The RACER Mailbag, January 17

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: While lots of IndyCar fans (and haters) like to complain about the IndyCar engine and chassis situation, I actually think driving cost out of the series via long-life equipment is exactly the right way to go. Teams are still looking to join the grid.

Having said that, Honda’s recent talk about spec engines points in a future direction I think makes sense for the series. Any future engine program should be based on a spec block and should be shared with the NASCAR Cup Series.

The block is just a big dumb lump anyway. Having it as a spec part would mean the barrier to getting other manufacturers involved would be a lot lower. The NASCAR angle is based on the fact that the Cup Series desperately needs the variable horsepower the IndyCar turbos offer (not to mention the soon-to-come hybrid). It would also allow NASCAR to lure Honda into its sandbox, and IndyCar could then land  returns from Toyota and Ford.

Do you think IndyCar would be receptive to using a spec block as the basis for a future engine program and partnering with other series in this way?

Don Anderson, Oak Park, IL

MARSHALL PRUETT: I think it’s an idea that they’re willing to consider, but IndyCar hasn’t made big, unilateral decisions on things like this without heavy input from manufacturers in a long while, so I doubt it would progress beyond an idea until buy-in is received from the majority.


Q: You have talked about three new possible full-time teams for the 2025 IndyCar season: Prema, Pratt Miller and Abel. Can you make a percentage guess on how likely it is that each will be on the grid next season? Also, if they are there, which one is likely to be the most competitive? Where would they get the engines (since it seems that engines are in short supply), and where would IndyCar find the pit stalls at some of the tracks?

Paul, Indianapolis

MP: All depends on who they have as drivers and engineers. If it’s Callum Ilott in a Prema entry and he has a veteran IndyCar engineer who knows ovals, the team is good enough to be highly competitive in its first season. If a Prema goes with a newcomer from F2 and brings over one of its best engineers, we know they’ll both need time to fill some significant knowledge gaps.

Of the three, Pratt Miller has the deepest amount of IndyCar experience due to its serious engineering/technical support for the Team Chevy program from 2012-22, so with a strong driver added, this is a squad that could impress from the outset.

Abel is also quite good and has the potential to do well if a stellar budget is apportioned and high-level crew are acquired in every area. Then it comes down to the driver. I’ve long been impressed by RC Enerson and think he’d turn a few heads if he was surrounded by a quality program.

As for percentages, who knows, since those could change tomorrow. I do know that of the three, Abel’s the only one to buy a chassis — a new car, at that — and is amassing the equipment and staff needed to go full-time, so they’re P1 for me. I keep hearing Prema could have a more formal statement of intent around May, so that’s encouraging. And Pratt Miller has some good momentum as well, but I’m not yet clear if they need a Don Cusick (or similar) to invest in the program to bring it to life, or if they have a realistic shot at securing their own funding to move forward. Across the three, only Abel has done the things that would put them on the grid in 2025. For Prema and Pratt Miller, it’s waiting to see if talk turns into action.

Every race would feel like Christmas if Prema came to IndyCar and brought its WEC LMP2 livery along with it. Although come to think of it, that color scheme would probably look quite cool on an IndyCar. Motorsport Images

Q: I am taking my brother to this year’s Indy 500 for his 70th birthday, potentially for the week: qualifying through to the race. I was wondering if you had a canned itinerary you could forward me covering qualifying (recommended ticket packages), other local races to hit while in the area and where I should look for seats on Sunday for a couple of first-timers? Price is an object, but I have some flexibility given the significance of this event. Looking at passes less race day tickets — I was thinking Silver Badges at $600 each, then (TBD) for race tickets (no idea what those run).

Charlie Taylor, San Carlos, CA

MP: Hello from a former San Carlos resident (who grew up in Belmont and San Mateo). I don’t have a canned itinerary to offer since the event has always been one of work for me on pit lane or in the media center, and I’ve never sat in the grandstands, but thanks to a lot of trusted fans who read the Mailbag, I’m sure they’ll make some suggestions in the comments.

Q: I realize that the IndyCar season hasn’t even started, but I have a question concerning this year’s Indy 500. With the number of the series’ full-time entries, along with drivers for the 500 that have been confirmed (Helio, Carpenter, and some others), do you have an idea on who else will fill the remaining seats? Rumor is Ryan Hunter-Reay and Conor Daly will be in at DRR, which sadly pushes Stefan Wilson out. JR Hildebrand has interest, and Foyt is definitely in the mix for him.  Abel again sounds like he will go with RC Enerson, though that could change. It’s early, but it looks like there could be 35 or 36 drivers battling for 33 spots, which is a good thing.

I was glad to hear that Bill Abel will be back. Having new, passionate owners like he and Don Cusick is certainly a positive for the 500 and for IndyCar. If Cusick and Stefan aren’t back this year, that will certainly be an absolute shame, considering how Stefan was taken out last year. Any any insight as to who will be driving for who will be appreciated!

Ted Yezman, Sonoma, CA

MP: We ran a story in early December that said RHR and Daly are expected to represent DRR at Indy, and I’ve heard nothing since then to believe otherwise. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is meant to run a fourth car and I’ve only heard Takuma Sato’s name mentioned as its driver. Foyt’s running a third and JR is a leading candidate; Stef Wilson and Cusick have also been mentioned. Abel’s returning with Enerson, which is good. Charlie Kimball is said to have an interest in running again, and Beth Paretta’s name has also been spoken of as someone who would like to return. Bump Day could be busy.

Q: Why are the drivers still driving around in the little cars? Is the fuel tank completely empty on new ideas at 16th and Georgetown? I’m 49 years old, so maybe not the target demographic, but I have to say that Marco Andretti has a valid point in his recent tweet about IndyCar’s marketing efforts. It’s one thing to languish, but quite another to actively turn people away from the series (and its amazing racing) with what seems to be childish marketing antics.

I’m a lifelong fan and have tried to bring my family along for the ride over the years, but am starting to get a feeling that my college-aged boys may not be able to pass the love of this sport down to their kids someday. I’d welcome some positive news.

Eric M. Stoller

MP: I was having this exact conversation with a title-contending driver last week. I think we’ve gone too far in trying to make our drivers into comedians with all of the silly social media copycat stuff in the desperate hope of making someone giggle for three seconds.

I appreciate how drivers have become more open and relatable to fans, but there needs to be a balance. There comes a point where having our stars constantly chase cheap laughs has a downside. It’s nice to know that some of our stars and heroes have a sense of humor, but good Lord, the best in the series also deserve to be revered for all that makes them the badasses that they are. When it comes to sports, hero worshiping isn’t a bad thing, but it’s hard to build that mythology when the stars are being served up as daily punchlines.

Q: Would a hydrogen ICE (Toyota/Hyundai) or a “software-defined vehicle” (Honda/Hyundai) be more interesting to Penske/Chevy/Ilmor to attract an additional OEM in short order for IndyCar? (And how much pull does Bryan Herta have to steer Hyundai to IndyCar?)

Gordon, Dallas, TX

MP: IndyCar is definitely in the “So, auto industry, what interests you for the future?” phase of figuring out where to take the series’ internal combustion engine and electrification formulas. And that probably sounds strange, considering how we’ve yet to go live with the new hybrid formula that’s been in development since 2019. But there is this odd dynamic where what’s new and on the way in 2024 already has the feel of being somewhat old, at least in terms of technology that might be considered relevant to car makers.

Going hybrid is a new and important development for IndyCar, but that’s about it. Chevy and Honda already race with hybrids in other series, and hybrid road cars have been around for decades, so there’s not a lot to promote here that jumps out as new and intriguing to the average car buyer. I wish that wasn’t the case. If IndyCar wants to keep itself connected to the auto industry, it will need to keep asking those questions — hydrogen ICE, spec, more electric power, and so on — and decide where to steer the series after hybridization happens.

Hyundai’s already had a serious pitch made to join IndyCar, but wasn’t ready to do so when that happened a few years ago. Fingers crossed that it might be interested in whatever’s next for IndyCar’s powertrain formula.

REVEALED: IndyCar’s top secret electric-hydrogen prototype. Kidding, it’s the GreenGT H2, which broke cover at Le Mans in 2012 and was billed as the world’s first electric-hydrogen competition car. Eric Gilbert/Motorsport Images

Q: Any word on a driver for Coyne or Foyt’s open seat? Getting down to the wire, isn’t it? [ED: This letter was submitted before Ferrucci’s confirmation at Foyt]

Kasey, Indianapolis

MP: With “Santucchi” as he’s sometimes called confirmed at Foyt, the team’s roster is complete. Coyne’s less solid than they’d like; I’d heard DeFrancesco was close, and then late last week, I heard the talks have stalled. Of all the drivers I’ve had mentioned as Coyne contenders, American rocket Colin Braun made me smile the most. Only on the rarest of occasions have we gotten into the new year and had Coyne’s lineup sorted. If anything, it’s an annual tradition to get to January/February and try to figure out who’ll end up in Dale’s cars. He’s always good for at least one surprise, so I’m looking forward to seeing which direction he takes.

Q: Big Possum has become primarily a dirt guy since it seems to be the last vestige of affordable, obtainable, exciting, kickass racing where drivers survive on talent and not their wallet, and has a super-loyal fan base — sold out the Chili Bowl for the last many years.

While watching the Chili Bowl last night, he observed a pretty strong NASCAR presence — drivers participating and signage about the track — which seems to him would be  a pretty good audience for IndyCar to go after. Have some signage, sponsor a race or two, have some drivers appear, give away some tickets and merchandise, and for the grand finale either set fire to an F1 car or, for one dollar a swing, let fans bash an F1 car with a sledge hammer. Where does Big Possum apply for the job of marketing director of IndyCar?

Big Possum, Northern Michigan (almost to the Mackinac Bridge)

MP Big Dummy here likes what Big Possum is cooking, but can I just give you a dollar, keep the F1 car intact, and sell it for seven figures?

Yes, IndyCar could pay to put banners up and promote its series at the Chili Bowl, but do we think the attendees in Tulsa, Oklahoma, don’t know it exists? Or the fans watching via streaming are largely unaware of the series that’s more than 100 years old and located in the middle of sprint/midget/modified country? Just sayin’… Instead of preaching to the open-wheel choir, I’d rather hear about IndyCar spending that money at events where real awareness can be delivered to those who don’t know we exist.

Q: I just caught your article about the new F1 movie starring Brad Pitt. This seems to me as potentially another nail in the coffin for IndyCar in terms of losing its status as the preeminent open-wheel racing series in the U.S. — if it hasn’t happened already.

I saw that new book, The Race Girl, you guys advertised in your newsletter and purchased the Kindle version, mostly for the wife as I’m not much on reading whole books. She blasted through it in two days and now I’m going to get the printed one. From what I see this would make a really good movie, although probably a bit much to fit in a two-hour one.

After reading your article about the F1 movie this morning, I’m wondering why IndyCar doesn’t do something like that. I’m still stumped that NASCAR beat IndyCar to the punch in staging a street race in Chicago, and now this. It kind of all hits home when we learn that IndyCar has no marketing manager!

As much as I admire R.P., he can’t be blind to what is happening: F1 and NASCAR is swallowing up his young potential race fans!

Denny, Garnett, KS

MP: According to those at the IndyCar media days last week who were shooting sunshine and rainbows from their backsides about all of the big things the series has coming — but refused to talk about in any detail — there’s a bunch of big things coming.

Having spoken to a number of folks who received the messaging points from Penske Entertainment that were parroted at the media days, most of it was vague or it was the stuff we already know: We’re going hybrid in summer; there are multiple teams looking to join IndyCar; there are some new tracks that could join the calendar, and “100 Days To Indy” Season 1 will be made available and spread throughout Europe. Those are all good and positive things. Full stop. But the one thing I didn’t hear about was some sort of big move or game-changing action item.

The impression I got is IndyCar is trying to come up with some of those big items, and through asking drivers to shoot sunshine and rainbows, the series has bought itself some time to figure out its next steps under the cloak of “If you only knew what we knew.” It’s the “fake it until you make it” approach, which I don’t fault, because I think we’ve all had to embrace a bit of bluster at one point in our lives while trying to sort out how we’re going to improve our situations.

As for the Brad Pitt F1 movie, yeah, I’d love to hear that someone wants to make a high-profile IndyCar movie, but by the time the Pitt flick arrives, I do wonder if it will be on the downside of the “Drive To Survive” bubble. If the movie landed two or three years ago, I’m sure it would be a giant hit. And it still might be monstrous success, but it feels to me like it’ll miss the America Loves F1 craze by a year or two when it debuts.

There’s still space at Coyne for this year if Sonny Hayes’s F1 plans turn sour. Simon Galloway/Motorsport Images

Q: Last week, Will Coffey inquired about the notion of using the F2 or Super Formula chassis in IndyCar, noting their similarities. I would like to expand on this a little to provide some food for thought…

The F2 and SF chassis aren’t merely similar — they actually use the same tub. The series have very different engines — a 3.4L turbo V6 for F2 and a two-liter turbo inline-four for SF — and differing suspensions setups for their tires. Or at least, that was the case until this year — I keep getting mixed information about whether the F2 car is actually an all-new tub or if the old one has merely been updated with new body and anti-intrusion panels (like the SF car was last year).

Ultimately Will’s idea here is not too far off-base. The tub is certainly adaptable. But it’s also long in the tooth and would likely not please the people complaining about the age of the chassis, and it’s an open question as to whether the chassis could even handle the upgrades needed to bring it up to oval safety spec.

However, it would not at all be a bad idea for Dallara to design a universal tub for Indy, F2 and SF. The three series are on a similar performance tier despite what the Super License points allocation would have you believe — and as an aside, if you think IndyCar gets screwed by the SL point allotment, look at how big a middle finger the FIA gave Super Formula! It gets the same points allocation as Formula Regional EU by Alpine! Formula E awards more SL points! So the only real issue is the need to make it work on big ovals without compromising it elsewhere.

Bonus points if they could pull a Tatuus and make it work on multiple performance tiers. Tatuus’ old F4 tub, the same one used in the USF championships, has been adapted to countless F4 and F3-tier championships. Imagine going from Indy NXT to IndyCar with the same tub. I know that idea’s been thrown around before, but I think nowadays it’s probably worth considering more than ever before.

Sadly, I doubt the FIA would go for sharing a chassis between its feeder series and IndyCar.


MP: Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Q: Regarding Dawntreader — I see that you’re friends. I loved his series of posts on the Ilmor pushrod Indy motor. And since it is winter, how about posting the pics of the Nazareth secret test with all the snow there?


MP: I’d love to see those. Yes, when we were much younger and better looking, I got to know Patrick Morgan a little bit in 2001 when we used Ilmor-built Oldsmobile engines in the IRL. Just as smart, kind, and generous today as he was back then.

Q: Every year the Chicago Auto Show takes place, and I am always disappointed by IndyCar’s involvement with the show. While there is usually an IndyCar on display, there are no appearances by drivers, giveaways, or autograph opportunities. This would seem to be a no-brainer event to have a larger presence at, as most attending (and their kids) have at least a passing interest in automobiles.

What do the teams and drivers do during the off-season to promote interest in themselves as well as the series as a whole? Do you have any recollection of a serious off-season promotion by a team and driver? I’m sure you noticed I didn’t want to waste any time asking about IndyCar’s effort in this endeavor.

Brad, LaPorte, IN

MP: I hear what you’re saying, Brad, but this isn’t the question we ask of stick-and-ball athletes — what has Lamar Jackson done to promote the NFL or Mike Trout done to promote MLB during the offseason? — so I’m not sure it’s fair to hang that on a Josef Newgarden or Alex Palou like it’s their job to promote the place where they work on the weekends.

Granted, IndyCar drivers for the most part are some of the biggest advocates and greatest givers of their time to do exactly what you mention, and that’s to show up at all kinds of IndyCar-related events. But if we’re doing a takedown of teams and drivers for not attending the Chicago Auto Show, that feels like an overreach.

It’s probably not the answer anyone wants to hear, but IndyCar teams and drivers do not exist to promote the series. They’re there to compete and represent their sponsors and partners. Anything they do that’s above and beyond to help the series is a generous offering, not their duty.

Q: Got into a discussion regarding available drivers for the Coyne seats, and Simon Pagenaud came up. The question was raised as to if Simon has been cleared to race, or if he is still suffering from the concussion? On one hand, it would be a shame to no longer see Simon race. On the other hand, he has a family and if retirement is needed to avoid a permanent debilitating brain injury, then racing is no longer a good thing. Simon has a family and that needs to come first.

So, I guess that leads to several questions that can best be summed up with: What is Simon’s status? His health? His contract status with Meyer Shank?


MP: Simon’s contract with MSR reached its end after the 2023 season. When I asked IndyCar about his status in December, since the series’ medical department is responsible for evaluating and clearing/not clearing drivers, I was told he has not been to Indy recently in order to go through that process.

So, that means he isn’t cleared because he hasn’t tried to get cleared. As for how he’s doing, that’s not a topic he wants to broach — and that’s not a sign of something being wrong — which is his right.

Q: Here is a simple solution to increase Honda’s ROI on its large investment in IndyCar. Have races outside the U.S. market! (OK, there is one in Canada.)

Mexico. Brazil. Europe. Japan. Antarctica.

While IndyCar has said races outside the U.S. must pay for themselves, perhaps it would be the price of keeping Honda?

Rick Smith, San Diego, CA

P.S. Would love to see 900hp on slicks on ice!

MP: So you’re a fan of non-stop wheelspin, I see… If going to those five new venues brought the TV ratings and crowds and market activations — car sales, primarily — for Chevy and Honda to feel the warm embrace of exceptional ROI, count me in.

Q: Great to see Ferrucci signed up to compete with Foyt this year. He’s got to be in my top three drivers most likely to take their first Indy 500 win in 2024, along with Palou and O’Ward.

Do you think that’s a fair top three? Who would you put in your top five, and who would be most annoyed at being left out of the top five?

Paul, Edinburgh, UK

MP: Palou’s the best I’ve seen at Indy among the new crop of drivers; he could easily have two wins already. Dixon is one I’d love to see get his second trip to victory lane; he could have four wins by now, easily. Pato’s got the speed; this is the year of speed and temperament for him. It has to be.

Newgarden’s always a threat on ovals and could go back-to-back, for sure. Scott McLaughlin is ripe for his first oval win, so why not Indy? Marcus Ericsson is a ringer around the speedway. Kyle Kirkwood is my sleeper pick for the 500. Santino is in that Palou/Ericsson vein where we see his best each May.

I like your top three. My top five would be Palou/Dixon/Ericsson/Newgarden/O’Ward, and if being left off my top-five list is a thing that would make a driver mad, they’d need to seriously reconsider what’s most important to them because my opinion isn’t worth a moment of anger.

Does Palou head the queue for Indy glory this year? Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Q: I caught the Mark Miles interview on YouTube and he said some interesting things that I would like your comments on.

He was referencing venues “that want us back” outside North America. Is Surfers Paradise ever being discussed? I think the mention of time zones is much overstated in this era of media streaming. Miles also implied that races being considered after the finale in September would be non-championship events. Why would IndyCar degrade any IndyCar race weekend and tag it as a non-championship points race?

Lastly, Miles seemed to wax enthusiasm that the move from Belle Isle to downtown Detroit was such a positive. I can’t speak as an attending fan, but from a purely TV standpoint, I thought the Belle Isle race was much more scenic, as much of the new Detroit race appeared to be in an industrial area. I don’t recall the old Detroit circuit that F1 and CART ran on as being that way.

Denny Jones, Kansas

MP: I’d love to go back to Surfers, but I’m not aware of a sponsor or the local government wanting to spend a fortune to make it happen.

We’re already doing a non-points event on home soil with the $1 Million Challenge at the Thermal Club in Southern California, so any internal concerns about degrading the series were obviously satisfied. The original downtown Detroit F1 layout that CART briefly used afterwards was a grand thing, wasn’t it?

Q: I was interested in your Race Industry Week interview with Mark Miles. Did I hear him right that they may entertain some late-year races in the southern hemisphere?

I think the whole idea of IndyCar being a North American series may have worked fine 50 years ago when the USA was its own huge economy and international commerce wasn’t so prevalent. They are competing with intercontinental companies now, and the USA is much more international itself than it was in the past..

I get The Athletic daily sports newsletter which features articles about Formula 1 and NASCAR — nothing about IndyCar. This is too common now. Miles never mentioned anything about IndyCar looking for a marketing manager. I think one is direly needed.

It seems like every week we are losing another icon. I recall Cale Yarborough running IndyCars for a couple seasons back in the day. One must wonder how a man like him would do today when all of the equipment is the same. Whether it’s print interviews, YouTube, or anything else, I believe we should enjoy our heroes like A.J., Mario, or Johnny. Same for Richard Petty and Bobby Allison.

James Herbert Harrison

MP: Yes, IndyCar has said it’s interested in racing in Argentina for more than a year. Most of the sponsors found on the cars that allow IndyCar teams to compete and remain in business are based in and primarily market and sell to a North American audience. I’d be all for expanding to do two or three truly international races per year, but until those trips have value for the teams who put on the show, it’s a dead topic because most have struggled to sell sponsorships and fund themselves when we go abroad.

Even the annual trip to Canada poses some challenges; I always hear from a few team owners/managers prior to the Honda Indy Toronto who say they’re looking for sponsors to cover the events, and will take sweetheart deals, because their primary sponsor isn’t interested in paying for that round.

Q: Has there ever been a Daytona 24 entry with as many IndyCar titles on board as the Ganassi 01 this year? Jeepers, what a lineup!

Tod Raines, Chandler, AZ

MP: Right? Sebastien Bourdais plus Scott Dixon plus Alex Palou equals 12… TWELVE IndyCar championships in one car. Plus, the awesome Renger van der Zande batting cleanup. Epic lineup.

Q: “No negative talk.” Really?

This tone-deaf edict from Roger and his cadre of lackeys reminds me of a quote from longtime pro baseball team owner Bill Veeck. It seems applicable to IndyCar’s current and former ownership:

“Baseball must be a great game, because the owners haven’t been able to kill it.”

I’m sorry for being so negative. That was uncalled for. I’m quite positive that Roger and his gang of flunkeys will kill off IndyCar soon enough.  Have a wonderful day!

Keith, Orlando, FL

MP: Hey now.

Q: As someone who attended their first Rolex 24 last year, I’d add a few tips for your first-time Rolex attendees.

Keep in mind that the shuttle bus from outside the track to the area behind the pits runs only from the first turn parking lot. While walking into the track via the first or fourth turn tunnels is fine to do once, it is a bit of a hike. If you are going in and out of the infield, that walk can get tiresome. I’d encourage you to take advantage of the shuttle.

There is a large screen and plenty of food trucks behind the pit area. Great place to take a break and still keep in touch with the race. Last year I met the family of one of the drivers there, and had a great time talking with them.

If you are taking a break from the track, there are some good restaurants across the street.

The international horseshoe is a great place to take photos and watch the early part of the race. Also, the straight out of the international horseshoe has small photo-friendly holes in the fence, if you have your camera.

The Mailbag is right about the grandstand seats. Much more comfortable than Indy.

Finally, there is a pit walk before the race, but it is a bit of mayhem. It’s crowded and difficult to get close to the cars. For my money, plan on going to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s six-hour IMSA race this fall for a great pit walk where you can really get close-up to the cars and drivers. Also great for photos.

Stephen Terrell

MP: Fantastic stuff, Stephen. Thanks for sending this in.

Q: Here’s a question I saved for the long off-season. It seems that most IndyCar pit stops still involve a squirt of water at the buckeye after the refueling nozzle is pulled out. (I actually looked at a few stops from last year on YouTube, and it’s not clear if all necessarily do.) No other series that refuels during the race seems to do this.

I understood the reason back in the days of methanol. A methanol fire can be extinguished by water, so it was a good precaution to dilute any spillage. But in today’s world of ethanol, it seems redundant. In fact, depending what you read, there may be a risk of spreading the fire before there is enough water to separate the fuel and dilute it below the ignition point. I assume there’s either something here I’ve got wrong, or am missing. Can you explain?

Mark, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

MP: Great question. It’s still for the sake of dilution. It might be redundant with the 100-percent renewable fuel and its lower octane rating, but the squirt of water is one of those things that showed no evidence of creating or exacerbating problems across thousands of live refuelings in 2023, so I can’t find the case to halt the practice.

The quick squirt of water at the end of a pit stop is still common practice in IndyCar, although it’s unbelievably hard to find a shot of a team actually doing it… Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Q: Marshall, I am very impressed with your knowledge of Canadian content. Well done. Your reference to a Mississauga GP is interesting, as I have attached two photos of a very young Devlin DeFrancesco in his kart at an event from 2008 that was held in Mississauga. According to my calculations, he was eight years old! I gave him copies of the photos a few years ago at the Rolex 24.

Speaking of the Rolex 24 and the message from Jeff Keen, I could not agree more with you to head to the front grandstand for the start — but also go back up there later into the night.

Lastly, I made the trek to the M1 Concourse event in Michigan to see the Vintage Indy collection run there in early October. There was a real variety of cars that were awesome to see on the track, but the highlight for me was the sound of the turbine spooling up in the STP Lotus. So cool! Note that after the LBGP the Vintage Indy group will be going to the Pittsburgh Vintage GP, WWT Raceway and then back to M1 Concourse.

Joe Photo from TO

MP: Look at little Dev! The Vintage Indy group isn’t the group behind the Long Beach vintage IndyCar group, FWIW. It’s HMSA, led by Chris Vandagriff, whose group ran last year’s vintage F1 sessions and the vintage IMSA/Group C cars the year before. Both organizations are awesome; last saw Vintage Indy’s group at Gateway and spent some time with the excellent Mike Lashmett.

Q: NO! NO! NO!

No: DRS, tire warmers, active suspension, competition yellows, automatic transmissions, push-to-pass, virtual safety cars, bimbos bearing billboards in bikinis, green/white/checkers, electric motors, constant booth reviews for penalties, or any of a multitude of (potential) silly gimmicks in IndyCar. Well, maybe the billboards can stay……

Let ’em race. Dump paddle shifters and re-implement sequential shifters. Less wing and tire, requiring a lift for four corners at Indy, and more under-braking on road courses. What’s next? AI pit calls? Jimmy Bryan is spinning in his grave like a neutron star.

Can ya tell I’m over 60 years old?

Wild Willie, Wisconsin

MP: Robin, is that you, reincarnated as Wild Willie?

Q: So, I wrote out a long boring email and realized it boiled down to this: Years of cost containment, “races” designed solely for rich hangers-on, complete lack of PR, ambivalence towards external stakeholders and fans, overemphasis (IMO) on parity. Has IndyCar become the ultimate club racing circuit?

Tim Elder, Baton Rouge, LA

MP: Not sure I see the same things, Tim, or maybe I just don’t understand the conclusion. Sure, the car bores me, but the best racing I’ve witnessed for years is in IndyCar. IMSA’s a close second. If that’s being made by the ultimate club racing circuit, give me more.

Q: It’s been quite cool reading the comments about Rush in the Mailbag recently. As someone who saw those rockin’ Canucks live 18 times, it’s great seeing the now-departed band getting some love on, of all things, a racing forum! I also noticed the mention of another now defunct Canadian power trio, Triumph, in last week’s edition. Saw those guys about three or four times in the ’80s.

Thinking of those bands brings some perspective regarding all the negativity floating around about IndyCar this off-season. We’re so lucky to be able to attend races and see every lap of every race live on TV. Who out there remembers when the Indy 500 was shown on tape delay on Sunday night? Memories of the great times I had at those concerts live on, but those bands aren’t going to be coming to town again. While the business side of the series is nothing to shout about, I say enjoy and appreciate all the great racing IndyCar offers. You never know when you won’t be able to anymore. Two cents delivered. Cheers!

Rod, Houston, TX

MP: Brother, I experienced my first Indy 500 on the radio, because at least out here in the Bay Area at the time, it wasn’t televised, so I know of which you speak. Having lived through a lot of changes in IndyCar, I can say, with no hesitance, that it has been through times that were way worse — by a thousand miles — and the negativity was downright toxic compared to today. This is nothing. A picnic. But if you haven’t experienced the truly bad days, this might feel like it’s bad. But it’s not.

And like Rush, I don’t want to believe IndyCar’s best days are in the past. We know that’s the case with Rush because Geddy and Alex are getting old and Neil is gone, and yes, IndyCar’s way older than Rush, but there’s no reason for it to live behind F1 and NASCAR in popularity here.

I grew up in the CART era where it was a firm and clear P1 in North America. I’ve seen it, and it can be a big deal once again, but only if its owners make smart and bold decisions to get it there. Winning (or losing) is created by a series of choices. Which choices will IndyCar make?

IndyCar’s new marketing team has a plan to keep the series in the Limelight until 2112.

Q: By now I’m sure you’ve had 10,000 questions on why F1 and now NASCAR have a Netflix show, but IndyCar doesn’t. So I won’t ask. What I will ask is, if the hybrid units ever appear, will they, as an electricity-generating entity, be able to power LED panels, and when are they coming back? Sweet Baby Jesus Porter on tap for the win.

Shawn, MD

MP: Yes! Big sparkly ones! Jay Frye told me a few years ago that they would consider doing info panels again when they go to a new car. As for why F1 and NASCAR are on Netflix and IndyCar is not, it’s a popularity and awareness thing. Doesn’t mean IndyCar is bad or doesn’t deserve being on Netflix, but our favorite series is too comparatively small and unknown to get the spotlight from a giant streamer like Netflix.

Q: Most NASCAR fans have only known Rick Ware Racing as a laughing stock, kinda like the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. But in 2023 they improved so much that NASCAR did not revoke their charter. Can RWR win a NASCAR Cup Series race in 2024?

Is it just me or did that the hit Netflix docuseries “Drive To Survive” ruin the Haas F1 team? And why won’t we ever see Max Verstappen in NASCAR, IndyCar or IMSA?

Kurt Perleberg

CHRIS MEDLAND: I know what you’re getting at about Haas, but I wouldn’t say it ruined the team. It actually played a big part in the team being so attractive to sponsors, because Guenther became a superstar and they wanted to partner with such a big character, at a team they felt they got better value for money than others. Without Netflix and the boost it gave F1, I think Haas might have folded during COVID, but even if not I don’t see it having the same budget it has right now, so it would still be 10th and Guenther still likely would have been fired.

The only debate for me would be on the timing because maybe Gene would have had a bit more patience without so much interest in F1 from the U.S., but until there was more CapEx to spend, the team wasn’t going move far forward regardless.

As for not ever seeing Max, I wouldn’t rule it out. If he got offered a great seat alongside his dad Jos in the Rolex 24 — or a victory-contending car with guys he wanted to race with — I think he’d do it. NASCAR, too, I think could tempt him post-F1 if he just wanted to try different things, especially if he retires young. But I think he sees IndyCar as too similar to F1, just with less outright performance, and doesn’t appear to fancy ovals as he said “absolutely not” to racing in the Indy 500 — but he wants to go as a fan.

KELLY CRANDALL: I don’t see Rick Ware Racing winning a race in 2024 on a traditional racetrack, but I think they can certainly be in play at the superspeedways. Justin Haley is a great superspeedway racer and he’ll be driving a Ford, and the Fords always have good horsepower at Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta. But the program still has a long way to go before they are legitimate contenders at other racetracks. Ware continues to make those moves though, bringing in a new driver and looking for ways to improve his alliances and tools with the budget that they have available.

Q: I was watching a press conference for Kyle Larson after his test at Indy a few months ago and a couple of questions came to mind.

If for some reason NASCAR ever came to own the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, would it kick IndyCar out? And second, race teams that start in NASCAR very rarely race in other series. Teams that do race in other series often come into NASCAR from the outside. Is there a particular reason why NASCAR teams stay only in NASCAR?

Tim Davis, Detroit, MI

MP: Because NASCAR is the pinnacle of North American racing series. Those in the top series tend to try and stay focused on the top series, but we had Rick Hendrick form an IMSA GTP team in the 1980s that was pretty cool, and we just had Justin Marks take Trackhouse into MotoGP, so we do see expansions (and I realize I haven’t cited every example across the history of racing, including NASCAR teams that raced at the Indy 500).

Elsewhere, it tends to be a case of a team like Ganassi or Andretti doing big things in IndyCar and then being motivated on their own, or contacted by major manufacturers or sponsors, to add teams in other or bigger series. The call-up scenario, as you mention, is the most common, but it’s not the only way such things happen.

KC: Well, for starters I can’t imagine NASCAR ever owning Indianapolis Motor Speedway but I guess never say never. And if they did, I don’t see them kicking anyone out. I’d like to believe that NASCAR understands the need to have friends and neighbors in the racing world. But again, I just don’t see any of that happening. Secondly, I think the folks you see in NASCAR are only familiar with that world and being stock car drivers. And you stick with what you know. It’s either something they got into because of family, or it was an easier path to take than other racing series. What’s interesting is now seeing others come into the sport, as you mentioned. The sport has become so diverse that people want to come try it for one reason or another.

Q: How popular would Guenter Steiner’s appointment as a TV commentator be? I think it would send viewer (or, at least listening) figures through the f*****g roof!

Neil Stretton, UK

CM: Oh I definitely think it would have a big impact. I’ve been thinking how I’d love to get him on the radio with us on SiriusXM wherever possible at races he attends this year, and I am absolutely certain there will be broadcasters already speaking to him about commentary/punditry.

For a lot of big names like this who would be so good, though, they don’t want to do it when they’re between jobs because they believe it makes them look like they’ve moved beyond being a driver or team principal to being an analyst. Daniel Ricciardo was wary of that last year so only agreed to the three U.S. alternate telecasts (that he only did one of in the end). 

“A cooking show, you say? Interesting…” Andy Hone/Motorsport Images

Q: All the recent talk of Rush in the Mailbag has got me thinking about “concert halls.”  So I want to know from the entire Mailbag team, what is the best live band you ever saw?

I’m assuming going off-topic is OK since it’s the off-season.

Phillip, Naperville, IL

MP: Seen a lot of really amazing concerts, so I don’t have one that stands above the rest. Rush, Prince, Gang Starr, Living Color, Rollins Band, KRS ONE, Jane’s Addiction, Wayne Shorter, Lolapalooza 1991, Dio, Beyonce. I tried to see Mastodon + Gojira twice last year and failed both times. I heard Mastodon sucked and Gojira was incredible from a friend at IMSA who was able to see them.

CM: You’ve opened a can of worms here Phillip, because I’m geeking out going through the best live set I’ve seen from a band, but then there’s bands I’ve seen more than once who have been both great and then not so good, and then just some moments and settings… Why is this becoming the question it’s taking me longest to answer?!

If it’s just best live band then I think I’ll go for Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. They just never stopped for over three hours at Wembley and it was amazing. Foo Fighters were a close second, but they were the biggest support act to Oasis in a gig called “Noise and Confusion” so it was a bit short. And Oasis weren’t great so that cost them, even though the second time I saw them in a homecoming gig at Heaton Park in Manchester was brilliant.

And to throw in a Formula 1-linked one, I promise this job isn’t the glitz and glamour people think it is but one of the times it was came in Mexico City in I think 2017, when Paul McCartney was playing at the Azteca that same weekend and the race organizers could get us tickets on the pitch. To stand so close to the stage near the center spot of such an enormous historic arena was really special.

I appreciate that’s a total cop-out of an answer really, and way more than you asked for, but I wanted the honorable mentions. I get to very few gigs given the time away from home with work, but I’m very lucky that the few I have been to have been good!

KC: This will be easy for me because I’ve seen less than a handful of concerts in person. It’s just not my thing. But I’ll say that Bon Jovi (come on, I’m a Jersey girl) live was a great show. Garth Brooks came to Charlotte last year and was absolutely amazing. Despite it being unbearably hot and humid, his energy and theatrics were awesome.

MARK GLENDENNING: You only asked for one, so let’s say it’s a 10-way tie for second. But the best was Fishbone, during their “Reality of my surroundings” tour at the now-bulldozed Palace in Melbourne in 1992.

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, January 19, 2016

Q: Do you know the origin of the term “Penske Perfect”? Is it something one of you coined on-air and we hear it once in a while, or does it exist somewhere in a training film at Penske?

I’ve been a CART fan since living in eastern Pennsylvania and have been back in Detroit now for over 20 years. “Penske Perfect” has affected me more as a hospitality professional than as a race fan. The race setups, perfectly polished transporters and motor coaches are great, but do they know how to put together a high-end hospitality tent? Is there someone you can refer me to at Penske here in Detroit who can shed some light on their process and maybe help me put together a more complete presentation?

Eric Gackenbach, Dearborn, MI

ROBIN MILLER: That is a damn good question so I spent an hour looking through some of my old clippings. The first time I ever used it in print was in 1976 when describing a “Penske Perfect” combination of speed, savvy and personality with Mario and Tom Sneva as teammates. I’ve probably used it 100 times since then and I have no idea if that was its origination, but I’m sure NASCAR takes credit for it.

Story originally appeared on Racer