The RACER Mailbag, May 24

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: One bit of information I really, really wanted to know all day during qualifying was who was in line and the order of that line. Would that not be a great addition to the coverage?


MARSHALL PRUETT: Some folks love the minutia like that, Craig. I’m not one of them, but a friend of mine was in charge of capturing exactly what you’ve mentioned, including the time they pulled into the line, for their team’s leadership in real time so they knew how and when to react while in the garage.


Q: Since the IndyCar app updated earlier this season it’s been full of issues. It’s 2023 and it’s hard to imagine an app that doesn’t work, especially after IndyCar was promoting their “updated” app before the season opener. Any info on when the app will be fixed? During qualifying, the app was showing a handful of car without speeds — just one of many issues.

Craig S

MP: Sorry to hear, Craig. I use the IndyCar App approximately twice a year, and haven’t so far in 2023, so I’m useless here and don’t keep track of what is or isn’t happening with it. If I find out, I’ll mention it on my podcast.

Q: Do you think Graham Rahal will leave his father’s team? I think he should. Clearly this team will be backmarkers for next couple of years. He deserves better.


MP: He does. Time for another rebuild, and most veterans — in any sport — are loathe to burn their final years waiting for their team to get their **** together. I’m confident Graham could bring a ton of funding to any team with an opening, and it’s not that he’d need to pay, but he does have some very committed sponsors who are there because of him.

I’m more concerned about Graham retiring if the rest of the season is a downer.

Q: It’s pretty clear that Team Penske is missing something that other teams have known for a while. It’s the fourth year with subpar results in Indy 500 qualifying. Same car, same engines, same conditions yet others are able to find speed but not Team Penske. Any ideas why?


MP: I don’t, and yet, in Monday’s two-hour practice session, DJ Willy P was P1. But ECR and Arrow McLaren have had Penske’s number recently in Indy qualifying. From 2015-19, Penske won Indy three times. Since buying IMS and IndyCar in 2020, Penske’s been on an 0-fer. Does that streak end on Sunday? Dunno, but if so, my money’s on McLaughlin and Ben Bretzman.

Q: My question is about the “evil” chassis of Callum Ilott/JHR. What will happen to that? Does it go back to Dallara to be inspected? Does the JHR shop crew inspect it? I would imagine something that unfit to be raced doesn’t just go back into the team’s chassis rotation.

Justin, CT

MP: My guess is there was something wonky happening with the floor/underwing while at speed. Callum said they did torsional rigidity tests and found no issues. His main complaint was the erratic handling, which, in the absence of a broken shock, sounds like a non-linear aero issue. Listen to the good crew chiefs, and they’ll tell you that some floors are problematic. That’s my guess here, and as for the chassis, I’m not sure what will happen to it. I feel confident in saying Ilott will pass on using it again…

Juncos Hollinger is working to exorcise the evil from Ilott’s car before it goes back onto the track on Friday. James Black/Penske Entertainment

Q: Great action during qualifying on Saturday. Couple of questions for you:

1.  Can you explain Penske’s strategy of dropping Newgarden and McLaughlin from their original qualifying spots? Cindric’s explanation about waiting for better weather and more tinkering with the cars made sense to the broadcast team. Not sure I bought that explanation after watching others post better times than Power later in the day. Would’ve thought the No. 2 and No. 3 cars were ready to go and didn’t need any further tuning. And with all the activity toward the end of the session, the No. 2 car really gambled to set a time. Was the strategy sound, or did Penske swing and miss?

2.  My wife noticed during David Malukas’s first run that he had the car in fourth gear for most of the lap (except for a short fifth gear run from the start/finish line to the Turn 1 entry). In later runs he was running in fifth and sixth gear. Didn’t notice any others running that long in fourth. Any reason why you’d keep in a lower gear for that long on a fast circuit?

Darrin, Brentwood, TN

MP: There’s a lot of pressure on Team Penske to be the best, so even in something as relatively unimportant as qualifying for a 500-mile race, there’s immediate embarrassment — or the perception of it — within the team if they aren’t the best. Also, they’re filled with highly competitive personalities, so with those two combined, you have a group that won’t accept decent runs to P15 or wherever. Add in how they had no ready answers for how to find another 2mph, and I didn’t see the confidence and clear strategy on how to overcome their issues. Inaction isn’t something they embrace, so giving it another go was a fitting response that just didn’t have the outcome they wanted.

Choosing the correct gearing is never an exact science, and all it takes is an increase in wind or the wind disappearing to take you out of the right rev range. My guess is the team made a gear change after his first run.

Q: Sorry, but I’ve seen and heard enough. I need to rant. The entire NBC broadcast crew should be summarily fired. After watching for the past week, their incompetence and ignorance is incredible. Case in point, the discussion about taking parts off Katherine Legge’s car to put on other RLL cars was totally false. I’m no IndyCar rulebook person, but I know enough that that is illegal. Both Bell and Hinchcliffe exhibited their ignorance of the rules. Diffey fell right in with them. It’s akin to just winging it. It is a dismissable offense.

Letarte is a NASCAR guy, period. He knows little to nothing about IndyCar. His standard response is, “in NASCAR we would do this.” Earth to Letarte, this is IndyCar, not NASCAR. I really don’t care what Stewart, Gibbs or any other NASCAR team would do. This crew needs to go. Now.

Dale, Chesterfield, VA

MP: If we’re going to bin the full-time crew because they made a collective mistake about a rule, we’ll be firing broadcast teams on a nightly basis across all major sports.

I get it. We want our TV people to know everything and to always get it right. But that’s never happened, ever, in any sport.

Hell, I spent two or three months towards the end of the 2021 season getting some major aspects of the Leaders Circle eligibility completely wrong, and yet, I’ve been spared the electric chair. Maybe NBC will send its IndyCar and IMSA experts to call some of NASCAR’s biggest races and make those fans super happy (kidding).

Q: My heart really goes out to the RLL team. They’ve been struggling ever since Takuma Sato won his second Indy 500. What happened? Are they spending too much effort on the IMSA prototype program? I feel RLL needs to cut back to a two-car team. I also think that even though Graham Rahal has been somewhat successful in IndyCar, he is going either hang it up or race in IMSA.

Alistair, Springfield, MO

MP: Strange to see the last two teams Taku drove for, in the last two entries he piloted — the No. 51 at Coyne and No. 30 at RLL — stuck in the LCQ…while he was battling for pole with Chip.

The team took a big swing with a new engineering structure and it just hasn’t worked. That was apparent well before we got to Indy, but the season is still young-ish, so you give it the benefit of time. If it weren’t for Lundgaard and his engineer shining on occasion, we’d be in Colonel Jessup “Code Red” territory. After Graham’s DNQ, I fear we’re headed towards a house cleaning.

Q: I have been an open-wheel fan for about five years. After watching IndyCar and F1 on TV, I noticed the video quality of IndyCar’s in-car cameras are much better than F1’s. I also really like the moving camera on the roll hoop used on the IndyCar telecasts instead of F1’s fixed camera. It really shows the close racing. Who provides the cameras for IndyCar? I would love to see a RACER do a feature about how they do what they do.

Larry Henton

MP: BSI has been the main camera vendor and innovator for decades. Some of the same team members I knew from Indy Lights in the mid-’90s who’d come and install cameras on our cars are still there. Great idea on the story.

Q: 1997 Indy 500: Starting 34th, Lyn St. James, and starting 35th, Johnny Unser. Let Graham Rahal into the big show. Do it for him, his team, his fans and his sponsors.

Indy Fan, Midway, KY

MP: No thanks. As a member of a rookie team that year who had to fight their way in to earn one of the eight spots available to non-full-time teams — the infamous 25/8 rule — there was nothing that pissed off our little TKM/Genoa team more than to see cars that didn’t earn their way in get get handed golden tickets to participate in the race. If everybody gets a trophy, having trophies is meaningless.

Q: We will never have more than 33 or 34 entrants in the 500 as long as we have just two engine suppliers because Chevy and Honda will limit their commitments, correct?


MP: We’ve had 36 in the two-supplier era, but yes, it would take a third to see the list grow towards 40.

Q: The IndyCar broadcasts by NBC and Peacock have a disturbing presence of experts from the South. There is Marty Snider, who talks like a weather forecaster searching for something to say but keeps right on talking. He sometimes likes to compare IndyCar with the NASCAR demolition derby. Snider is the weakest presence on Indy TV broadcasting over the last 30-plus years. Dave Burns has little merit in regard to IndyCars — he is just filler. Then there is Steve Letarte. I have no recollection of him running an IndyCar team.

We can look forward to NBC bringing in a bunch more of experts for the 500 broadcast. Most of them will be from the South, or just NBC bigshots. And I am expecting Rutledge to bring his supposed gift of IndyCar knowledge to the broadcast.

The good news is Kevin Lee, the best of the best, and Dillon Welch.

IndyCar deserves better than a bunch of uninformed NASCAR announcers.

Bruce R. Smith

MP: Of our IndyCar regulars, I can tell you that they love the series, put in a ton of time and effort to do their pre-event research, and are frequently present in the paddock, asking questions and trying to bring what they learn to the broadcasts. I know this because I’ve seen it for many years. If you don’t like their reporting styles, c’est la vie.

Q: Graham Rahal was a gracious man in the face of massive disappointment. While the team appears to be in disarray, the family backbone remains stout.

David Lind, Alexandria, LA

MP: That’s who he is. Some people love to dog him at every opportunity, but he’s the most generous driver in the series who gives like mad to help people who need it. As a person, he’s among two or three in the series who are the gold standard as quality human beings.

A class act. Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment

Q: I’m sitting here watching qualifying for the 500 and I have a few questions about two topics:

1) Watching Palou win pole, am I the only one that finds it weird how successful he continues to be at Ganassi, but he’s already signed for McLaren next year? They must be paying him a ton to move over. But the real questions are: What happens to Rosenqvist (who’s had a great run recently fighting for a job)? And lastly, who takes the open Ganassi seat (Lundgaard, VeeKay, etc.)?

2) Watching Graham Rahal handle getting bumped with the emotion and class he did was so tough. That RLL team was just awful all week. Listening to Bobby’s interview, I heard him say they had the same setup from a past year where they qualified and are getting the same lap times as those years, but he made it seem like everyone else on the grid took steps forward that RLL just did not. What happened to that team? They’ve struggled all year, but this Indy showing really put it on display.

Mike, MI

MP: Alex can’t sign until later in the season, but the main item here is he wants to leave. I do hope Arrow McLaren is on par with Ganassi when he arrives because he’s currently leading the championship and on pole for the first time at the Indy 500 in one of Chip’s cars. Felix needs to start winning, now, if he wants to stay, and even that might not be enough to get a fourth car on the grid in 2024. He’ll find a taker at a midfield team. Could be two open Ganassi seats if they don’t pay Ericsson. Lots of options, all of which I recently wrote about on

RLL’s Indy 500 has tracked as expected after dismal showings at Texas and the Open Test. They were great on the Indy road course, so it’s mostly limited to the ovals so far. RLL has some serious engineering firepower, but are the right people in the right positions?

Q: A great new format and plenty of drama today Sunday. Last row qualifying was awesome — I was especially impressed with Harvey. History repeats itself 30 years later with Rahal out. I remember the cardboard full-body posters of Bobby Rahal in his black Miller driving suit and fans placed a sign in his hand that said, “I need tickets!”

I thought Kyle Larson was going to attempt the Indy 500/Charlotte 600 double this year? Surprised he didn’t attempt it.

Somewhere, Robin Miller is smiling and toasting Foyt’s team for an amazing qualifying performance.

Craig Bailey, Naples, FL

MP: I wasn’t a fan of this year’s LCQ, but it was just because all four entries sucked for making speed. Larson’s never said he was doing it this year. Yep, Miller’s mowing down a 48 oz steak and a tub of Blue Bell ice cream in honor of his old friend and boxing instructor.

Q: Is there a flower pot at the beginning of Turn 2 on the wall at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?


MP: Let’s go with yes.

Q: You have to have tremendous respect for Graham Rahal. He could have easily pulled rank and ensured that he would be in the 500, but he chose not to do that. I don’t know the man, but I do have newfound respect for him. Not many people would have done that.

In another vein, we also must appreciate the efforts of Katherine Legge as the quickest of the RLL cars. With 10 years out of IndyCar, that was a major effort. However, it is curious that RLL just didn’t have the raw speed. With all of the legal aero bits, did they just choose a combination with limited effectiveness?

I’m guessing that the 500 winner will come from Ganassi or Arrow McLaren. Penske and Andretti will slot in behind those two. What do you think?

Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA

MP: Graham mentioned he tried running Kat’s exact setup and his car was still 2mph slower, so it wasn’t a case of trying the wrong combo. Palou’s been a beast at Indy since he arrived in IndyCar. I never expect the pole winner to win the race, so if I’m wrong, he strikes me as the readiest to become a first-time winner. Rossi is sneaky good. McLaughlin is right there. I could go on for days…

Q: For both Callum Illott (and seemingly Graham Rahal), what was missed by their teams that their chassis produced such ill-driving cars? What do teams do in the post mortem on chassis in circumstances like these? Fix or junk them?

Gordon, Dallas

MP: They wish they knew. They’ll check for anything that might be cracked, flexing, or binding. These are massively expensive cars, so they aren’t going to be tossed in the dumpster.

Q: It is sad to see Graham miss the 500, 30 years after his father suffered the same fate.

RLL built a new headquarters/shop, hired new technical support, but seem to have worse-performing cars than previous years. Graham mentioned he isn’t happy running around 27th every week. Both Graham and Harvey’s contracts are up at the end of the year, but I don’t see any competitive open seats in IndyCar. CGR may have an open seat, but I don’t see either Graham or Jack in the running for that. Could Graham look to move to a GTP seat? Not likely, in my opinion. I believe he has done a lot on the management side at RLL, with sponsor deals. While it may be unlikely that he leaves RLL, I can see that the team needs a major shake-up on the technical side, with may include buying some new Dallara chassis.

Frank, Mooresville, NC

MP: Graham isn’t lacking for options. Jack isn’t as fortunate. They don’t need new cars. Just need a better plan to find the speed they’re capable of making.

Indy was a wake-up call for RLL, but what might that mean for Rahal and Harvey further down the road? Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Q: We’ve seen the same thing for the last few years with Penske at Indy. They look promising during practice, but when the boost is added for qualifying, they don’t factor. This year is even a step further back ­– now Penske is the fourth-fastest Chevy team, behind even Foyt. Will engineering heads roll?

Bruce, Philadelphia

MP: Let’s talk next week after the race. If the cars are underwhelming there, I’d imagine some tough conversations will be had as they look to the offseason.

Q: Do you know if Graham Rahal’s team considered taking another last-minute run ahead of Jack Harvey? My thinking is that if Graham had beaten the No. 30 to the line with four minutes left, withdrawn his time and attempted a run, whatever time he posted would have stood, even if it was a 225. Harvey didn’t have a time posted at that point in the proceedings, or if he did, it was whatever the result was of Jack’s 170mph engine cooling laps. Taking another run leading up to the gun would have locked Graham into the field.

I understand that the No. 15 might not wanted to have played that game against a teammate, but if it was Sting Ray Robb that was in the mix, that seems like it would have definitely been the play. This might be a loophole that IndyCar needs to close in future years, especially if Harvey was sitting at “no time posted” in the final minutes.

Mark Founds, Mason, OH

MP: I don’t believe Graham and the 15 team felt there was anything left to find by venturing out, and doing so simply to block Jack from making an attempt might have seen IndyCar intervene.

Q: Sorry, two questions.

1) It seems to me that the Bowtie has the edge in horsepower this year. I say that despite Alex Palou winning the pole. Chevrolet had 10 of the top 15, with Ganassi really the only Honda runner with pace to win the race. Is the vibe around the garage that Chevy has that edge? And what is Ganassi doing different than every other Honda team other than perhaps having the best drivers?

2) I am most assuredly in the minority here and I am old enough to know the sacred traditions, but with the economics of motor racing these days, I really hate seeing one individual twist in the wind for qualifying — especially an individual and team that commits to a full season and brings a lot to the series. That team spends a lot of money to be on the grid all year. I am not saying lock in regulars into the Indy 500 vs. the one-offs (like IRL days), but when there are only 34 cars, it seems just not right to only start the sacred 33.

Back in the day when 40+ cars showed up… I get it. But now, we are lucky if a 34th entry shows up. Maybe create a guideline before season that everyone knows that if there are 36+ entries, we have traditional knock-out qualifying. Less than that, you are in the show provided you can do minimum speed. RLL brought four cars to the show and three full-time. My point I guess is there is an economic racing reality with sponsors etc., and the amount of money and effort it takes to commit multiple full-time cars… against there is, at best, one extra car (if that) every year. Thoughts?

Jeff Smith, State College, PA

MP: The feeling is definitely of Team Chevy having raised its Indy 500 game. Ganassi’s been the best Honda team for a few years, and were dominant last year, so this is a continuation of their recent performance. Sadly, they don’t tell me what they’re doing that’s better than the others.

So bumping is OK if it’s 35, but not 34? Teams have equal opportunities to take part in the race. It’s their job to ensure they do, and if they don’t, there are harsh consequences like in most other sports where a minimum threshold must be met to keep playing on in the race or playoffs.

Q: You mentioned on a video that you wished we could do something to fix Bump Day. Here’s an idea to noodle on: Just give it more time. Run pole qualifying first, Top 12 at noon, Fast 6 at 2pm. Then expand the window of bump day qualifying from one hour to three hours, say from 3pm-6pm. Plenty of time to make setup changes, cool engines, etc.  Thoughts?

Andy R., Brighton, MI

MP: I like where you’re going here, Andy. Only issue is the series’ desire to end the day on a high with crowning a pole winner, so doing that mid-day means a lot of focus goes to that person and team instead of the LCQ stuff.

I’d be tickled if we spent two days setting the field, minus all the LCQ and Fast 12 and Fast Six nonsense. Let some surprises happen. Give yourself a weekend-long story for people to follow.

Q: After re-watching your “IndyCar Texas 2023 aero options” video on RACER’s YouTube channel, I noticed you didn’t mention the new speedway rear wing pylons which were introduced earlier this year. Therefore, I’m guessing it was the old pylons which were used at TMS last April, right? Could the new ones be used instead next year, or are they designed as an Indy-only item? Since these not only allow for more rear downforce to be generated, but also in a much less draggy and turbulent way than with wickers and Gurney flaps, are the latter still allowed at Indy this year? If we know for a fact that these disrupt the wake in a way that makes it difficult for other cars to follow, why should we keep using them now that we’ve found something that works better? Why not just ban them?

Also, it looks like the word from the paddock is that the changes brought up this year haven’t really help improve the racing and drivers in the draft still feel stuck in a sort of “DRS train” situation. Obviously, we’ll have to wait until Sunday to see the final result, but did you also get the same feedback from the drivers you’ve talked to? If so, is there anything that can be done to fix this? And even if it is still hard to go for a pass when you’re in the middle of the pack, is it at least easier to follow in a corner with the dirty air? I understand this was initially what those changes were made for, so has it improved as intended?


MP: Yes, I saved the Indy rear wing pillars for the Indy Open Test. They could be used wherever IndyCar might want them to be in place. Gurneys are allowed, but less likely to be deployed in big and wide form. Heard things are slightly better, but not drastically so. New wings will be needed to get that resolved.

Q: Are there any plans for Abel Motorsports and RC Enerson to do any other races this year?

On the silly season front, has interest from the big teams cooled slightly on “Little Dave” Malukas? Ilott, Ericsson and Jake Dennis’s names have come up more often than Malukas’s.


MP: Not that I’ve heard. I think Chicago Davey will be just fine; he simply doesn’t have the winning pedigree of an Ericsson or the mystique of an Ilott or Dennis. If he were droll and hyper serious at all times, I’d imagine more teams would be intrigued.

Enerson and Abel Motorsports are one and done. For now… Motorsport Images

Q: I know it’s often difficult to discern whether is it the driver or the car/team? But the past two years have been very unkind to Jack Harvey at RLL, and the fans have been equally unkind. That being said, he finished 15th and 13th in the championship at Meyer Shank. Pagenaud and Castroneves only managed 15th and 18th last year, currently sit 20th and 23rd with MSR, and Harvey is 21st at Rahal. Harvey’s teammates at RLL are currently ninth and 15th (though Rahal will see that drop after missing the 500).

All of those stats to say… is Harvey that much worse than Rahal and Lundgaard? Did Harvey have better equipment at MSR than Pagenaud and Castroneves have had? Was it that Harvey could do more with a middle-pack car than he’s able to do in a terrible car? Are Rahal and Lundgaard just way better at driving bad cars?

Ross Bynum

MP: Some drivers are capable of helping their engineers to shape and tune an ill-handling car into something that’s much better, and others are better suited to producing great results if they’re handed a great car that doesn’t need much improvement. I think we saw a decent amount of that at MSR. Jack can drive the balls off a car, but I’m not sure he’s an ace — yet, at least — in transforming something bad into something good.

Q: I loved the Indy 500 qualifying format and enjoyed watching it immensely.

Can you help me understand how and why some cars are so much slower than others? I assume that they are running the same engine maps and thus power is identical, or as identical as can be. They all have the same chassis, aero parts, and tires, right? So where does all the difference in speed come from? As a non-racer, I don’t fully understand all the variables the teams can play with to set up a car for speed and how some teams get it so wrong. Please help a relative newbie appreciate what the teams and engineers are dealing with to get it right. The big teams have four cars to play around with, so I can see the advantage there since they can gather more data and try a lot of things, but what else is going on here?

Jeff L., Atlanta, GA

MP: Great questions, Jeff. The first area of major influence is aerodynamics. But since most teams have been around for a long time and had these Dallara DW12s since they debuted in 2012, they know all the tricks to make the cars quick and efficient while cutting through the air on the long straights. Same goes for the transmissions and the uprights — the carriers that hold the wheels and connect to the suspension. Those items have tons of rotational forces going through them, and as a result, teams work like mad to reduce friction to allow the wheels and gears and axles to spin fast and free.

But some teams are better at optimizing their aerodynamics to be fast and efficient, and better at reducing mechanical friction than other teams; in some cases, it’s a money thing where bigger teams can hire more or better people to spearhead such things and turn out slicker cars.

The most underrated area of big or small performance is on the suspension side. Since those four corners are like slingshots, the better the handling in those corners — without scrubbing a bunch of speed — is what sets the car up to fire down the straights at high rates of speed. Get the suspension tuning slightly off, and each corner robs small amounts of speed that hurts all the way to the next corner.

I know of one Fast 12 participant who is convinced he’d be on pole if he’d been in the correct fuel map on lap one; by the time it was fixed, he was no longer in contention for pole.

Q: Please explain tire allocation for the 500. Are extra tires allowed for teams that qualify Sunday for pole and bumping? Is there a race tire advantage for teams that make fewer qualifying runs?

Why was Legge the fastest RLL driver — did she bring her own engineer? Unfortunate outcome for Graham; the only silver lining is he won’t suffer further by running three laps down in the race.

The bump rules when only 34 cars are attempting seem stacked against the bubble spot. Wait 40 minutes after first run when track is cooler for the second attempt then get extra cooldown laps before trying a third time, leaving no time for defender. Having 35 or more entries can avoid that scenario.

Since we will never again see the real drama of bumping with 40+ entries, wouldn’t it be more fair for last row to each get a single run like the pole runs?


MP: The finer details on tires are in the next question, Roger, and yes, the fewer tires used leading up to the race, the newer/fresher the rubber for that entry. RLL supplied engineers for Kat’s car. I’m not sure if that’s the answer to make the LCQ more dynamic and interesting, but it does seem ripe for a rethink. If it was four cars from different teams on Sunday, I don’t know if the reaction to teammate-on-teammate bumping would have been 10 percent of what it was.

Q: How many sets of tires do the teams get for the month of May, and how are they used throughout the month? How many are set aside for race day?

S. Cooper, Bargersville, IN

MP: From Firestone:

Primary (black sidewall): 34 sets per entry

  • Same construction and compound design as the 2022 Indianapolis 500 primary tires.

  • Rookies receive three extra sets

  • Drivers doing a refresher receive two extra sets

  • Entries participating in Firestone Fast 12 will receive an extra set

  • Entries participating in Firestone Fast 6 will receive an additional set

  • Entries participating in last chance qualifying (last row) will receive an extra set

Notes from Cara Krstolic: “This year’s Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 tires have the same race-proven construction and compound design as last year. This year, it has slightly softer compounds with added grip. In keeping with our sustainability efforts, the tread of all our 2023 Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 tires also incorporate a synthetic rubber created with ISCC+ certified recycled Butadiene, a monomer produced with recycled post-consumer plastic waste, that was developed in partnership with Shell.”

Q: Epic fails during qualifying are part of Indy lore (see Penske 1995 et al), but didn’t more teams underperform this year than usual? Any identifiable reason why? (And BTW, how did Penske deteriorate from a sure bet at Indy to midpack?)

You have written at length about the special work that goes into prepping a car for the 500. Is it possible that some budgets are too tight to allow for that now? Is there a shortage of engineers around who are familiar with/adept at Indy setup?

Al, Boston

MP: Coyne’s on a strict budget, but RLL is loaded with sponsors and funding, and yet, Sting Ray Robb was well clear of what Harvey and Rahal could achieve. There are so many things that can cause a team to suck at the Speedway. Wrong R&D path. Bad data from testing that doesn’t correlate to what’s happening at the track. Inexperienced technical director or engineer. Chassis setup errors. Aero and/or mechanical drag anomalies. Tire inconsistencies. Poor decision making. Poor driving.

As teams rightfully say, if they knew what was wrong, they’d fix it.

It doesn’t matter how big a team is — the Speedway is always bigger. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Q: I’m curious about how much data is available to IndyCar teams. There appears to be quite a bit of data transmitted from the car.

When the engine manufacturer’s representative plugs into the car, is the data they get different from what the team can access? Is the manufacturers’ connection to the car proprietary and is the data exchange encrypted both ways?

Is it possible to automate or remotely change the fuel mapping/weight jacker to reduce the driver’s workload at the Speedway?

What is the purpose of the cable/cord that is always plugged into the driver’s compartment when stopped in the pits? Data and electrical power, or just electrical power?

Warbird Willie

MP: Yes, the engine techs have software that is unavailable to the teams, but they are also able to download performance data from the rest of the car since such things work as a unit. It is possible to automate, but it’s not allowed by IndyCar. The umbilical provides car power and acts as a download/upload cable.

Q: I was watching a replay of the 1991 Indy 500 and noticed that there were what looked like warmers covering the front wings and sidepods of Rick Mears’ car before the start of the race. What advantage did that bring to the car, and did every team use them? Also, when was it banned?

Matthew Houk, Columbus, OH

MP: Those were just blankets to cover the wings so other teams couldn’t see what angles and Gurney flaps were installed. As for the sidepod blankets, those would have been to keep temperature in the engine after it was warmed.

Thanks to former IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard and president Derrick Walker, covering the cars in the garages and on pit lane was banned in 2012, and that continues to apply to when the bodywork is on or off. It was a smart nod to the new engine/chassis formula and wanting to make sure the new technology being unveiled was actually seen by fans. Teams hate it when you shoot their uncovered cars, but I’m not sure how we get people to care about the vehicles and technology they contain if it isn’t shown and celebrated.

And as an aside, every team has their own spy photographer who shoots the other cars, so that part makes me chuckle.

Q: Is IndyCar looking to get the engine software changed and neccessary modifications in the engine by Honda and Chevrolet for 2024 so they can consider introducing standing starts for road and street courses, especially since the electric component can do the initial launch better than IC engines?


MP: No, rolling starts aren’t coming to an end.

Q: With the added car for Andretti in IMSA GTP, is Marco Andretti a candidate for that car? 

Dave Sontag

MP: As I understand, it’s a full factory car, not one that WTR/AA is funding by themselves, and assuming that’s the case, it would come as a surprise if Marco was in the frame for a seat. That’s not to say he shouldn’t; he was wickedly fast back in the day in the AGR Acura LMP2 car, but when it’s a factory deal, the factory tends to have the major voice in who’s driving since they’re the ones paying for it. All of that stuff aside, I’d love to see Marco back in prototypes. I’ve also heard Tristan Vautier is drawing a lot of interest.

Q: As of the time I write this, no sponsors for RHR. If Sage was back in that car, would it be the same situation?

Shawn, MD

MP: I’d believe so. Dennis Reinbold is covering the costs out of pocket, which speaks to how much he wants RHR in the car. I’m aware of three primaries they were close to landing, and all three are names we know in the sport. Being able to pitch major sponsors on an Indy 500 winner is always preferable, but we’re seeing the limitations of a Indy-only team trying to complete for dollars and attention against full-timers, which is obviously hard.

Q: What do you suppose is going on with Scott Dixon so far this year? It seems as though Ericsson and Palou have huge performance advantages over him. Compared to those two, his car seems incapable of running up front, which is odd given his spectacular career. 

I was listening to Trackside recently and even those guys acknowledged Dixon has just “kind of been around.”

What’s your take on things at Ganassi as they relate to his and his car’s performance? 

Steve, Blanchardville, WI

MP: Dixie’s seven points out of fourth in the championship after five races, all spent with a brand-new race engineer who’s young and getting his first big shot at a big team. This is exactly what I expected. The surprise will be if we get to Toronto and find Dixie and Ross Bunnell in the same spot.

Q: Watching Enerson about to enter the track on Wednesday, I am curious to know what the engineers are working with on the right side of the tub? Not fuel, but it was not explained on Peacock. See attached photo (below).

Pongo from SoCal

MP: They’re refueling the car from the quick-connect ports on the right side of the fuel cell.

Q: I have been an IndyCar fan almost all my life — ’90s and on. However I can only name a few crew chiefs/managers/directors over the years (Tim Cindric, Mike Hull, Craig Hampson). On the flipside I probably remember most of the technical directors and team principals in F1 over the years. It doesn’t hurt that at times they become the center of attention from building the cars, team management, and F1’s Netflix series. Is IndyCar purposeful in being driver and team owner focused?

Paul Hirsch, Westlake, OH

MP: I wouldn’t pretend to know what IndyCar is focused on, but I can say that as an old race car mechanic and engineer, it’s only natural for me to name the crew chiefs and engineers whenever possible because they’re vital to a team’s success or failure in significant ways. Of course the other team members are super important as well; that’s not up for debate. But at least in IndyCar, the quality of the car prep and pit stops the crew chief produces and the quality of the chassis setups and in-race chassis tuning calls made by the race engineer have a massive impact on a driver’s results. Throw in the race strategist, and these are our NFL head coaches and offensive and defensive coordinators.

Q: Since the introduction of the aeroscreen, it’s seemed more drivers like Scott McLaughlin and Agustin Canapino who thrive in this car despite lacking open-wheel experience. Is it due to how heavy the DW12 has become with each upgrades and add-on safety features? It seems that touring, stock car and GT sports car drivers would struggle to adapt in the pre-aeroscreen era. Not to take away from Scott or Agustin’s talents as they dominated in their respective careers prior the open-wheel switch.

If the DW24 came out and made the car closer to the previous weight of the IR07/DP01/early DW12 era, would Agustin and Scotty struggle as their experience is more with heavy cars then light and nimble proper open-wheel cars? 

Kevin, SoFlo 

MP: The aeroscreen adds 58 pounds to the car, so no, it has nothing to do with their results. They’re two phenoms, plain and simple. Great talent usually transfers. Getting the maximum out of a CART/Champ Car chassis might take more time for them to master since the speed and limits were higher, but I don’t question whether they’d produce similar, if not identical things.

No open-wheel experience? No problem. At least, not if you’re Agustin Canapino. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Q: Does IndyCar have a minimum tire pressure for racing? Is IndyCar closely monitoring MSR to make sure it doesn’t try to cheat again at another marquee event? Makes you question if Helio’s recent Indy 500 win didn’t have any shenanigans. Will Honda/HPD end his partnership on the IndyCar side due to what happened? It would seem that he lost his Acura ARX-06 to WTR/AA for 2024. What’s Mike’s relationship with Michael Andretti, since he cheated him out of Daytona 24-hour win? Do you think that technical alliance ends after this season? Do you think he be with Chevy for 2024 season onwards?

Bill Hicks, Arizona Bay (I see what you did there – Ed.)

MP: No, but Firestone polices this on their own. Doubtful. Shank pays Andretti seven figures a year for technical support and both teams are fully integrated in briefs and debriefs. If it were to end, I think it would be by choice, not because of Daytona. I’d be surprised if Shank went to Chevy.

Q: In your recent IndyCar podcast you said that you believe Marcus Ericsson would be moved to the 10 car as he wants to be a paid driver and not the paying driver that he currently is. I just don’t see it. As history shown, once you’re a driver that brings a check, you always are. Chip has the upper hand and uses his 10 car sponsors to hire his next young talent, and he will tell Marcus to pay for the privilege or bounce. And Marcus will have to take it or leave it.

And most likely he will pay, as beside Team Penske, he doesn’t have much options. Even if AA offers him a salary, he’s not going to have the same level of consistency that Ganassi offers. McLaren is already full and has plenty of killers it can hire. Also, it’s a risk for Marcus to leave Ganassi, as he may only been able to perform amazingly because he has great car and team. Let’s say he goes to AA and struggles — it would hurt his credibility and stock regardless of the Indy 500 win. Which leads to only Indy 500 rides, as he can always sell to mid-level or backmarker teams that need Indy500 winner to attract funding.

Mark Corrigan, Croydon, England 

MP: I said it made the most sense if Chip wants to keep him as it’s the only funded seat they have that will be vacant at the end of the season. As for the rest, I always enjoy reading how folks think things will play out.

Q: Please share with your readers how pit lane (Indy 500) positions are determined. Are pit locations the same for both practice and the race? How and when are they selected?

Fred, Ashland, Oregon

MP: I think it’s initially set on entrants’ oval points standings, and after that, it’s based on qualifying positions. I’m also answering this at 12:01am Sunday morning after being up for 18 hours following Day 1 of qualifying, so I’m likely half asleep and wrong.

Q: If “100 Days To Indy” is aimed at young fans who are new to the sport, then NBC’s ‘”Unleashing The Dragon” must be aimed toward us more “experienced” fans with a passion for the sport. Wow, that was a great production! 

The technical bits are awesome — the cinematography is breathtaking, and the editing/pace are brilliant. Ericsson and Hinch tell a compelling story, with video/audio that clearly supports the storyline. Hearing Ericsson’s reflections about each segment, with the radio chatter about strategy, provides a really clear picture of how a successful team develops a plan, and reacts to variables that make victory so difficult.

Having them in that theater setting for some quiet (and often funny) reflections really focuses the viewer on the story. The heartfelt comments near the end do a terrific job of capturing emotions in a way that is touching and memorable.  

I had goosebumps quite a few times, and felt like I got a different perspective than I have seen in 40+ years of watching IndyCar and the 500. Congratulations and thanks to NBC Sports, IndyCar, and CGR for putting in the time and work to make a benchmark film.

Tom Pate, Macomb, MI

MP: I’ve only seen a few clips, but have to agree with everything you’ve noted. NBC Sports also has a real gem in Hinch; he’s quickly becoming their star utility player.

Q:  Could you explain blocking vs defending? When I look at last year’s Indy 500, it kind of seemed like O’Ward could have passed Ericsson. Was he being blocked? Second, what determines the draw order for Indy 500 qualifying? Who picks the first number in the draw? Finally, why do you think Ganassi is so much faster? Seems so odd others are not closer.


MP: Defending: Closing a passing lane before the trailing driver tries to use that lane. Blocking: Moving to close that lane after the trailing driver tried to use that lane. I loathe the leaders weaving because it’s taken an attempt to break the trailing driver’s aerodynamic tow and turned it into a sequence of weaving that makes it all but impossible for that driver to pass. It’s a random draw. Ganassi is very good, but they only found competitive speed last year after years of sucking at Indy.

Q: Why does IndyCar want to sabotage its own popularity? They put in place these driver autograph sessions, drivers paraded on the track before the race, driver interviews, get to know the driver events etc… and then they ruin all that work and effort by allowing the following to happen:

  • At almost every race the cars have different liveries

  • At almost every race the drivers’ helmets have different color schemes

How is a fan that supposed to follow his favorite driver on the track? I know the car numbers don’t change, but they’re hard to read most of the times.

Jack, Fort Pierce, FL

MP: If you have a favorite driver, wouldn’t that mean you follow that driver and know what their car looks like? I’m confused here.

Q: I’m having a hard time believing that Kyle Busch, one of the greatest and most successful oval racers of all time, can’t get anyone to answer his calls for the Indy 500. Is it because of Rowdy?

Bernardo, Canyon Lake, TX

MP: There’s no lack of amazing and proven Indy 500 drivers to choose from, to start, and after that, yeah, he’s not somebody the average team owner here knows, so I’d bet his reputation precedes him. All the while, 2022 Indy Lights champion Linus Lundqvist is without a ride. I’ll take the guy who makes an effort to be here and proves he has the open-wheel chops over a star from another series with zero open-wheel experience.

Q: Whatever happened to A.J.’s female driver, Tatiana Calderon? She didn’t last long.

Jerry, Houston

MP: Her sponsor stopped paying their bills and she stopped driving for them. Too bad; with a season or two, I think she would have done well.

Unfortunately for Calderon, no pay meant no play. Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images

Q: Why can’t Peacock have a PPV option in Indy? I attended every 500 from 1964- 2019. Every first day of qualifying from 1969-2019. I would happily pay $100 to watch the 500 live!

William Boxell

MP: I’m sure they could, but the track pays for everything by selling tickets to the event, so that’s their business model.

Q: I remember IndyCar dabbled with standing starts. Why did they stop?

David Sandlin

MP: Because they were a mess. Stalled cars, waved-off starts, etc. The anti-stall system wasn’t overly developed in 2013, and while it was a great idea, it just wasn’t ready to be properly implemented.

Q: What is involved in swapping to a new chassis?

Tobey Taylor

MP: All depends. If it’s a fully-built chassis, you’re looking at a motor swap and other detail items, but not a ton more. But if it’s a bare tub, you’re building a car from the ground up.

Q: I’m a huge motorsport fan. I enjoy watching any and all types of racing, so I’m not well-versed in any specific series. My question would pertain mostly towards F1. I always hear them talk about dirty air and how hard it is to drive behind the car in front. Could the teams, particularly the backmarkers and even lower midfield teams, somehow design the car to run in dirty air as opposed to clean air? Could they somehow use two scale model cars in the wind tunnel and see the air flow and design accordingly?

Cory, PA

CHRIS MEDLAND: In theory, getting two scale model cars in the wind tunnel can be done, but isn’t ideal, because you’d need to reduce the scale to run two in a line and the smaller the scale the less accurate the results. But yes, it is possible. F1’s own working group actually did this as part of its research and work for the 2022 regulations, although that was more aimed at finding ways of reducing the dirty air a car encountered by sending the airflow from the lead car upwards above the following car.

A team could theoretically design a car with dirty air in mind, but that dirty air will take on different forms depending on the car you’re following (as they all generate their performance at slightly differently) and how closely, so it would very rarely work. Plus you’re then assuming you won’t be ahead of any cars with your new car, and also limiting yourself to only being good when behind another car — if you can stay close and overtake, then you’re suddenly in clean air when your car won’t work!

Q: Hi Chris. Any idea when the following documentaries will be available Stateside for viewing?

  • Lucky! The story of Bernie Ecclestone

  • Gilles and Didier

I know people love “Drive to Survive.” However these documentaries appear to have an edging slant to what F1 is really all about. 


CM: I wish I could bring better news, Steve, but I’m afraid it’s still TBC when it comes to both of these. I did contact both production companies individually but they said they’re still working on distribution deals for the United States. If and when I get word of their availability I’ll post an update.

Q: How many full-time Cup drivers can race in a Truck Series race? And in an Xfinity race?


KELLY CRANDALL: As many that want to. There is no limitation on who or how many Cup drivers can compete in the Craftsman Truck Series or Xfinity Series. However, there are eligibility limitations as far as how much they can compete. Drivers who earn points in the Cup Series with more than three years of experience are limited to five races in both the Craftsman Truck and Xfinity Series. Furthermore, they cannot compete in special events such as the regular season finale and all playoff races, the Triple Truck Challenge in the Truck Series, and the Dash 4 Cash races in the Xfinity Series.

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, May 20, 2015

Q: In a previous Mailbag you mentioned that last year’s Indy 500 may have been a top-five race for you. Wondering if you would provide your full top five list, with a little note as to why each particular 500 made it? (Even though that part will probably be obvious.)

Aaron & Mossie

ROBIN MILLER: First was 1982 because of Mears chasing down Johncock and the crowd roaring and Jim McKay and Sam Posey going bonkers — I stayed until midnight at IMS and watched the replay. I loved 1963 because Herk led the first lap in the Novi and Parnelli won. I liked the finish of 1992 for obvious reasons, and 1993 was a good show between Emmo, Arie and Nigel Mansell.

Story originally appeared on Racer