Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.
Q: It sure seems that the IndyCar brass have once again sold themselves short by only doing a docuseries that’s a lead-up to the 500. How much better would the show be with the drama between Palou/McLaren/Ganassi? For two years running, no less… “Drive To Survive” would have a field day with this storyline. IndyCar has its own Toto versus Horner with Zak versus Chip.
MARSHALL PRUETT: The rub here is Penske Entertainment owns IMS Productions, housed in the same building that contains IndyCar’s offices, and within IMSP, some extraordinarily talented producers and shooters could be filming on a daily basis at the tracks and at the local shops — no need to wait for Netflix to send a production team — for an in-house docuseries, but that’s not been the path chosen by the series’ leadership. I listened to an impassioned plea from an influential team owner last week who was begging for more digital content from IndyCar, and it does make me wonder if and when the series is going to realize it can be the solution to the problem.
Q: Can we get a Robin Miller sticker or his name printed on Kyle Larson’s IndyCar? Please?
Howard Carson, Omaha, NE
MP: That’s a great idea. I was with Zak in Monterey for the big Reunion vintage event last weekend and he liked the idea and said it was noted.
Don’t forget that Kyle Kaiser’s Fernando Alonso slayer carried Miller’s cartoon made by Roger Warrick and TorontoMotorsports.com on the Juncos Racing Indy 500 entry in 2019, which was done as a favor to me by Ricardo as a nod to Robin, whose cancer diagnosis had been recently revealed.
Q: Wouldn’t it be fitting to have the letters “RM” on the nose of the No. 17 Arrows/McLaren-Hendrick Chevy as a tribute to Robin Miller, who often spoke of wanting Kyle Larson to run the 500? Robin deserves that moment of respect.
Skip Ranfone, Summerfield, FL
MP: I mean…it’s Miller, so the backside of the car would be a better placement for the old crank’s initials.
Q: After hearing the recent rumors that Linus Lundqvist can race for Ganassi in 2024, I have some questions: 1) Ganassi being one of the main, if not the main, Honda team, does it have access to Lundqvist’s telemetry? 2) Could Chip be shelling out for him to race these last few races at MSR, or is Linus taking the money out of his pocket?
Eusebio Sachser, Brazil
MP: Linus won $500,000 from Indy Lights for earning last year’s championship. That gets paid to the team that runs him from IndyCar, so Meyer Shank Racing should receive those funds once he’s done driving there.
Every team has select telemetry channels it receives from the other teams, so yes, Ganassi would have some insights into his skills via data.
Q: I’ve heard scuttlebutt about Mick Schumacher possibly being on the list for the No. 6 that Palou has vacated. Any truth in that, do you think? F1 opportunities for him are non-existent, and it’d get a lot of eyeballs on the series. Germany has a motorsport fan base that’s bored of F1; maybe a Schumacher in IndyCar opens up a new market?
This bit is pie-in-the-sky talk from me, but considering the Lausitzring is owned by Michael’s old friends at Dekra, and IndyCar need more ovals on the schedule, maybe we could even get a trip back to Europe out of it? A girl can dream.
MP: As much as I’d love to see Mick in IndyCar, my money is on a young IndyCar veteran getting the nod to be Pretend Palou. A Malukas or Ilott is where I’d look first, and if it’s not them, there’s no shortage of European options.
It’s theoretically possible that Schumacher could join the list of F1-to-IndyCar converts. But it’s probably not likely — at least not in the case of the No. 6. Steve Etherington/Motorsport Images
Q: Does IndyCar plan to have spring training at The Thermal Club again in 2024?
Tulsa Indycar Fan
MP: Yes, that’s the only track I’ve heard mentioned as the site for Spring Training. But until I see it confirmed, I’ll hold off on booking a flight to Palm Springs.
Q: It seems like it’s been a lot easier for guys to find reverse after going off/incidents. Two times that come to mind are Grosjean on the first lap at the Indy GP, and Rahal on the first lap in Toronto. Feels like for years guys have stalled trying to do the same, and I remember anti-stall back then never really seemed to work. I know they’re going to have starters next year, but was there a development, or is it just guys getting better at pulling the clutch in when there’s an incident?
Tim, Stamford, CT
MP: Better at pulling the clutch, for sure, and anti-stall is more than a decade into its development and refinement in IndyCar, so it’s no longer as wonky as it was in the early years.
Q: Ever since the IndyCar series added the aeroscreen it feels like some accidents are creating harder hits for drivers. Maybe due to its weight and position, or just its weight.
Has there been any study on it? Would Wickens be in a worse condition if that crash had happened with the aeroscreen? And now they are adding more weight with the hybrid system. Isn’t time to take a step back and check stuff first? It really looks like IndyCar is on the brink of a g-force induced fatality.
I’m not against the aeroscreen, by the way. Just worried. Maybe an aeroscreen that only covers the openings in the halo would be better than something as robust as what’s being used now if the goal is only to deflect bigger car parts. It’d be lighter as well.
MP: We’re talking about an overall weight increase of 2-3-percent with the aeroscreen, so if that’s the tipping point in making crashes harder, we have serious problems.
Yes, IndyCar and its partners at Dallara do an exceptional amount of modeling and testing. I’m sure some would like to believe they just bolt stuff on and hope for the best, but that would be inaccurate. I’ve seen nothing that would support any suggestion that crashes in the aeroscreen era have been harder, worse, or close to killing drivers because of an extra 60 pounds bolted to the car.
Maybe we can just accept the aeroscreen, exactly as it’s conceived and designed, has been the greatest safety innovation IndyCar has seen in a generation.
Q: Do you know if Linus Lundqvist has a manager in the USA? It seems like he mostly manages himself, together with his family. But some reports mention a manager — “John Caponigro” or something like that. Do you know more?
MP: He does, John Caponigro of the Sports Management Network, who also looks after the Andrettis, Scott McLaughlin, Kyle Kirkwood and a few other drivers.
Q: I’m a big fan of Ernie Francis Jr. After killin’ it in Trans Am, he seems to be struggling in Indy NXT. Can you update us on how he’s doing and the outlook for next season?
Lee Robie, Loveland, OH
MP: He’s doing well in trying to learn the hardest form of racing he’s ever tried, but he’s also going up against drivers who are life-long open-wheelers, so he’s way behind in mileage and experience. He’s 10th in the championship in his second season, and I hope he gets one more because he’s running about as high as I’d expect while facing those hardcore open-wheelers. If he’s got the goods to reach IndyCar, a third season will tell us everything, but I don’t know if Penske Entertainment is planning on funding it.
I do expect Myles Rowe, the breakaway USF Pro 2000 championship leader, to be in Indy NXT next year with Force Indy/Penske Entertainment, so that’s the only concern I have for Ernie. If Penske’s willing to bankroll two NXT cars with HMD, I can see Ernie continuing. If not, there’s no scenario where Ernie gets the seat in place of Myles.
Q: I’m watching a very entertaining NASCAR Xfinity race at Watkins Glen and all I can think is that IndyCar needs to be racing there again. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the history. But apparently Roger Penske is going to let NASCAR back on the oval at IMS, so he should be in a strong bargaining position to insist on an IndyCar doubleheader with NASCAR at the Glen.
I don’t necessarily like seeing IndyCar being the opening act, but this arrangement would put a lot of eyeballs on the series racing on what is arguably the premier road course in the country. Why would Penske and IndyCar not be pursuing this as a top scheduling priority?
Alan, Orlando, FL
MP: It didn’t succeed the last time IndyCar was there, which Roger saw firsthand as an owner, so that might be a reason why it’s not his top priority. Also, IndyCar isn’t lacking road and street courses on the schedule, so I’m looking to ovals, first, and then new markets, and then former markets. I’ve openly and recently said I want IndyCar to go back to WGI in a hurry, but I can’t say it would be P1 on the calendar to-do list for the series.
Q: The 2023 IndyCar season has 27-28 full-time entries at every race, not counting the Indy 500, and it sounds like 2024 will be no different. At what point will Roger Penske/IndyCar increase the Leaders Circle from the top 22 to at the very least 24? There has to be some incentive for teams to field cars. The purse payout per race is not much, and with Arrow McLaren looking at expanding to a four-car team in 2025, IndyCar needs to advance with the growth of the series.
AE, Danville, IN
MP: No doubt about it. It’s one thing when the LC offered 22 contracts to a field of 24 full-timers. At 27, that’s a lot more have-nots than before, which isn’t how you endear yourselves to teams on the brink.
There are few downsides to the recent grid expansion we’ve seen in IndyCar — unless you’re one of the entries fighting for a Leaders Circle spot. Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images
Q: While watching this year’s Indy 500, I got curious about what tire strategies teams use when it comes to ovals. Are teams given enough tires where they are putting a fresh set at every pit stop, or could they put on a scuffed set every once in a while? While on the subject, how do you think the use of alternate tires for the upcoming Gateway race will affect the action on-track?
MP: It’s rare for a team to have nothing but new tires to use in an oval race, so yes, used tires are common solutions. We posted a story late yesterday afternoon about the debut of alternate tires on Tuesday with help from Bryan Herta and Conor Daly — you can find it here.
Q: IMSA’s 2024 schedule was announced on a Friday afternoon — not exactly prime time. Perhaps they were not eager to shout from the rooftops the “hiatus”of Lime Rock and the deletion of their top class from CTMP to make room for Detroit?
On the latter point: There are some intriguing elements to the change. Specifically, the common themes between the Detroit IndyCar weekend, the Toronto IndyCar race, and the announced date change of the IMSA race to a week later (which is the same weekend that the Honda Indy Toronto occupied this year).
If I were prone to seeing conspiracies, I might think this was an attempt to kill off the popular CTMP race competitor for the Honda Indy Toronto.
Either way, this move is a bitter blow for Canadian sports car fans and anyone else who wants to see the new GTP era run on the premier circuits in North America, as opposed to street courses that garnered mixed reviews at best.
MP: IMSA has announced next year’s schedules on the same Friday at Road America for a long time, so no, there was nothing other than revealing it at the same time, on the same day, at the same event. If IMSA wanted to kill its CTMP visit, it could have dropped the event altogether, but it didn’t, so that would seem to silence any conspiracies, I’d hope. Losing the GTP cars is not what anybody wants and I know the series wants to fix this ASAP.
Q: What’s happened to Oliver Askew? Last I saw he was driving for Andretti in Formula E cars. Is his career in IndyCar over?
MP: He’s on some short lists for IndyCar seats next year, and has been doing Formula E commentary and driver coaching.
Q: Can you give any updates on the 2024 IndyCar schedule? When might it be announced? I think everyone is wondering whether we’re getting Milwaukee back as a replacement for the second IMS road course race. With NASCAR all but making it official that they will return to the oval at IMS next year, you’ve got to think Milwaukee is in the works. What’s your take?
MP: I sure hope we’re headed back to Milwaukee, provided a ton of promotional investments are made. We’re getting into the window where a better feel for the next calendar will happen, but that time isn’t today, unfortunately. Stay tuned.
Q: Looks like Meyer Shank has a good chance to get the 60 into the Leaders Circle with the way Lundqvist has been running. They are only three points out of 22nd place. With that in mind, I look at RLL and its third car is in 24th place behind Meyer Shank. Has RLL given up on getting the car into the 22nd spot, or are they taking it seriously? I ask because they are using Daly at WWTR but essentially testing other drivers for the last two races. It just seems a mixed plan compared to Meyer Shank.
MP: The Conor move is all about getting the car into the LC; they aren’t looking at him to drive the car next year, so his use is highly specific to the WWTR event. To your point, using Toby Sowery and Juri Vips to close the year is where the LC strategy gets fuzzy. Both are fast and talented kids, make no mistake, but they’ll need to avoid every pitfall — especially in qualifying on alternate tires for the first time with minimal time in a knockout format — and have exceptional races to get that contract for RLL. It’s entirely possible that it could happen, but it won’t be easy, which is obvious.
Q: Can you tell us any info about why Chip Ganassi is against putting the driver’s name on the car? I found that odd, considering he used to be a racer himself. Are there any other teams that won’t put the driver’s name on?
John, Boca Raton, FL
MP: I’ve always been told it’s because they’re his cars — he owns them, not the drivers — so they bear his name, not theirs. That changed a year or so ago with the drivers names being added inside the upper ring of the aeroscreen to more easily identify whose car is being viewed from the in-car cameras.
If an IndyCar team comes calling, Askew will be ready. Barry Cantrell/Motorsport Images
Q: I am struggling mightily to see what exactly Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing — a team which prides itself on its collection of partners — sees in Juri Vips. He doesn’t appear to have been overly impressive results-wise in F2, and I imagine he’d be toxic to sponsors once they do a quick search of his name and see why he was axed from the Red Bull program.
Steve-o in Ontario
MP: That’s the trick, though. Christian Lundgaard wasn’t the third or sixth driver being looked at with interest in F2, and yet, he’s been revealed to be a serious talent whose F2 record, while good, didn’t tell the whole story of his capabilities. Vips, with all of the self-generated nonsense set aside, falls into the same category. I don’t think he’d ever be looked at as a future IndyCar champion, but he has a ton of quality seasons and miles completed within quality European open-wheel teams, so there’s a solid reason for RLL to want to see if he’s a Lundgaard 2.0. And if he isn’t there’s a dozen other skilled kids who will try to get that seat.
Q: Is there any insight into why the caution from lap 1 on the Indy road course lasted until they went back to green on lap 8? I was sitting on the mounds in Turn 7 and the accident was cleared within 10 seconds of the field passing on lap 2. Even going back to the GMR Grand Prix, we were back to green by lap 5 after the lap 2 caution.
MP: The usual answer for such things when I ask is extra time was needed to sort through and re-order the field.
Q: I am long-time reader and first-time writer from Germany. Since we went to Nashville last year, we are wondering if the Music City Grand Prix is moving back to the first weekend in August from 2025 and beyond?
MP: Unless the 2024 Nashville season finale is an attendance failure, I can’t see it changing from its position as the season-closer.
Q: In reference to the letter from Ryan in West Michigan in last week’s Mailbag: It’s unfortunate that you couldn’t get your son into the paddock at Indy, but not all facilities have the same rules for access. My “home” track, Mid-Ohio — I live 10 miles away — has for years allowed kids 12 and under free gate admission and paddock admission with paid adult passes. The sights and sounds one can experience walking through the paddock can be an unforgettable part of any race weekend. Don’t assume all facilities use the same guidelines for access. If you plan to travel to an event, do your due diligence beforehand and you surely will find a place that will welcome your son to accompany you into a world of wonder.
Dan, Mansfield, OH
MP: Thanks for the insights, Don. I like the idea of IndyCar creating a streamlined access solution for families with kids at every race. It makes no sense to me that Ryan can take his kid and show him the cars up close in the Mid-Ohio paddock — a track Penske doesn’t own — but at the big one he does own on the weekend where IndyCar is the sideshow and isn’t located in Gasoline Alley, kids are forbidden. It’s this kind of short-sighted silliness that drives me mad.
Q: Yes, sorry, it’s time for another complaint about Peacock. Like Ed in last week’s Mailbag, we also pay for Peacock’s ad-free tier, and like you, Marshall, we make plenty of use of the streaming service. But when it comes to IndyCar and IMSA races, ad-free goes out the window and the broadcast is regularly interrupted. Sometimes we get served ads, sometimes just a splash screen saying the broadcast will be right back.
But here’s the thing, they know there’s a better alternative. Indy NXT races have no interruption, and in the past IMSA just left the video and background audio on. No more.
To make matters worse, NBC and Peacock insist on wasting further race minutes by showing us irrelevant b-roll segments that should have been shown during the pre-race broadcast. It’s a bad habit they brought to their F1 coverage back before it got taken away from them, wasting up to 25 percent of a green-flag race.
I doubt any level of complaining will result in NBC and Peacock changing their ways, and the rest of us will just continue to feel ripped off.
MP: Thanks for writing in, Jonathan.
Q: Between the Mailbag last week and the article by Richard, it seems like the cat is out of the bag. When the second WTRAA IMSA entry was announced I wondered if that was the No. 60 car or a new car. Signs point towards it not being a new car.
My question is mostly related to drivers, and if Colin is a factory driver this year like, say, a Ryan Eversley and thus bound for WTRAA, or if he’s an MSR driver and then what Acura thinks of him? He’s spent a number of seasons as the pro on a Pro-Am team, and it was nice to see him finally get a chance to shine in an all pro lineup. So let’s use this as the start of the IMSA GTP silly season. What are you hearing about drivers for Lambo, and what might be next for Colin?
Ryan in West Michigan
MP: It’s been a well-known thing in the paddock for a while, but HPD gets really grumpy when you ask, and MSR doesn’t want to say too much. I keep hearing a Porsche 963 would be the most realistic avenue for the team to stay in GTP, but it would be in a privateer-ish capacity. If I had to guess, there’s a hope that if MSR can rally back and win the GTP title — even though it’s only a remote chance — Acura/HPD would want to hold onto them.
I think Lamborghini’s announced most of their drivers, and I do hope Colin gets work with one of the GTP factories. I’d heard he was under consideration for the second WTRAndretti Acura, but those seats went to Jordan Taylor and Jean Louis Deletraz.
Chances are that we’re looking at the tail end of the Meyer Shank/Acura GTP partnership in IMSA, but good luck getting anyone to talk about it. Richard Dole/Motorsport Images
Q: I recall years ago that along with the finishing race positions of drivers, prize money was also published. I know they publish the payouts for the 500, but why is this no longer published for the rest of the races?
MP: That’s because real per-race prize money, outside the 500, went away almost 20 years ago when the Leaders Circle program was created and the season’s worth of prize money was pooled, divided, and given to 20-plus full-time teams who committed to do every race. There’s still something nominal paid to win and whatnot, but the vast majority of the prize money is paid by the series to each of the Leaders Circle entries in installments each season; in 2023, it was $915,000 given to 22 entries.
Q: It seems to me IndyCar cautions could be sped up. The truck always pulls up nose-first to the car, the guy runs to the back of the truck, runs to the front with the starter and plugs in, unplugs and runs to the back and finally they’re done. Couldn’t they hang a temporary basket on the front of the truck with the starter already plugged in? Seems like this would save some time.
MP: I had the same thought on the opening lap. Constantly having to run to the back of the trucks to carry something to the front of the truck to make it work seems like an inefficiency that could be resolved on highly modified vehicles.
Q: Was there anything better than Scott Dixon singing Vanilla Ice during the segment with Hinch? I used to think he was boring, but after 20 years, he has had enough moments to let his personality shine through. Ericsson and Rossi feel boring, too. Which IndyCar driver has the best personality that we haven’t seen yet?
Jason, Green Bay, WI
MP: First time I got to know Dixon was at a function somewhere in the late 2000s and we were at the same table, and he was hilarious, had a sharp wit and sharper tongue, and it was clear that he’s far more interesting than most people understand. If I have an insightful answer that’s needed on something, on or off the record, he’s been one of my go-to sounding boards for the last 15 years, and if you look at his closest friends, they’re big personalities like Dario and Kanaan, which should tell you something about him. They don’t hang around the boring or tame.
Ericsson and Rossi are far from boring. They just aren’t extroverts or big, showy personalities — Dixon’s the same way — but I’ve never found them to be lacking in character or opinions. It’s the ones who just smile or say little to nothing who bore the heck out of me. Ericsson and Rossi aren’t in that category.
On the haven’t-seen-yet front, Kirkwood’s a blast. As all-American a kid as you’ll find, who loves fishing, golfing, and having fun. Lundqvist is a great kid with a lot of depth and charm, all found inside the spirit of a hunter-killer. Ilott’s a fascinating guy, and so is his teammate Canapino. Of the four, I think Kyle could be a fan favorite if more effort was made by his team and the series to place a spotlight on him.
Q: With silly season in full swing, I’m thinking about how an Abel Motorsports IndyCar entry next year for the 500 or a partial season would happen, and one factor influencing this is how the Abel-Enerson agreement for the 2022 500 played out. Do you know any details of what was involved in the deal? Was it merely as simple as the Enersons donating the use of their chassis for the 500 in exchange for RC getting to drive the car? Did Bill Abel do it mostly just for the challenge and experience to gauge future plans? Do you know of any other more concrete plans for further IndyCar racing by either of these groups?
Ted T., Chicago
MP: I understand it was a proper business arrangement between Neal Enerson, a successful businessman and longtime racer/owner/entrant, and Bill Abel, who is all of the same things as Neal. Bill wanted to be in the 500, and has aspirations of being in IndyCar on a more regular basis, but he isn’t rushing into things and doesn’t want to harm the Indy NXT program by tilting things too heavily towards IndyCar too quickly. The Enersons would be running their own program if they had the funding, but don’t, so that’s where Bill, with the people and the infrastructure, were able to take the Enersons’ car and go run RC.
Looking ahead, I can say that the truly impressive effort put forth by Bill Abel’s John Brunner-led team has drawn the interest of others who want to do a co-entry for next year, and drivers who see Abel Motorsports is a quality and viable program that can do well at the 500.
Q: Well, I guess I might add to the subject of marbles. Trading marbles for a slower lap, more driver skill and more passing sounds like a great idea. Not to mention lots of tire smoke, sliding, correcting, long passing attacks, etc. What is so dang bad? IndyCar is not trying to set ultimate lap times. It is a spec series with old cars. I think something that highlights driver skill and adds spectacle would be welcomed. Who really benefits from marbles? What are the advantages of marbles, besides a slower lap time?
MP: I know the idea of super-hard tires that generate few marbles sounds like an amazing gift, but it really isn’t when we’re talking about a form of racing where ultimate speed and performance is what separates IndyCar from NASCAR and other types of racing where mind-bending visuals aren’t possible. Why on earth anyone would want to turn an IndyCar into something where using the throttle with any aggression is a liability is beyond me.
Q: I was reading an article regarding Kyle Larson’s entry for Indy next year and it had a quote from Rick Hendrick stating that he wanted to own that car but needed another existing team for the technical support. In past articles you’ve mentioned that McLaren would like to possibly run a fourth car full-time next year. Do you think it’s possible that Hendrick Motorsports would be interested in being that satellite team? I know that’s probably a long shot, but it would be a way for them to get their foot in the door. And Jeff Gordon always dreamed of being in IndyCar, so who better to lead them into it?
Justin, St. Petersburg, FL
MP: If we get to 2025 or 2026 and we don’t have a full-time McLaren-Hendrick IndyCar entry, I will be surprised. Arrow McLaren needs to move into the current Andretti Autosport shop, which McLaren has purchased, and when that happens ahead of the 2025 season, all kinds of growth can happen.
Abel Motorsports’ performance at Indy this year put it on the radar of a lot of prospective co-entrants and drivers for the future. Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images
Q: I’m sure there’s been an avalanche of Alex Palou contract emails already, but I hadn’t seen this perspective raised before so here goes:
From what I know of the situation, Palou’s original contract with Ganassi had a clause that prevented Palou from negotiating or signing a contract with another team before a certain date (IIRC September 2022), which wasn’t respected in negotiating with McLaren, which is how Alex wound up staying at Ganassi in the first place. Furthermore, in the last Mailbag, you stated that the extension with Ganassi had a similar no-compete with a date of September 1, 2023 — a date that hasn’t occurred yet.
By my reading, contractually Palou hasn’t been able to even talk to anyone but Chip for the entire time he’s been at Ganassi, which would leave him free to re-sign with Ganassi now, or wait it out until September and sign with whomever else he wants to.
In the 2022 version of Palou-to-McLaren, it seems to me that the blame was on Alex and his management for not respecting the contract he had with Ganassi. In the 2023 version, it seems to me that both McLaren and Palou’s management should have known better given their previous experience. It’s more interesting to me that Palou seems to have been dumped by his management, rather than Alex firing them for gross incompetence.
MP: The deal in 2022 was a bit more complicated as the fracas stemmed from Ganassi taking up Palou’s option for 2023 and some form of disagreement as to whether that happened correctly or not, or after the negotiating window had already opened, and Alex signed elsewhere as a result and Ganassi was late, or something along those lines, as I recall Palou’s side suggested.
There’s another layer here where Alex did sign a contract with McLaren for his F1 testing, so there was a valid agreement in place for that, but yeah, the apparent signing of a racing contract for 2024 while allegedly unable to sign such a thing prior to Sept. 1 is a bit tricky.
Where things appear to be clear, regardless of whether Ganassi has a legal standing to pursue McLaren or not, is McLaren Racing, in the UK, entered into a contract with Palou — and I’m not sure under what business name or location — that, according to Zak Brown’s email, paid Palou for future services. Assuming everything about that is true, it might be a straightforward lawsuit of McLaren going after a guy who agreed to work for someone, took money for that work before performing that work, and, we assume, hasn’t voluntarily returned it. If he has returned it, we can then assume the lawsuit has vengeful motivations behind it.
Also, make no mistake that Alex and his former managers knew exactly what they were doing and creating for themselves and signing. They aren’t babes in the woods who were tricked into taking money from McLaren.
Whatever it is, it isn’t looking good for Palou’s bank account and future earnings if McLaren wins, because if that happens, a decent amount of Chip’s money is going to land in Alex’s hands and go right back out the door to McLaren.
Q: I would be very interested in attending a road course race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the seating for this race stinks. I am a permanent seating person. Has anybody addressed the idea of putting up temporary seating in the passing zones close to the action? I don’t want to travel 1,500 miles to watch the entire race on a Jumbo-tron.
John Sedlak, Venice, FL
MP: Most of the passing happens into Turn 1, where there are copious amounts of permanent seats, and at the end of the back straight, where there’s grandstands placed for ticket buying and viewing. So yes, thought has been put into it, since the first race in 2014, and people have come out to sit in those seats and watch passing and racing. If those seats, where the most passes take place, are the ones that stink, I don’t know what else to offer, John.
Q: I read Kyle Larson will run on the oval at IMS in October in an attempt to get through ROP. Is this part of a larger test to try to get a feel for how the cars handle with the new engine package and to try to zero in on the right tire compound? If so, will Larson run the new engine package or the existing one? I assume the handling is different between the two and it might serve him best to run the new package since that is what he will be running next May.
Don Weidig, Canton, OH
MP: It’s just IndyCar’s fall Indy ROP test, and nothing special just for Kyle.
Q: I imagine when you’re done working on the Mailbag, you close your laptop and that’s it for you. Well, that’s just when the fun actually begins. I’m not sure if you get a chance to read the comments after posting it on RACER, but they are entertaining to say the least. It’s nothing but IndyCar fans just teeing off on each other’s opinions. And of course, you get the Formula 1 fan(s) whose sole purpose in life is to tell us how inferior IndyCar is. It’s all-out war in the comment sections — you got good guys, and you got villains — the regulars all know the villains.
I guess I just don’t get it. As IndyCar fans, we are the minority. Can’t we all just get along? Maybe we all think we have the answers to make our sport better, but please just respect one another’s opinion.
MP: I love and welcome the idea, and if we can make it happen in IndyCar, eradicating cancer and ending world hunger will be a breeze. And yes, when I file a story, or the mailbag, it’s done and I’m onto the next thing. Whether folks love it, hate it, love me, or hate me isn’t part of post-filing equation and as you noted, the piece is in the hands of the folks who take the topic and go wherever they please with it.
I think the last time I actively read the comments, the Dallara DW12 was in its infancy, and I maybe look a few times a year if I need more context on something; I had no clue what the Noah Gragson suspension thing was about, and got the answer in two seconds once I scrolled down and had it explained by a commenter.
The comments sections here or on other racing sites are no different than any other sport where fans of rival teams or leagues tear each other apart over players, histories of ball clubs, or the direction Commissioner X is taking the sport. While it’s done in person or over the phone instead of online, if I don’t hurl weekly insults at my friend Chris, who loves the terrible LA Dodgers, while speaking glowingly about my amazing SF Giants, I know I’m missing out on one of life’s true joys, so I don’t see a lot of difference in racing fans firing back and forth at each other. We surrendered respect and civility decades ago, and they won’t be making a comeback.
But you also have those who spend a lot of time, every day, responding to everything and everyone in the comments or on social media, who live for such things, and that’s one of their main hobbies in life. If that’s the thing — being thoughtful or mean or something in between — that gives them value, so be it.
If the comments section is any guide, you can get IndyCar fans to agree that the cars have four wheels — and anything beyond that is open for debate. Richard Dole/Motorsport Images
Q: Have you heard any rumors about an endurance-length IMSA race at Road America? Earlier in the year RA posted a picture of their new pit lane lighting, with a hint about sports car racing at dusk. But when the 2024 IMSA schedule came out, next year is another 2h40m event. Meanwhile IMS gets a six-hour IMSA race at the unloved infield road course. From a fan’s perspective, it’s… puzzling.
Ben Malec, Buffalo Grove, IL
MP: I have not, but it’s easily the most requested change we get every year for the IMSA calendar. I’m mindful of the fact that in 2024, half of the big IMSA races will be enduros of at least six hours in length, so adding another enduro seems unlikely.
Q: After Nashville, when Scott McLaughlin said he couldn’t wear his cold suit “because he ate too many cakes,” I assumed he meant the one he owned didn’t fit anymore. But then after Rahal said he couldn’t wear his at Indy, I started to wonder if there is too much of an overall car weight penalty, hitting the bigger drivers especially hard. What are the rules on car and driver weight ballasting/equalizing?
MP: I’d assume the irreverent Mr. McLaughlin was referring to gaining a few pounds, and joking about not being able to slip into his cool shirt.
Running the cool short system adds approximately eight pounds to a car, and per IndyCar’s current rules, there are no accommodations made for them. So at Indy, for a bigger driver like Graham, he’s forced to choose comfort over performance because while eight pounds is a drop in the bucket in a car that weighs 2000 pounds or whatever with him in it on a full fuel load, it can be the difference between saving or losing a few hundredths of a second per lap.
IndyCar has had its “Danica rule” for a while now where no weight advantage is given to smaller drivers; all drivers are weighed after the first session, and based on that official number recorded by the series, the crews know how much equalization ballast to add or remove to achieve the minimum weight parity IndyCar calls for. But, that eight pounds for the cool short system isn’t part of the equalization, so it 10 drivers run the system, the other 17 do no have to add eight extra pounds of ballast, hence the comfort-or-performance dilemma some drivers go through.
Q: I’m sure you’ve covered this in the past, but in regards to heat issues resulting from the windscreens, why did IndyCar go with those instead of the F1-style halo?
MP: It’s for the same reason that car and truck makers put windshields in their cars to prevent items from striking you and I in the face while driving. The halo is great, but there’s nothing stopping pieces of suspension, springs, and all manner of other small debris from being fired into a driver’s helmet in the gap between the tub and the top of the halo.
Q: It seems race control has the ability to do many things remotely with the cars, such as no push to pass on restarts. Some things are in driver control like activating pit lane speed limit.
What is the total list of electronic controls available from race control or under driver selection?
Assuming this item is not on the list, is it possible to fix the race starts by giving race officials throttle control as the cars come to start line in formation… then at the green, release throttle control for all at the same time? Clean start every time!
MP: According to the series, “We get all the data off each car but the only thing we control from race control is push-to-pass. We activate when it’s on, as mentioned, and also shut it off when a car is command blue.”
As for race control taking control of throttles and instantly returning that control to the drivers, the start of the 1996 US 500 at Michigan comes to mind with the potential for chaos as drivers at different amount of throttle input spin their rear tires and spear into each other.
Q: In the aftermath of Ed Carpenter’s abrupt breakup with Conor Daly, it seems like Daly is in high demand, subbing at Meyer Shank and Rahal Letterman (and even co-hosting SRX racing). When IndyCar teams need a sub driver, what other drivers are on the shortlist? Are proven/seemingly available winners like Hinchcliffe or Bourdais given first right of refusal, or is win history not a part of the equation?
LA IndyCar fan
MP: We’re in a weird place right now, which I’ve discussed with a few team owners, where there just isn’t much in the way of a pool of Conor Dalys waiting to answer the call and step in and perform in a moment’s notice. And that’s a change to the norm.
JR Hildebrand is about the only other recent IndyCar driver who comes to mind as someone who could drive this weekend at Gateway and do a good job, without question, who has no ties. Take some of the others like a Hinch or Zach Veach or Oliver Askew, and they have the talent, no doubt, but they haven’t driven an IndyCar in years, so they’d run at the back all weekend and leave unsatisfied because they aren’t wired to start and finish last. And then you have the situation of being race-fit, and in a car without power steering, and that can get toasty in the cockpit behind the aeroscreen, some of the tracks would be pure physical torture to deal with, which would limit their speed.
Then you have a Bourdais scenario where he’s race-fit and knows how to wheel an IndyCar better than most, but he’s under contract to Ganassi for IMSA and Cadillac, and only in the rarest of needs for the Ganassi IndyCar team would Seb be deployed. Chip wouldn’t let Seb go drive for another IndyCar team in need for an event or two because there’s no way he’d risk losing a star GTP driver to injury in a rival’s car.
So, unless it’s a Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was given time to work his way back into race shape, or Daly, or maybe Marco Andretti, or some of the rookies RLL will try out after Conor, there just isn’t much of a race-ready group of recent IndyCar drivers who stand out for team owners to call and trust. Right now, it’s Conor, RHR, and not much else.
Daly must have amassed a truly epic collection of race suits by now. Motorsport Images
Q: As a big basketball fan and racing fan, I have what may be a dumb question for you. Every weekend, drivers follow about the same racing line, brake points and acceleration points. I equate that to at one time it was understood that the way to win basketball games/championships was to have a talented big man and feed the big guy for high percentage inside shots. Then along comes one Mr. Stephen Curry and he changes the game, and now it is all about the three-point shot.
Could there ever be someone in racing who comes along and shakes it up by utilizing wildly different racing lines, brake points, acceleration points, etc. than everyone else or is the racing line too finite?
MP: It’s a great question, Steve. Where the worlds of racing and basketball diverge is the height and placement of the basket never changes, nor does the width or length of the court. The range and style of the shots can vary, as Stef Curry has innovated, but everyone’s aiming at the same thing, and they’re only dealing with one axis — vertical — to adjust.
In racing, we have many of the same set parameters in track width, length, and so on, but we don’t have fixed items in terms of braking, accelerating, and the line to take through those corners, as you’ve noted. But, what we have is the opposite of the Stef Curry effect where after dozens of decades of racing at Track X, the best drivers in the world have tried all manner of ways to go through Turn 1, and Turn 5, and the optimum points of braking, turning, and accelerating — all involving hitting the perfect entry, apex, and exit points — in the name of doing so in the shortest amount of time has been established.
So, the answer is no, because the optimum way around each track has been perfected over thousands of laps, with experimentation involved, by the best of the best. Now, where you do get a small amount of what you’re asking about is in the tiny variances of how 27 IndyCar drivers, for example, will attack Turn 1 at the Indy road course in qualifying. Some might turn a touch earlier, others might hug the wall on the left longer than the others, and some may use a trail-braking technique more than others, and they all go back and watch whatever in-car footage or Dartfish overlay videos or the broadcast to try and pick out the little things that a rival is doing that might deliver a 0.0010s improvement, or might improve tire life, etc.
But since this is a competition to get to the checkered flap first, and while racing wheel to wheel, braking super early, or late, or turning into the corner from the wrong side of the track, and so on, is the kind of behavior that would get you passed and get you fired.
Q: What’s the current status of the new F2 car? It was announced quite a while ago that Formula 2 is supposed to have a new car for 2024 — one that implements the same sort of ground effect as the current F1 cars. Makes sense, of course, but we’ve heard effectively nothing since then and we usually get a glimpse of new F2 cars around July. Well, we’re halfway through August now and no news on the development and no peeks at the new car. I know that just because we haven’t seen or heard anything doesn’t mean that nothing’s been going on, or that it’s behind schedule.
Also, on a scale of 1 to 10 with one being “not at all” and 10 being “identical,” how close in appearance to Brad Pitt’s mocked-up “F1 car” should we expect the new F2 car to be? I’m expecting about a 9.5 — almost identical save for a massive shark fin on the airbox.
CHRIS MEDLAND: The new car is still on its way, and is going to be similar to the current one in the sense that it already has some small ground effect, so it was actually ahead of F1 on that front. It will have F1-style front and rear wings, though, as well as better safety standards. Nobody I’ve spoken to has mentioned any issues about it being behind schedule either — I just think they haven’t publicized it too much so far.
For the second part, even with the above I’d be saying a four or five to be honest. There’s a little hint of the old F2 car in that APXGP design, but it’s also heavily modified to look like an F1 car but carry cameras, rather than anything bespoke to handle brilliantly. That’s just based on knowledge of the film car rather than the future F2 one, so we can revisit this when we finally see the latter!
Q: Should F1 change how it uses DRS to how IndyCar uses push to pass (i.e. anyone can use it but there’s a limited quantity per driver)? I feel DRS gets too much flack when it’s really an aero version of P2P, but because of how it’s used, it makes overtaking too unbalanced.
CM: I reckon it would certainly be worth trialing, where it can be activated in any of multiple zones whenever a driver wants, even if it’s on an out/in lap that’s crucial or just trying to close a gap when not racing anyone. It adds a tactical edge to it but still provides the possibility for overtaking, without making passes easy.
There would almost certainly be downsides, like when a slower car is being caught but has saved its DRS up and becomes impossible to pass as a result, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t still be better than the current solution, so it’s worth a go.
And as you say, it’s more about the image because of how similar it is to P2P, plus for fans it might be easier to have the visible cue of the rear wing open to know when someone’s using it tactically or not.
Should F1 inject a little P2P into its DRS? Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images
Q: My questions involve F1 and flagging. Does race control actually have to wait for the person waving the green flag at the back of the grid before they start the light sequence, or is that waving of the flag pretty much just a symbolic thing?
Why doesn’t F1 have someone in the flag stand and wave a white flag with one lap to go as most of the other series do? I remember a couple of times where the person waving the checkered flag (usually a celebrity or dignitary, I believe) has waved it a lap before they were supposed to, which led to some confusion. So why not have someone do the white flag? Is it just one of those things where they have never done it, so why change it?
Gino U., Springfield, MI
CM: My understanding is yes, the race starter — who is actually in a box over the start line — has to wait for that signal before they can initiate the start procedure, as between them they cover both ends of the grid to know if everyone has lined up correctly. Then marshals alongside the grid can wave yellow flags if there are any issues they spot.
As for the white flag, it’s used to warn drivers of slow vehicles ahead from other marshal posts (as is the case in many categories), and pit boards traditionally told a driver when it’s the final lap so it was down to the team and pit crew rather than race control. Obviously now with radios there’s even less use for it, as race control can talk directly to all teams and then race engineers relay the info if needed.
F1 also doesn’t do overtime or extend races like NASCAR, for example, so doesn’t need a white flag to distinguish when a final lap will be as it’s either set in the total race laps, or in delayed races it’s often such a tight call that drivers are told by race control once they’re certain they’ve started the final lap.
My research tells me it’s never been done (other than when the Indy 500 was a world championship round, perhaps), but the rules have moved around a little after not only early checkered flag waves but also an early push of a button in Japan a few years ago. At that point a digital flag on the start lights gantry was the race-ending signal, but human error still led to that being displayed one lap early, so they’ve gone back to checkered flag waving as the signal and simply been more strict with deployment.
Q: I’m watching NASCAR practice at Watkins Glen, and as usual, they’re not using the Boot. There was some talk in the past about racing the Boot, but not now. Will NASCAR ever race the Boot at Watkins Glen?
Tim Davis, Detroit, MI
KELLY CRANDALL: Well, never say never, but it seems the main reason is that NASCAR likes the distance of the Watkins Glen race (90 laps). If they were to go to the Boot, it would shorten the race because NASCAR would take laps off. It would likely also affect camping areas and fan-viewing experiences. Michael McDowell is a fan of running the Boot and told me a few years ago that even though it’s a tight corner, it should be a passing opportunity.
Here is what NASCAR’s Elton Sawyer said just last week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about why they don’t run the Boot:
“I could give you a lot of different reasons why we don’t; I don’t 100% know. I don’t have a great answer for you. What I would say is we have visited that in the past and I think just the fact of adding that extra distance, putting additional resources as far as officiating, as far as TV broadcast and thing of that nature, and in all honesty, we’ve had really good racing with the course we have laid out there within the time frame that TV would like for that race to win.
“Now, if we go run the Boot, then you start looking at reducing the laps and things of that nature. Each time we’ve done that, we’ve come back to, well, let’s just stay with what we have because really, what we have is not broken. But I’m sure as we continue to look at our media rights agreement and things like that and working closely with the track, that topic stays on the table. But each year we seem to go back to the non-Boot, if you will.”
THE FINAL WORD
From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, August 21, 2013
Q: I was wondering what you remember about Bruce Jacobi? He seemed to be a “super sub,” often filling in temporarily when a team was between drivers or their regular driver was injured. He made a 10-year career of this in IndyCar before moving to stock cars, where he sustained fatal injuries in a qualifying race at Daytona. If he had gotten a regular gig with a top team, how good would he have been? He seems to be an almost forgotten footnote in racing history, so any light you can shed on him or his career is appreciated.
Gregg Rauscher, Port Colborne, ON
ROBIN MILLER: Bruce was a journeyman who was entered at the Indy 500 almost every May from 1960 to 1974, but never made the race. He qualified in 1962 but the engine blew as he took the checkered flag and he crashed (only to be bumped a few minutes later). His best ride was in 1963 with the Vita-Fresh Special but he crashed that before qualifying. His best-ever result was a fourth at Springfield in 1970 (thank you Donald Davidson for the fact-check). The real tragedy is that he’d been away from racing for almost a decade when he went to Daytona in 1983 and had his fatal accident. He was a handsome, very personable guy who was at the right place at the right time to get some decent chances but never quite made it.