The RACER Mailbag, May 10

Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to Due to the high volume of questions received, 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: So I watched F1 in Miami, expecting a snoozefest.  I watched the celebrity-laden, ponderous pre-race evaluation of Miami’s swimming pools, boats, bling, and buzz. I watch the ‘breathless’ (bizarre) grid walk. After what seemed an interminable wait and the umpteenth Fast and Furious hype, Michelle Rodriguez says “Are we talkin’ or are we racin’?”.  I smugly laugh at this as it’s been endless talkin’ and I’m expecting boring racin’.

But – the race was, to me, hella fun. Verstappen winning on strategy and a spectacular drive. Multiple incredibly talented drivers passing all over with different tires and different strategies. A surprisingly yellow-free race. The usual entertainment of listening to people with strange accents getting excited about everything from DRS to the stewards’ mindset. And, by the way, nonstop coverage with no commercials. Yeah, it was fun.

Then I reflected on how much I enjoyed the Long Beach Grand Prix (attended live) with its usual festival atmosphere and multiple great races. 100 Days to Indy is getting better. Peacock is awesome, letting me watch every on-track session whenever I want to. IMSA is way cool and getting more popular. Can’t wait for Laguna. Heck, even some of the NASCAR controversies seem interesting to me, and I’m not normally a big fan.

I guess what I’m saying is that this feels like a great time to be a race fan, and instead of denigrating some series or grumping about how this doesn’t feel like 1969 anymore, I’m just plain enjoying it. Yeah, there are always challenges, and yeah, not every event is flawless. But if this momentum continues, we are in for a great year of racing and I hope a lot of new fans along with that.

Just wanted to provide an offset to the usual cranky complainers. Racing is great!

Paul, Sonoma

MASHALL PRUETT: Thank you, Paul. I’m with you on most of what you wrote. F1 isn’t of interest this season for me, but that’s just because we know the outcome of the races before they take place. Back in 1988 when McLaren was the clear overdog, we didn’t know if it would be Senna or Prost, which made viewing mandatory. Verstappen’s on another planet—I did shake my head when the Sky F1 hosts posed the same question twice over the weekend as to whether Checo can beat Max to the title, and their hilarious answer both times was yes—and did what greats do by dominating the field. Unlike 1988, it’s Max, and only Max winning, unless something truly strange occurs.


And while the Red Bull show isn’t all that interesting to me, Max put on a show and won last weekend and the coolest development of the season with Alonso and Aston Martin doing big things has been a joy to follow. That’s awesome; even though first place isn’t really up for grabs, there’s a great sub thread to follow on who’s best-in-class.

IndyCar’s yet to disappoint this season, and the same can be said for IMSA with its fresh GTP cars and stellar GT racing. I’ve seen some of the greatest series and eras in motor racing, and have them saved in the form of memories, photos, videos, and memorabilia. And if I could go back in time and enjoy them again, sure, I’d go, but racing’s in a great place right now and I’d rather live in the present than the past.

Three other things I can confirm: Ross Chastain throws an impressive overhand right, Noah Gragson can take a punch, and Sunday was by no means the first time they’ve been on the delivery or receiving end of such things.

The battle for wins in F1 has been one-sided so far this year, but the emergence of Aston Martin has kept things spicy behind Red Bull. Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Q: In my opinion IndyCar has had the superior racing product the last few years, but seems losing the media spotlight to F1’s rise in popularity Stateside. Do you think that having a woman in a competitive car regularly would help differentiate the series from F1 and garner more interest? Is this even close to happening?

Brett Roach

MP: I don’t. We’ve had Danica Patrick, Katherine Legge, Ana Beatriz, and Simona De Silvestro as highly talented full-timers, and IndyCar made no significant inroads on its rivals. I do think it would be awesome if we had not one, but multiple women in competitive cars, but I don’t think it would bring a ratings, attendance, or popularity windfall. We’ve seen it before, and it wasn’t a sustainable draw.

The only difference I can think of from then to now is the world is a very different place so maybe having some kickass woman for an entire season would bring in more interest in 2025 than it did a decade ago.

Jamie Chadwick’s the closest we have at the moment, and she’s a few years away from being ready for IndyCar.

Q: Lewis Hamilton mentioned his desire to test an IndyCar. Let’s say he decides that he wants to race at the Indianapolis 500. If you were Lewis, what team should he drive for that would give him a chance to win the race, and what team would be willing to give him a chance to race at Indy?

Alistair, Springfield, MO

MP: The obvious ones like Ganassi, Andretti, Penske, McLaren, Rahal and Shank come to mind as those are the most recent Indy winners, with a premium placed on Ganassi and McLaren since they’ve were the best at Indy last year. That would change if others take the lead this year or next.

As for being willing to ‘give him a chance,’ we’re talking about the most successful and most popular active driver in the world, right? I’d think every team, down to the newest and smallest, would be tripping over themselves to land the biggest name in racing and bring an international audience to their doorstep.

Whether you love him or don’t, he’s a cultural happening in ways that extend far beyond the sport and that’s something the Indy 500 has not done for decades. Hamilton at Indy, unlike Alonso at Indy, gets all the major networks involved for the first time in forever and brings millions of people who know nothing about IndyCar and the Indy 500 to our crown jewel.

I listened to one person from the series last year weigh the options they had for social media influencers to bring in for a regular event; the best I heard was someone with an online cooking show with just over 30,000 Instagram followers. Half the celebrities who attended last weekend’s Miami GP — with a combined follower base in the tens of millions — were there to see their pal Lewis. Penske Entertainment can only dream of such a thing taking place at the 500.

Q: A few weeks ago, I came across an old podcast of yours from early 2019 in which you talked about the ‘upcoming’ aeroscreen with Tino Belli, Dario Franchitti and… Christian Horner. Yes, the Christian Horner, since Red Bull Advanced Technology originally designed it. It got me thinking: With Red Bull getting bigger and bigger in motorsport and having now stepped into IndyCar with the Aeroscreen, wouldn’t the next logical move for it be to put together (or purchase, like McLaren) an IndyCar team?

Back in the early 2000s, it used to have its logo all over Eddie Cheever, Tomas Scheckter and Buddy Rice’s cars (although just as a sponsor). Fast-forward 20 years later, Red Bull has now won several F1 titles (both driver and constructor) and is pretty much driving around the rest of the field. So, I’m assuming it would definitely have the power and the money to do this in the near future, especially with the F1 budget cap which has decreased by another few millions this year. And then, the logical move after that could be to add an Indy NXT team to it as well.

Obviously, I’m not in Mr. Horner’s head so I don’t know whether or not that makes sense for him. But I just thought it would be a nice addition to Red Bull’s motorsport program and a cool alternative route for the youngsters from the Junior Team. What do you think?


MP: I love the idea, no doubt. Just hard to justify it from a marketing standpoint, unless Red Bull feels it’s missing out on connecting with 60-year-old males, because that’s IndyCar’s main demographic. It made more sense 20 years ago with Eddie Cheever’s team, and the NASCAR team IndyCar president Jay Frye ran, but that was during a time when energy drinks were still somewhat new to the market and there was lots of competition among buyers.

Twenty years later, Red Bull is everywhere, and thought of like Kleenex is to tissue paper and Band-Aid is to bandages; its name alone equates to the industry is leads, so spending money for a team in North America’s second most popular racing series would be damn near impossible to get past the marketing department.

I do, however, like the concept of funding a development seat for any of its drivers who’ve graduated F2 and could use more seasoning before they’re considered for AlphaTauri or the big team.

Red Bull gave Buddy Rice wings in 2003. Motorsport Images

Q:  There were recent rumors that Jack Harvey’s ride could be in jeopardy as soon as for the Indy 500 if results do not improve. Harvey has continued to be at the bottom end of the grid in pace, and at the bottom of the three RLL drivers. Is Harvey’s ride safe for the 500? Should Harvey be relieved of his duties? Which qualified drivers are left to run the car at Indy? Hildebrand, Kimball, Ed Jones, Karam? None of those are recent Honda drivers.

Jason Jennings, Batesville, IN

MP: I wrote in our preseason primers that if Jack got off to another bad start, his seat could be in jeopardy by the time we reach Indy, and sadly, he’s in the midst of a terrible opening to his sophomore season with RLL. Word on the street is jettisoning Jack would cost at least $1 million with some form of early termination clause, so that might be a financial deterrent. Jack tends to be pretty good on ovals, so I do wonder if the team would want to thrust itself into turmoil heading into its biggest race. Based on how they ran at the Indy Open Test, RLL has a lot of work to do to turn things around for all four cars; Harvey wasn’t the issue.

Two main takeaways here: Whatever worked for Jack at Meyer Shank Racing hasn’t worked at RLL — on either side — and it’s hard to ignore how from 2017-2021, he earned 10 top 10s for MSR through 49 races. Since moving to RLL in 2022? A single top 10 from 20 races. The other takeaway is RLL’s greatest issue, which is the ongoing engineering anomaly where everyone but Christian Lundgaard and his race engineer Ben Siegel tend to find themselves rolling off the trailer with missing speed.

Funnily enough, all it will take is a good Indy GP, where RLL’s cars tend to be pretty good — and Jack has recorded some amazing drives — for all in their world to be right. But yes, if Jack’s fortunes don’t improve by the time we leave May, I’d think some fresh talent might be tried in the No. 30 Honda as an evaluation for 2024. RLL spent a good portion of 2021 trying out different drivers, so it’s not an unfamiliar in-season process for them. Linus Lundqvist and Juri Vips have seats in hand and are ready to drive.

Q: I wanted to give Steve from the April 26th Mailbag a little more information about the pace car crash in Turn 1 at Long Beach. I was flagging at Turns 2&3 that weekend but knew a few of the people at Turn 1, and happened to be there for part of the incident. We never heard anything official, but were also under the opinion that something failed on the car and the driver turned it the way he did to a) scrub speed before impact and b) hit with the drivers’ side to lessen the impact to the passenger.

I’ve been flagging Long Beach since 2008, and it is not uncommon for incidents to occur during the VIP rides. In fact in 2008, one of the sedan pace cars hit the tires at T6 and did a slow roll (everyone was fine). And it isn’t just Long Beach: the first Nashville GP, Mario hit the wall in my turn with the two-seater during one of the VIP sessions and they had to tow the car. While it still doesn’t happen often, it probably happens more than fans realize. That’s why the corner marshals are usually on station for these sessions – just in case. My dad has a great story about a certain Ferrari F1 car that broke in half in his turn at Laguna during some lunch-time hot laps…

Anonymous Marshal

MP: Thanks for the intel.

Q: Just wondering why Andretti didn’t change half its team’s strategy to cover Team Penske at Barber?

Gary Stover, Bellefonte, PA

MP: Because it wasn’t clear it would be the right strategy at the time of the caution. If there’d been a second caution on Grosjean’s final stint, he’s likely able to go flat out to the finish and fend off McLaughlin. Also, the same question could be asked of every two-stop team.

Q: With the recent rumors that F1 owners Liberty Media wants to buy the NTT IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and turn it into a feeder series for F1 (which has been denied) I have a question. Is Liberty Media using these rumors to bring F1 back to Indianapolis? (If that happens it would be the fourth F1 Grand Prix in the U.S. after Miami Austin & Las Vegas)?

Kurt Perleberg

MP: Bearing in mind that Liberty wouldn’t be able to bring F1 back to Indy unless Roger Penske wanted it to happen and the FIA approved it, I’m not sure I can connect the dots you’re seeing here.

With two dynamic races at Miami and COTA, and another one on the way in Las Vegas, I can’t think of any reason to host F1 at Indy, unless F1 wanted to have a failure on its hands. When it was the only American stop for F1, sure, there was plenty of demand. As a fourth stop at a former track that ended with unpleasant memories? That would be a waste.

Q: After yet another solidly entertaining race on a circuit designed for motorcycles with a notable absence of heavy braking zones, it got me thinking. We generally understand that tracks that produce good racing are ones with tight corners leading onto a long straight into a heavy braking zone. But I theorize that it’s not necessarily ample passing opportunities that make for an entertaining circuit, but rather a layout that encourages hard racing.

Tracks like Barber and Mid-Ohio prove this. There’s nothing quite like watching drivers get their elbows out and be forceful with their moves, knowing that high percentage chances to make a pass are limited. Corner after corner of side-by-side racing until someone either backs off or gets run off. I’m thinking the hairpin at Barber or Turns 4, 5, and 6 at Mid-Ohio.

Circuits with multiple long straights into hairpins either make the racing lackluster with drivers just biding their time to slipstream and make an easy pass, or it becomes a crash fest every time they dive into the braking zone. It’s a shame so many modern F1 circuits focus more on the ability to pass rather than encouraging harder racing, even if it means more limitations on overtaking.

Here’s to the tracks where aggressive, forceful racing is king.

Michael, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

MP: Amen, Michael.

Q: I heard an interview with Will Power on the Barber Peacock practice/ qualifying broadcast concerning the engine being at the end of its life and needing a changeout. It brought a few questions to mind concerning procedures and rules concerning engine leases. 1) How long under the current rules does an IndyCar engine now have to last? I remember grid penalties at one point when an engine was changed early. I don’t think this is the case currently? What is the penalty now? 2) When the team receives a new engine to install, when does this occur? At the race shop before a weekend? At the track? 3) When the race weekend is over, does the engine stay in the car and go with the team to the shop, or is it removed and the manufacturer takes it with for service?

Darryl, Bernville , PA

MP: Once upon a time, IndyCar set specific mileage requirements per engine. That went away a few years ago; it’s four engines for the season and a total of 10,000 miles needing to be achieved however the manufacturer wants, so one could go 2400, another 2600, etc. Teams receive fresh engines wherever they’re needed — shop or track. All depends on timing. Post-race engine changes aren’t uncommon, provided the schedule doesn’t require the trucks to be loaded immediately and sent off to a test, cross-country drive to the next event, and so on.

IndyCar engines are available to teams on-demand – within reason. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Q: There were a few reports about teams/drivers getting to the engine replacement mileage (2400 miles?) as we get through the first quarter of the season. I recall there are four engines allowed per car. That brings to mind a few questions.

First, does the mileage number that triggers the ability to swap in a new engine include the official test days like the two scheduled at Indy two weeks ago? If so, I could see why the teams were not too disappointed day two was rained out from an engine use point of view.

Second, can teams who are already using engine two – Scott Dixon for example – install engine three for race day at the 500 before engine two reaches the replacement mileage?

Finally, can teams use engines surpassing the replacement mileage (engine one for example) in early practice sessions at a race weekend? I see there are opportunities when there is only one session on Friday of a three-day weekend, which would allow plenty of time to swap to the race engine.

Also, I am curious about the HP difference between an engine at its mileage limit and a fresh unit. Will Power implied it is a noticeable amount last weekend at Barber. I remember reading in The Unfair Advantage that Mark Donahue would swap in a pair of new heads in his Trans-Am Camaro to gain some extra HP on raceday. Installing a fresh engine would be that Unfair Advantage…

Glenn, Renton, WA

MP: Mileage is mileage. The components in the engines have a finite lifespan, so yes, testing certainly counts because once the 2.2L motors start getting close to a changeout for rebuild, that’s where the reliability concerns arise.

The Indy 500 engine rules for full-time entries is unique in that teams are allowed to install fresh motors for the 500, but yes, the Dixon Engine 2 scenario comes into play because that motor will need to go back in the car at some point and be used until it’s ready for rebuild.

Teams and manufacturers tend to game plan the mileage/change schedule in advance, so rather than force one between sessions, it will tend to happen at the end of the day, if not before the event.

High-mileage motors tend to be like a worn pair of shoes that still work just fine, but aren’t as crisp as they were when new. The power losses are negligible, but in a series like IndyCar where folks are fighting over a millionth of a second, you don’t want to give up half a horsepower.

Q: There are 346K YouTube IndyCar subscribers, 8.93 million for Formula 1, MotoGP has 5.55 million, Formula E has 791K, and NASCAR has 1.03 million. IndyCar needs an improved presence on social media. Same goes for commercialization; it is ridiculous there is no hype around the Indy 500. IMSA’s GTP was a class of less than 10 cars and there was more hype around that. There should be several articles shoveled out every day about the Indy 500. (IndyCar, please spend the money to do it)

Why isn’t IndyCar an international presence? It should not be hard for the international stage to get access. I have read several times even across the border that Canadians are not getting coverage. I cannot remember when there wasn’t a Canadian on the grid (let’s not forget a race in Canada), even during the Split. IndyCar can tap into the different markets in South America, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, and Asia. It has drivers from each of those continents. If IndyCar spent any money publicizing it, it will actually sell itself, without totally alienating its fan base.

Can IndyCar pay-per-view the Indy 500 internationally or offer it for free? I have an immense amount of respect for Mr. Penske, but after reading your article about Liberty entering or not entering the chat to buy it…. makes me wonder if selling and allowing a company to spend the funds to do it is best.

Paul Hirsch, Westlake, OH

MP: If shoveling out articles was all that’s needed to make the Indy 500 more popular, the shoveling would never stop. Sadly, that ain’t the solution. People have to know about something before they can care about it which, specific to the 500, is trying to be addressed with the series’ 100 Days To Indy docuseries. Whether that succeeds or fails in its mission won’t be known for some time.

As for the rest, Penske Entertainment will tell you they are spending a ton of money to market and promote the series and they don’t take kindly to suggestions that they aren’t. Ask me how I know…

Q: I am rooting for Jamie Chadwick to have success over here in the States, but so far, she has been at the back. I know, new cars and tracks, but with her past experience and being on a good team, I would have thought she would be running at the front. Do you think she spent too much time in W Series? I hope she quickly gets up to speed and shows her true potential.

Mark, Floral City, FL

MP: Happy to say it’s not a limitation of talent. It’s strictly a size and muscle thing, which Jamie is working hard to address. Jamie is comparatively tiny while standing next to her rivals and is pushing herself to pack on the upper body muscle to attack the high downforce/grip Dallara IL15-AER Indy NXT car. Simona De Silvestro did the same when she transitioned from Formula Atlantics to IndyCar, and did it again when IndyCar retired the old Dallara chassis for the super-high downforce DW12.

Next to Simona, Jamie is small, so this is just a case of needing to give her time to continue transforming her body to meet the needs of the fastest, heaviest, and highest downforce car she’s raced. Danica went through an identical process when the IRL turned itself into IndyCar and added road courses, but also keep in mind that Danica retired from IndyCar at the end of 2011, right before the DW12 was introduced, and never had to fight 5000 pounds of downforce at Barber or Mid-Ohio. Jamie’s Andretti teammate Colton Herta also comes to mind. He was a scrawny kid when he arrived in IndyCar and when I asked him on Monday, he said he entered the series at 120 pounds and has had to add 20 pounds of muscle to wrangle the things.

Chadwick’s fast, but she’s still very much in the adaptation phase of her transition to U.S. open-wheelers. Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Q: With your many years of experience, which approach do you feel highlights a racing driver’s ability best? a) Run a fuel conservation race with less stops and bring the car home hopefully at the sharp end. b) Run flat-out with no mistakes to hopefully bring the car home hopefully at the sharp end.

I appreciate that my question is binary and that race circumstances can change a strategy. Maybe the answer is that they are two different skill sets but as a fan I wish we had more of b) and less of a).

Oliver Wells

MP: It’s really a question of whether we want to see the driver perform as a solo athlete or functioning as part of a team because in the first scenario, it’s maximum attack with no need for a complex strategy that calls on all of their skills. In the latter, it’s a case of the driver and strategist and possibly the race engineer working together to execute a plan that won’t succeed without their active and ongoing input.

I like both. Qualifying tends to give us a per-race thrill that’s all about the driver and in most races, we get a blend of the two as maximum attack could be the order for the day—or a stint or two—and calling upon a driver’s full range of skills with tire and fuel conservation can also come into play. As a basketball fan, I love a great slam dunk, but not for 48 straight minutes. Watching Steph Curry shoot 3s for 48 minutes would also lose its appeal, so give me a game where both are important factors in the outcome.

Q: Larry Miller was a very wealthy motor fan who owned a large collection of Shelby Cobras and multiple car dealerships. He built MMP in 2005 on land owned by the Tooele County adjacent to Salt Lake City for $60,000,000 ,and spent a further sum on a an 80 Mustang race school, which became the Ford Performance School after his death in 2008.

He intended for MMP to become a major marketing tool for his dealer group, but the first major event at the track killed that concept because he had no dealers in Tooele and has the Ford policy of dealers not marketing outside their designated area, so his dealers had to withdraw over 100 display cars on the first event Friday after local dealer complaints. This caused the Miller dealers to become violently anti-MMP.

Larry supported MMP’s major events, but when he died and the dealer group took control, they immediately cancelled them all and gave control of the facility to the school manager, then allowed him to run the track business into the ground before handing the venue to the Tooele County and closing the MMP as a business.

The track was purchased by the Chinese Geely group and they have turned it into a financially successful track rental facility that no longer operates any public attendance race events. They cancelled the contract with the Ford School because it undermined all other business activities and instead allowed multiple other track rental business activities to prosper.

It is now a stable but completely different type of business than that envisioned by Larry Miller.


MP: Indeed it is.

Q: You know what the Mailbag has been missing? BoP complaints! Well not so much a complaint as a question. Sorry to let you down. With all the new GTP cars this year, IMSA seems spot on with its BoP and delivered us great racing down to the final laps of every round. There were understandable gaps at Daytona with everyone having different levels of testing under their belt, but after Long Beach I feel like any team could realistically win a race this season. Meanwhile, I watch the WEC and Toyota can pull out a minute or lap lead with ease and walk it home for a victory (barring any reliability issues) leaving the rest of the field fighting for scraps. I still enjoy a good midfield battle, but at times it feels more like F1 than a BoP series. What gives?

Is Toyota that good, or does someone have their thumb on the scale as a reward for keeping LMP1 afloat those few years? Is IMSA’s balance favoring performance while WEC’s favors potential? Are they slower to adjust hoping the new teams have more pace to discover? I feel like if one GTP manufacturer had that big of an advantage in IMSA we’d be storming John Doonan’s office, but I hear next to nothing about it in WEC.

Maybe all their LMP1 experience and data is keeping Toyota ahead. Or is it just as simple as IMSA having the wave-around to help cars get back to the lead lap? Porsche, Ferrari, and Cadillac are new and need time to develop, but even teams like Glickenhouse and Peugeot who already showed their cards last season don’t seem to be getting any favors the way Toyota is.

I want WEC to have the excitement of IMSA, but maybe I’m just greedy (#mepersonally). I am American after all. Maybe I need some of that good old fashioned European enlightenment.

Noah, Waukesha, WI

MP: You’re the Mailbag’s official Balance of Performance savior!

Two quick things: The Toyotas are the most refined prototypes in the Hypercar class by a wide margin. Second, as we always have when balancing two unique car formulas, BoP has certainly favored the WEC’s Hypercar models over IMSA’s LMDh/GTP models. The rarity will be the days when both formulas are locked in a scrap where neither model has an advantage. And back to the Hypercar side, once Ferrari and Peugeot figure out how to make their cars perform at the same high level for an entire race, Toyota will have competition. Glickenhaus did almost no running prior to the season so I can’t expect the WEC to dial up their BoP to compensate for all they didn’t learn and use to improve themselves.

Q: Thanks for your post-mortem of the first 100 Days to Indy episode. What you found was what I was predicting in my earlier document to you with regard to potential for expanding young fan base. Not.

In case you missed it, the production company, VICE, is on the verge of bankruptcy. Did anyone involved at IndyCar or Penske do any due diligence?


MP: Yes, we wrote about the VICE topic last week. I’ve since read it’s going to be given to two of its investors in lieu of having to pay its debts.

Q: We have been doing Carb Day for years. We always enjoyed the Indy Lights show that day, We were wondering why the now-Indy NXT race was stopped?


MP: Roger Penske was alarmed by the big car-breaking crashes he witnessed and feared what would happen if an Indy Lights driver was maimed or killed two days prior to the Indy 500, and it was cut from the schedule once Penske Entertainment took control of the Speedway and series.

Who doesn’t miss the Freedom 100? Image by Penske Entertainment

Q: I know that Barber is old news now, but if you have a way to pass a message to IndyCar leadership, I would appreciate it.

Barber was about as close to a perfect event as we’ll ever see. The racing was incredibly competitive and clean all day. The drivers showed why they’re the best in the world, with tremendous respect for one another. As the race concluded, I found myself just proud – proud of the series, the drivers, the crews, the officials, and that beautiful facility. NBC/Peacock had insightful coverage and commentary that clearly explained the various race strategies. The announcement of a contract extension with Barber was a well-timed bonus!

The racing has been incredible this season, but everything came together perfectly at Barber. It was a racing showcase that would be the envy of any global sanctioning body. This was a great way to kick off the month of May.

Tom Pate

MP: Message passed, Tom.

Q: If a company is looking to secure a contract with Penske Entertainment is the rumor true that it’s best to be on the verge of bankruptcy to win the tender?

Oliver Wells

MP: Makes me wonder if there’s a new motor racing management game to create from this premise, Oliver…

Q: IMS Hall of Fame – Tony George? I don’t know, is it just me…?


MP: Best part is the $250-per-plate ticket to attend the dinner and ceremony.

Q: I read your article on silly season. If there is a .00001% chance that Graham goes to Ganassi, I would be ecstatic. If the cards fall the way I’d hope, the 8 car gets renewed and the 11 car becomes a full season for Marcus Armstrong. I think Graham would be a hell of a replacement for the outgoing Palou. Graham has shown his ability to be an absolute force when he has a car underneath him (Detroit 2017) and Ganassi would most certainly give him that more consistently than RLL at the present time. I would imagine Barry would remain on the stand for the 10 team as well, which makes that team super-exciting. Seems like a long shot but I’m keeping my fingers crossed and willing this into existence.


MP: As I’ve told Graham a few hundred times, I just want him to end his driving career on a high, wherever that might be — the home team or elsewhere — because he deserves it. He’d be a beast at Ganassi or Andretti.

Q: I wondered why Gordan Johncock did not receive his Baby Borg and assumed it was because it was a different era, but then I saw Mario’s on the 100 days to Indy. Why did Gordy not have a Baby Borg?


MP: Mr. Johncock is the latest to receive a Baby Borg. Borg-Warner’s leadership, with constant urging from Borg-Warner’s Steve Shunck, have been making and presenting Baby Borgs to the Indy 500’s great for many years now and, rather than do it all at once, they tend to do one or two a year for the legends of yesteryear. Unlike these days, they weren’t given out to winning drivers and team owners, so it’s a passion project for Shunck and Borg-Warner to retroactively honor our heroes with Baby Borgs.

Q: Some of the greats have expressed a dislike of, and hence avoidance of, competing on ovals with IndyCar or its predecessors. I grew up in an era when greats grasped the nettle and won, though one of my all-time favorites, having tried in practice, decided not to put the helmet on again.

“Shall we paint some trees on the walls?” his mechanics asked, as said driver had no qualms of averaging Indy speeds on the full Spa and Monza circuits with just the odd barrier to try to arrest a full on flight into the trees.

What is it do you think that presents the scenario for some, even champions, to take it on, and others salute them for doing so but say no thanks?

Peter Buckleigh

MP: Comfort in their primary discipline and fears of the unknown. Just as most of us cringe at the idea of eating french fries with mayo, most non-American drivers have no appetite for the strange and seemingly dangerous form of racing we do on ovals.

Take a Lewis Hamilton, the greatest of his generation, a multi-zillionaire, with nothing left to prove, and ovals seem to have no appeal. Trying an IndyCar or NASCAR weekend on a road course? That would be fun and within his core discipline where it’s just a case of applying a lifetime of skills to a very different car.

And then you have my favorite kind of driver, the Fernando Alonsos and Dan Gurneys and Mario Andrettis who want to drive everything at all times. Some see boundaries in life where others, thankfully, do not.

Has anyone ever asked Hamilton whether he likes french fries with mayo? Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Q: I have question regarding street circuits and circuit selection. When series are evaluating potential suitors for race venues, I’ve heard many times that F1 “couldn’t go there without massive upgrades, etc. or that it’s not a Grade 1 circuit”, yet they seem to be OK with setting up a street race just about anywhere.

What are the requirements to be a Grade 1 circuit and what are the requirements for a street circuit? This primarily applies to F1 seemingly, but there are similar arguments brought up for permanent road courses and IndyCar. One of which I’ve seen/heard is for Road Atlanta – there is ‘not enough run off’? Is it really the case that Road Atlanta in its current state would be any less suitable for an IndyCar than the Nashville street course? It just seems like there are conflicting standards for what is considered an acceptable race course for a given series.

Now, let’s just call Road America a street course and bring the F1 teams over :)


MP: I’m always happy to help with insights, but when it’s something as complex as researching and preparing a dissertation on the FIA’s various track certification methods and criteria for the Mailbag, I’d suggest spending the necessary hours conducing personal research on the topic.

Yes, the idea of a driver losing control at Road Atlanta’s Turn 1 at 200mph and flying over the catch fence and ending up 500 feet into the woods is very different than anywhere a high-speed crash would be managed at Nashville.

[ED: To elaborate a little, the full list of requirements for Grade 1 certification is excruciatingly long. At a basic level they lay out a minimum length and width for the circuit, minimum requirements for barriers, runoff and other safety features, track markings, pitlane specifications and billions of sub-clauses defining everything from banking angles to the permissible radius range at the first corner. One of the main differences between Grade 1 (i.e. F1) and Grade 2 (basically anything else) are the heightened requirements for peripheral infrastructure such as media and broadcasting facilities, expanded medical facilities and all the other stuff that goes into supporting thousands of people who are needed to make a grand prix happen – MG].

Q: When F1 goes to America, Max Verstappen always wins. Why is he so good in America? Why is Logan Sargeant struggling?

Also, back in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and into the ‘90s there used to be about 60-70 entries a year for the Indianapolis 500. Why aren’t there many entrants as there used to be?

Finally, with soccer legends Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia and Lionel Messi going there soon (maybe) and F1 having a race there, will NASCAR or IndyCar ever hold a race in Saudi Arabia despite its horrible human rights record?

Kurt Perleberg

MP: Let’s not kid ourselves about your last question: Racing is a gigolo with zero standards. If someone’s willing to pay a racing series a silly amount of money to hold an event, racing will go to that place and put on an event. And if holding sporting contests in countries with terrible human rights was banned, there would be no sports.

Regarding Indy entries, we’re talking about decades where anyone could enter almost anything. Make a car at home in your garage, grab a V8 from a junkyard to bolt into the thing, or buy one of the readily available Offenhauser four-cylinder motors, or repurpose a jet engine from a helicopter, and as long as your car passed the minimal safety standards and complied with a thin rulebook, you were on the entry list. When you’re free to do almost anything you want, you attract a wide array of dreamers and business folks who can afford to give Indy a try. When every single aspect of competing at Indy must be funneled through strict channels, where almost everything is spec and there’s no guarantee of being able to get a tire or engine lease, you have a much smaller entrant base.

CHRIS MEDLAND: Put simply, the reason Verstappen always does well in the U.S. is his car! Max is clearly one of the most talented drivers ever seen in F1, but he’s now got the car to back it up. He always seemed to like COTA as he’s so good in high-speed sectors – so the first sector there and the first sector in Miami really suit him–- but his first win in the States still only came in 2021 when he had the car to fight for the title, and Lewis Hamilton pushed him hard in that race.

Then last year Verstappen was impressive winning in Miami – again utilizing that strength in the high-speed and better tire management – but he had a dominant car by COTA, and the same this year when again, the difference between he and Perez was all in the first sector.

Q: We regularly hear descriptions of the horsepower boost gained from electric propulsion, but all that horsepower has to come from somewhere. We don’t hear as much about the harvesting process. What is the power/speed loss when the F1 hybrid systems are in harvesting/recovery mode?

J.J. Gertler, Scientists’ Cliffs, MD

CM: This is where F1 power units are so impressive, because there’s essentially no power or speed loss to recover energy. It’s all recovering energy that used to be lost – heat and kinetic from the power unit exhaust gases and the brakes – so that energy is being harvested both when the car is accelerating as well as when it is slowing on the brakes.

The only time you might hear about a power loss is in terms of ‘clipping’ or de-rating, where the power unit runs out of the extra 160hp it is receiving from the battery (being deployed through the MGU-K), so drops that much power at the end of the straights. But that’s more of a deployment issue than harvesting, and that is when the red lights flash on the rear of the car to warn a driver behind the car might not keep accelerating at the same rate.

Q: They probably mentioned it and I somehow missed it, but why in the world did several cars make pit stops on the very last lap at Baku to come in and change tires? There must be some good reason, but it is mindboggling to me. 

Dave, Cincinnati, OH

CM: It was a proper bit of Las Vegas gambling, Dave! It was the two drivers – Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg – who started from the pit lane and had nothing to lose but needed a lot of luck to gain something, so they just went for the hard tire at the start and ran as long as they could. That got them far up the order when everyone else made their pit stops (and it was tough to overtake) and Ocon and Hulkenberg just sat there hoping for a crash or incident that could lead to a Safety Car, or ideally, for a red flag to change tires for free. It never came, so in the end they had to make the stop on the last lap to comply with the rules requiring that they use two different tire compounds.

Hulkenberg needed a late yellow or red to make his strategy work in Baku. He didn’t get one. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Q: So you [ED] felt a need to poke the Senna-Prost hornets’ nest? Since Robin’s comments on Suzuka 1990 would be akin to him saying that ‘25 & 8’ was on reflection a great idea, I wonder if he was because he was surprised to learn of the Senna-Balestre contretemps. It received little or no notice in the United States at the time, where coverage focused on the bad blood between Senna and Prost.

After going to Google and YouTube to refresh my memory, I am left with a question: My recollection was after Prost ran into Senna and both went off the track, the marshals pushed Senna back into the race. That’s confirmed by YouTube videos. So why wasn’t that an instant DQ? The ensuing bitterness over the post-race DQ for cutting a chicane wouldn’t have happened.

Parenthetically, the 1989 and 1990 races preceded the modern-day internet, so I find it fascinating that one can actually know more about those events now than I did at the time.

Al, Boston, MA

CM: I have to admit Al, I don’t have 100% certainty on the answer to this one as I don’t have access to the sporting regulations from 1989. But I believe from a bit of research and memory of talking to others who were there, it was because you were allowed to be pushed to a safer place if your car was stuck somewhere dangerous (as Senna’s was) and in that case if it meant you got back into the race that was allowed.

You’re right though, it’s great how much stuff is now available for more people to look into and find out about. There are huge numbers of fans who have been following for decades who can discover more about past events, plus newer fans who show an interest in the history have a heck of a catalogue to dig into.

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, 10 May, 2017

Q: I was recently listening to the podcast “Dinner with Racers” and Janet Guthrie was the guest. They were discussing how things were for her back in the day, and were talking about how writers and reporters treated her. The hosts were mentioning names of “legitimate” journalist from that era and when your name came up she said “No, not Robin Miller.” They got a chuckle out of it, as did I. She didn’t go into any details, but it was pretty clear you were not her favorite. Do you have a Janet Guthrie story you could share with us or why she said that about you?

Randy Holbrook, Resaca, GA

ROBIN MILLER: I gave Janet props for her courage under fire as the first woman at IMS, and I wrote that she was capable of going fast for four laps or by herself but just wasn’t very racy. Certainly not like Sarah, Danica or Simona in recent years. And I think I got on her when she kept saying she “beat” Johnny Rutherford, Gary Bettenhausen, Rick Mears and Danny Ongais in 1978. No, she out-lasted them while being lapped 10 times. So I get why I’m not one of her favorites, but she was a very brave pioneer.

Story originally appeared on Racer