Newg Bourdais Kanaan
Matthew Hickey Indycar_MN JPM Pagenaud Munoz Sato Aleshin
Michael Friedman mfriedman_63 Power Pagenaud Kimball Aleshin Chilton
Mike Crawford 7BigMike Sato Dixon Aleshin Pagenaud Rahal
Mitch Robinson mitchrobinson_ Power Aleshin Bourdais Rahal Pagenaud
Morgan Polizzi morganpolizzi Power JPM Daly RHR Bourdais
Paige Hill paigehilll Dixon Sato Power RHR Daly
Rick Snodie  rickfromwi Power Bourdais Pagenaud Daly Kimball
Sam Klein sklein31 RHR Daly Bourdais Rahal Aleshin
Sandy Lamparello npssandy Bourdais Power Rahal Sato Daly
Sarah Hall SarahHall_528 Aleshin Bourdais Chilton JPM Pagenaud
Sean Kennedy _6thgear_ Helio Daly Newg Sato Pagenaud
Sophie Hanson Sophie_Hansons3 Rahal Power Newg Sato Pagenaud
Steven Jenkins ukindyfan JPM Helio Power Pagenaud Dixon

Penalties: Johanna Husband (picks were turned in late, 50% penalty)

Let's go racing!

-Matthew Hickey

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ranking the Road Courses Since 2008

I got thinking the other day, what are my favorite road courses that we have seen since Indycar and Champ Car merged in 2008? Well hell, let's make a list. I took a lot of different variables into making my decision, but chief among them is quality of racing and how I feel after watching a race there. Here are my rankings of all 16 road courses Indycar has raced on since 2008 (Road American and Boston are not on the list):


17) NOLA Motorsports Park (Avondale, Louisiana)
This race was a complete joke from the beginning. It had the potential to be a marquee event on the calendar, but bad crowds, shitty weather, and a terrible display by the drivers meant that NOLA was a one-and-done event for Indycar. To add insult to injury, a host of lawsuits ensued between NOLA management and Andretti Sports Marketing, further adding to just how bad the event was. The one and only race in 2015 at NOLA was without a doubt the worst road course race I've ever seen.

NOLA (Photo: Indycar Media)


16) NRG Park (Houston, Texas)
Simply put, this track was a disaster. The only reason this race happened is because Shell/Penzoil forked over the money to sponsor the race. It was very kind of them to sponsor a race in the middle of a parking lot outside of an NFL stadium. Making a return in 2013, Houston immediately appeared as a place where bumping and crashing would be common. Sadly, this would be the last race track that Dario Franchitti would race at before suffering a career ending accident. 2014 saw more drama, but it was clear that this track didn't belong on the Indycar schedule.

Shell Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston - Day 3
Houston (Photo:Chris Trotman / Getty Images North America)


15) Edmonton City Centre Airport *Old Layout* (Edmonton, Canada)
This track layout was awful and boring. It also gave birth to the infamous moment where Helio Castroneves *blocked* teammate Will Power, leading to a penalty. This led to rage mode Helio, which is something we haven't seen too often. Still, this track layout that was used between 2008-2010 was dull and uninteresting. Thank god they changed it (see later).

Rexall Edmonton Indy
Edmonton - Old (Photo: Darrell Ingham / Getty Images North America)


14) Twin Ring Motegi (Motegi, Japan)
This race was birthed out of a crisis in Japan. After damage was done to the oval circuit in Motegi, Japan, Indycar and officials decided not to abandon the race, but rather they switched venues to the Motegi road course. The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan is one of the most devastating natural disasters in the last decade, so I was honestly surprised that everything got in order for the race. The circuit was meh, and it served as the last time Indycar would go to Japan. It remains to be seen if Indycar will ever get back to Japan.

Indy Japan 300
Motegi (Photo: Chris Trotman / Getty Images North America)


13) Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Indianapolis, Indiana)
This race has been around for two years, and so far it has been very meh. Yes it's in the heart of racing and will always draw a decent crowd, but the racing has been less than stellar. The layout is good, the passing zones are good, but it seems to be missing that 'it' factor. The race is still young and it appears its poised to be a mainstay on the Indycar schedule, so it will have time to develop.

Grand Prix of Indianapolis
Indianapolis (Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images North America)


12) Surfers Paradise Street Circuit (Surfers Paradise, Australia)
Indycar raced here as an exhibition race in 2008 out of contractual obligations. Still, it served more as a pre-season race for the 2009 season, as many drivers debuted with new teams (Dario Franchitti made his debut with Chip Ganassi Racing and Dan Wheldon with Panther Racing). The track is gorgeous and the fans are crazy, but the old-model Indycar racing around the streets made for a very dull race.

Duplicate: IndyCar  Nikon Indy 300 : Practice & Qualifiying
Surfers Paradise (Photo: Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images AsiaPac)

11) Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Lexington, Ohio)
A main fixture on the Indycar schedule, the course at Mid-Ohio is a beautiful one. Great winding turns that flow well together. But the races there have been horrendous at times. With only one good passing zone and a lot of rhythm sections, passing is not common. Most of the races here depend on strategy for a good result, unless your name is Scott Dixon.

Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
Mid-Ohio (Photo: Darrell Ingham / Getty Images North America)


10) Sonoma Raceway (Sonoma, California)
A once terrible, boring, awful event on the Indycar calendar has been given new life in the DW-12 era. With several passing zones and great elevation changes, the lighter and more nimble DW-12 has thoroughly enhanced the racing here. It also has created lots of drama in the past couple years. While I don't think it belongs as the season finale of the Indycar season, it has turned around to become quite a good race.

Verizon IndyCar Series GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Sonoma (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America)


9) The Raceway on Belle Isle (Detroit, Michigan)
The old layout used in 2008 and in the old CART days was less than stellar. A return to the track returned in 2012 in disastrous fashion. The track literally fell apart in the race, leading to the famous "meltdown" my James Hinchcliffe. But ever since then, the track has really turned it around, thanks to a sizeable investment by Roger Penske. I hope this race stays on the calendar for years to come. It has become a race to look forward to.

Chevrolet Indy Dual In Detroit - Dual II
Belle Isle (Photo: Nick Laham / Getty Images)


8) Edmonton City Centre Airport *New Layout* (Edmonton, Canada)
See above for my opinion on the old Edmonton layout. The new layout was an amazing change of pace, and it created plenty of passing and plenty of animosity between drivers. Sadly, the race which was resurrected from being pretty boring to being pretty awesome was dropped from the schedule after 2012. This is one I miss for sure.

Honda Indy Edmonton
Edmonton - New (Photo: Chris Trotman / Getty Images North America)


7) Streets of St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg, Florida)
A marquee event on the calender for the Indycar series is in a beautiful part of Western Florida. The track switches from airport runway, to downtown St. Petersburg, to a ride next to the Gulf of Mexico and nice yachts. Given that it has established itself as the inaugural race to each Indycar season, St. Petersburg is one of those races that people look forward to every year. The racing is pretty good, some races are better than others.

Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Practice
St. Petersburg (Photo: Darrell Ingham / Getty Images North America)


6) Barber Motorsports Park (Birmingham, Alabama)
One of the best looking road courses in North America, Barber offers a chance for drivers to show their abilities on a tough road course full of elevation change and rhythm. The races hosted there are usually pretty stale, but last year's race was one of the best road course races I've ever seen. If it can host more races like that, this could become of the best road courses in North America, to go along with its good looks.

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama - Day 3
Barber (Photo: Nick Laham / Getty Images North America)


5) Streets of Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
This street course was absolutely banging, and the races were utterly thrilling. The last race, which took place in 2013, was one of the best finishes I have ever seen. James Hinchcliffe passed Takuma Sato at the last turn on the last lap to take the win. Other races there, which began in 2010 an ceased in 2013, were full of drama, passing, and unpredictability. Plus the crowds were absolutely huge. A big loss in my eyes for Indycar.

Sao Paulo Indy 300 - Day 2
Sao Paulo (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)


4) Watkins Glen International (Watkins Glen, New York)
One of the best road courses in North America no longer hosts Indycar, and it is pretty sad. As road courses go, this one packs plenty of dramatic races and an element of unpredictability. When Justin Wilson and Ryan Hunter-Reay win in an era of Ganassi-Penske dominance, you know the track holds plenty of surprises. A damn shame we don't race there anymore.

Camping World Indy Grand Prix Practice
Watkins Glen (Photo: Nick Laham / Getty Images North America)


3) Streets of Baltimore (Baltimore, Maryland)
The best street course that never was in my opinion. Baltimore drew epic crowds, had an amazing layout through a very great and thriving part of the beautiful Baltimore, and plenty of dramatic moments for Indycar meant that this was one of my favorite races over the course of 2011-2013. But terrible management and politics means that this race has disappeared. A damn shame because this race could have been on the schedule for at least 20 years if it had been managed correctly. Hate how politics ruins great races.

Grand Prix Of Baltimore - Day 3
Baltimore (Photo: Rob Carr / Getty Images North America)


2) Streets of Long Beach (Long Beach, California)
The crown jewel of street races on the Indycar schedule is of course the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. So much history at the track makes it a marquee event on the schedule. But it takes more than history for the race track to be at the top of the list. The layout is an epic one that gives drivers several chances to pass on the track. Long Beach is a must for every Indycar fan. I need to go one day!

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Long Beach (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)


1) Exhibition Place (Toronto, Canada)
The best road course layout on the entire Indycar schedule has to be Exhibition Place in Toronto. This race is my favorite road course race of the year by a mile. The reason? Drama, unpredictability, speed, passing, and world class driving. Several passing zones and a rhythm section that you can actually pass and go two-by-two in means that drivers must be on their toes at all moments. What an insanely good race track. I love this track so much.

Honda Indy Toronto - Day 2
Toronto (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)


Let me know what changes you would make to my list!

-Matthew Hickey