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The RACER Mailbag, June 26

Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to mailbag@racer.com. We love hearing your comments and opinions, but letters that include a question are more likely to be published. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.

Q: After my recent trip to Pikes Peak, I began wondering whatever happened to Pikes Peak International Raceway. What were the circumstances that led to it being dropped from IndyCar/IRL and other major racing series schedules? With the recent resurgence of shuttered or almost shuttered tracks including Iowa, Milwaukee, Nashville, Gateway and rumored Chicagoland, is it possible for PPIR to follow a similar path of resurgence? Would IndyCar even entertain thoughts of a return?

Steve McDaniel, Indianapolis, IN

MARSHALL PRUETT: As always, if someone from the track wants to reach out and offer to pay IndyCar money to bring its series, I’m sure it would listen. It’s not about whether the series would entertain the idea; it’s if Track X makes an effort to court the series like any other promoter.

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Looking at their site, PPIR appears to focus on local events; Slangin’ Smoke ’24 in September offers a drift track, donut pit and gymkhana course. It’s been too long to remember why it went away for IndyCar, but the crowds were never huge. Its last pro event appears to have been in 2013-14.

Q: Spotted on the Spanish Grand Prix qualifying broadcast on ESPN2… Dale Coyne with Rick Ware Racing 2023 Sting Ray Robb jersey. That was unexpected.

Adam H. Simi Valley, CA

MP: Now I need a T-shirt with the photo of the guy wearing the Sting Ray shirt at the Spanish GP. People are amazing. It also looks like he’s wearing a McLaren hat. (Cue the conspiracy theories that this is proof Sting Ray will be replacing Nolan Siegel next year.)

Q: Watching practice at Laguna Seca, I started thinking that it would be a cool thing to commemorate the four four-time Indy winners by naming Turn 1 the Foyt turn, Turn 2 the Al Unser turn, Turn 3 after Rick Mears and Turn 4 the Castroneves Turn. What do you think?

Dale McCan, Corrales, NM

MP: It’s a great idea for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Laguna already has the Andretti Hairpin, Rahal Straight, and Rainey Curve.

Q: In WWF parlance (WWE those under 50), is Zak Brown turning heel? Did he just complete a degree from the Helmut Marko school of HR?

Shawn, MD

MP: No, and that’s because he made that turn long ago and loves every boo that comes his way. If Paul Heyman has a brother in racing, it’s Zak Brown.

Q: I’m watching the IMSA Sahlen’s Six Hours race at Watkins Glen and pondering a thought. Besides the endurance races held at the traditional and established tracks, is there a particular known reason why the Road America event couldn’t – or shouldn’t – be one as well, instead of the “sprint” event?

Wiscowerner

MP: It could. But half of IMSA’s scheduled races are already of the endurance variety with five of the 10 being six hours or longer. Pushing it to a sixth would take budgets over the edge.

Six is the magic number for Watkins Glen. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Q: I believe there were 65 minutes left when the rain stopped at Watkins Glen and the sun started to come out. I know there were 50 minutes left when I wondered if they would restart on slicks. Ignoring what happened to the No. 10, they still wouldn’t have gone green until less than 25 minutes to go.

I’m more confused by this than a five-minute penalty for touching a traffic cone.

Ryan, West Michigan

MP: Thanks for writing in.

Q: Television coverage of the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen was excellent. What I noticed was that one commentator, a very knowledgeable former racer and a polished speaker, was referring to “The Esses” as “The Climbing Esses.” I thought that the “Climbing Esses” are at VIR. I’m pretty sure that a grade school nun would have corrected me if I had renamed a section of a world-famous track. Or am I out of touch and this is now popular usage?

Don Velocity, Cleveland, OH

MP: There are plenty of tracks on the planet that have esses that go upwards, so why wouldn’t climbing esses or rising esses or another variation on the theme be allowed at all of those tracks? Unless VIR has trademarked it?

Q: Is there any reason why are there no track limit rules in IndyCar? I hated the way they drove at COTA.

Jim Doyle, Hoboken, NJ

MP: The COTA race from five years ago? I’ll speak for them, and could be totally wrong, but the lamest thing I see in racing is when FIA-sanctioned series go crazy for policing track limits.

Q: Nuts to NBC. NASCAR running late on rain delay so USA is not showing IndyCar. Welcome, FOX. Can’t be any worse or disloyal to IndyCar.

PSL I did check CNBC at 3:45, 10 laps in, as notified, and it was not on there either. Good riddance NBC, IndyCar can never grow with “partners” like you.

Glenn, Palos Verdes Estates, CA

MP: I caught the race in its entirety on Peacock on the flight back from Watkins Glen, so I was spared the channel bouncing due to the NASCAR rain delays. But when I heard Kevin Lee mention it would be moving to CNBC, I knew the Mailbag would be getting some letters. I kept switching over to the in-flight TV channels and saw USA was running last year’s NASCAR race, in what was listed as the IndyCar race, while waiting for the rain delay to end. That’s when I knew it was bad. And we get it — NASCAR is way more popular and financially important to NBC, so it’s where its top loyalty should fall.

But rather than switch to the scheduled IndyCar race under the California sun during the time listed for the IndyCar race, the call was made to boot the series in favor of showing a rerun. I can’t say it will never happen at FOX if there’s a rain delay that bleeds into IndyCar’s time, but this was just a bad look that only makes the deal done by Penske Entertainment look better than it already was.

Q: It is bad enough that the Laguna Seca race was on USA, but when I turned it on and found that a rain-delayed NASCAR race was being shown, I was irate. No mention of IndyCar being mentioned by either announcers or bottom line until almost 6:30. So it gets switched to CNBC at the last minute. Luckily my streaming package carries CNBC, but field was already on the warm-up lap. No pre-race show. Thank God we move to FOX next year, and NBC wonders why they got dumped! I hope Bell and Hinchcliffe get hired at FOX, and I hope Jon Beekhuis and Paul Tracy are being considered, too.

Dave

MP: I only have a few more months to say this, but the magical answer that circumvents every viewing problem is Peacock. No need to wonder what channel it’s on, or where it will move to if it gets bumped on broadcast. Full show, every time.

Q: I know Laguna is a tight track, but some enforcement of track limits would be nice. It’s kinda silly watching the drivers intentionally put both tires outside the curb at Turn 4 and then into the Corkscrew.

Little Tanuki (I think in the tradition of Big Possum we should all adopt animal-based Mailbag pseudonyms, hope it catches on.)

MP: I’m guessing you’re referring to Turn 5. Turn 4 is where Armstrong went off. The track limit is dirt, which is delightfully self-policing.

Q: Why is fuel saving so critical in IndyCar? It really seems to impact the racing. Announcers are constantly talking about saving fuel, and how using push to pass really drains fuel. In F1, fuel seems to be a total non-issue. The only issue seems to be tire management. I assume fuel is limited in IndyCar but not in F1? It seems counter-productive to racing quality, and behind the times for racing to be saying “we’re really good at fuel saving.”

Jeff B, Bernardsville, NJ

MP: It’s critical in every form of racing where refueling happens: IndyCar. IMSA. SRO. NASCAR. F1 doesn’t have refueling, so it’s just tire choice. I’d suggest the merits of fuel saving and auto brands touting their ability to win while conserving fuel, as hybrids become a more important part of their promotions and sales, is the opposite of being behind the times. If you’ve watched IndyCar or IMSA races, it’s not often when racing quality is lacking.

Q: To me, Herta rejoining across pit lane just across Newgarden looked way more dangerous than Ferrucci’s “block.” Is there not a rule about unsafe rejoining?

Bernard, TX

MP: Yes, there is.

Q: Hey, way to go race control. Helping the Boss cheat again. Holding the yellow so Josef Newgarden can pit so he improves from being outside the top 10 up to second. When is the series going to stop obviously helping Penske?

Michael Pennington

MP: Josef was leading when it happened. As it was noted on the broadcast, it’s been standard practice for race control to wait for the leader to pit, when possible, before closing the pits under caution. I can’t see anything that was done to benefit Newgarden that hasn’t been done for other drivers. What I took issue with was the 1m13s it took to throw the caution. If something has happened that’s deemed worthy of a caution — like a car that’s spun and stalled and sitting backwards on the racing surface — and a decision was made that it could wait more than a minute for that caution to be thrown, then don’t throw the caution because it’s clearly not a concern.

It’s either a caution or it isn’t. What I’d rather see is a tight window of consideration. If the leader is near pit lane, great, let them get in and out quickly. When you end up waiting almost a full lap for the leader to arrive, you’ve shown that the safety of the affected driver is of secondary priority, and that should never be the case.

Newgarden’s wave-around might have seemed a little sketchy, but it was in line with standard practice by IndyCar’s race control. Perry Nelson/Motorsport Images

Q: I read the Mailbag every week but never write in. Well, today I had to! NBC did IndyCar dirty. I get it, NASCAR in the rain was exciting. But show the finish on USA. Glad we are moving to FOX.

Pedro Poveda

MP: To quote Juan Pablo Montoya, “It is what it is.”

Q: I just finished watching the Laguna Seca IndyCar race. Cars were slipping and sliding all over the track for the entire race. This surface was just repaved last year! Is it rubber building up on the track? I don’t recall seeing a single street sweeper all day long. With all of the yellow flag laps in the race, there was plenty of time to sweep the marbles. Why didn’t they?

Also, why is grip so elusive for the IndyCars here? I don’t remember the IMSA cars having this much trouble staying on track.

Kevin P., Los Angeles, CA

MP: Sebastien Bourdais told me at the IMSA race in May that the track surface was opening up and breaking up in some areas. I’d guess it has something to do with the surface itself, since other recent repavings have either held or worn down quickly. I always think of repavings like paint jobs on cars. Done properly, they last a long time and look great. Done poorly, they peel and flake and need to be redone far sooner than expected.

On grip, don’t forget that harder Firestone tires have been the norm this year since they were made for the heavier cars that were supposed to be hybrid from the first race.

Q: I’m feeling a bit down for Jack Harvey. The last couple of races, he has been driving pretty good only to have some mechanical issues. Just this weekend at Laguna Seca he was running 20th with 15 laps to go and had a ton of P2P (120 seconds) then something went wrong with the right rear.

I know DCR is a lower-budget team, but Jack is usually only 1.5s or less behind in qualifying, so I do not think it is his driving. I believe with better equipment he would do better, and I don’t think the last couple of seasons did him very much good at RLL, as all of the cars struggled, and have continued to struggle even this season with the exception of Lundgaard.

Thoughts, and what have the mechanical issues been with DCR?

Kasey

MP: Other than Tristan Vautier’s run for the team at Detroit, there hasn’t been a lot to celebrate for DCR. Jack’s done his best in the toughest situation of his IndyCar career. They have good people running the cars, but if there’s an engine failure, it seems like DCR is the place it happens first. It also had no real offseason engineering R&D program, the thinnest engineering group that came together at the first race, and a revolving door in the second car. Take all those things, and it adds up to a team that isn’t able to give the other teams a hard time.

They try like hell, but DCR effectively started the season three laps down, and that’s why its drivers are usually among the slowest and least competitive. Jack knew what he was signing up for, and he’s a highly positive influence. And the crew is full of energy, despite the poor results. But the team is where it should be with all of the limitations it has faced. Jack’s good, but he’s not going to haul a 25th-place car up to 15th on talent alone.

Q: Sorry to be the 1000th person to complain about Peacock coverage, but the app is impossible! I paused the Laguna Seca race to eat dinner with my family and the app timed out. “No problem,” I think, but then after dinner I can’t find the race at all! It’s not on Peacock until hours later! To make matters worse, I can see highlight videos where the title tells me who won the race. But I can’t see the race. Why? A big raspberry to Peacock’s editors. Boooooo!

Gene Scanlon

MP: Thanks for writing in, Gene.

Q: I watched the IndyCar race (after the sleight of hand moving it to CNBC with two minutes warning). As a 35+ year member of SCCA, flag marshal, and flag chief in several regions as well as at several LBGP events, I was amazed that there were zero calls for exceeding track limits entering the Corkscrew.

To be specific , as you approach the turn there is a series of what we called Dragons Teeth on driver left with a piece of artificial turf (?) to the left of that. Almost every TV shot of that area showed cars with all for wheels driving to the left of the Dragons Teeth. This was especially evident on the final restarts.

So, is putting all four wheels outside of a device intended to keep you on track now not worth a call to race control? Seems more like shortcutting the course, which should be a penalty.

Peter, Phoenix, AZ

MP: I’d say the usable track surface is what’s decreed by the sanctioning body, not the person who installed the curbs.

Q: I’d have to think MSR has to be happy with Malukas last weekend, making the Fast 12, then running well on pace during the race, and bringing the car home in 16th. Shank said they were tempering their expectations, but it looks like a solid first race with the team.

Siegel struggled in practice and qualifying, but even with some issues, managed a 12th-place finish. That has to make everyone happy.

I was wasn’t able to watch the IMSA Watkins Glen race, but it sounds like the weather got pretty bad. What was the weather like from your view and what were the drivers saying afterwards?

John Balestrieri, Milwaukee, WI

MP: We had doctor appointments Monday morning so I flew out about 15 minutes after the start in order to get home Sunday night. We had insane weather Thursday-Saturday with high heat, high humidity, and huge rainfall and lightning. From what I saw on the broadcast, Sunday was all of those things in a six-hour span.

Q: Last weekend I was home on a non-race weekend for myself and my race team. What do I do all day? Lucky enough it was raining so the yardwork I should have been doing got put on hold, and so it was up and watch F1, then the Indy NXT I recorded from the day before, then watch the Formula F race from Road America and the June Sprints. A bit of lunch and then watch IMSA from the Glen, where I have a healthy list of my team’s alumni competing. My day was going to be wrapped up with IndyCar at Laguna. Nope, not available…

It cost me zero other than my basic subscription to watch pretty much every type of racing on the planet, but not IndyCar. Not surprising really, as early in the week my wife and I sat down after dinner and I was excited to watch the just-released “100 Days to Indy” on Netflix. Hmm, cannot find it… oh, not available in Canada. IndyCar makes it very tough to remain a fan of what arguably is some of the best racing in the world.

So my question is simple. Does IndyCar hate Canadians?

Brian

MP: Yes.

Starting to feel like the most reilable option for Canadian fans is to record the races themselves from trackside and then watch them on their phones later. Gets expensive, though. Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Q: Thank the heavens we will no longer be subject to NBC’s coverage of IndyCar. Laguna Seca was a disaster, from getting shifted to Peacock and no side by side during commercials, to cutting away for a commercial just as a cloud of dust appears on the screen and watching the endless loop of Rashida Jones. I just hope we can keep Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe next year.

Dino, New Hanover, PA

MP: Sunday’s broadcast efforts went over about as well as a fart in church.

Q: When the 2.2L engines were designed, the horsepower numbers that we were told was about 550 for superspeedway, 625 for short oval, and 700 for road course with about 50 for P2P. Since this engine has been upgraded for over 10 years, are those power figures about the same, or have they improved? What’s the best guess for what they’re putting out now?

Also, has IndyCar released how P2P is going to change with the hybrid system coming at Mid-Ohio?

Dan H., Kansas City, MO

MP: I don’t expect P2P to change. The estimates for high boost were optimistic back then. I’m told they are safely over 700hp now.

Q: Over the last two decades, I have put up with a lot as an IndyCar fan. But yesterday was it. I arranged my weekend to be free watch the race, and all I got was a NASCAR rain delay. I already bought the channel IndyCar was on, I’m not going to buy another just because IndyCar gets no respect. The fact is that Miles and company have devolved IndyCar so low that at one point during the IndyCar race’s slot, I was watching last year’s NASCAR car Iowa race

I have been following IndyCar avidly for over 50 years and stood with it through all the lean years since the Split, but now I am through. I am now a Formula 1 fan. Their races aren’t pre-empted. The Sky Sports production of the F1 races make the IndyCar race production of look like a pile of puke, much like the F1 cars make the old heavy IndyCars look like that same pile. We older fan demographics are the only thing that keep the series going with ticket sales and TV ratings, but we get slapped in the face time and time again. I am done! Go Max!

Irving Frank, Merrillville, IN

MP: Sunday’s broadcast efforts went over about as well as…

Q: Thanks to the videos RACER have done, I have learned a lot about the hybrid units. You guys did a great job explaining things that a novice like myself can grasp the concepts. I am excited to see how it plays out during the upcoming races. Is my excitement shared with the teams? And is there any buzz within the industry? I’m hoping the end result with the hybrid is good racing, but also attracting and keeping OEMs. On a scale of 0-10, how much do you think this helps IndyCar keep Honda and gain another engine manufacturer? And what engine manufacturers do you think would be most interested?

Brian, Joliet, IL

MP: I want to tell you that teams and drivers are super excited about going hybrid. But we aren’t there yet. Better TV ratings will help Honda to renew and to attract more manufacturers. IndyCar announced it was going hybrid in May of 2019, and nobody has joined. The fact that IndyCar is finally going hybrid can’t hurt in enticing manufacturers to consider getting in, but I’ll come back to the often-overlooked fact that going hybrid wasn’t enough of a move to bring new brands in. Hard to say which would be most interested since none have said yes. Of the ones I continue to hear are on the radar, Stellantis, Hyundai, and Toyota are tops.

Q: Which IndyCar drivers have personal contracts with engine manufacturers which would prohibit them from driving for another IndyCar team that used the opposite engine? Does this prohibit them from joining an IMSA team from another manufacturer for endurance races? (Thinking Graham Rahal driving an RLL IMSA BMW.)

Also, wouldn’t it be more lucrative for a team engaged in multiple series to contract with a single manufacturer rather than multiple manufacturers? I guess it all depends on what contracts you can negotiate.

Rick, Lisle, IL

MP: Since they don’t show us their contracts, it’s not something I can answer based on firsthand knowledge. But Scott Dixon and Alex Palou drive for Ganassi in Honda-powered cars and in Cadillacs, so that answers itself. Josef Newgarden drives a Chevy-powered car and a Porsche. Kyle Kirkwood is Honda and Lexus. I’d think Graham can drive anything he wants, but can’t say for a fact. Teams tend to go where the biggest money is found, which suggests aligning with a single manufacturer isn’t necessarily where the best money is made.

Q: I understand that IndyCar has held off yellows in the past near the end of a race as a standard practice. But seeing a 14th-place car suddenly in second was a mild shock. What is the thought process behind this? We all have heard time and again about the “danger zone” caused by not pitting when the leaders do. Newgarden was in it, and IndyCar kept it from biting him. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Mike Talarico, RIR fan, now in Charlotte

MP: Josef was actually leading when the caution for Marcus Armstrong’s spin and crash at Turn 4 happened. Through great pit strategy and some good luck, plus hard driving on Newgarden’s part, his No. 2 Chevy had overcome a lot of their earlier adversity, was sitting 10th when he pitted on lap 54.

Q: David Malsher-Lopez had a cool video on RACER where he did a track walk at Laguna Seca with Will Power. Great to hear the insights from Will about different angles and techniques when entering a corner or the run-up to a corner.

I know that track walks have become the norm in Formula 1. Do you know when and who started doing these in both F1 and IndyCar and when the rest of the fields began to do them?

Brandon, Lodi, CA

MP: I’ve seen track walks being done for decades and they have been the norm at professional races for as long as I can remember. My run through SCCA drivers school in 1990 included a track walk at Sonoma Raceway, FWIW. I can’t say when or where they started, but I’m sure a Google search could provide some answers.

Newman/Haas walks the track ahead of Champ Car’s 2003 Long Beach race, where Bruno Junqueira went on to finish third while Sebastien Bourdais dropped out with an engine problem. Trivia time: Who finished first and second that weekend? (No Googling!) Dan Boyd/Motorsport Images.

Q: I am a little sad that the Ganassi team seems to be leaving Le Mans for now. Having two IndyCar champions racing in the top class against European aces is one of the many things that make Le Mans such a unique race. Do you think that the clash of the 2025 schedules between Le Mans and IndyCar may have played a role in the divorce with Cadillac?

Also, does Ganassi only want a program that will enable him to take part on both sides of the Atlantic? Maybe that was one of the reasons he did not reach a deal with Acura. What about Alpine, the other LMDh with the ORECA chassis? The car is not reliable, but when it is running, it is somewhat competitive compared to the other LMDhs in the WEC field. To me, it seems like a deal with some potential for success that gives you the chance to race at both Le Mans and in IMSA, but I do not know about the willingness, budget, or capacity of the French manufacturer to provide extra cars. Especially for next year, it seems impossible.

Dimitrios, Greece

MP: As a bigger team that relies on full funding from a manufacturer, compared to some teams that have their own sponsors to bring to make the spend by the manufacturer smaller, Ganassi continues to search for a new brand that fits its business model. Calendars and the rest have nothing to do with the split with Cadillac and the lack of a deal with Acura.

Q: Near as I can tell, IMSA’s broadcast deal expires as soon as this off-season, but there has been little talk of what the next deal might look like or on which network. Getting a payout comparable to IndyCar, let alone NASCAR, is likely not in the offing given the TV ratings, but I’m wondering if NBC losing one of their other racing properties means IMSA could shift networks? It is perplexing that the amount of press coverage and in-person attendance for IMSA races has increased, especially in the new GTP era, but the series has yet to fully catch on with the viewing public.

Ryan, Rhode Island

MP: IMSA’s extension with NBC was confirmed on Friday (after you sent this letter), which I’ve heard might go through the end of the decade and adds more broadcast coverage.

IndyCar’s departure has favored IMSA, no doubt. Here’s the main issue that’s hard to overcome for an endurance racing series: To get better TV ratings, more network time is needed, but when half of your races are six hours long or more, it’s all but impossible to get six, 10, 12, or 24 hours on NBC. So, it’s working to get more of those races on cable with USA where the progress starts, and when possible, to get an hour here or there at the really long races on NBC before moving to a blend of USA and streaming on Peacock.

The other half of the races that are 1h40m to 2h40m are obviously easier to run on NBC, and as NBC moves forward with NASCAR and IMSA as its two main racing series, I’d imagine there will be more effort by NBC to feature the sports car series owned by NASCAR.

Q: My goodness, what happened with Siegel and Arrow McLaren? I’m guessing no long-term contract was in place, but for McLaren to announce Theo Pourchaire for the rest of the season just to can him this fast… wild. How did they come to this decision? Obviously Siegel is talented, so picking him once they cleared the seat makes sense, but the part leading up to that makes no sense. Theo is an F2 champ and F1 test driver, with tons of open-wheel success.

Is McLaren hurting its reputation in IndyCar with other drivers as it continues to just cast people aside so quickly? Thinking about Hinch, Askew and now Theo… not that all of those are the same circumstance, but similar in that they’ve all been dumped unceremoniously.

Mike R., Michigan

MP: On Theo, it’s one of the coldest moves I can recall in quite some time. I gave Theo the numbers to every team owner or team president he needed, and hope something will develop for him. He’s more talented than at least half the field, which should put him in play for opportunities next year. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a run or two this year in the No. 51 Coyne car that Siegel drove.

Some teams are very self-conscious and thin-skinned; that’s not Arrow McLaren. The explanation I was given on two separate occasions is what was presented to y’all: Nolan spoke with the team about 2025 earlier in the season, greatly impressed Zak Brown and Richard Dean while driving their LMP2 car to victory at Le Mans and, with the newfound determination to move Nolan straight into IndyCar after he stepped away from Indy NXT to do the Road America race for Juncos Hollinger Racing, he was going to sign somewhere, and Arrow McLaren didn’t want to lose out.

One team owner told me they were offered significant funding to run Siegel while they were searching for seats once the go-now decision was made around Road America, but the timing was off, it didn’t happen, and he was announced at Arrow McLaren. I asked if the seat was paid for, and was told no, emphatically.

Q: What if IndyCar Series 2027 car looks like this?

Therius Oktavario

MP: Looks like a current F1 car mated with a 2007 Panoz DP01 Champ Car, but did so safely by wearing an aeroscreen.

Q: For IndyCar on FOX, why not ask Will Buxton or Karun Chandhok to do the pit reporting? Let them pick a number of races, or whatever fits the schedule. They both have big social media followings and like IndyCar. Maybe some of their followers get hooked.

Ron Thompson

MP: I believe Will works for Formula 1, which would likely make supporting/promoting IndyCar a non-starter. Karun’s a freelancer, and that would be awesome. If there’s one person to poach above all others from F1 broadcasts, it’s Anthony Davidson. No former driver does a better job of analyzing than Ant.

Q: Have you heard any more about IndyCar podium improvements? I think it was Michael Andretti who first brought it up, and Zak Brown mentioned it again. The family and I were at the podium ceremony at Road America and while we had a great time (McLaughlin doused us with champagne), it would be great if the 1000+ fans could see past the stands full of photographers. Maybe they could put the ceremony on top of the building and give everyone a better view?

Tom, Brookfield, WI

MP: I think downsizing the stands to make for better viewing would be the easiest answer.

Everyone accepts that racing can be a tough business, but it’s still hard not to feel bad for Pourchaire. Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Q: I would like to address a trend in criticism of the FOX IndyCar deal that kind of surprised me. Has everyone forgotten that FOX is an over-the-air network?

Seriously, so many complaints have been made about needing to buy a cable satellite or Venu subscription as if they’re the only option, but antennas capable of receiving the local OTA affiliates are still a thing, and there are modern antennas that can get decent signal in even some of the most remote little towns. Yes, they cost money, but we’re talking one-time payments rather than subscriptions. This is one of the reasons why getting all the races on an OTA network is such a big deal to begin with.

Let’s keep this information in circulation. People need to be aware of all options, not just a scant few.

FormulaFox

MP: Most that I found on Amazon were in the $20-$50 range.

Q: Just watched the Iowa NASCAR race. The repaving made for one doozy of a race. Three-wide, four-wide. Tight racing. Kudos to NASCAR for such a fine race.

Now for my true love. IndyCar. How is this repave going to affect the IndyCar race next month? I foresee another Texas Motor Speedway problem. NASCAR comes in and sprays their liquid tar all over the track and it screws up the IndyCar race. Has IndyCar tested at the repaved track? What’s the forecast for the race? Good, bad or trouble?

Peter Malone

MP: Hard to answer until we have cars on track. Teams are testing there shortly so we’ll have answers then that we lack now.

Q: I’ve got a theory around why Malukas got the sudden nod at MSR. David’s dad has been pretty vocal about taking HMD into IndyCar. With the new charter system in the works, do you think he saw an opportunity to buy into MSR and get HMD into the series that way rather than trying to start the team from scratch?

Another question I had was about the length of the schedule. I know everyone wants more races, but IndyCar doesn’t want to go up against the NFL on Sundays. That got me thinking: In locations where a purpose-built circuit is already in place, why not try to run Friday night races? With the way the promoters have been building in additional entertainment, it might be a pretty fun night to spend at the racetrack if there was qualifying (4pm), a smaller show (5:30), then the race (8pm) followed by the headliner. Not many people attend practice anyways, but if they held it under the lights Thursday night, you might be able to get a decent crowd.

They should also consider chartering buses and having pickup locations in multiple parts of whichever city they’re in to make the experience as seamless as possible for attendees.

Paul Kessler

MP: MSR is already owned by three entities: Mike and Mary Beth Shank, Jim Meyer, and Liberty Media. HMD has invested in a big and brand-new shop in Brownsburg, Ind., so I wouldn’t think buying into an Ohio-based team fits the profile. David was an obvious choice, since most of the remaining races are ovals where he excels.

Nothing is impossible, but FOX tends to fill its weeknights with a variety of featured drama/comedy/reality shows.

Q: I saw a reference in the Mailbag to your former teammate at Taylor Fletcher Racing. Is this the same Taylor Fletcher from San Clemente and his wife Bonnie? If so, I worked with him a few years during the Pro Mazda time, right up until he got the Indy Lights car and slightly after.

Walt Kiffer

MP: Indeed it is.

Q: With yet more turmoil at Arrow McLaren, I wonder why anybody would take a seat there? If Sam Schmidt was still calling the shots, I think this would not have happened. Your thoughts?

David, Waxhaw, NC

MP: I felt bad for the team with all of the drama it didn’t ask for with the No. 6 car. And then it went and lit that sentiment on fire by creating drama of its own. Sam was rooted in greater stability, but the team wasn’t pushing its way into the Penske/Ganassi/Andretti territory that often before McLaren bought in. So, would this happen before McLaren. Doubtful. Is the team far more competitive since McLaren took control? It is. This is just a really bad look.

Q: What does new TV deal mean for the possibility of keeping Honda and getting new manufacturers? Could this deal lure old car owners back? I am referring to Eric Bachelart, he has a rich history in IndyCar. I think having someone like him back would be great for IndyCar.

David Tucker

MP: I love Eric. Coming back to IndyCar would require a person or a sponsor handing him $10 million, at a minimum, to buy cars and equipment, and go racing, so a great TV deal could inspire him to start searching, but it isn’t enough to fill his bank account. If the ratings are as good as we hope, Honda could have the justification to stay.

Let’s get the Conquest comeback started. Eric Gilbert/Motorsport Images

Q: Looking to get your opinion on when you think Graham Rahal will hang it up? The past few years at Indy have not shown any real speed from him. If you go back to, I believe it was 2021 when he had his best shot to win and people thought he was on the winning strategy when his tire came off coming out of pit lane… I can’t imagine racing has been fun as of late as it was for Marco.

On top of not being all that competitive, he has a ton of off-track commitments with all his businesses. If I had to guess, next year would be his last. Wanted to hear your thoughts?

Craig, Green Bay, WI

MP: Graham’s stuck in a cycle where no elite athlete wants to retire on a loss. Philadelphia Eagles’ center Jason Kelce had to accept that reality after winning the Super Bowl in 2018 and holding on to try and retire after getting a second ring, but he accepted it was time to end that quest and say farewell after the 2023-24 season.

Graham hasn’t won an IndyCar championship, but he was a front-runner and can still win races if everything goes according to plan. But there’s also no mistaking that since he arrived in 2022, young teammate Christian Lundgaard has been his team’s best chance to succeed at most races. It’s not a matter of opinion; the results state that as a fact.

The hope last year for Graham, with personnel changes made during the offseason, was to get off to a strong start and have a great season. There were a few highlights, but sadly, it was a down year and he placed 15th in the championship. Same story this year where more offseason changes were made, and it’s been better again, but he’s in that same midfield space — 16th after the Laguna Seca race — and I don’t know if it’s realistic to expect the team to launch him into title contention next year since yet another engineering reboot is required.

I’d love to see Graham have that dream farewell season where he’s contending for a title. I just don’t know how much longer he wants to keep coming back and hoping for things to radically change. Definite Kelce territory.

Q: I’m writing this on Thursday afternoon, and tonight FOX is televising another “must-see” event similar to last year’s “Field of Dreams” cornfield game, this time the Giants vs the Cardinals at Rickwood Field, America’s oldest professional ballpark in Birmingham. This will not be an annual game, but instead a made-for-TV event, where the fans in the stands are paying top dollar to be there… not that the take at the gate will be spectacular, like at Thermal this spring.

If you remember the 2001 IRL season, all the buzz around Gasoline Alley was actually about Richmond coming up, racing on just a three-quarter mile, 70 foot wide track, and if you remember the infield, the satellite news trucks from Charlotte and High Point, N.C., were there, as well as heavy local coverage — and the crowd wasn’t disappointed. The only problem was the IRL kept going back year after year as crowds dwindled from the 80k at the debut, until eventually it was off the schedule. Pretty much the same thing happened three weeks later at the one-and-a-third mile, 55-foot wide Nashville Superspeedway: It was sold out in advance, and somewhere I have a picture of a sign from a local bar saying “Missed out on Indy tix? Come watch it here!” Then, as the years progressed, the novelty also wore off, and crowds diminished.

A couple of months ago, I wrote in suggesting a return after many decades to Darlington, Rockingham (NC &/or UK!), and North Wilkesboro; and I’m revising my idea to make IndyCar races one-time TV events, just like the Rickwood Stadium ball game, as this fits into FOX’s modus operandi, with heavy network promotion.

NASCAR has also tried variations of this theme, starting with the trucks racing on the dirt at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway, throwing down dirt at Bristol, and even racing on the quarter-mile track at the LA Coliseum. However, unlike FOX Sports’ “must-see” baseball games, they kept repeating races at these venues until they fizzled out.

When you look over the list of tracks Champ Cars have raced at over the last century, many of the tracks are now gone; but a few are still standing, and would make for great one-shot TV events on weeknight FOX network prime time, i.e., you go to Rockingham once, and then another historic track the next year, and so forth. Even if a track does not have the suitable lighting of 70 footcandles on the horizontal and vertical plane needed for network TV, Musco can bring in their lighting trucks as they did for the 2003 CART race at Cleveland’s Hopkins Airport.

Dan Schwartz, Atlanta, GA

MP: It’s a great idea. I’ll never forget Richmond 2001 as that was my first (and last) pole. Truth is, IndyCar, and most major series except for NASCAR, do a terrible job at doing fun and playful events, or ones that celebrate its history, or put on a special one-off race like you suggest. And in IndyCar, that was the case long before Penske Entertainment bought the series. I’d love for that to change.

Q: Like Tom Hiett last week, I’m very unhappy with Road America allowing the southern third of IndyCar team transporters to block the paddock walk public access. I hated it last year and more so this year. It’s a Road America issue for sure and not IndyCar, since it also happened for the IMSA race in 2023. For 40 years the entire fence row at the pits has been open. No longer.

I complained to track management after the 2023 races and received no reply. When I asked at the start of this year if would happen again, I was simply told “yes.” I complained again via this year’s IndyCar post-race survey about this. Crickets.

John Ewert or Mike Kertscher are free to clear this up. They seem to not want to clarify what the reasons are. What I’ve made clear to them is that I will no longer attend these races in person. It’s that much of a thing to me. Maybe they don’t care about my group of tickets. If they don’t, why should I?

Mike DeQuardo, Elkhart Lake

MP: This is the first instance I know of with someone refusing to attend a race due to how transporters are parked. Hopefully they listen.

Q: With the (rumored) increased TV money from FOX, has the series privately outlined where they plan to invest the extra cash? If I were a team owner I’d be absolutely over the moon about the full network slate, but then my first question would be asking how the series plans on utilizing the extra money that FOX is paying.

Joe

MP: Penske Entertainment hasn’t acknowledged the amount they’ll be paid, much less what they plan to do with the money. You won’t find a more secretive group in racing, so I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Q: While something is better than nothing, I wish that another network would be covering IMSA instead of NBC. While they say that there will be great coverage this weekend, that should be an indication of where the coverage will exist. It won’t be on NBC but on Peacock. The Six Hours at Watkins Glen has the first half of the race, but if you want to see the finish it appears that you must pay to see it on the Turkey — sorry, Peacock. Any thoughts from your perspective?

Craig

MP: It was on USA for the first three hours and the second three were on Peacock, as noted. IndyCar also raced on Sunday, and took over on USA. I wish we could go back in time to when SPEED existed and we could get full endurance races on a single cable channel, but that reality disappeared more than a decade ago. Motor Trend does all 24 hours of Le Mans, which is awesome, but it’s a huge exception.

Streaming has been the absolute norm to consume endurance racing for quite a long time. The last time it wasn’t, George W. Bush was president. Nothing new here. Same for IndyCar for every session prior to the races since NBC took over. If you love IMSA, get Peacock.

Q: How about IndyCar/Dallara pay Adrian Newey a big chunk of change to design a new chassis before he jets off to Aston Martin or wherever he’s going?

Pete, Milwaukee WI

MP: Asking Newey to design a spec car is like asking Picasso to do finger painting.

The main point of hiring Newey is so that you can hopefully end up with a better car than your rivals — which isn’t relevant if the chassis in question is for a spec series. Alexander Trienitz/Motorsport Images

Q: Carlos Sainz should sign a one- or two-year contract and then decide where he should go. There may be openings at top teams in the next year or two. If Hamilton decides to quit after two years at Ferrari, Carlos would be the best choice for them. If Kimi Antonelli doesn’t work out, if Red Bull loses faith in Perez, if Alonso retires or Lance Stroll leaves F1… lots of possibilities in the next two years.

Bruce

CHRIS MEDLAND: Sainz told Mercedes he wasn’t interested in a one-year deal when that was mooted as a potential option while they waited for either Verstappen or Antonelli, and I don’t see it making a huge amount of sense elsewhere. There’s so much movement this year that there’s hardly any seats available for 2026, so he has to do at least a two-year deal.

To achieve what you’re suggesting, he needs to ensure he has a break clause in his contract if a race-winning team comes knocking, which after this season could be any one of four (assuming Mercedes does pick up a win).

The Red Bull seat was one Sainz was really hoping would become available and he’d have been a great fit if the defending champions needed someone, but the options he’s left with are all unlikely to be particularly strong next year so his reputation isn’t expected to get much a boost from the machinery.

That means a longer-term deal with a project that is growing is likely to be his next move, but he’s definitely unfortunate to be losing a Ferrari seat when he’s regularly so close to Leclerc and not have anything available at any of the top five teams.

Q: With so many looking at ways to improve the racing/passing at Monaco, why not think out of the box and kind of lean into the no passing? Make the Monaco GP a TT!

Hear me out. Practice in groups on Friday. Then Saturday, with much festivity, Prince Albert draws the single-car qualifying order. Each car gets three laps. On Sunday the “grid” is set with the slowest qualifier going first and the fastest last. Each car gets four laps, and the fastest accumulated time wins!

A point on track could be chosen so as one car is close to entering the pits, the next could be leaving, so the fans are not without a car on track. All the cars would have in-car cameras, too!

I think it could make for a great event, and the course and the cars could remain unchanged! With how cool the Isle of Man is, I thought I’d throw that idea out there.

Bill V. Sr.

CM: You’re not the first person to advocate for a total rethink of the format of the event in Monaco, to suit the track itself. And I’m not totally against trying to find a solution that is a test of skill and still rewards the best driver and car package but through a different way.

The issue with your idea is you’re not getting equal track conditions, and if it rains halfway through the time trial then the bottom 10 are the only ones able to “win” compared to anyone in the top 10. And I also fear that there would be a lack of general interest until the final few runners, too.

It would make for a more entertaining event, though, and we’re guaranteed more boring ones (without rain) until F1 can significantly address the size of the cars. F2 to some extent but F3 in particular showed that the size of the machinery is the key thing — Leclerc could never have driven so slowly in the F1 race with a smaller car because he’d be far more likely to be overtaken.

Q: During the Monaco GP they showed a visit to Alpine reserve driver’s Jack Doohan’s place in Monaco. Beyond my means. Sure looked like it was in the seven-figure range.

How much does a reserve driver in F1 make?

David Young

CM: Ha, don’t forget Doohan’s father has done pretty well for himself in life too, first as a legend in motorcycle racing [ED: Mick Doohan won five 500c world championships] and now through his involvement with private aircraft sales, acquisition and trading as the president for Jetcraft in Australia and New Zealand. It’s not so much about the salary a driver might be earning, but the vast majority in motorsport come from affluent backgrounds.

Reserve drivers are rarely highly paid in terms of how many think of F1 wages, though. In fact, many of the race drivers in their early years are not even reaching seven figures themselves — it’s the front-runners, race winners and multiple champions that command the huge salaries that people make headlines out of.

The reserves still have a good wage and their expenses covered, but often dovetail with another racing program that might be a paid drive in WEC or similar. Partnerships and appearances can also help, where they’ve got more time when they’re on-site for a race weekend to add to their earnings.

Q: Two years ago Perez could at least challenge Verstappen and won a couple races here or there. Last year he wasn’t as competitive. This year it’s almost like they’re driving different cars. I’m not here to speculate on if he belongs in the car or anything like that. I’m curious what the team attributes the massive gap in pace to Verstappen to?

Ryan, West Michigan

CM: Even Perez himself puts it down to ability. In an interview we ran sections from with him in Canada, he admitted, “You have a reference where you currently have the best driver on the grid next to you and he’s performing at such a high level, at one with the car…”

Don’t take any of the following as criticism of Perez, either. Verstappen was starting to put some distance between himself and Ricciardo more often back in 2018, then also had a clear advantage over Gasly and Albon after that.

Verstappen’s ability to get a car to do what he wants is incredible. On a recent Skip Barber Racing School day I was shown his approach to a corner in Sebring in the Florida Winter Series back in 2014 where his car control and rapid reactions meant he could attack the bumps like nobody else. And he was just starting out in cars then.

Like many drivers, especially when they pass 30 (Alonso and Hamilton have generally been outliers on the current grid) Perez has clear strengths but is at his best when the car allows him to use them. He finds it tougher to drive around problems, whereas Verstappen’s adaptability gives him an advantage.

That’s also shown by the fact that Perez is often closer early in the season, where they both start from the same point and on tracks Verstappen isn’t a huge fan of, but then the Dutchman works out how to adjust or get the car to do more of what he wants. He himself said it was Baku last year where he tried a few different settings and approaches in the race while behind Perez, and it clicked.

Look at how close the chasing pack is to Verstappen, though. Perez could be 0.3s per lap off his teammate last year and usually finish second or on the podium after starting in the top four or five. This year, that deficit would leave him in the bottom half of the top 10, or even outside it sometimes in qualifying. Then you’re stuck in a more competitive pack and can’t make easy progress.

Even with clear air and the ability to run his own race without any disruption from lap three in Barcelona, Verstappen was still very nearly caught by Norris, who had a lot more fighting to do. The Red Bull advantage has gone, and that’s emphasizing the value of Verstappen.

Perez himself admits that, all things being equal, Verstappen is fundamentally quicker. Glenn Dunbar/Motorsport Images.

Q: How did McLaren started racing so well in F1 this year? Especially since Lando Norris won the Miami GP?

Kurt Perleberg

CM: One word, Kurt: Upgrades. McLaren’s technical team was restructured in the off-season before 2023, as it had been felt it was heading in the wrong direction with its new car and that other team members had identified how it needed to improve, and quickly. So Andrea Stella became team principal and technical director James Key left amid the rebuild, and the progress has been incredible ever since.

It’s actually a year ago that it really started to show, with McLaren bringing an upgrade package to the car in Austria that instantly put it in the fight for podiums, and it has continued on that path.

Miami was the biggest upgrade of the first part of this season and it turned a very solid car into one that is pretty much on an even footing with Red Bull, and to that end it shouldn’t be overlooked that Rob Marshall joined from Red Bull in January of this year, currently working as chief designer.

While Marshall can’t be credited with last year’s progress or the upgrade package introduced in Miami, he can reinforce the direction the team is taking and how it goes about its work. But the existing personnel had very much put it on the right path already, and was delivering.

The Mercedes power unit is also believed to still be at least as good as any of its rivals, if not marginally better, so McLaren simply has a strong all-round package and — aside from Red Bull — worked out how to get the most out of the ground effect cars quickest of the front-runners. That’s allowed it to catch up at a faster rate, with Ferrari believing it understood what it needed to do ever since the summer break last year (so around four months after McLaren) and Mercedes doing so this year.

A new wind tunnel and simulator upgrades over the past few years have also ensured McLaren has the facilities to successfully capitalize on its understanding and knowledge, whereas in the past it might have found it tougher to develop a car so effectively.

Q: I was very disappointed to find out Isotta Fraschini was not given a point for finishing Le Mans. The FIA made a change to the rules at the end of 2021 where they got rid of the point for finishing Le Mans — do you have any idea why this may have been?

Finishing Le Mans is a massive accomplishment, particularly for a team like Isotta and may have been the only point they would score if the system was still in place. It’s a great shame they will not be rewarded.

Also, how much confidence do you have in them being able to expand to two cars in 2025?

Danny Morgan

STEPHEN KILBEY: The current points system for Le Mans is designed to encourage excellence, and is now in place for an era which features the deepest top class in WEC history.

As for Isotta specifically, finishing the race in the way that it did was truly impressive for the factory program in Hypercar that has been put together with the tightest budget.

The Tipo6-C has proven itself as a reliable machine. Now, the team needs to find a way to extract higher performance levels from the car, the team on pit lane and its set of drivers, if it hopes to take the next step — which is clearly, fighting for points.

Isotta quite rightly has celebrated finishing the race classified on its first attempt with a new car, something which two of its high-profile competitors — Alpine and BMW — failed to do. It really is an achievement that deserves recognition. But you have to ask yourself, should a car that finished 14th overall and nine laps down be handed a point? The rule-makers clearly don’t think so.

Interestingly enough, IFM did come achingly close to scoring a manufacturer point on merit, as it finished 11th of the cars eligible for scoring WEC points! The team will have to wield that as motivation to press on.

As for next year, it will be a huge challenge for Isotta to scale up, but the signs are there that this will be possible. Ahead of this season, the team was believed to have filed for a second car — only to be granted one due to the entry cap and the uncertainty surrounding the team’s capability.

I was also told by a senior source in the governing body after Imola that “every manufacturer that wants to be on the grid for 2025 will be OK to race with two cars” to meet the new requirement. Therefore, if Isotta wants to return, and nothing has changed in the past two months, then you could reasonably expect it to be back for a second season.

Assuming it can make the business case work and put together a commercial package for two cars, Isotta specifically should benefit from the fact that the organizers will give priority to teams in Hypercar if the grid is oversubscribed. Head-turning performances like this one at Le Mans will only help it make the case that it is a serious player in the top class.

Isotta deserved praise, but not points. Motorsport Images

Q: What is wrong with Kyle Busch this year? At this rate he is on track to have the worst year of his full-time NASCAR Cup Series career.

Kurt Perleberg

KELLY CRANDALL: There have been self-inflicted wounds from Kyle Busch and the No. 8, and there have been some really bad breaks the last few weeks, too. Busch has struggled at some tracks because the speed simply isn’t there in his Chevrolet. So, it’s a fight of speed and balance. But then there are races where he gets caught up in something, such as running out fuel at Sonoma and being spun by Ross Chastain. Had that not happened, he was likely going to finish top 10. He had top 10 speed at WWTR and was crashed by Kyle Larson. Busch told me early in the season that the theme was missed opportunities as well as fighting for speed, and that seems to be continuing as the year goes on.

THE FINAL WORD
From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, June 24, 2015

Q: It seems pretty obvious that Will Power is, at minimum, the first or second-best talent on the IndyCar grid today in terms of getting the most pure speed out of the car. Sure he drives for the all-time best IndyCar team, which helps, but the evidence is in his qualifying dominance.

Seeing that in the last two races he has tied and passed Rick Mears (my childhood racing hero) on the all-time pole position list, how would you compare the two? I’m only 40 and my interest in IndyCar racing began at my first Indy 500 in 1987 as a 12-year-old. Rick was my hero, but he only raced a few years after I began to follow the sport. As I remember it though I only remember seeing Rick do well on ovals and being a bit of a backmarker on the twisties. I vaguely remember this being due to mangling his feet in a significant crash which affected his ability to pedal a car around the road and street courses.

How good was Rick on those circuits before that crash? Were the vast majority of his poles ovals? Just curious your perspective on Rick’s oval vs. road course skills and how they compare to Willy P.

Brady Hawxhurst

ROBIN MILLER: Tough to make comparisons but here’s some stats to help put Rick’s career into perspective. Before shattering his feet at Sanair in 1984, Mears was an exceptional road racer — winning six times in his first 28 road/street course starts with Team Penske. Bernie Ecclestone flew him to Paul Ricard in the spring of 1980 to test the Brabham F1 car and he got within a half second of soon-to-be world champ Nelson Piquet. Then, he tested for Brabham again at Riverside and was quicker than Piquet. Ecclestone offered him a contract but The Rocket opted to stay in CART because he liked running ovals as well as road racing.

Following his injury, Mears only scored one more RC victory at Laguna Seca in 1989 and obviously wasn’t able to road race with the same prowess because he found he couldn’t brake hard enough and also he had a “lag” on his right foot where he literally couldn’t mash it to the floor as quickly as he wanted. But he did win nine more oval races — including two more at Indianapolis. Power doesn’t have Rick’s oval-track savvy but he’s getting better and better with Mears’ tutoring, and nobody has been quicker on road and street circuits than Willy P. the past six seasons.

Story originally appeared on Racer