The RACER Mailbag, March 6

Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to We can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.

Q: Looking at the Indy NXT lineup. I count 12 rookies out of 20 drivers. And to be honest, over half of these rookies have very little success in the lower ranks. Are there any past performance requirements needed to move up to NXT? I guess if you’ve got the backing, you qualify. Turn 1 at St. Pete should be interesting.

Markpenske, Buffalo, NY

MARSHALL PRUETT: I think of the junior open-wheel ladder series as levels of universities, and as we know, some students get accepted at the top schools because they have 4.0 GPAs, and some get in because their parents built a new library or football stadium to get their kid enrolled.


The cool thing about the USF Championships and Indy NXT is there’s no hiding the lack of talent, and IndyCar won’t license a joker who can’t get out of their own way. But why would we stop someone from going to school to try and find out if they have the goods to do big things in life?

Q: As I look forward to the 2024 IndyCar season getting underway, I wonder about the men and women who travel with the teams from race to race.  How many team personnel are full-time and how many are seasonal? What do the seasonal folks do during the winter?

David Kincaid, Vancouver, Canada

MP: Some IndyCar teams bring in “weekend warriors” as they’re called, who help with crew duties, or dive over the wall to do pit stops, but that’s about it. The days of teams holding onto a small group of full-timers and hiring new (or former) staff to fill the secondary roles for the season and then get dropped afterwards are long gone. Qualified and experienced IndyCar personnel is the most valuable asset teams have, and that’s because the large numbers of ready-to-go crew that you could call and hire a few weeks before the start of the season no longer exist.

So many veterans have retired or moved onto other series, all without an influx of racing-educated replacements, that teams are having to find candidates from places they’d never considered like auto dealerships, kart teams, and so on — and train them in order to do the jobs they need done.

To that end, teams are paying more than ever to keep their crew. When I retired from working on IndyCar teams, I was making good money as an engineer. The entry-level position on most cars/crews is the front-end mechanic, and from what a few teams have told me, it’s way more than I made 20-plus years ago, and I’d make more money if I quit this media role and went to work at the bottom of the mechanic’s pecking order. All because there’s no longer a sizable group of vets looking for seasonal work.

As for what they do, there’s usually plenty of off-season testing, car and equipment refurbishment, new projects, and the chance to take a week off here or there to catch up on. Keep in mind that from the time crews come back after the New Year through the final race — sometime in mid-September — there are no vacations, and very few days off. For folks who work normal jobs, like their 40 hours a week, and get regular days off/vacations, the relentless schedule and constant travel would be a nightmare.

Experienced crews are a valuable asset in the IndyCar paddock. Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment

Q: On Friday received an email from the Thermal Club. I was receiving a refund of $1500 of the $2,000 ticket; no explanation. I emailed them and they responded quite quickly. Said nothing has changed, still three days, etc. They also stated they issued the partial refund because the county gave the Club permission to increase attendance.

I didn’t get a number for how many more it was increased to, but that’s a huge partial refund. And my refund hit my credit card account Saturday, the day after I received the email. What makes me a bit curious is that I didn’t see this on any IndyCar site I read, or on any forums. You would think if you reduced the price by 75% you’d be telling the world. And it being only a few weeks from the event seemed a bit strange to me.

Yes, I’m very happy about the partial refund. Obviously makes the three-day event more palatable at $500. Just thought I’d let you to know to inform your readers that the price has been drastically lowered. I checked the sales site; tickets are for sale at $500.

Gary P., Los Angeles, CA

MP: I know IndyCar was being hammered by its team owners for the silly prices — they, too, were having to spend $2000 a pop to bring guests, so this is great news for everyone.

Q: What is IndyCar? Is it a small Midwestern all-spec series, or is it a global series with innovation and a mix of street, oval and road courses? Would someone in 1995 use an engine and chassis from 1980, because that is what is occurring. I can get close racing at my local RC track for those worried about “close racing” but it doesn’t seem to matter for F1’s popularity.

Steve Mattiko

MP: According to IndyCar engine and chassis expert Mark Miles (that’s meant to be humorous, since Mark readily admits both are outside of his expertise), who spoke with me and the small group of dedicated reporters who still cover the series, the series is looking to introduce a new chassis in 2027. Or parts of a new chassis. Or maybe just new parts for the old chassis. If IndyCar does a new engine formula in 2027. The “if” is the important item to digest here.

But there’s no guarantee a new engine formula will be introduced in 2027, so there’s no guarantee of a new chassis. Or parts of a new chassis. Or new parts for the old chassis.

And based on a call I had with Miles a few days before the group call, the desire is there to marry an engine update with a chassis update at some point.

If that comes across as anything but firm, that’s an accurate take on the situation. Ifs and maybes, with no guarantees or fixed dates on anything.

Q: Do you have any insight into what appears to be a sudden change by IndyCar to be actively interested in a new chassis and engine changes?  After the purchase by Penske, there was essentially nothing from the series in that regards, kind of like Kevin Bacon from “Animal House” standing there at the parade in his uniform saying everything is fine and not to panic. Then in the fall, we had Honda be brutally and publicly honest about its position with IndyCar. In the last week, we now have news articles about actual efforts to address the engine and chassis issues.

Looking back on things, was Honda the come-to-Jesus moment IndyCar leadership/ownership needed to get past the inertia? The competition is the best it has been for decades. The talent pool is solid with some really amazing drivers. Qualifying at Indy is crazy tight, and one bobble is the difference between pole and 22nd position.

The core ingredients are all there for growth in the series. There just isn’t a good social media team, no new major developments to drive interest/attention from new fans, and a huge financial burden placed on Chevrolet and Honda.  So, back to the original question: Do you have any insight into what appears to be a sudden change by IndyCar to address some core issues with the series?


MP: There is no sudden motivation or interest from IndyCar to make a new chassis appear in 2027, but they’ve spoken like it is, which is confusing.

How’s this: The senior executives at Penske Entertainment received all of the hate from fans on the topic of guaranteed Indy 500 starting positions, so it put some PR spin on the subject and recently intimated that it might not do that after all. In the charter call with team owners, the series also declined to answer questions about those guaranteed Indy spots, but did go into how there would be 25-26 guaranteed spots at Toronto and Milwaukee and everywhere else.

I’m seeing the same thing here with the new-chassis talk. They get torn to shreds for fielding an ancient chassis and so now, all of a sudden, 2027 is the magic year to make something happen? It was news to teams and manufacturers, both of whom have called and asked for more details on what we were told by the series.

I want to see something new, just for the sake of having a fresh car to celebrate, and maybe that will happen, but for now, it’s all come across as Kool-Aid the execs want us to drink.

Q: I hope I’m not such a rube that I’m the only one who found all of the driver additions for 2024 to the CGR IndyCar team quite surprising. In light of the ongoing and more-recent IndyCar charters talk, could this have been a strategy to potentially having more entries grandfathered in before the actual rules of charters get set, or was this more unrelated happenstance/good fortune in having drivers and money show up at the same time in the same place?

I could have seen maybe having one extra driver heading into 2024 but that assumed Ericsson stayed. Given the Palou (shall we say,) “availability uncertainties,” to have Dixon signed, then officially retain Palou, lose Ericsson, take Armstrong full-time and still gain two new drivers? An embarrassment of unintended (and potential) riches, a completely planned and savvy strategy approaching charters/future engine leases, or do you feel this reality just a mixture of random and planned that fell together this way?

DZ, Goshen, IN

MP: The only surprise towards the end of the season was hearing the Simpson-in-2025 talk turn to Simpson-in-2024. I’ve understood that Kyffin wanted to go now, so that’s what the team made happen. On the charter side, I’m confident IndyCar will place a limit on how many a team can have. I’ve heard it’s three or four, which would mean at least one of the Ganassi cars would not be covered if that’s what ends up being ratified.

Simpson fast-tracked his path into the big show. Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Q: I was really proud of what Rajah Caruth did on Friday night at Las Vegas. NASCAR has really done a great job in selling its series to a large segment of African Americans to get their youth involved. Kinda wish IndyCar would had done that years ago; it had Ernie Frances Jr. I hope Myles Rowe will be in the series in the next two years, and driving for a top team like Penske or Ganassi. And speaking of Ernie, I heard he’s back racing in the Trans Am series, which is somewhat disappointing. Hopefully he’s racing in NASCAR or IMSA by the end of 2024.

Alistair, Springfield, MO

MP: Ernie wasn’t ready for IndyCar, which is why that effort was put on ice. Based on what Rowe has showed us, he’ll be in IndyCar in 2025 or 2026, no question. Penske’s all-in with him and has bankrolled most of his racing activities since 2021 and was rewarded with the USF Pro 2000 Championship last season.

Francis is a heck of a driver and should absolutely garner interest in other series. He could use some help with personal media and promotions because that’s the one area where he hasn’t made a big impression. Such things didn’t matter until recently…

Q: I like stats and I enjoy compiling them, and IndyCar stats are sometimes not as well kept as F1 ones. Anyway, my question refers to teams. We all know when Ganassi or Penske wins a race, it’s another one for them, but what happens when it’s a partnership entry?

I’m thinking, for example, of Dan Wheldon’s 2011 Indy win. His entry was Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian/Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Or Rossi’s 2016 win, which was with Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian.

How are these wins (and poles, and starts) counted? Does Andretti, Herta and Curb get a win each? Is every entry counted as a different entity even if they all run from the Andretti shop? I wanted to know if there is some sort of consensus on how to count wins for teams.

Jordi Domenech, Manlleu, Catalonia, Spain

MP: Hi, Jordi, I asked my friend Scott Richards, a racing statistician, to help with an answer:

“Excellent question.  From what I can tell in my research, it appears that the victory goes to the team/individual who is in majority control of the organization. For example, Wheldon’s 2011 victory is listed only as a victory for Bryan Herta Autosport since they controlled everything except for the actual car, which came from Sam Schmidt.

“By 2016, Herta’s team merged with Andretti Autosport, creating Andretti Herta Autosport. The team utilized Andretti-owned equipment and Rossi himself was hired by the Andretti team and placed in that car, so therefore his victory is counted towards Andretti Global totals. It would be the same situation in 2024 if Marco Andretti would win the 500; Andretti Global would be credited as the winning owner and not Curb, Herta, Agajanian or Marco himself who are all smaller co-owners.”

Q: Not a question, but a suggestion for Doug Boles or someone at IMS: It has become a tradition to tour past IndyCars from the IMS Museum collection prior to the Indy 500. With the addition of IMSA to the IMS calendar, would it be possible for the museum to prepare and tour some of their sports cars prior to the IMSA event? Many of us would like to see and hear the Ferrari 250LM, Mercedes W196 and Ford GT40. There may be others in the vault that we don’t know about.

Richard, Memphis, TN

MP: Duly noted.

Q: I just read your article about Honda and Chevy and the possibility of a new engine for 2027, and them being worried about increased cost due to the amount of engines they have to supply. I know most companies say the cost is all in R&D and testing prior to the final product being ready for production. Normally once you can mass-produce the more you can sell or in this case lease the cheaper each engine becomes, which should increase revenue. Is it just because they have to employ too many people to handle that many teams?


MP: The up-front cost to create a pool of 45-60 engines is big, and if you’re employing the staff and doing it all yourself, compared to outsourcing it to a company that makes/services/supplies large quantities of engines to various manufacturers or series, it can also be prohibitively expensive. Once that pool is made, you have the ongoing R&D costs you mention, the replacement of parts with new, and so on, separate from the staff and whatnot.

And with a formula that’s been around for a long time, the money and technology required to keep finding small advantages becomes problematic. In the early days, new ideas and meaningful gains were easier to manifest. After 12 years, tons of money is spent to find that proverbial needle in a haystack to beat each other. Things have not become cheaper.

Who knows what the actual numbers are, but I hear it’s still over $50 million per year to make IndyCar engines happen for each manufacturer, and if that could be brought down to half or less, the conversations about staying for 2027 are much easier to have.

Q: What a depressing letter from David Felstein in the last edition of the Mailbag. This year will be my 48th consecutive Indy 500. It is still my Christmas Day. Every year I can’t wait to make the walk into the track and take my seat in the stands to watch another 500 go into the history books.

Could things be better with IndyCar? Yep. Would I like to see more ovals back on the schedule like the old days when they ran in places like Phoenix and Michigan? Yep. Am I kind of disappointed in the Penske leadership? Yep. But it is what it is. I accept it. I love following the drivers, and my weekends when IndyCar races revolve around watching practice and qualifying on Peacock and then the race on Sunday.

Nope, IndyCar isn’t perfect, and I’ve accepted that things change, and certain things are not going back to how they were in the past. And I’m always hopeful for the future! If Mr. Felstein has this many bitches and complaints about IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then maybe he should just stay home on race day and watch a movie.

Rick Owens, Fort Wayne, IN

MP: Or maybe he should go to the race, as he said he would, and as a free American who is welcome to say what he thinks, try to enjoy it while being vastly disappointed in the things he mentioned?

Bet David wouldn’t have felt so jaded with IndyCar and the 500 if he’d been sitting near the spot where Newgarden climbed through the fence last year. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Q: In last week’s RACER Mailbag, Stephen Terrell talked about drivers winning both the Indy 500 and Le Mans; and this brought memories of both the old Triple Crown of the Indy, Ontario, and Pocono 500s.

But there are other interesting combinations of wins as well, such as Juan Pablo Montoya winning two of the three Memorial Day races (Indy in 2000 and Monaco in 2003) and Mario (1967) and A.J. (1969) winning Daytona as well as their Indy 500s

But as for generating buzz, nothing in racing that I’ve seen since 1967 has topped Bill Elliott winning the Winston Million in 1985. I was living in Atlanta at the time, and I remember seeing on the local news that hundred fans along the roads from Darlington, all the way through North Georgia to Dawsonville were cheering as his hauler passed by.

My first Indy 500 shooting the race was for the late Forrest Bond and that’s where I met Brian Barnhart and Fred Nation. Having gone to the first Indy GP and all the Brickyard 400s, I suggested to Fred (and later to Tony George in Nashville) that since The Speedway is now the first track to host all three of the top series — IRL, NASCAR and F1 — to generate the kind of buzz that (years later followed Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and now Kyle Larson), that they should put up the Brickyard Bonus of $1 million to any driver who wins any two of the three major events, in not just one, but any year, thinking that either a 500 winner would win before (JPM) or after his F1 career, or that someone from NASCAR such as Jeff Gordon (remember, this was 2001, and he also had won the Winston Million in 1997) would try to “Run the Double” at the 500.

Could you imagine the worldwide buzz that a repeat winner at the Racing Capital of The World winning not one, but two diverse, premier races at the Speedway?

Speaking of Kyle Larson, did Zak Brown make the same offer to test one of his F1 cars if he won the race, as he made to Pato O’Ward if he won a race (he won two) in 2021?

Dan Schwartz, Atlanta, GA

MP: I doubt it, Dan. Pato wants to race in F1. Kyle has never expressed his burning desire to be in F1, so it would be a strange offer to make.

Q: Sato returning to the Indy 500 is great news. The safety improvements to both the Indy track and the cars are proof of proper planning. It is the greatest spectacle in racing and it should vigorously fight to enforce that. I’ve been to all types of racing over many years, but the Indy 500 has the legacy and the excitement and full experience.

When I returned to the 500 after COVID caused empty stands, I was amazed at every happy fan, track worker, parking attendant, and police person directing traffic. That’s why Indy 500 matters. It’s quintessential American sport, just like the Kentucky Derby.

We complain, but it’s multi-generational. We remember Tom Carnegie and Donald Davidson. Who else has a track historian? After WWII it was part of healing to resume the race. God speed to this year’s race. Any kid who saw the race never forgets their first one.

Craig B, Leland, NC

MP: Amen, Craig. I feel the same way whenever I pull into the Speedway for the first time each year. Donald retired from that role not so long ago, but they have a great kid, Jason Vansickle, who is really sharp and is loaded with knowledge.

Q: A while back someone raised a question about midget engines. I will share what I know. Once you get beyond the 110 Offys, flathead V6 60s and air-cooled VWs, there have been many engines that have appeared and raced. In no particular order, SESCO built inline fours by sawing off one bank of a Chevy V8 and V4s by sawing off four cylinders crosswise, also off of a Chevy V8. Wilson and others also built midget engines using modified Chevy V8 blocks. Others include the Pontiac Iron Duke pushrod four-cylinder, Toyota inline four variants by Pink and Stanton, MOPARS, Honda inline fours by HPD and Gaerte.

However the real unusual ones were destroked GM 215 aluminum V8s, small block GM V6s, the Cosworth Vega (heard this one run at the now-defunct Santa Fe Speedway driven by Terry Wente; very loud!), V8s built from custom crankcases and four-cylinder parts from Kawasaki, Suzuki or Yamaha and the 2.5L hemi V8 from a Daimler SP250. Eventually the rules were changed to limit the engines to six cylinders. Anyway, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it covers quite a bit of ground.

Finally, a gripe:

While entertainment at motorsport weekends is not a new thing, it galls me that the price of the entertainment is rolled into my ticket even though I never have any plans to attend. Have other attendees complained about this? If so, is anyone listening?

Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA

MP: Cosworth Vega! Hard to say on the ticket prices, Don, since every track/series handles things in a different way.

Q: Just learned that Hy-Vee will be the title sponsor for the Milwaukee IndyCar races. That is great news.

I attended the Milwaukee race the last year of its existence, and the experience was dreadful. I was looking forward to some brats and beer and my memory was that there was only one place that was open and that the lines were beyond belief. It was clear that there was no thought given to fan comfort, as almost every food and merchandise stand was closed.

IndyCar has a great product. But that is just not enough. It needs to also give a great fan experience. Based upon what I have heard from those that attend the Iowa race with Hy-Vee as the sponsor, I might just go back to Milwaukee and bring the kids.

Ed R., Hickory Hills, IL

MP: I take comfort in knowing that the series and the Wisconsin State Fair, who are putting on the event, know they only have one chance to get this right. I won’t speak for them, but from what I’m told, a much greater effort to provide fans with a high-quality experience will be made than Milwaukee’s last promoter achieved. Folks are no longer willing to stand in crazy lines to get food, beer, or use the bathroom. It wasn’t always that way, but it is that way now, and that’s some IndyCar knows from all of the complaints it received about IMS, which have been changed for the better under Penske’s ownership.

Penske isn’t the main promoter at Milwaukee, but this is something his people should nail.

Q: If IndyCar is looking for urban/metro places for street races, I have an idea: Downtown Indy. You have Lucas Oil Stadium, Gainbridge Fieldhouse, The Circle Monument, JW Marriott, a bridge, and Victory Field to race around. Lay out about a 3.2-mile course and I would definitely go. Get off the road course at IMS. That would be great!

Eric Rife

MP: The reason to do street races is to introduce a series to a new region or audience. Unfortunately, both agendas would fail here and do nothing to help or grow the series.

Pretty sure we suggested an Indy street race in the Mailbag captions a couple of months ago. In fairness though, we were joking. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Q: I’m a fan of all forms of motorsports, and have been since about age 4 (I’m 61) when my dad first took me to the local short track near our home. I’m not understanding all the mailbag hate toward Roger Penske and the general gloom-and-doom over IndyCar. I get that the TV numbers and ticket sales for IndyCar fall well short of F1 and NASCAR, but despite that, the revenue available from all sources for all parties is enough to run the sanctioning body and fully fund 27 full-time teams, all of which are reasonably competitive. All of the pay drivers are at least competent enough to pass the straight-face test, and some are quite good. The racing is outstanding.

Do we really want IndyCar to be F1? I find the current version of F1 unwatchable. After the first lap, it’s over, unless there’s an undercut, or overcut, or whatever. Sanitized circuits with no character, artificial track limits and only 20 cars on the grid, maybe six of which have any chance to win. No thanks. They have everything Mailbag writers seem to want for IndyCar — a huge TV package, huge team budgets, fresh cars every year, and yet I’d rather watch “This Old House” reruns.

NASCAR? I love stock car racing, but between stage breaks, lucky dogs, caution flags for hot dog wrappers, and drivers who basically just run over each other because I guess passing cleanly is just too hard… I do still watch it, but at times I have to hold my nose while doing so.

While I’m on a good rant, let’s talk about Honda. They push IndyCar into hybrid power (knowing it will cause costs to skyrocket) because they want to be relevant to their production cars, then say they don’t see a return on investment. Really? Because the TV numbers and race attendance figures are about where they’ve been all along. What were they expecting? And now they’re threatening to pack up their toys and go on home, all the while playing footsie with NASCAR, where presumably they will invest millions of dollars to build a two-valve pushrod V8 with throttle body fuel injection. Just like my dad’s old ’93 Chevy Caprice. OK. Whatever, dudes.

Let’s all be thankful for the current state of IndyCar.

Mike, Marietta, GA

MP: Rather than use the well-worn “Everything Is Awesome” catchphrase, let’s go with 1988’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” from Bobby McFerrin.

Q: Let’s say you’re the Chief Marketing Officer of NTT, the title sponsor of IndyCar. Would you want to tell your executives and other senior management that the series they’re sponsoring is having its season-ending race in downtown Nashville, or 35 miles away from Broadway? “Bring your wives, they can go glamping and to the flea market next door!”

Ed, Jersey

MP: The complaints I’ve heard from the paddock about this are ongoing, Ed. I had one team owner call last week and vent for 10 minutes on the subject, which tells you how maddening this is — even weeks after the announcement.

From not being able to get refunds on their downtown hotels to losing Nashville GP-specific sponsors to having sponsors call with serious concerns about the bait-and-switch with the huge hype with the downtown finale going away for an oval event they didn’t want or ask for when they signed their contracts.

Based on all they were told about the splashy new season finale in downtown Nashville, each team went and hyped up their sponsors, made big plans, and built that event into their 2024 sponsorship and promotions plans. And what happens when the downtown event goes away? The teams are the ones who look like idiots. Penske Entertainment didn’t offer to call all of those sponsors and apologize and smooth things over. That was left to the teams, which have caught hell for it.

And yes, Penske Entertainment isn’t the promoter of the event, so it’s not their direct fault, but the business relationship Penske Entertainment struck with the promoter is something IndyCar teams expect to be managed and monitored to ensure a failure like this doesn’t happen.

Countless relationships have been stressed. How many total logos are on the field of 27 cars, and how many calls to those sponsors, and how many blistering inbound calls or emails or texts did the Rahals and Shanks and Carpenters and Andrettis and so on receive about Nashville? None of their faults, but they get all the heat. Not a good look.

Q: Motorsports is a high-risk, high-reward endeavor. In the last 20-30 years, the risks have been reduced substantially. So based on your collective knowledge of driver compensation, have the rewards been reduced as well? In a just world, Herk coulda/woulda/shoulda made waaaay more moolah than Lewis Hamilton.

B, West Wyoming, PA

MP: IndyCar driver pay was rather unimpressive throughout the 2010s, with the top drivers said to be taking home somewhere between $2.5-3.5 million per year, and that was a select few. I know of some past IndyCar champions who were making half of that during that decade. The salaries have certainly increased in the last year or two, and most team owners blame Michael Andretti, who is said to be paying Colton Herta north of $6 million a year. That’s led to a wider group of drivers to demand more money, and unlike the team owners, the drivers all thank Herta for getting them bigger deals.

Q: If you could let George from Albuquerque in last week’s Mailbag know, I think he was looking at the Fairgrounds Speedway, which Google shows as about a 13-minute drive from downtown Nashville.

Chris, San Francisco, CA

MP: Wrong track, George.

Q: I’m looking at the IMS website and see they have a new program to sponsor a row on the Indy 500 grid, but it looks like they may be doing away with the Lap Prize Sponsor program?

Is this correct? If so it’s sad to see the Lap Prize Sponsor tradition go away after almost 100 years…


MP: I forwarded your question to IMS and they did not respond. My apologies on their behalf.

Q: I’m writing this on March 1, and the previous 24 hours have been befuddling to me as an IndyCar fan. We received a small news dump on February 29, and IndyCar fan responses that I’ve seen leave me scratching my head.

Discussions about a charter system are starting up again. This time around, guaranteed Indy 500 entries are not part of the discussion. Good news, right? It wasn’t that long ago people were up in arms that guaranteed spots were on the table. So this news was met with a sigh of relief, right? Wrong. The number of responses or comments I saw along the lines of, “This will ruin the sport!”… Jaw, meet floor.

Next, right here on RACER, an article is published on the topic of IndyCar pushing for urban and metro expansion by introducing new downtown street course events. “But just a couple years ago y’all said a focus on ovals was needed!” Yup, they did. And we got two races at Milwaukee, and although not by initial design, got Nashville Superspeedway back for the foreseeable future.

Also, are you trying to argue that the series can’t re-evaluate the racing landscape and pivot to a new growth plan? Haven’t you long complained that the series leadership isn’t nimble enough in its ability to change course? Hate to tell it to y’all, but in order to achieve new growth, we need to bring the races to the people. Us diehards don’t mind making the trip to the middle of nowhere to see cars zoom around a Mid-Ohio, but the newbies and casuals won’t — yet. If we meet them in a convenient location where they are — their nearby urban centers — perhaps we will entice some of them to trek off the beaten path to some of the gems we in our small inner circle know and love.

Fellow IndyCar fans, y’all confuse me. Gripe about one thing, get some of those changes, and that’s still not good enough.

Matt Philpott

MP: Thanks for writing in, Matt. I’m hiring you as our new VP of Common Sense, BTW.

I’m so thankful I stopped reading article comments about a decade ago. I just assume it’s filled with crime scene tape after daily digital murders take place.

Maybe we just need to move the cities so that they’re closer to the ovals. Motorsport Images

Q: Tony Hawk has Pro Skater, Madden has Football, Tiger Woods had the PGA Tour Series. I don’t know the status of the IndyCar game but here is my recommendation for a title that should bring some name recognition: Michael Andretti’s Indycar Challenge 2024 (Or whatever the release year is).

This was one of the very first racing games I played in the ’90s. I feel that linking Andretti’s name to the title would reach out to both the old and young fan base. What are your thoughts?

Not that Stefan Johansson

MP: Thanks to all of the nonsense with F1 blocking his efforts to join that series, I’d bet Michael has more name recognition than any other person in the IndyCar paddock. This is a brilliant idea. Either that or use Pato.

Q: Good to see Denver on the shortlist for a revisit after having raced downtown from 2002 to 2006. It drew big crowds and will fill a big void in the IndyCar venue map. I’m all in when it happens. Denver is a big city with every other spectator sport represented, and the race can offer a confrontation now and then like the other sports. Case in point: Bourdais in Tracy’s face, 2006.

Jeff, Colorado

MP: I’m right there with you, Jeff. Colorado’s a gorgeous state and some headline-making moments came out of the Champ Car events on the streets of Denver. Last time I was there, it was for Justin Wilson’s wake and I’d love to go back under happier circumstances if a street race comes together.

Q: How many Truck, Cup and Xfinity Series cars were crashed/destroyed in the recent Daytona shuntfest? Does anyone tally up the true cost? Who pays?

When there are rain delays, how do the teams/TV media, etc., cope with logistics — changing hotel rooms, airline tickets, truck movements…?

Finally, who writes Will Buxton’s DTS scripts? He turns his head, raises eyebrows and says “Team/team principal/Driver X is really in trouble now…”

Inquiring minds need to know….

David, Schwenksville, PA

CHRIS MEDLAND: I can only really answer this from my little experience working with the Box to Box Films crew on the first season and a half, but it was increasingly apparent that the producers had a clear narrative in mind for each episode and essentially needed to knit it together with the talking heads.

That’s not necessarily a criticism as the show has worked well in boosting interest in F1, but I found the role essentially became, “Say something along these lines,” rather than being asked a question to give an honest answer. That’s part of trying to balance between entertainment and fact to make it a compelling watch.

KELLY CRANDALL: If you go by the NASCAR caution reports, 27 drivers were involved in incidents at Daytona in the Truck Series race and 28 drivers in the Cup Series race. The teams likely know the exact cost, or close to it, after they evaluate their inventory when race weekend is over. So, they keep a tally and they have to pay to replace or rebuild the pieces needed.

Superspeedway racing is expensive — well, all of racing is expensive because there can be just as much carnage at other tracks — but the likelihood is much higher at superspeedways. Kyle Busch wore a shirt on pit road that said “most expensive day every year” before the truck race at Daytona a few years ago. 

As for the travel, it’s no different than it would be for anyone. The teams have someone who handles the logistics and will begin booking more rooms or doing whatever is needed when there is a rain delay or postponement. On the media side, people start calling airlines or changing flights and extending hotels. 

Q: Not sure if anyone else saw this, but as I was scrolling TikTok this past week I started getting content from F1 content creators. They were all railing against Danica Patrick (both male and female creators). Apparently, she is in the new season of “Drive To Survive” in some capacity. Every video was about how they dislike her and every comment was a negative reaction to her appearance on the show.

I was a bit surprised as I thought it was only IndyCar and NASCAR fans that disliked her that much. I didn’t even realize F1 folks would even really know much about her.

Ross Bynum

CM: Danica is a fairly regular part of the Sky Sports F1 coverage now, which also means being on the ESPN broadcasts. That means she’s become much more well-known to F1 fans, and some seem to take exception to the fact she hasn’t driven an F1 car, but it is important to show young girls getting into the sport that there are examples of those who have made it to the highest levels of racing.

Q: Chris, did I understand correctly that Red Bull did not even reveal who conducted the investigation? I understand confidentiality is appropriate for the contents of the investigation, but knowing whether it was done by Fred’s Excellent Detective Agency vs someone with real expertise is important. Or were more details communicated within F1 but not made public?

Doug Farrow, Plymouth, MN

CM: You are correct, Doug, the only details that were publicly communicated were when the investigation was first acknowledged by Red Bull GmbH, who described the process as “being carried out by an external specialist barrister.”

Generally there hasn’t been much skepticism toward who was doing the investigating, but there were some comments about the fact that whoever was appointed was still selected and paid for by Red Bull GmbH itself.

Q: So, I’m not one given to conspiracy theories, but here’s something to think about: A while back, there was some talk about friction between Horner and Dr. Marko.

I’ll state up front that I have not been a fan of Dr. Marko ever since he blamed Webber for the wreck with Vettel at Turkey in 2010. What stood out for me is that, as far as I know, Dr. Marko never recanted what he said, even after seeing the video of what happened. That really speaks to his golden boy mentality with Vettel then and Verstappen now.

Anyway, what I wonder about is if Dr. Marko might have played a role in the Horner scandal? Backseat things like encouraging someone to come forward with information? In other words, nothing overt, but just enough to get something rolling. It also seems odd that the settlement was refused. There must have been a thought that the evidence was pretty compelling, but there is always the possibility that things will not go your way. Anyway, my feeling is that there is just something off about this whole deal.

Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA

CM: I don’t know about Marko specifically other than when he was originally approached for comment by German media as the story was first breaking in early February, he stated he could say nothing and it was all above him, and directed people to Red Bull GmbH. That would have been a prime opportunity to stir the pot if he wanted to, but he didn’t as far as I’m aware.

I’d also say you don’t have to worry about conspiracy theories anymore, as it’s become abundantly clear that someone within Red Bull does not want Horner there, and whoever that is kept pushing even after the investigation dismissed the grievance.

What’s really worrying about the whole scenario though is that there is a female employee involved who raised the grievance in the first place, and is either being overshadowed by the power struggle that’s followed, or is caught in the middle of it.

Conspiracy season has started early. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Q: I finished watching the most recent season of “Drive to Survive,” and one of the main things that struck me is that while the production quality is high, the actual amount of effort to produce DTS doesn’t seem to be that high. The footage basically falls into categories of on-track driving, interviews in the black background room, and a few “following somebody around on a non-race weekend” basically scripted segments.

I think there’s a consensus that most of the young U.S. fans of F1 are coming from DTS. Am I missing something here, because it seems that as long as everyone agreed to do interviews and getting to use the broadcast footage wasn’t an issue, it would be pretty easy for any series to recreate what DTS has done?

Will, Indy

CM: I’ve got to disagree with this one, Will, the time and effort that is required to capture everything they capture is enormous. Even just being at every F1 race is a huge undertaking, but then to mic-up and follow teams, pivot to others when there are big storylines, travel to other events or personal days that drivers are having — they gather so much footage.

If anything, it now gets too much access and then teams and drivers are unhappy if they don’t make the cut having given up so much time, but that’s always going to be the byproduct of capturing everything.

The key, though, was being able to get fans to truly connect with the personalities and the humans. When you make that click, then the sport becomes so much more attractive to more people, who can see beyond simply the fight for first place. That’s been what made it so big I think, and being first to do that so well in the world of racing has really helped.

Q: The goose that laid the golden egg: That would be Netflix’s “Drive to Survive,” the show credited with F1’s huge increase in popularity. It’s something I expect F1’s owners Liberty Media are delighted with; however I doubt Liberty is nearly as happy with Red Bull’s complete and utter domination of the series.

All those freshly minted fans tuning into the race only to see Max win by a country mile might not bother to come back. Fewer eyeballs means fewer dollars, a commodity we know F1 is very keen on as evidenced by its rejection of Andretti and GM’s attempt to join the party because it meant dividing the pie into smaller pieces.

What if anything can or should the FIA and or F1 do to slow the Red Bulls down? If this was IMSA they’d have a couple of hundred extra pounds strapped on.

David Kincaid, Vancouver, Canada

CM: Your questions isn’t a silly one given the fact that in the past we’ve seen regulation changes introduced on many occasions that appear targeted at a team’s advantage, but in this case you could argue that’s already happened. The rules around the floors were changed from 2022 to 2023 and Red Bull only became more dominant, while this year stability set up more of the same.

That said, Mercedes and Ferrari are both confident they are closer than at the same point last year and have better cars that give them a better chance of closing the gap, while McLaren also stated they will be introducing some significant developments soon. So perhaps it won’t be a repeat of last year, with the stability allowing those teams to iron out major problems they had 12 months ago.

But under a cost cap era when Red Bull can’t spend its way to success, and with the sliding scale of aerodynamic development time that penalizes the championship-winning team, it feels like there are enough levers that should see Red Bull slowly caught over the next year or two. And if it doesn’t happen, there’s a whole reset planned in 2026 with new regulations.

Q: What do you make of all the continued controversy at Red Bull?  Red Bull is all about brand and seemed to put this to bed. But then there was the leak, but from what I have seen on that, it seems a nothing burger.  My wife even surmised that Red Bull themselves orchestrated the leak to demonstrate there was not a lot going on here. Now Jos Verstappen seems to be orchestrating his own coup?What is really going on? To a certain extent, it is more interesting than the racing. Maybe they need some manufactured story lines for next season’s “Drive to Survive”?

Jeff Smith, State College, PA

CM: I certainly don’t think it’s manufactured given the damage it has done to some reputations, but the Jos Verstappen comments were certainly interesting. I’m not sure what the end game is there, but it tells you where he stands on Horner and highlights the power struggle going on. Jos insists he wasn’t behind the leak, and if that’s accurate then it means someone else is also out to topple Horner.

It’s all playing out against the backdrop of infighting for power within Red Bull GmbH itself, following the death of Dietrich Mateschitz. There are new people in place in high-level management positions and they will all have their own views and allegiances, but the Thai ownership — representing the majority 51% shareholding — backs Horner.

What I make of it is that something’s got to give, and it is feeling increasingly like either Horner goes — something that looks less likely now — or Max Verstappen could end up moving elsewhere if he backs his father’s stance. That would be remarkable given the success he’s had and the fact that Red Bull clearly has the quickest car, but it does feel like something’s got to give.

Q: Congratulations to Red Bull on the opening one-two finish in Bahrain. However, I have to ask this question: For all the millions spent, aren’t the other nine teams embarrassed about their performance? I sure would be.


CM: I actually don’t think so, based on how close the field is overall in raw pace. One second covered all 20 cars in Q1, and you’ll naturally get a much bigger field spread once they’re fighting in a race and unable to run at their optimum pace (unlike Verstappen out front).

But the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren were all actually relatively upbeat on one front, because they have all made significant progress compared to 12 months ago. The on-track gap might have been substantial but all three have cars they are much happier with and that are performing more as they expected, meaning they are moving in the right direction and putting the building blocks in place to be more of a threat to Red Bull in the future, which is all they can do at the moment.

Fifth was the best that Mercedes could do in Bahrain, but it was a fighting fifth. Steve Etherington/Motorsport Images

Q: I’ve been watching NASCAR races over the past few weeks while awaiting the start of the IndyCar season. They seem to once again be experiencing regular problems with the single lug wheel lug in the Cup Series. Could someone explain why they use a system where they have to line up a dozen pins? It seems very different from the wheel hub/lug system in IndyCar. From my research on the Great Google, the IndyCar and F1 systems look similar —  and distinct from the Cup system. Can someone please summarize the three systems and their relative strengths/weaknesses?

Fred M, St. Louis suburbs

KC: I wouldn’t say “regular” problems. Sunday was the first wheel issue — at least, that came off the car. Kyle Busch’s team didn’t get the wheel tight a few weeks ago but he made it back to pit road before it came off. Most of the lug nut problems have been operator error. Chris Buescher’s tire changer didn’t get the lug nut tight, which then worked itself off when at speed and the wheel came off. We’ve seen many of those since this lug was introduced and it’s no different than wheels coming off when there were five lug nuts.

The changers are not used to working with a single lug, so it’s a different procedure and feel when they are working on the wheel. The single lug needs to be motionless for the changer to be able to tighten it. If not, it just spins the gun. With the five lugs, changers could start popping those lugs off before the wheel had stopped moving and the car was jacked up. And they’re trying to be fast, right? Mistakes happen. There have been times when it’s been a lug or gun problem. Not everything is perfect. The lug nut that got stuck on the 23 car for Bubba Wallace was most likely over-tightened and then during the run, got further stuck because of the heat build-up. 

NASCAR moved to this system because it needed something stronger with the bigger wheels on the Next Gen car. The five lugs could not hold up with the load put on the new car. From what I understand, the operations across the series are pretty much the same (albeit tweaks for that particular vehicle) but at the end of the day, it comes down to the human equation of speed and execution.

MP: On the F1 side, the regulations allow teams to use captured wheel nuts, which make changes faster. The choice on how many drive pegs to use on the front and rear wheel hats/brake rotor assemblies is not something I can speak on from a rules standpoint with F1, but what you see there is the same idea as we have in IndyCar.

IndyCar wheel nuts aren’t captured in the wheels, so those are removed independently from the wheel and manually placed back on the stub axles. As for why they all use drive pegs, it’s how the wheel is interlocked with the front brake disc so the wheel doesn’t continue to spin when the brakes are applied, and the same goes for rear brakes/transmission axles where the pegs on the car side and the chamfered holes on the wheel interlock and slow the wheel under braking or accelerate the wheel when power is applied.

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, March 5, 2014

Q: I was thinking of the many underfunded IndyCar teams that have come and gone over the years, but then there’s Dale Coyne Racing. He has survived over 30 years with limited resources. I know one reason he’s been able to stay alive over the years is that he has hired pretty good shoes: Paul Tracy, Adrian Fernandez, Buddy Lazier, John Paul Jr., Sebastian Bourdais and Justin Wilson, just to name a few. What do you think of Dale’s longevity and the reasons why he’s been able to buck the fate of other underfunded race teams?

Gerry Courtney, San Francisco, CA

ROBIN MILLER: Coyne is smart, frugal and quite a survivor. But he’s confounding. He finally won a race with Justin and Bill Pappas and then couldn’t keep them together. He then brought them back together for 2012, but now Pappas has gone again. Coyne did manage to win Detroit last year with Mike Conway, no testing, a solid little squad and the engineering of John Dick and Pappas. But now both those engineers are at RLL. Dale doesn’t believe in bidding wars so maybe that’s his strength.

Story originally appeared on Racer