The RACER Mailbag, February 21

Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to 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: I truly fear for the future of the Nashville race — its connection to downtown is crucial to the success. No matter how much shade was thrown about the dynamics of the race, the crowds were electrifying, it was a huge successful partying atmosphere.

Unfortunately, the perfect storm has set in. The Titans stadium rebuild, breakdown in management, (thank goodness for Scott Borchetta) and Nashville mayor — according to Scott, the mayor wanted to drag out three city council meetings (time consuming in a bad way), and not invest money into the race. This in my deranged mind sets the tone that this will be the last year for IndyCar in Nashville. Blessed be the fans in the future and time will tell.

Timothy S., Nashville, TN

MARSHALL PRUETT: All depends on how the Nashville Speedway event goes. If the stands are packed and there’s good energy felt by the teams and their sponsors, a stronger case will be made to return and continue at the Speedway.


From all of those I’ve spoken to from within the paddock, there’s no great sense of loss from a pure racing perspective; the loss described is focused on losing that downtown audience, the chance to make new fans who otherwise wouldn’t know or care about IndyCar if it isn’t dropped in their laps in a downtown setting and, to an equal degree, the loss of the sponsor entertainment that came with hosting them downtown all weekend.

As some teams have told me, they’re unable to get refunds on the hotel rooms, banquet halls, and whatever else they’ve paid up front to have and use to entertain their sponsors and partners in a big farewell bash to the season on Broadway.

What this change has done is kill the excitement held by IndyCar teams and those important guests they were readying to welcome downtown, and that’s a really bad look for all involved. Most of today’s teams raced at Nashville Speedway back in the day, and while it has its charms, it’s in the middle of nowhere.

The downtown-to-speedway change is going from ending its season in grand style at a party destination like Las Vegas and informing folks the event’s been moved to Reno.

We’re going to have to squint a little harder to see the Nashville skyline this year. Travis Hinkle/Penske Entertainment

Q: Loooong time reader, even looooonger time IndyCar fan. First time Mailbagger, however.

Seeing recent images of the current demolition of Fontana, it makes me mentally tally another one into the bin of old/defunct tracks from IndyCar’s history. It is, however, a good reminder that no matter how some IndyCar things seem to so doggedly resist change (despite all logic pointing another direction), some elements go yet we remain hopeful for their return. And yet others of IndyCar’s past go away and there is little to be done but accept that brutal fate, like the demolition of a track.

I tend to get somewhat wistful for those unique tracks that added their own color to the expansive palette of an IndyCar season that are no more (Langhorne, Trenton, Nazareth, Texas World). California seems especially harsh on IndyCar — Riverside, Ontario, now Fontana (and almost losing Laguna Seca a few years ago). I do fear we’re maybe less than a generation away from more permanent losses of unique tracks.

Other tracks are even not “lost” in the sense of destruction, but lost to the grip of NASCAR or similar ownership who seem to have an unspoken disdain/be anything but hospitable or supportive of IndyCar at their tracks.

I digress, I’m of an age where (it’s hurts to accept that) my opinion truly matters less all the time when looking for ways to attract the next generation of fans.

If that unrivaled versatility will be the raison d’être of IndyCar for the next generations, what tracks (current/long past,/recent past that could return) most make you shudder to think could go away permanently, never to be seen by future fans of IndyCar?


MP: If we look back at the huge rise and rapid demise of its street racing roster in the 1980s, the list of lost IndyCar and IMSA events, is long and sad.

Of the current events, I think of Long Beach, Road America, Toronto, and Mid-Ohio as the primary homes for IndyCar over a long period of time that would worry me if any fell through. Indy is Indy; without it, the series is toast, so I don’t think of it as an option for this topic. I’d add Texas to the list, but that’s gone at the moment and if we’re lucky, Milwaukee will be a winner and re-establish its place in IndyCar’s present and future.

Q: With news of David Malukas’s injury, I started thinking about how health insurance works in motorsport. Do teams need to provide health insurance to their employees?


MP: Drivers tend to be independent contractors whose services are hired through whatever LLC or S-Corp they set up, so with that in mind, drivers find and pay for their own insurance. Yes, most teams provide healthcare for their employees. It wasn’t always the case, but in recent years, with the hot market for crew members, strong benefits packages have become an enticement that can’t be overlooked.

Q: Just checked out your “A dumb idea that worked” and had to replay Colton Herta’s ride in his dad’s Reynard-Cosworth at Laguna Seca. What a sweet sound coupled with the visual of having to take your hand off the wheel to shift. The good old days!

I am old and not tech savvy, so here is my question slightly off the in-car camera subject. How do I capture that sound and turn it into a ringtone for my phone? Especially the downshifts into the Corkscrew.

Probably a simple task for today’s youngsters that get a computer on their second birthday.

Jeff, Colorado

MP: Glad you enjoyed it, Jeff. Last time I knew anything about ringtones, that Reynard-Cosworth was brand-new.

Q: Thanks so much for bring these helmet videos to our attention. As a long-time IndyCar fan and prior participant in driving schools, I think they are awesome. This experience is as close as a non-driver can likely get to the real thing.

This technology is a golden opportunity for Roger Penske and IndyCar to attract new fans. It also thrills us old guys.

PS: Any chance that Mid-Ohio will be widened and repaved in the near future, as it is my home track? Its full-field IMSA race is going to Indy, and I am worried about the long -term ability for it to attract hig- end racing. The IndyCar race seems safe for now, given Honda’s sponsorship and huge corporate commitment in Ohio.

Jeff Leisring, Dayton, OH

MP: Thanks, Jeff. The track was recently repaved. No widening.

Q: I’m reading last week’s Mailbag where you explain how a driver can push a paddle that will charge the hybrid on ovals. But the example stated reads that said driver would need to increase throttle from 90% to 97% to counter the braking effect of the charger while maintaining speed whilst charging the battery. I’m a bit of a simpleton when it comes to math and engineering, but does this mean that a driver would need to use more dinosaur juice to charge the gas-saving hybrid than he would have used had they not been charging a hybrid?

Shawn, MD

MP: Yep.

Q: I am taking the news about the change in the Nashville race with mixed feelings. The first year IndyCar raced on the Titans stadium circuit I organized a mini family reunion around it. This was 10 tickets sold — two to hardcore fans (including me), two casual fans, and five who were familiar with the 500 but had little interest in the series, its drivers, and so forth.

We all had a blast and returned the following year. Granted, my son and I were the only ones who took in most of the on-track action from Friday to Sunday, but it did raise interest in the event, series, etc., for all of them. While the racing isn’t always great on street circuits compared to the ovals, the overall street festival atmosphere takes on a life of its own, similar to Long Beach.

I’m not sure what the family interest will be this year regarding the Nashville Speedway, but we’re all native to the St. Louis area and my whole clan noted the Nashville race was so much fun compared to the race at Gateway. I know the purists miss the action at places like Milwaukee and Phoenix, but the street circuits do bring in new fans to replace those of us who are getting long in the tooth. I suspect the change in Nashville was a choice of moving or canceling and to that end, Penske’s people chose the best option. I hope it is successful and allows for multi-groove action.

On a lighter note, I caught a drift from a comment last week noting that I omitted referencing you in my new novel, “The Race Girl.” This was an absolute oversight, the same as my leaving Alex Rossi out. As you seem to be our flag bearer since Robin Miller passed, I catch each and every one of your articles. I’m sure you lost no sleep over it. Keep up the great work!

James Herbert Harrison, Overland Park, KS

MP: There’s been a fairly consistent drum beat from traditionalists who love ovals and hate streets who are really pleased about this change in Nashville, and I can’t argue against the notion that having another oval — and one to finish the season — could be a great development for IndyCar.

I also appreciate your acknowledgement of the loss that comes with moving away from a street race where the odds are much greater to make new fans. It leaves us with the time-honored conundrum of appeasing IndyCar’s base while doing little to expand that base. I’m excited to see what the Nashville Speedway event looks like when we get there, but I’ll be disappointed if it’s largely made up of pre-existing fans.

However they do it, the series and the promoter needs to stoke interest among those who might have been inclined to check out their first IndyCar race when it was happening downtown and get them out to the speedway.

I wasn’t kidding about the book; mentioning my monkey ass wasn’t going to sell an extra copy, so intentional or not, it was a wise decision!

Looks like the Nashville oval drew a decent crowd to see Gil de Ferran win the IRL race in 2003. Walt Kuhn/Motorsport Images

Q: Maybe it’s the Wisconsin beer talking but I have a crazy theory on why Nashville’s race was moved to the speedway.

Maybe all of this was planned out by Borchetta, IndyCar, Nashville, and Nashville Speedway. Maybe Nashville and IndyCar knew that the street course was doomed but at the same time Borchetta wanted to continue a race in Nashville. Suddenly we have Iowa hosting huge concerts on the same weekend as IndyCar races, and even with the higher prices, it worked! The people showed up and filled the oval and this was in the middle of nowhere Iowa!

Maybe Borchetta saw this and an idea came into his head. He has an oval not so faraway from Nashville, he owns Big Machine Music which has many famous artists, and he is also connected to IndyCar. Maybe Borchetta bought out the rest of the investors and fired the people so that he could take the power for himself to do whatever he wanted? Maybe he went up to Nashville, Nashville Speedway, and IndyCar and shared his idea of holding a larger than life concert at Nashville Speedway as part of IndyCar’s season finale?

This way Borchetta would have his race, Nashville would still gain finances due to the people going to the race, Penske would gain an oval, and the Speedway would have another huge event. Maybe they all agreed to disguising it as an alternative to the growing issues with the Nashville GP.

Penske would be happy since another oval would be added to the schedule, evening things out a little mor,e plus with a huge concert sponsored by Big Machine Music and being just 40 minutes from Nashville — the hype and turnout could be huge!

What do you think? Is this crazy or stupid? Both?

Ukyo Tachibana

MP: I want some of what you’re drinking, brother! The Music City GP was in trouble for a good while and it took Borchetta’s care and benevolence to save it. As much as I’d love to say this was all part of a master plan, nothing I’ve heard over the last month or so has suggested that’s the case.

Q: It shouldn’t be any surprise that Roger Penske is not fan-friendly. In 1990 I went to Indy for a few days during the first weekend of qualifying. We bought passes to the garage area. Every team (and there were a lot of them then) had their doors open with a rope in front, except Penske. His doors were always closed, and we never saw any of his drivers.

I remember watching the Patrick Alfa Romeo team working on a car when one of the guys lifted the rope and said to come in. Roberto Guerrero was there and acknowledged me. It’s things like this that is meaningful to fans, and keeps them as fans — something Roger Penske doesn’t seem to get.

Jim, Ontario, Canada

MP: The team has become warmer since this experience, Jim. I, too, recall how closed and unwelcoming they were in the era you reference. Today, many of its crew members, from the timing stands to pit lane, are among my favorite people in IndyCar.

Q: I have read reports that Honda is in talks to join NASCAR. What does this mean for IndyCar? What in the world is Roger Penske doing? Obviously the leadership is dropping the ball when it comes to manufacturers in the series. Clearly other series are more attractive than IndyCar.

David Tucker

MP: Yes, but that’s nothing new. What’s different is, for the first time since Honda joined the modern IndyCar Series — which it entered in 2003 when it was the Indy Racing League — it’s seriously considering whether it wants to continue after its contract is completed in 2026. It means IndyCar, if it wants to keep Honda, needs to work with Honda Racing Corporation US to address its concerns on costs and supply responsibilities to ensure HRC US stays.

Q: Great to see Nashville Superspeedway coming back as an IndyCar circuit. Hopefully it means for more Speedway Motorsports collaborations on more ovals! Will IndyCar be using the superspeedway aero setup on this track?


MP: That’s yet to be determined. Here’s the story we wrote last week about what’s to come.

Q: Why are so many IndyCar fans retirement age or older?

Kurt Perleberg

MP: An abundance of long-term fans without an ample replenishment of younger/newer fans. IndyCar was hugely popular in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and most of the 1990s. That produced a ton of new fans who’ve remained loyal followers. Its popularity fell off at a worrying rate when The Split and NASCAR’s rise occurred, and since then, as a distant second to NASCAR, the building of newer and younger fans hasn’t happened at the same rate.

Q: In last week’s Mailbag there was a great question from Glen of Renton, Wash., which you answered in great detail. Great question with a great answer. You left out some points of interest, though.

How much is the breaking effect of regeneration of the super-capacitor? How many Gs can it slow the car under full regeneration?

Doug Mayer

MP: The supercapacitor is the system’s battery, so it has no effect on braking and forces. It receives energy from and sends energy back to the motor generator unit, which is what connects with the transmission to harvest and slow or return and accelerate the car through rear tires.

I don’t yet know on the Gs.

Q: OK, if Mr. Penske has to have full-time participants in IndyCar get guaranteed spots in the 500, I’d suggest you have the fastest 33 cars qualify regardless of their IndyCar participation level. Then, if a full-schedule team is slower than those 33, just slot them into 34th, 35th or whatever spot after the fastest 33. Maybe with a one or two lap handicap.

I mean, it’s the exposure for sponsors and chance to win money that they’re after, so at least they’re in and should be penalized for not being the fastest 33! And I’d rather give up the 33-car tradition over the fastest 33 tradition.


MP: Here’s a dumb idea: When the first driver falls out of the Indy 500, the first driver who failed to qualify gets to enter the race, and so on, until all the DNQs get to play.

Or, maybe, we just do that crazy thing of only letting the teams who make it into a sport’s biggest event on merit go and take part in the race.

Guaranteed spots means less likelihood of late scrambles to squeeze in one more qualifying run. Booo. Phillip Abbott/Motorsport Images

Q: How do you measure a racetrack? I’ve wondered about this for a long time, but I’ve never found the answer. Do they measure the middle, or a set distance from the wall? I would think it’s measured using the optimal racing line because that’s where cars would normally drive.

Palmer, Indianapolis, IN

MP: There’s no single answer, but in most instances, it’s the racing line.

Q: I realize I’m in the minority on this. I understand that most people don’t pay attention to qualifying. I get that teams and sponsors commit millions of dollars to a season and missing the biggest race of the year is a major blow. I can completely get the logic that changes to qualifying formats or who makes the show don’t change race day viewership or enthusiasm. I’ll even set aside Indy 500 history and the fact that it has always (except for that one time) been the fastest 33 teams that showed up. However…

As a fan, some of the most exciting, thrilling, nail-biting, and heart-breaking moments have come from qualifying or trying to make the show. Prior to charters, the Gatorade Duels to make the Daytona 500 were always the best races. I never missed them and would record them while I was at school to watch when I got home. They were so intense, and it was so fun watching a little team or an unknown driver race their heart out and make the show.

Qualifying for the 2011 Indy 500 is another moment. Seven teams didn’t make the race, including two Andretti cars. It was excellent stuff. Kyle Kaiser making the show and bumping Fernando Alonso in 2019… an incredible moment that still gets talked about. Graham Rahal missing the race last year… what a storyline. From a marketing perspective, those moments of jubilation and tears are gold.

The air of desperation, the Hail Mary attempts, the crazy calls, the intense drives… those moments stand out as the best ones for me as a fan. When you take away those intense highs and lows from the equation, you really water down the product. With the Indy 500, if you’re going to lock in most of the field, you might as well axe the first week of practice, give them Wednesday and Thursday before race day to practice, turn Carb Day into qualifying day, and upend the whole thing.

Part of what makes Indy so special is the intensity that anyone could go home and perfection is required to make the show.

Ross Bynum

MP: Qualifying is one of the greatest parts of an IndyCar event. Period.

Q: Six ovals in the final eight races of 2024. Boy, Josef Newgarden must be licking his chops at that.

Vincent Michael, Richmond, VA

MP: Yep, and if his rivals want to have a chance, they’ll need to kick ass prior to those six, rack up a lot of points, and find something new or better to parry Newgarden’s expected awesomeness on those ovals.

Q: Guaranteed starting spots for the 500 is a non-starter for me and my family. This year will be my 30th 500. I am 54 years old and have spent more than half of my Memorial Day weekends at the track. If they make the repugnant decision to guarantee spots, it will be my last. I can save the thousands of dollars each year on just go fishing. IndyCar has been my life. I even named my son after a two-time 500 winner. Just stab your fans in the eye with a soldering iron and just end it now if you are going to manufacture a fake event.

Devin, Indianapolis. Potential lost fan forever.

MP: I’m with you, Devin. As I’ve written before, my first Indy 500 was in 1997 with a new team that wasn’t part of the 25 guaranteed entries, and we fought like hell, along with the other unprotected entries, to claim one of the eight available starting spots.

Our little Indy Lights team was really good, and we had a supremely brave driver in Greg Ray, so we got in the show, but it was a crappy feeling until we qualified.

If Roger Penske cares about his legacy at the Speedway, he might give his guaranteed-spot fixation some serious thought unless he wants to be remembered as Tony George 2.0.

Q: It’s good to know there are multiple big parties genuinely interested in IndyCar’s broadcast rights — it’s yet another sign of the small but very real growth that still too few old-schoolers want to admit is real. I admit I’ve gotten a chuckle out of the attempts to cast Fox’s interest as a bad thing.

But I have an actual question for you: In the lead-up to, and even more so in the mere hour it’s been since the story went up on RACER (at time of writing), there have been rumors going around that Fox is also interested in USAC Silver Crown to pad out its motorsports lineup even more. I can see it happening, as it makes sense for the same reasons they’d be interested in IndyCar, plus it hedges their bets on retaining oval fans.

But have you heard anything about this? Should we be putting any stock in the rumors at all, or did someone just get the new about Fox’s interest in IndyCar a little early and start throwing around some wishful thinking?


MP: I haven’t heard the Silver Crown rumor, but that’s not in my circle of coverage, so that’s not a surprise. If we’re looking at networks that would be a perfect fit for a meat-and-potato form of racing like American short track, it’s FOX.

Q: I have some mixed emotions about our hometown Nashville race moving to the superspeedway, but I don’t think there could be a quality event downtown this year with the new and longer punch list. The biggest concern I have with the oval is, I believe they are using PJ1 or another resin product for the NASCAR events. Last year the track looked to have more than rubber on it for them. Do you know if they are using it here for NASCAR? If so, would Nashville’s concrete turn out better than the Texas pavement for IndyCar? IndyCar ran well here 15+ years ago and made me a fan.

Ricky, Springfield, TN

MP: I’ll have to ask on the traction compound. If it’s applied uniformly from top to bottom, it shouldn’t be an issue to interact with. The issue at Texas was its use only on the bottom lane, which left a worrying difference in in grip between the first and second lanes.

Dear NASCAR. Please don’t leave goop all over the track surface at Nashville. Signed, with love, IndyCar. Matt Thacker/Motorsport Images

Q: Since this is a forum for asking questions, I will present my thoughts on the question of guaranteed spots in the Indianapolis 500 as a question.

How about eliminating the limit of 33 starters? Other series have run races on the oval with more than 33 starters. How about, instead, only awarding championship points to full-season entries?

Also, how about only awarding championship points to full season regulars who are among the fastest 33 starters?

And, how about going back to first day qualifiers start in front of second day qualifiers?

This retains the need to be among the 33 fastest, rewarding full-time entrants who are among the fastest 33, but still guarantees any entrant can compete and even win the race, and provide sponsors with full value for their support.

Mark Wick

MP: I’ll throw one in: How about we hold a weekend of qualifying where the fastest 33 drivers get to compete in the Indy 500? And there are no guarantees going into qualifying for any of the entrants? I know, I’m crazy.

Q: The legacy of IMS and the Indy 500 would be eroded by a guaranteed field. You and others speak of increasing entries, but this makes it insignificant. No hybrid, museum closed to fans, and now a guaranteed field. Sounds like a NASCAR move. Double points or single points for Indy 500…more gimmicks.

Go back to the risk and the chance a Bobby Rahal, a Graham Rahal, or a Penske team can miss the show. Make bumping mean something again. Penske disappoints time and again. He doesn’t know how to run and promote and grow the series. And he certainly doesn’t respect what traditions made it the greatest race. Facebook has many loyal Indy 500 groups and fans who constantly post photos and memories of great cars, drivers, and special past years technology. Watering down the race is not what Tony Hulman or Eddie Rickenbacher would’ve done.

Craig B, Leland, NC

MP: Agreed on all fronts.

Q: RP: All those red flags, they did a hell of a job getting Josef in position to win the 500.

Team: Check.

RP: So how do we get Josef a championship?

Team: Well, he’s really, REALLY good on ovals.  If we had more ovals, especially at the end of the season…

RP: Check.

I’m usually not a conspiracy guy, but they are literally setting up the perfect schedule for Newgarden to win the championship. Random coincidence? If RP is trying to appear impartial to his team, this sure as hell isn’t helping.

Ben Malec, Buffalo Grove, IL

MP: Josef won four races on the way to his first IndyCar title, and only one of those was on an oval. He won five to get his second championship, and two were on ovals. He’s capable of winning a third with nothing more than road and street success, but to your point, his oval prowess and Team Penske’s series-leading performances on ovals the last two years cannot be overlooked as having the greatest potential benefit for them.

Ganassi/Palou were the dominant road and street course team in 2023 and had six of the last eight races on their favored circuits, which made it easy for Palou to clinch the title early. Penske had a chance to match and beat them, but didn’t. The dynamic has flipped, so let’s see how it plays out.

Q: With the recent news of NASCAR being in negotiations with Honda to join the series (per Steve O’Donnell), what will this mean for the health and longevity of IndyCar as a whole? I can’t see the series surviving on just Chevrolet alone and — from what I can tell — there is no progress on a new manufacturer entering the sport. I’m worried, MP. Scared even.

Go Rossi,


MP: As Honda’s Chuck Schifsky told us, they could stay in IndyCar after 2026, take the budget and go to NASCAR, apportion it to F1, or do something else with the funds. Unless IndyCar comes up with a giant engine supply cost reduction plan in the next 12-18 months that Honda would want to be a part of, I think they’ll be gone.

Q: In the article “FOX Sports making serious play for IndyCar TV rights,” there is this unusual phrase:

“The series that debuted at the 1911 Indy 500.”

Is RACER really saying that the debut of the IndyCar Series was the 1911 Indy 500?

You could certainly say “the series whose roots date back to the 1911 Indy 500.” But the debut of what we now know as the IndyCar Series is either the AAA Contest Board’s first championship season in 1905, won by by Barney Oldfield, or the unification of IRL and CART/Champ Car/whatever in 2000-whatever, or perhaps even the creation of the IRL in 1996.

I know Marshall was just looking for a way to not write “IndyCar Series” for the umpteenth time in this article, and I don’t fault him. That part of news reporting can get really repetitive and awkward I’m sure.

May I suggest some alternative phrases that are fit for purpose and technically correct, which is the best kind of correct?

“The world’s fastest circuit racing series”

“The history-filled open-wheel series” (especially if Marshall is bagging on the age of the core chassis design),

“The series that’s home to the Greatest Spectacle In Racing™®©”

“The series that is racing [today/next week/end/whenever] at [city] [course/speedway/weird housing development race club thing]”

“The series which has featured such racing greats as Andretti, Fittipaldi, Franchitti, Foyt, Sato, Dixon, Mears, and the Racing Dentist Dr. Jack Miller”

Hope you find some or any of this helpful. I love RACER and just want to drop a little knowledge and give something back to the people who have given me so much (mostly information about race cars and Palou’s contact snafus).


MP: Serves me right for putting 0.3 seconds of thought into the part of the story that didn’t matter. And how dare you omit “The series which crowned co-champions Scott Sharp and Buzz Calkins and still survived.”

We were going to suggest “the series that doesn’t race at Daytona” but it’s too easy to take that the wrong way. So how about “the series Kyle Larson and Fernando Alonso race in when they want to have fun.” James Black/Penske Entertainment

Q: Greetings from Finland!

Read the article about FOX being interested in IndyCar and started to wonder: Has there been any effort from IndyCar side to get a meeting with Netflix regarding IndyCar rights?

With WWE Raw moving to Netflix in 2025, it would be a really smart move to try to get IndyCar on Netflix with a similar coverage package when it comes to regions (USA, UK, Canada, Latin America with rest of the regions being added at a later date). That package would be way better than what any U.S. TV network could offer with their streaming. (Geoblocked mess that limits the reach.)

Hoping that aging IndyCar leadership is familiar and up to date with the change in media landscape and how content is consumed nowadays, because the next TV rights package will decide the future of the series when it comes to visibility and exposure.

Jymy Ojanen

MP: Roger Penske and his team would be dancing on the streets of 16th & Georgetown if Netflix expressed a serious interest in giving them money to air IndyCar races. It’s a bit like wanting to marry a supermodel, though, because dreaming about it happening is far different from that supermodel actually wanting to be your spouse. And from what I’m told, it’s a dream held by IndyCar, and not something — so far, at least — that has Netflix looking with loving eyes towards the series.

Q: Greetings from the UK. I understand both the NBC and Sky Sports broadcasting rights for IndyCar are up at the end of ’24. There’s been mention regarding FOX’s interest in the U.S., but I wondered if you’ve heard any chatter yet regarding Sky Sports continuing for the next year onwards in the UK and Europe? If FOX got the contract over NBC, would there be any issue/complication in a Sky deal going forward with Comcast owning both NBC & Sky?

Lastly, who would you choose (and why) as the stand in for the injured David Malukas?

Jeremy, Derby, UK

MP: I don’t have the foggiest notion on how Sky would or wouldn’t fit into a FOX world, brother. I hope to become less dumb on the subject in the near future.

On the Malukas front, and writing this six days before the Mailbag goes live, the only experienced and available driver I can think of who could step into an Arrow McLaren car and put it on pole and possibly win at St. Pete is Callum Ilott. The team is very interested in seeing his talents from the inside — that was part of the attraction of doing the alliance with Juncos Hollinger Racing — and if there’s a way for Callum to intertwine his early FIA WEC commitments with helping the McLaren team, it would arm them with strong intel for later in the year if they have a seat to fill. But, the WEC calendar is rather tight and would potentially make things too hard for Ilott to do both in a fully committed manner to his Jota Hypercar team. [Ed: Since Marshall wrote this answer, the team has announced that Ilott will drive the car in testing this week.]

If it isn’t Ilott, I’ve been a big fan of RC Enerson for many years, and he’s only 26. I think he’d blow some minds in a front-running car, even if it’s only for one race.

Q: I’m not here to bash IndyCar, I promise. But on the surface, the move of the season finale to the Nashville Speedway looks like another instance of IndyCar getting caught out by poor planning. I keep seeing reasons for why the race had to be moved, but none of them seem compelling to me. The biggest excuse seems to be the construction of the new Titans stadium, but was that not planned for years already? I don’t understand how the organizers are caught out by that.

And then I see a quote from Borchetta saying they just didn’t account for things like paddock space or the possibility of a Titans home game. How is that possible?

Again, from the outside looking in, the whole thing sounds like they just drew a line around a few Nashville streets and just hoped everything else would fall into place. So, in my effort to not be too critical of IndyCar or the Nashville race organizers, please give me some context that allows me to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Ned, Nashville, TN

MP: Not a lot of benefit to give, Ned. IndyCar wasn’t involved in the managerial and administrative mess that led to the street race hitting a dead end, and I’ve heard the need to switch to the speedway was only learned by the series right before it was announced. I was told 17 people were fired/released/whatever from the Music City GP promoter group which, for a group that runs a single race, is a lot of people to part with. It suggests widespread asshattery was happening, so in the post mortem of what went wrong with liaising with the city and making everything was done decently and in order, you can only imagine what wasn’t being done properly. Let’s hope with Borchetta taking full control of the event that all of the problems — which were happening from Year 1, if we’re honest — get resolved.

Q: Just had a thought on a good way to promote IndyCar: Lego Speed Champions. They have F1, WRC, WEC, NASCAR and FE. I think IndyCar should reach out about doing the Indy 500-winning car as a Speed Champion set. Maybe go all out and include the podium with the driver and trophy. They could also add a couple of classics such as the Penske PC-23, March 83C (yellow submarine), the STP Turbine, etc. Lego also makes larger Technic sets, and the Mormon Wasp would be an awesome build. Just my two cents.

John, St. Croix, USVI

MP: I’d be all for this, John. I’d rather have the original Chaparral 2K Yellow Submarine than a generic March painted in Pennzoil’s colors, FWIW.

Hopefully Lego Johnny Rutherford will come with a helmet. Motorsport Images

Q: I just read the news concerning the end-of-season race in Nashville being moved out to the Lebanon oval track.  Robin Miller always pushed for St. Louis to be the season finale, since St. Louis is in the center of the country, and the owner and the sponsor of the World Wide Technology Raceway race have done an amazing job since the track was reopened a few years ago. Why will IndyCar not consider St. Louis as the season finale?

Debbie Biere, Barnhart, MO

MP: There’s nothing stopping it from being an option for 2025, but Gateway already has its place set on the 2024 calendar, so there’s no need to shuffle the schedule since a fix was found with the speedway.

WWTR was a packed house in the first year or two of IndyCar’s return, but that hasn’t been the case since. I wonder if that would change if it was moved to the season-ending slot on the calendar.

Q: Are you worried that we may have a Texas 2001 CART disaster at Nashville this year?

Kevin, Dayton, OH

MP: Never crossed my mind. Today’s cars are too heavy and too underpowered to replicate that 2001 debacle.

Q: I was among those dismayed at the turn of events for the finale this year in Nashville. I realize that this is not shared by everyone. There is clearly an undercurrent of controversy surrounding this event and I wanted to share my experience as I attended the first two events.

Three of us purchased tickets in advance and we also paid up for the “Founders Club” as we were promised a number of amenities associated with the event and we wanted to support it as Nashville is a great city and we felt it could be the next Long Beach.

To say we were let down by the promoters and the staff would be an understatement, especially the first race. There were no appreciable amenities associated with the Founders Club that mattered. This ranged from the notorious lines to enter the track from across the bridge to the lack of any shade or cordoned-off areas for food and drink. There were no special promotions as welcome materials (real swag) or anything. So, for $500 apiece plus the cost of the tickets, we received nothing that would say at the very least “thank you.”

We went the second year after they had received a lot of feedback, expecting a much better experience. Other than a tent (thankfully, as the thunderstorms were epic), that was the extent of the changes that we could actually use.

I do hope that heads rolled among leadership as this was amateur hour. They also knew at the time — so four years ago — that the Titans Stadium was going to be replaced. Well, when did they start the planning process?

Pity the investors because this had to be a big money-loser, but they did a great job alienating the real event supporters.

People can criticize the IndyCar”show” and I get that. The support events were excellent, and frankly more exciting in certain cases than the main event.

I suspect I speak for many as to the deficiencies and the poor execution all around. Pity that, as Nashville is a great city and the people there were wonderful.

Emmett, Dallas, TX

MP: If it helps, and I’m sure it doesn’t, your story is not an unfamiliar one, Emmett. Granted, I’ve also had a decent amount of folks tell me they loved the now-former Nashville GP event, but I was surprised at how many folks reached out to say they were underwhelmed by the event. I hope the revised promotions group get a chance in the coming years to put on a downtown street race and create a winning experience for fans and teams alike.

Q: No rant, bitch, or soapbox needed. Simply happy that the IndyCar season will end on an oval!


MP: Having the season finale on an oval has rarely disappointed.

Q: As a long-time Indy 500 fan and attendee, I am obviously concerned about the talk about guaranteed starting spots. And while no one wants to go back to the days of 25/8, I do believe there is a compromise that exists that would satisfy both the traditionalists and the car owners. It goes like this:

The fastest 33 always start the race, as usual.

If you are a season-long “charter” team and are not one of the 33 fastest, you can still race, but you must watch the start from your pit box, joining the other 33 after the leader completes two laps (or more, depending on how big you want the penalty to be).

This would accomplish several objectives:

Maintains 33 starters (11 rows of three to start the race)

Allows charter teams to guarantee Indy 500 participation to their sponsors (but does not guarantee a place in the opening laps).

Maintains Bump Day drama (getting bumped from the 33 starters would be devasting to charter teams, but would not be financially fatal)

The focus needs to be on guaranteed participation in the race, not guaranteed opportunity to take the opening green flag. A severe starting penalty would put the kibosh on any chances of winning the race, but would still satisfy the participation aspect that owners and sponsors so desperately need to survive financially. Bump Day would still be stressful, as you would not want your race to go in the dumpster before it begins.

Once the 33 take the green and put in a few laps, it would not bother me one bit if another car or two hits the track. I get to see my 11 rows of three. And historically there have been many times that more than 33 cars participated (including 1911).

I truly think a participation penalty of this type for charter teams would work to satisfy all involved. So what am I missing? Feel free to poke holes in this plan.

Kevin, Fishers, IN

MP: All are interesting concepts to ponder. As I’ve told more than a few people who’ve asked, this is a genie that won’t be placed back in the bottle; Penske wants guaranteed starting positions at every race, and if the failed attempt to launch the “Leaders Circle Membership” about three months ago is revived, I’m sure the guaranteed spots will be a centerpiece of the program.

We can dress up the guaranteed spots thing with all kinds of new scenarios and provisos, but I’ll always come back to our biggest race, the one that’s defined IndyCar for more than a century, as being something that needs to be treated with respect and have its key traditions preserved.

We just concluded the NFL season where its 32 teams went into the championship with equal opportunities to play in the Super Bowl, but no team was guaranteed a spot in the big game before the season began, and that’s the way it should be there and here.

Q: Hi Kelly. While watching the Daytona 500, it struck me how competitive the field is; it seemed like every organization had at least one car strong enough to legitimately compete for the win. Last year, you could always point to Live Fast Motorsports and Rick Ware Racing as the weak links in the field. But now that LFM is gone and RWR has shown impressive speed so far, I can’t really point to any chartered  organization as a weak link in this year’s field.

Top to bottom, could this be the most competitive field in NASCAR Cup Series history?


KELLY CRANDALL: I’m not sure if you could say it definitively, but ytou could make a strong argument. Rick Ware Racing has made steps each year to try and get better and now it has a talented driver in Justin Haley and will continue its alliance with RFK Racing. Front Row Motorsports is getting more support from Ford and just entered into an alliance with Team Penske. Spire Motorsports also continues to put as many resources into its program each year to take a step forward.

So I certainly think the field has taken a step forward in competitiveness and it’ll make for better racing and a closer gap. And to be clear, I said closer but not gone. Those teams will have a ways to go to win races but there is a different definition of what success is for each team in the garage.

One last thing — Robby Benton, the president of Rick Ware Racing, actually told the media in January that he believes this will be the most competitive field in Cup Series history because of the depth of teams and the depth of drivers.

Not a lot of wankers in that field, to paraphrase Will Power. Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

Q: Concerning the question raised by Willem in the February 14 Mailbag — based own the 2024 sporting regulations, Max Verstappen would not be allowed to participate in F2 and/or F3 on the same weekend as an F1 race

From the F2 Sporting Regulations:

26.5 Any driver nominated to race by a Competitor participating in the FIA Formula One World Championship will not be permitted to participate in the FIA Formula 2 Championship in the same Competition

From the F3 Sporting Regulations:

26.5 Any driver nominated to race by a Competitor participating in the FIA Formula One World Championship or in the FIA Formula 2 Championship will not be permitted to participate in the FIA Formula 3 Championship in the same event.

Richard, Michigan

CHRIS MEDLAND: That’s a very good point, although in my defense, Willem just asked if he could go for all three titles, and he technically could but would have to pick and choose what he raced in each weekend, skipping some rounds in each championship based on clashes. But to be totally honest I can’t pretend to be clever enough to say that’s how I was asking the question last week — much more simply it’s that just because you’ve raced in F1 doesn’t prevent you dropping down to F2 or F3. Giorgio Pantano did exactly that in the mid-2000s, racing for Jordan in 2004 and then dropping down to GP2 and winning the title in 2008. Roberto Merhi also did it more recently, making F2 appearances after F1 drives.

Q: A reader has asked why Brands Hatch lost the British Grand Prix in 1986. Simple answer. John Foulston and Bernie Ecclestone both wanted to buy it. John Webb ensured that Foulston got the deal. Bernie called John the same day he lost the deal and told him the GP was not going back.

The excuses such as long-term deals and track safety simply covered up the truth.


CM: I definitely wouldn’t put it past Bernie to respond in that way if he was trying to buy it, and he’s been interested in circuits on a number of occasions, but as his version of F1 continued to expand it was a venue that was going to need expansion, too. Some pretty big redevelopments were discussed soon after that, but having not been around at the time I can’t tell you which will have been the primary factor.

Q: One thing I haven’t seen discussed is, how will Hamilton and Leclerc sort out their positions at Ferrari? Ferrari is long known for having clear No. 1 and No. 2 drivers. I’m sure that neither Hamilton nor Leclerc would accept being classified as No. 2. So how do you see it working out?

Bob Mason, Winston Salem, NC

CM: I’d argue that in the Leclerc and Carlos Sainz era there hasn’t been a clear No. 1 or No. 2. Ferrari will back one driver over the other whenever the situation requires, but having not been in a title fight it appears they had equal chances. Even in 2022 when there was an outside chance, Ferrari didn’t use team orders to back Leclerc over Sainz mid-season (I’m thinking of Silverstone, for example) and then last year Leclerc had to help Sainz to give him a better chance of winning in Singapore.

Based on that, I think they’ll let the two drivers fight it out to prove they should be the one who gets the backing if there’s a title battle unfolding, and that’s not alien to either of them given Leclerc’s pairing with Sebastian Vettel in the past, and the way Hamilton’s partnerships with George Russell and Nico Rosberg have been handled at Mercedes.

Not a firework to be seen. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, February 22, 2017

Q: Do you feel that IndyCar has finally hit a plateau under its current ownership in terms of growth and series development? I was a fanatical fan of CART back in the ’90s and lost all interest during the years of The Split. I jumped back in at reunification and saw several signs of hope that this series was on its way back. But after several years of missed opportunities and lackadaisical effort by those at the helm, it seems as though IndyCar has settled into its new role in the auto racing world: a niche series.

Content to have IndyCar serve as a support series for the Indy 500, ownership just does not seem to have either the ambition to grow the series into a major player again, or the skills to do so, or both. In a sport whose M.O. has long been one of innovation and progress, I can’t recall a more boring, stagnant off-season with so little to get excited about. Many will point to the cars being fairly evenly matched and ostracize any fan that can’t accept that as being good enough. But since when were evenly matched cars the lone ingredient that made a series great?

I think barring catching lightning in a bottle in the form of landing a few drivers who resonate with the general American public on a superstar level, or the unexpected financial commitment from multiple companies into the series, IndyCar racing as we know it has peaked. IndyCar right now is the guy that’s retirement plan is buying lottery tickets. Except I’m not even sure they’re doing that.

The Frustrated Fanatic

ROBIN MILLER: I’ll answer a little out of order if you don’t mind. Yes, IndyCar is a niche series and, except for the Indy 500, just a ripple in the water compared to NASCAR or Formula 1 in terms of audience and sponsorship. And it peaked in the ’60s and ’70s in terms of worldwide interest, star power and innovation. It peaked in the ’90s in terms of attendance, big money and manufacturers when CART had Bernie and the France family concerned. Obviously, it needs more owners, better purses and more avenues of income. Having said that, I think Ricardo Juncos will be followed by Trevor Carlin into IndyCar and hopefully Brian Bilardi, and I think IndyCar understands it needs to help them.

IndyCar is courting a third engine manufacturer, which might ease two of those pressing problems. And evenly matched cars don’t necessarily make the series great, but it does make the racing damn good. As I’ve said for a long time, I’m not sure junk engine formulas or opening up the rulebook will bring a landslide of interest, but it might be suicidal to change things and hope it works. I do think Jay Frye & Company have a five-year plan and a direction but no delusions of 45 cars at Indy or 30 full-timers in the series. I guess IndyCar is somewhere between breathing on its own and life support but aren’t we all?

Story originally appeared on Racer