Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to email@example.com. 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: Has IndyCar made contact with AER about racing with its P60 engine? If IndyCar is intent on sticking with the twin-turbo V6 formula, this would seem like the best option for getting a third engine into the series
Andre, Durban, South Africa
MARSHALL PRUETT: Highly unlikely, Andre. The issue isn’t about not being able to find a third engine. It’s the absence of auto manufacturers who want to make a big investment in a third engine supply program and then promote the heck out of it.
Q: With the Rolex 24 At Daytona beginning soon as I am writing this, why is IMSA and sports car racing in general growing in popularity? Also, I have always dreamed that the NTT IndyCar Series will race at places like Monaco, Silverstone and Spa. Will it ever go to those places?
MP: Cool new cars, big manufacturer engagement — 18 official manufacturers across all of its series, and open and inviting events. Some of IMSA’s rivals have one or two of those items to offer, but not all three, which is where I think the heart of its growth can be found.
Whatever “it” is, IMSA has it right now, as it once did from the mid-1970s through early 1990s.
Will IndyCar go to three of Formula 1’s most tenured and iconic tracks? That would be a no.
Q: NBC: This is the MOST INTERESTING DAYTONA 24 EVER! Now let’s dump coverage to show skating. Switch your TV to USA. Oh, USA has basketball? Never mind. Only 23 hours to go.
MP: It feels like a lifetime ago when the former SPEED Channel would air the entire Rolex 24 At Daytona. Since then, chasing the race from linear to streaming and back has been the norm. Wish it wasn’t, but if you’re a fan of endurance racing in the U.S., it’s become the standard practice. This is where having Peacock helps as you get all 24, 12, 10, 8, or 6 hours of IMSA’s five enduros without bouncing around.
Q: Apologies if you’ve answered this recently, but as we prepare for the 2024 IndyCar season, have you heard if any discussions are taking place within the series to formally codify red flag rules within the last five-10 laps of the 500? It feels like leaving red flag restarts to just judgment calls is unfair to the teams, and exposes the series to the risk of accusations of favoritism. Is a rule change (or clarification) being discussed?
Mark, Mason, OH
MP: I’ve not heard of a written-in-stone approach to the close of the 500 and wouldn’t want such a thing. As much as I hope we never have a repeat of last year’s pits-to-green call, we have no idea what might happen and how that situation needs to be handled. Without calling for the stewards to be locked into a rigid set of rules, I’ll place my faith in race control having learned not to pull that stunt again which made the leader a sitting duck due to aerodynamics.
Newgarden’s too good to have that controversy attached to his first win; he’ll win more 500s before he’s done, and they deserve to be won without any question as to his supreme driving skills.
The 2023 Indy 500 might not have delivered the type of finish we’d want to see too often, but there’s no debating the quality of the winner. Motorsport Images
Q: Sorry to put you in the position of speaking for others, but can you explain the negativity from those who write in about the current IndyCar chassis?
I follow the series pretty closely and I think I have a generally good knowledge of the sport, yet I can’t comprehend this. The only improvement I can see is that a new tub would allow different bodywork and aero bits. I suppose this could be engineered to improve the ability to follow closely and, therefore, enable more overtaking, but various racing series have pursued that objective for years with limited success.
It’s certainly possible that the cars might be a margin faster, but would it really change what you see on the track? It could be argued that racing might be degraded, as the stronger teams would probably unlock the hidden potential more quickly than those with less funding.
I don’t care much about the appearance of the cars; if something shaped like a brick was lightning quick, we would soon all think it looked fantastic.
MP: But we wouldn’t, because we’ve had fast and ugly IndyCars, and interest waned and crowds dwindled. Looks matter here just as they do elsewhere in life; Google “Pontiac Aztek” if you need proof.
The chassis is old in a time where many of IndyCar’s main rivals have gone to new cars (F1, IMSA, NASCAR) so there’s the really basic premise of whatever volume of fans wanting IndyCar to get in the game and present something new and interesting to match or exceed what its rivals are doing.
Part of me wonders if we’re seeing the effect of having the same car for so long — longer than any other professional racing series I can think of — that some folks have forgotten a time or never known a time when IndyCar represented innovation and cutting-edge vehicles. Maybe it’s been so long since those days that newer fans don’t know and don’t care about such things. Maybe IndyCar should just stick with the DW12 like the NFL does with its footballs; it’s there, serves the same purpose for decades, and rarely gets noticed.
Rather than focus on what the new car would do or not do on track, I look at what IndyCar’s image happens to be outside of the Indy bubble, and that’s being perceived as a series that’s just old.
I recently threw away a 49ers t-shirt I’d had for about 10 years. I loved it; it was super comfortable. It was also faded, and there were some holes forming beneath the sleeves. I only wore it at home, mainly on game days, but even so, I wouldn’t wear it in public and it just got to the point where it was time to bid farewell.
Being the series that holds onto its old car for way too long says a lot about what the series thinks of itself. It can keep fielding the car until all that’s left is the collar, if it wants, while its rivals give their audience something new and vibrant to embrace.
Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi, Bobby Rahal, Michael Andretti, Zak Brown (through his LMP2 team) and Mike Shank (through 2023) have all seen firsthand what IMSA’s experienced with the spike in interest caused by the new GTP cars. The biggest Rolex 24 audience in history turned up to see Year 2 of GTP and new GT models go racing in Daytona. How anyone could witness that, return to their IndyCar teams, and say, “Nope, definitely not the way to go. Need to stay with the same-old-same-old” is a mystery to me.
Q: Last year BMW, Cadillac and Acura all seemed to downplay the possibility of customer GTP cars. Is that still the company line?
MP: Best I hear is Acura and Cadillac could look to open the books and consider such a thing in 2025. Acura adding cars to its program via a factory WEC effort, just as BMW has done this year by engaging WRT to do so in WEC, is where I’m looking first for it to grow.
Q: Just after 9pm in the Rolex 24, Bourdais went from sixth to second in about 30 minutes (the No. 6 Porsche did let him by because of a penalty). Queue a flashback to Bourdais lapping the field at Sebring a while back? Can we please give a tip of the hat to his ability to hustle it around the track?
MP: My French Fry is officially good at driving race cars. Saw him after his first stint and left with a variety of punches to my arm and other forms of Gallic abuse… we were meant to get together during the event and I failed, so I deserved it.
Q: Any plans by IMSA to rename the GTD PRO and GTD classes to GT3 PRO and GT3 AM?
Q: I’m curious to know what kind of check the Bronze/Silver drivers need to write for a ride at a race like the Rolex?
MP: Something in the $250,000 is common for one-off drives in GTD or LMP2, and that price tends to go up based on the quality or reputation of the team. It can also go up if the team knows you’re loaded with money! Signing on to be the extra driver for the Michelin Endurance Cup (the five long races) falls into a similar category. You’ll be asked for at least $1 million, if not $1.25 million, or more.
A ride’s not cheap, but it probably includes catering. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images
Q: Can you please provide some insights to IndyCar team financials? We hear that teams are adding cars and that new teams are interested in joining IndyCar. What is their motivation? Is it money, competitive passion, ego?
Do the teams make money — i.e., are they profitable? I think that I can imagine the many expenses of a team, but where does the revenue come from to offset the expenses? Sponsors, ticket sales, and TV/streaming?
We keep hearing that attendance and TV are not great, so do ticket sales and TV/streaming provide much money to the teams?
That brings us to sponsors. What benefits does a sponsor receive, aside from having its name on the side of the car? Having your name on a car would not seem to be worth much unless that car is a frequent race leader that receives a lot of screen time. I just don’t see why a sponsor would contribute much to a team’s profitability.
Please educate me.
Don, Mount Prospect, IL
MP: Why do racers join any series? Because they want to, and obviously, for a variety of reasons. For some, it’s passion. For others it’s business. For others, it’s both. Some teams make a profit, while others do not. All IndyCar teams are independent businesses, which is important to know because other than the roughly $1 million the top 22 entrants receive — based on their finishing position from the previous season’s entrants’ championship — the rest is entirely supplied by themselves through a range of means.
Most teams are looking to assemble at least $7 million per entry this season, and that could be from sponsors, a paying driver, a business-to-business deal that offers a stout commission for the team, an owner who is wealthy, or investors. Or, a combination of all of those options.
On the sponsor side, it’s more of a general question, since this has been going on this the 1960s — writ large — with companies paying to have their brands represented on cars as a normal business deal in the sport. A sponsor could find value from the air time it receives, the trackside activation of its thing in front of lots of people, the B2B opportunities that come from being in the sport and being in the team’s hospitality suite to try and do business deals with other CEOs and CFO/CMO types, or more items of interest to a sponsor. Why did Cadillac go prototype and GT racing at the start of the 2000s? It wanted to change its public perception from being a maker of fluffy land yachts to makers of hardcore performance cars.
Sponsors pay whatever the market value is for the series and team in question because there’s an audience of interest or a B2B opportunity or a perception shift it wants to enable. Just as those sponsors pay a TV network or a digital media outlet to run their ads, this is no different in racing.
Q: I’ve been around long enough to remember when 24-hour races were contested with just two drivers on each team rather than the three- or four-driver lineups we see today. That’s particularly impressive when you consider that most drivers back in the “old days” were not in the top athletic condition that we see now. Did regulations change at some point allowing more drivers on each team, or was that always an option but not considered to be an advantageous strategy? As a fan, I will say that sharing the victory among four drivers just seems to dilute the achievement a little.
Alan, Orlando, FL
MP: Hard to say on the regulations side, but yes, as prototypes and GTs got faster and became more physically demanding, and those cars became more reliable and could be pushed closer to 100 percent for an entire race, the need to spread the driving across three or four drivers was a natural response. In the “old days,” endurance racing was as much about saving the car and not over-taxing it in the hope of lasting 24 hours, and while they weren’t a breeze to drive by any means, it was a different physical and mental task than what today’s top drivers deliver by going on the attack for hours on end. I’d say the three or four who won the four classes last weekend deserve every ounce of respect for their achievement as their predecessors.
Q: Congrats to Penske for its Rolex 24 win. I was rooting for the Cadillacs but it was a great race and that’s the ultimate win. What a sell-out crowd, and it looked like a perfect weekend for the fans. Peacock did a fantastic job with coverage. Honestly, some of the best round the clock coverage for this race I have ever seen. I really hope they embrace motorsports and continue on this path. As a race fan, they are the best value in racing.
I am an IndyCar fan first, but have always enjoyed sports cars from a distance. I have to admit I’ve been swept up by the new cars, exciting racing, and the general buzz around the series. With Penske winning this race and being involved in this series, as well as many other IndyCar teams/owners/drivers; I don’t understand why there is any reluctance to bring technological advances, better-looking cars, or anything new and exciting to IndyCar. I know the drum has been beaten to a pulp by fans and I agree the racing is amazing, but how many more examples can you get of just how important it is to create excitement through technology?
I’m so disappointed that the best man for the job is letting the series down. I guess we just continue to wait and see and hope they don’t make their moves too late. I would hate for IndyCar become the series that stops attracting the top talent and instead becomes the affordable series. That formula can’t sustain forever.
What sort of loss or catastrophe do you think it would take Penske to make a major change, or even to take a risk by putting the series ahead of the owners or simply the bottom line? Or could they be stuck in this rut spinning tires with the same formula just because viewership numbers have had a slight increase and new owners are showing interest?
MP: Roger’s will is the will of the paddock. Simple as that, Erik. It’s not a democracy. It’s a business owned and run by someone who leads and makes decisions for all who are affiliated with that business. The era of IndyCar having a system where all the team owners voted on major and minor developments has been gone for decades.
Nobody — at least not yet — is willing to speak out against the direction(s) taken or not taken by Penske, so new cars, a new engine formula, and anything else that’s truly new or innovative on the vehicular front will stay the way it is until the day the series’ owner decides to make a change. Or until the people who own the cars that comprise 24 of the 27 full-time entries decide to band together and insist upon a change to whatever they feel needs to be altered.
Q: What was behind the BoP weight assigned to the Acura ARX-06s? Did they really think that the Acuras were going to be able to keep up with the Porsches and the Cadillacs? Is this a preview of the rest of the year? Did IMSA really intend to make the Acuras a full second per lap slower in most cases than the top two brands? Or was Acura getting punished for the 2023 race?
MP: I can’t tell you what went into the Acura’s BoP, but BMW was the only GTP model that never struck me as being competitive from the Roar onwards. I spoke with or heard from many GTP drivers prior to and during the race, and the Acura contingent were among the least vocal about BoP, FWIW. The only brand I heard zero complaints from was Porsche, and they went on to win the race.
IMSA’s BoP elves work in myserious ways, but nobody inside the Acura GTP camp seemed too bothered about it at the Rolex. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images
Q: I liked that tech tour video you did with Joey Hand on the Ford Mustang GTD car. Joey mentioned there were some cockpit temperature regulations as the reason for the cooling hoses pointed toward the driver seat. I was under the impression most of the cars had a cool suit system to help the drivers keep cool while driving. Could you please get into more detail as to what the regulations are regarding cabin temperatures and if it something IMSA can monitor during the course of a race?
MP: It is something that’s actively monitored among the petabytes of data that stream from the cars to the series. Here’s the bit from the sporting regulations:
Cockpit temperature: The ambient temperature will be displayed by the official timing monitors. It will be measured in the shade and out of the wind. An effective natural and/or forced ventilation must maintain the temperature around the driver when the car is in motion at: • 32 °C maximum when the ambient temperature is less than or equal to 25°C; • a temperature less than or equal to ambient temperature +7°C if it is above 25°C. These temperature criteria should be respected in less than 8 minutes after a car stop. It is permitted to have air flow adjustment accessible from the driver.
Q: Congratulations to Roger Penske on the Porsche Penske win at the Daytona 24.
IndyCar can’t compete with the NFL… No racing series in the country is worried about the NFL except one guy and his name is Mark Miles. Please Roger and Greg, Mike Miles needs to go. And now we can’t have the 100 days before May because of basketball. what’s next?
MP: I might need to text Mark and suggest skipping this week’s Mailbag.
Q: The 2024 Rolex 23h58m24s. What happened?
Terry J, Germantown, MD
MP: A mistake in race control, which was obvious at the time and later confirmed by IMSA. The race ends when the direction is given for it to end. This one went to bed one lap too soon. Bit of a nothing burger as I saw it; the leads in all four classes were solid and I don’t see how that would have changed if it went to 24h00m.
Q: Good thing I only got to watch a portion of the Rolex 24. I refuse to pay Peacock as I already pay for Dish. A few times (more than five) I timed the racing portion being shown. The average was 10 minutes. Which had up to four minutes of commercials either before or after.
NBC should now be known as: NOW BROADCASTING COMMERCIALS
Wonder if, when NBC does the Olympics, it will continue this schedule?
Peter, Phoenix, AZ
MP: Like death and taxes, there’s no avoiding complaints — often warranted — about racing broadcasts. Best suggestion for next year’s Rolex 24: Spend the five bucks for one month of Peacock, get all 24 hours, and have no OK… fewer complaints. Five bucks to be happy for 24 hours is a bargain.
Q: I was reading the article about Scott Dixon in the latest issue of RACER magazine and was astonished to find out Dixon has finished in the top three in IndyCar points 15 times. How many drivers even have 15-year careers, let alone be at the very top nearly every year? It started me thinking about whether this had ever been done by any other drivers in IndyCar, Formula 1 or NASCAR. These disciplines are generally considered the pinnacle of racing. Here is what I found…
Michael Schumacher: 12 (13 if you count 1997 when his points were taken away)
Lewis Hamilton: 11
Alain Prost: 8
Emerson Fittipaldi: 7 (Four times in F1 and three times in IndyCar)
Mario Andretti: 10 (eight times in IndyCar and two in F1)
A.J. Foyt: 10
Bobby Unser and Bobby Rahal: 9
Michael Andretti, Al Unser Jr., Will Power: 8
Richard Petty: 15
Dale Earnhardt: 11
Jimmie Johnson: 10
Jeff Gordon: 9
It seems just Dixie and The King have done it 15 times. So here is the question: Which is the greater accomplishment — six IndyCar championships, or finishing in the top three in points a whopping 15 times?
Brian Henris, Fort Mill, SC
MP: People remember champions, so it’s the championships, but the consistency isn’t something to dismiss by any means. Dixon’s career didn’t play out during the dangerous and romantic era that produced the Marios and A.J.s, so his remarkable achievements haven’t received the same level of global attention and reverie as the Andrettis and Foyts, but he deserves it.
Dixon’s so fast he generates blurry “whoosh” lines even when he’s standing still. Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment
Q: Has it been announced where Craig Hampson and Eric Cowdin are landing for 2024? Any other significant lead engineering changes for 2024? In the past I believe you’ve written about each entry’s driver and lead engineer combos — do you plan to have a rundown of that prior to the start of the season?
Jason Jennings, Batesville, IN
MP: I will have a rundown! Eric needs to clear his non-compete clause with Ganassi (and may have by the time of publishing) before he’s formally confirmed as a great addition to Ed Carpenter Racing, and so far, I haven’t heard about Hampson returning to racing.
I was pleased to see Squirrel — Allen McDonald — at Juncos Hollinger Racing at the Homestead test. He’s the kind of ace veteran race engineer the team needs to take the next step. More to follow…
Q: So, what’s the betting line for an all-Qvist podium: Rosenqvist, Lundqvist and Blomqvist, in any order, in any race?
MP: Tell me where to place that bet, and I’m in. Blomqvist has packed on some muscle during the offseason — one thing he was understandably lacking and needed — to help wield his MSR entry. I think you’re onto something here; the all-’Qvist podium would be amazing and is indeed possible.
Q: In reading the Simon Pagenaud health update, questions of liability and how racing drivers are insured came to mind. Do drivers self-insure and/or is it included in their contract with a team? Meyer Shank mentioned that a failed part was responsible for Simon’s crash. Does that put the supplier in legal jeopardy with the team or Pagenaud? Do “avoidable contact” penalties affect insurance premiums? And I assume that anything that happens on track is exempt from any suing interest between teams, maybe? I have no idea how this is done.
Matt Callahan, Princeton, NJ
MP: There’s no single answer here, unfortunately. Some drivers, albeit very few, are direct team employees, while most are contractors, or they are contracted through a company they’ve created and are an employee of… In a lot of cases, the independent contractor-driver pays for specialist racing insurance, and it’s not cheap for the high-end pros. If someone’s been injured and is unable to drive, receiving a disbursement from insurance tends to happen and that’s why we often see those drivers say very little in detail about their recoveries in print because they need to protect themselves and keep the disbursements coming in.
Hard to say if MSR would have sued the brake vendor; it’s not something they’ve wanted to talk about in any kind of depth.
Q: Last week Will from Indy had a question expanding on my comments from the previous week regarding the relative speeds of F2, Super Formula and IndyCar, and I’m pleased to report I can actually shed some light on this. Not a very strong light, mind you, but one that nonetheless provides an interesting look at things.
A couple years back, I actually looked at some comparative lap times and made a rough calculation of how far off each was from a Formula Car and Super Formula only have one each (COTA and Suzuka respectively) it’s not going to be the most accurate of analyses, but it’s still a fun thing to look at.
Unfortunately, I lost the data I generated back then… But I know how to easily create it again!
I used Silverstone for my F2 comparison because it’s fairly representative of F1 circuits, and is of a similar length to both COTA and Suzuka. (Silverstone and Suzuka are both 3.6 miles, whilst COTA is 3.4).
Obviously, this is not a direct comparison, and we likely will never get such a thing outside of the digital world, which can still be off what would really happen even if we do someday get that. Because of this, we use the percentage they were off from F1 rather than the actual time difference. It is still not the full picture, but its close enough for government work — and I suspect close enough that a good sim test would be in the ballpark of these results.
So here’s the breakdown (all times are race lap records):
Formula 1 – 1m27.097s
Formula 2 – 1m39.993s
Formula 1 – 1m30.9s
Super Formula – 1m37.850s
Formula 1 – 1m36.169s
IndyCar – 1m48.895s
Result – 113.23%
So it is actually possible that an IndyCar is a hair faster than F2 based on this, with Super Formula coming in well ahead of them. This isn’t too surprising — Super Formula is the lightest of the three, and may have higher downforce than F2 (the data is unclear on this). IndyCars are slippier and have the highest top speeds, but lack the downforce of the other two. It’s a testament to IndyCar’s power that it may be the No. 2 in road course lap times.
This also underlines even further something I stated in my previous submission on the matter of these cars: Super Formula got absolutely screwed by their Super License points allocation. But there’s the data to chew on until we hopefully someday get a better comparison.
And if someone wants to calculate the lap time difference between F1 and F2 at other tracks to see how it averages out, I’d love to see that myself, but the number of craps I have to give on this topic, interesting as it is, is still limited and this quick and dirty look at things has already emptied my stock.
Formula 1 – 1m20.235s
S5000 – 1m40.3696s
STEP IT UP, AUSTRALIA!!!! I know you can do better!
MP: The Mailbag is an amazing thing. Thanks for all of the research, FF.
Yeah, well IndyCar blows 1980-spec F1 cars into the weeds at Watkins Glen. Motorsport Images
Q: I was disappointed to read that Simon Pagenaud is still recovering from his injuries. What are the chances we see him this year? Or, and I hate to say it; have we seen the last of him in IndyCar?
Dale, Richmond, VA
MP: I can’t think of a place where Simon would drive unless he’s cleared and a driver gets fired or injured. There are no seats open he could take for the full season, and I’m not aware of Indy 500 opportunities he’d be able to secure since all of the paying seats are gone or close to gone. The timing for Simon sucks.
Q: Do you have any other information than what has been reported about lawsuit filed against Laguna Seca? How will it affect the IndyCar race?
MP: I do not. Once I get home from Daytona and have a chance to breathe and start to make some calls, I hope to know more.
Q: Do you think IndyCar held off on the hybrid till after the 500 to make sure nothing would ruin the Greatest Spectacle in Racing? Second, why do they test at places that they don’t race? It seems to me it would be beneficial to test the places they race at. Colton Herta said the Homestead Roval isn’t anything like where they race so he wouldn’t read much into lap times.
CAM in LA
MP: Yes, there was no way the series was going to go hybrid at Indy; it needed to have the races prior to Indy run in hybrid specification to work out the bugs as much as possible before the big show.
Time of year and climate is the big determining factor. IndyCar has wanted to do more running at Sebring, as I’m told, but the popular testing track has been heavily booked, so going south to the warmth of Homestead-Miami makes sense, even if it isn’t a circuit — the roval — that lends much to other tracks. At this time of year, it’s either Florida, Arizona, or Southern California, and there aren’t many FIA Grade 1/Grade 2 tracks that fit the safety criteria IndyCar needs in those warmer regions in January and February.
Q: I read the Mailbag every week. There are always letters from IndyCar fans who are complaining about the chassis, engines, the tracks, the style of the car, etc. Maybe I am the only person that feels this way, but I have no complaints about IndyCar at all. I used to like all oval tracks, but now like having different style tracks. I used to cheer for American drivers only, but now respect and cheer for all the great drivers no matter what country they are from. I tried watching the taxi cabs of NASCAR but with all the yellow flags it is like watching a funeral procession snaking its way around the track.
The racing in IndyCar is exciting and I don’t care what engine, chassis, tire or oil they use. Bring on St. Pete and let’s go racing!
MP: Good on you, Don. I met a young IndyCar fan — in his 20s — this morning at Daytona and he was of the same mind. He loves the series, knows it has some things to improve or fix, but prefers to focus on the positives, and that’s awesome.
Q: I’m a 76-year-old who has been attending races for 71 years, from the modifieds at the Reading Fairgrounds to the F1 race in Monza. I love all aspects and types of races.
Our group does the USAC sprints, Silver Crown and Little 500 every year. I’ll admit that time is starting to take a toll on me. I have one request of Mr. Penske and the IMS staff: Please put handrails in the grandstands that do not have them. We sit at the top of the grandstand 110 steps up. Years ago, it wasn’t a problem. Then came back problems and a few balance issues. I now need help getting to my seat and I’m damn near dead when I get there. Handrails would make it so much easier.
Almost every sporting venue has these rails to assist patrons to their seat. I’m not even going to go into the potential liability aspect if someone took a header from the top row leaving or entering the stands. So come on, Captain, save undue effort from your customers and possibly save a huge insurance claim.
I do love racing but find it a bit comical that there are more passes in the first few laps of a USAC midget race than entire F1 race.
Craig Rubright, Clearwater, FL
MP: Great suggestion, Craig. Hopefully RP is listening.
Q: I’ve been a fan of IndyCar since the mid-1990s. I moved to Portland in 2003 and I’ve been to every race they’ve had since 2004. It’s now become an annual family event that we all look forward to. We sit in the infield grandstand with a great view of the chicane, which makes some of the best or worst starts/restarts. I’ve heard the drivers talk about how much they like the track and the racing it produces, comparing it to the Indy road course.
Now, Portland has its problems, like a lot of other cities. How much does the city itself play into whether they want to race here or not? Does it negate the long history they’ve had here? I’ll be disappointed if Portland drops off the schedule once again.
MP: Agreed, Marc. We could pick apart every city on the calendar if we wanted to as every major metro has huge flaws and failings. But since we’re here to talk racing, let’s focus on what’s important at Portland, and that’s selling enough tickets and looking vibrant with its attendance. The last two visits were soft in that regard, so if the audience is noticeably bigger this year, I want it to stay. If it looks like few people care about the series based on a relative lack of fans, IndyCar will need to consider whether it’s best to make future returns.
Fun fact: It’s illegal to wear rollerblades in public bathrooms in Portland. Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
Q: I have to ask something in regards to the Portland question/answer from last week. I live outside of the Seattle area in Washington, and Portland is my home race, as there’s nothing else remotely close.
An honest opinion on PIR and the city of Portland is that they’ve both gone downhill over the years, especially the city. The track is fun one; I love sitting in the shade under a tree during practice/qualifying on the back side. But it’s bare bones facility-wise, and it’s a safe bet it’s not getting upgraded anytime soon. I’ve also heard drivers complain about the facilities at the track on podcasts. But I want it to stay, as there’s no other place in the PNW that is suitable to host IndyCar….
Which leads me to my question: Circuit of the Northwest. Does RACER know anything about the plans for this track? It’s getting underway outside of Bremerton, WA, and looks gorgeous. The YouTube simulation of the plans for the place has multiple IndyCars racing on it, and it gets me excited. It would be a great replacement for Portland. It’s in a very nice area, growing area, a bit out of the way, but 100% worth it.
Charlie Palmer, King County, WA
MP It’s on my list of circuits I hope to be on IndyCar’s radar because the days of having Portland and Vancouver on the calendar were awesome.
Q: When will the practice of driving a competitor off the track when an outside move is attempted be stopped? (Thank you, Lewis Hamilton). It was so blatant at Petit Le Mans last year I thought there was no way a penalty would not be assessed. It’s so commonplace that the commentators actually said that Albuquerque should have known Derani was driving and that he would get pushed off. How crazy is that?
IndyCar and F1 are no better. How about if you push a car off, you have to slot behind that car within a lap or you get a drive-through penalty? If the car goes multiple laps down, so do you. If it’s out, so are you. People will say it’s so hard to pass you need to defend; I say if you can’t defend so hard, it wouldn’t be so hard to pass. I’m writing before the Rolex 24; maybe we will see a clean race, but I doubt it.
Mark, San Diego
MP: The Petit Le Mans deal still makes me mad about it going unpunished because it only emboldens folks to think it’s sanctioned.
Q: “The new name for AlphaTauri has been confirmed, with the Formula 1 team rebranding as ‘Visa Cash App RB’ as part of a major new Red Bull partnership.” No effin’ thanks.
Upon further reflection it’s probably keeping the team on the grid, so I suppose that is good.
That team name is still the worst though.
CHRIS MEDLAND: It’s hard to argue with you, Jake. It’s nothing against Visa or Cash App — sponsors are great in funding the racing teams that we love to watch – but it’s the lack of overall identity for the team now. When you get a title sponsor for a team you usually still have the chassis manufacturer (Stake is the F1 team but Sauber manufactures the chassis) so even if it’s a change in identity and naming, you still see the lineage and identity of the team.
But I feel like Visa Cash App RB has totally lost that, because “RB” has no identity. It’s Racing Bulls, but also obviously a nod to Red Bull, and either way massively confusing to some fans. Toro Rosso tipped its hat to the Italian heritage of Minardi, so would have been an identity to return to with title sponsorship from Visa and Cash App, but it feels like teams now are moving more and more towards trying to force the name to be the title sponsor and nothing else.
It’s nothing against those sponsors, it’s just potentially damaging, in my opinion, because you could lose the identity of a team, that would then make fans far less likely to connect with it, and therefore the value of that sponsorship goes down (as does the value of the team overall without interested supporters).
Let’s hope Visa Cash App has a brighter road ahead than Mastercard did when it got into bed with Lola for the 1997 F1 season. The team failed to qualify for the season opener in Australia, and didn’t even bother to show up for the second race in Brazil. Motorsport Images
Q: What are we to make of F1 filing for trademarks on various forms of “Grand Prix of Chicago”? Are they looking for a possible North American tripleheader with Miami-Montreal-Chicago in June?
I assume an F1 track would have to be longer than the NASCAR track?
CM: So I’ve done a bit of digging here, Ed, and sadly at this point there’s nothing to read into. There have been whispers of an expression of interest from Chicago, but a large number of locations regularly do the same to generate a bit of buzz and it doesn’t mean F1 has reciprocated or moved it any further than that.
But sometimes a trademark needs protecting just in case, so I understand it’s more an example of F1 ensuring it owns the rights to those names rather than a group that might be interested in putting on a race, because if in future there was the potential to make a race happen but it’s not that group promoting it then you’ve got a problem to solve.
As a Cubs fan who loves going to Chicago, believe me I was straight on the case with this one and will keep my ear to the ground in case it becomes something more, but at this point I’m not led to believe it’s a significant development.
And as for the length of any circuit — there’s no reason it would need to be longer than the NASCAR one (though it would likely need different run-offs, etc., which would mean a different layout would be needed). Monaco’s an exception, but I believe FIA Grade 1 requirements are for a track of 3.5km minimum length, which the Chicago NASCAR one just hits.
Q: What are the expectations for Hailie Deegan in 2024 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series?
KELLY CRANDALL: It’s a bit hard to put expectations on Deegan when she’s only run one NASCAR Xfinity Series race. But given how she seemed to adapt well and is more comfortable in the car versus the truck, I’m looking at Deegan to be a top 20 driver this season. Deegan will need to gel with a new team and new series, which has a really stacked field of competition of this season, and finish races. It’s a long season, so there is plenty of time to build. If she can do that and the team, AM Racing, gets what their equipment is capable of and uses the resources of Ford, then I don’t see why top 20s would be out of reach.
Q: I saw a recent article about a bump for Formula E viewing figures in the U.S. and I was intrigued to see if the UK would be mentioned, and it was. I was very surprised to see a “substantial rise of 29 percent” in the UK, when I had heard that viewing figures were particularly hideous. Would you be able to provide further information on the viewing figures and how you come to the conclusion of there being a rise?
Danny Morgan, Southend-on-Sea, England
DOMINIK WILDE: There did seem to be a backlash among the fan base to the decision to move the UK coverage behind a paywall, so the substantial rise was a surprise. I asked the series where those figures came from, and they told me its “official BARB data provided by Kantar.” [ED: To help decode that, BARB is the UK-based Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board, and Kantar is an independent data analytics firm.]
THE FINAL WORD
From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, January 31, 2018
Q: I have been watching a lot of classic racing on YouTube. I had planned to write to you about the glorious Can-Am series, but then I watched the 1981 Indy 500. I am sure you know the story, so please give us your take on it. I find myself siding with Uncle Bobby. Am I wrong?
John Masden, Georgetown, IN
ROBIN MILLER: One night about 10 years ago I had the pleasure of watching the 1981 Indy 500 with Gordon Johncock and Uncle Bobby. Johncock had never watched a replay of his Indy wins, let alone somebody else’s, so he was an interested spectator. When Unser passed 11-13 cars (I lost count), Gordy screamed: “Jesus Christ Unser, how many cars did you pass?” like it was a revelation. Bobby told him it was ancient history and no big deal because he had the field covered.
Here’s my take: Mario also passed several cars exiting the pits, so they both took advantage of a nebulous rule that USAC’s observers obviously didn’t follow during the race. Had it not been tape-delayed on ABC and had someone not tipped off Jackie Stewart, I doubt anything would have ever been said — let alone the protest, the crowning of Andretti the next morning, the other protest and the re-instatement of Unser. The easy penalty for something like this would have been a $50,000 fine, because Unser didn’t need to cheat the blend rule to win that race. And the blend rule was anything but set in stone in the shaky USAC rule book.