The RACER Mailbag, May 8

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

Q: I’ve watched more than my fair share of Hallmark Channel with my wife to know, one of the first questions a scorned woman asks is, how long has this been going on? Was St. Pete a one-night tryst or an ongoing affair? How long have they been cheating?

Bernard, TX

MARSHALL PRUETT: That would be best answered by an external investigation team, wouldn’t it?


Q: Will IndyCar ever come to the Northeast again? I will not drive nine-plus hours for a race. IndyCar goes to California and Oregon for three or four races, but the Northeast U.S. has nearly twice the population and zero races. I love IndyCar, but I feel like IndyCar does not have any interest in a part of the country with a huge population and no traditional interest in NASCAR. I think IndyCar should consider an under-served market. Thank you.

Michael Yarnell

MP: One out of every 10 Americans live in California, so I’m not sure on the math, but yes, there’s no doubt that IndyCar needs to find a regular home in the Northeast that hasn’t failed to draw a crowd or collapsed and disappeared in the last 10 or 15 years.

Overstating the obvious here, but if there was a track that came to mind that fit the bill, I’m confident IndyCar would be there. Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles has said to me and others that it’s a top priority. I view the lack of a solution as more of an issue on finding the answer than on Penske Entertainment lacking the will or effort to make it happen.

Q: Saddened by the news regarding Dave Malukas, but it was entirely predictable given recent history (Askew, Pagenaud).

I think all classes of cars in IMSA feature power steering. If Dave’s wrist heals throughout the summer, could we see him at Petit as a third driver in one of the classes? A good showing would keep his name at the top of potential IndyCar seat lists and keep the skills sharp.

Jonathan and Cleide Morris, Ventura, CA

MP: Plenty of possibilities there, but Davey’s an IndyCar driver and wants to be back in the series. IndyCar team owners wouldn’t notice or care if he did well in an LMP2 or GT3 car since there’s almost no chance he’d land a GTP seat, where he’d be properly seen. He needs to get back to karting, Indy NXT, and so on to build up the specific muscles that atrophied, and from there, arrange an IndyCar test.

Malukas’s wrist will be back in champagne-spraying shape in no time. All he’ll need then is a car to drive, and we’ll be back in business. Motorsport Images

Q: After all the controversy surrounding the P2P incident with Team Penske, we have heard from the Team Penske drivers, drivers of other teams, league senior management, and of course Chevrolet. Has anyone bothered to ask Honda about their opinion of it? You know, the honor-bound Japanese company that is considering a future without IndyCar?

Certainly, this incident had to be annoying at least, since it was a Chevrolet-powered team cheating to victory. When Honda previously withdrew in 2002 from CART, American Honda executive Tom Elliott said it was for two reasons: Lack of engine rule stability, and loss of confidence and trust in CART. It sounds like a similar scenario is developing for IndyCar.

Jane, Indianapolis, IN

MP: That’s a delightful question I failed to think of to pose to Honda when it all went down. Failure on my part, Jane.

Q: Is there any word on what Christian Rasmussen’s car number for the 500 will be? I know he used 33 in testing, but Peacock emphasized that was just for the test.

Vincent Michael

MP: I’m told by the team that it will indeed be the No. 33.

Q: How bad is the dirty air on road/street courses with the current iteration of the DW12/IR18 IndyCar? With such boxy wings and the fact that drivers keep mentioning it from time to time, one could think air turbulence when following another car are still a thing nowadays. But on the other hand, as we saw recently, these same folks still seem to be able to follow each other at Barber, which is a very twisty track. Same goes with the Thermal Club — I expected following to be a question mark in at least T8 and 9 and possibly all the way through to T13, but from the TV perspective, it looked OK-ish. Did you, in both races, get any feedback from drivers in that regard?

Now, if dirty air is still a thing, since IndyCar might consider introducing parts of a new chassis at some point in the future, and since you once wrote that there probably isn’t much to be gained from redesigning the sidepods, then how about the wings and the underwing? Could a stronger floor and flatter wings alleviate the wake turbulences?

Lastly, since the IR18’s debut six years ago, IndyCar has introduced quite a few upgrades, some of them being really heavy, namely the aeroscreen and the ERS coming later this year. That means the weight distribution and the location of the center of gravity will have moved a little bit, right? Couldn’t this be another reason for upgrading the downforce-generating parts?


MP: I didn’t get any feedback from drivers on dirty air at the corners in question at Barber because there’s nothing new about dirty air with the DW12 or at Barber. The nomenclature “IR18” did debut six years ago, but that’s in reference to the new bodywork; the underlying car wasn’t new.

Maybe it’s dumb, but in my head, if someone named Steve decides to go in a different route with his fashion and starts dressing in an entirely different manner, it’s still Steve, right?

Yes, part of IndyCar’s work over the years has been to make the underwing more powerful so less reliance on giant topside wings and steep wing angles are required to make more of the downforce. Formula 1 followed suit with that philosophy when its new rules and cars were introduced for 2022. I’d expect IndyCar to ask Dallara to go farther in that direction whenever it chooses to replace the DW12. Also keep in mind that thanks to F1’s drag reduction system, we have passing in F1. But rarely do we see non-DRS passes for meaningful positions, so this approach is by no means a cure-all, nor is it guaranteed to promote tons of passing due to the lowering of topside turbulence affecting trailing cars.

Weight distribution and center of gravity have moved plenty since the aeroscreen landed in 2020, and recently when lightweight aeroscreens and drivetrain componentry was incorporated for 2024. And when the energy recovery systems are installed in June, both will change — and radically so — again.

Q: What an awful set of circumstances for Malukas. Just a darn degree of horrible luck. Is Dr. Trammell still practicing? Does David have nerve damage? Can we see TK just once more for this 500?

Skip Ranfone, Summerfield, FL

MP: Sad for the kid, but he’s very good and will find another opportunity in IndyCar. Davey told me he got his cast taken off and his doctors have pointed to a mid-June timeline for being healed. I know TK is a backup plan to the primary plan of having Callum Ilott in the car for the 500.

By the time you’re reading this, Theo Pourchaire will have completed his first oval test, which signals the team’s intent to use him a lot after May.

Q: For whatever reason this whole Malukas situation really has me worked up. Without revealing anything you can’t, I understand that this is a business and McLaren has to protect itself first and foremost. Was this truly as much of a surprise as it seems? Did “Little Dave” see this one coming?  Is this a raw deal?  Is the wrist really months away from healing? From what I know of T.K., it seems like he’s a wonderful human — is this just one of “them things?”What does this mean for Dave’s future?  It doesn’t seem that long ago that he was battling Colton in Indy NXT. I think a healthy Dave definitely belongs in the IndyCar paddock.

Paul Zajdel, Park Ridge, IL

MP: It started to feel like we were headed to a divorce at Long Beach with some of the language and phrasing I was hearing. As I wrote after Long Beach, the Barber weekend was going to be a huge turning point for the No. 6 car, and if Pourchaire performed as expected, the team was going to have their guy. Malukas couldn’t go at Barber, Pourchaire was quite good, and showed the team he was someone to hold onto.

Factor in the pre-existing plans to run Ilott in the car at the 500 if Malukas wasn’t ready, and I think the combo of missing four straight races — moreover, having never raced for the team — and the emergence of Pourchaire and the extra layer of talent with Ilott, and Arrow McLaren leaned into going forward with known people on a timeline they knew wouldn’t fluctuate.

If Davey had hurt himself while driving the car at St. Pete or Thermal, he’s still with the team and returns when ready. Since he essentially never got started with the team — he did some testing — it was just a different scenario.

He’ll be back. Nobody has forgotten how well he ran in Coyne’s team at a number of races.

Q: Just wondering if IndyCar is screwing with the fans up here in Canada, or is it TSN? The only way to see the races is if we pay for TSN+. Sorry, but no way will I pay for that. There must be a better solution.

Michael, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

MP: With all of the fires Penske Entertainment’s been trying to put out in recent weeks, I doubt they’d have the time to screw with y’all. I’d ask TSN.

Q: Can you clarify how Malukas was injured? Was he “mountain biking” and fell, or was he on a “mountain bike” and fell (on the street, in his yard, or something like that)?

Tulsa IndyCar fan

MP: Mountain biking with a friend on a “green trail” as he described it, was watching his friend do jumps, was late to recognize he’d come upon a bend, hit the brakes, but mistakenly grabbed the front brakes alone, which sent him flying over the handlebars, put his hands out to break his fall and his left wrist hit a rock and dislocated his hand and did a bunch of damage.

Hope Malukas was at least wearing a helmet, unlike our buddy Dario here. Motorsport Images.

Q: What on earth is going on with Pato O’Ward? How many cars did he hit at Barber, including his teammate’s? I saw he did get a penalty, but he seems to be taking way too many chances and messing with other driver’s races. Thoughts?

Jim Doyle, Hoboken, NJ

MP: He was a bit of menace, but that’s not his usual state of play, so I’m writing it off as a really bad day at work.

Q: I’ll give you a break from all of the questions about the P2P brouhaha and let you contemplate a much less complicated issue: national politics!

With the news of the invitation to Trump to take part in pre-race ceremonies at Thermal, I’m shaking my head asking why. Why, why, why take an already small fan base and risk alienating half of them by jumping into completely unnecessary and irrelevant controversy? I’m glad it was ultimately rejected, but the fact that it got as far as it did is perplexing. Almost anything that is allowed to happen during a race weekend is a reflection on the series, so unless Thermal went rogue and invited Trump completely behind IndyCar’s back, it would reasonably be seen as endorsed by the series.

Back in 2018 I brought my family to their first IndyCar race at Pocono. That race was a horrible introduction for them to IndyCar for many reasons, but even before the Wickens crash, others in my family were understandably turned off by the fact that Lee Greenwood performed in the pre-race ceremonies given his close association with Donald Trump. Politics does infect too much of our lives nowadays and it isn’t healthy to impose litmus tests, but nevertheless it did appear to them that IndyCar was consciously planting a flag on a certain side during terribly divisive times. Whether one agrees or disagrees with this level of sensitivity, it does show the dangers of being seen as political.

I can draw a distinction between this and the Kaepernick issue in that Kaepernick was speaking for himself, it wasn’t the NFL leadership taking a knee (sure, the league would be seen as condoning Kaepernick taking a knee by not punishing it, but still…). And I’m not questioning whether IndyCar has a right to invite divisive figures. Of course they do. I’m just marveling at the stupidity of such moves when the series has to fight tooth and nail for every single fan.

Can you shed any light on this that would make me more trusting of IndyCar’s discretion in these matters?

Peter, NJ

MP: I thought the call to keep political sponsorships out of the Indy 500 was brilliant. When the sponsor told me about their plan at Long Beach and how it was denied, I said the same thing: IndyCar doesn’t have enough fans to risk pissing off half of them by supporting Mr. Trump or President Biden.

But there is a hack to this rule, in a smaller way. Mr. Trump had some big fans camping out across from the St. Petersburg pits who were flying all kinds of flags in support of the 45th president and against the 46th. On the same theme of “let’s not piss off half of the attendees,” I asked the series if it was good with political flags — some were slightly aggressive — and the answer was yes: “We do have a code of conduct at our events that prevents the display of signage that is clearly offensive or derogatory in nature. This does not include general political campaign materials, which in this case are being displayed by fans in camping spaces they have purchased.”

So, no on the cars, but yes for fans. Because my mind works in linear ways, I’d expect it to be all yes or all no, not a 50-50, but we have a 50-50.

Q: In a situation like the one with Josef Newgarden at St. Petersburg or Shank at the Rolex, what is the process for making sure the correct people end up with their trophies after the result has changed?

Mike D, San Clemente, CA

MP: There is no process. It’s usually done on the honor system.

Q: After reading both of your informative articles on the Penske P2P infraction, I’m of a mixed opinion of the matter — at least based on the information that is available to me. I‘d like your comments.

First off, I’m not comfortable with the Penske team principal’s explanation that this was just a mistake, an oversight on the part of the team. Especially when the team is Team Penske. I do get that mistakes happen, but that this one supposedly started in Sebring and lasted until Long Beach is a bridge too far for me.

After St. Pete, Newgarden for one knew the P2P was available on restarts as he used it more than once. He also knew in the past it did not, since it is accepted that he had previously used the P2P button on starts and restarts and it did not work. So, he knew what had happened. Something does not ring true. Adding fuel to the fire is what Newgarden said at Barber — that he, and he infers his entire team — thought that there had been a rule change that allowed use of P2P. This is pure B.S. in my opinion.

The various electronic engine and car controls need to be examined for software issues such as this. How many other things in the software can the teams adjust and manipulate in an effort to gain an advantage? If I were IndyCar I’d be the only one that could change parameters in the various electronic control modules in the car. And I’d develop a quick-check scan tool that would be used during pre-race and post-race tech inspection to verify all the electronic control modules are as they should be.

It appears we have large amounts of data that is being collected and not being looked at. This looks like a place when a good AI application could go through the data, look for anomalies and flag them for human review.

IndyCar is known as a spec series and I can understand trying to gain any and all advantages a team can. Now that Team Penske has been caught cheating, what else has Team Penske and maybe some of the other teams done to give themselves a unfair advantage?

Warbird Willie

MP: The ability to change the code to tell the CLU/MyLaps transponder to tell the ECU to provide anytime P2P has been a known area that could be exploited. I’m not aware of other areas where the CLU — the chassis data logger used by teams — can instruct the ECU to change its parameters.

Q: Not since that whacked-out priest appeared on the Silverstone track during the British GP years ago have I seen something as strange as a falling mannequin! In your many trips to racing venues, can you share any strange sightings with us?

Also, I believe all Penske drivers across the board should have been DQ’d from St. Pete. Power knew about it and is as guilty as the other two! Ten points is a joke!

Yanie Porlier

MP: Barber is the place where strange things happen. Remember when Hinch was sidelined, sat parked in his car forever waiting for a tow, waited so long his bladder complained, and climbed out to hit the port-a-potty?

Only trackside issue that struck me as weirder than Georgina falling from the sky was about a decade ago at Sonoma where an IndyCar test day was delayed while track worked tried to clear a problem at the scary-fast Turn 10. To save money on landscaping and, more importantly, to cut down on using gas-powered mowers across the sprawling hillside road course, Sonoma Raceway would hire a local guy who owned a ton of sheep, and he’d bring the sheep to the track and they’d eat all the excess grass and shrubbery and keep the place looking sharp.

Well, the sheep must have been stuffed because as they were crossing Turn 10, it was bombs away and they strafed the track with poo.

It took an hour, if I remember correctly, to de-doodoo the circuit.

And that, readers, is how you earn yourself an aggravated trespass charge. Gary Hawkins/Motorsport Images

Q: Enough of these tortoise versus hare strategy races. For road and street courses, can we change to them to be timed/distance races?  Whoever complete the most laps/covers the most distance wins. Green flag, clock starts, everyone goes as hard as they can. I would bet the drivers will be fine with this.

John M. Lee

MP: Sure.

Q: When something like the Penske P2P situation happens, do you open your Mailbag questions with glee or apprehension? 

DJ Odom, Anderson, IN 

MP: Sorrow. I love stupid things like mannequins falling and silliness like that, and hardcore racing. Cheating, lying, and all of that stuff just makes me sad. I’d rather just focus on the racing and things that matter and make us happy.

Q: I loved and was impressed by the McLaren team’s dubbing newbie Theo Pourchaire “Teddy Porkchops.” Can you relate other clever nicknames for drivers among the current or recent fields? Do you have one?

Anthony “Bone” Jenkins, Ontario, Canada

MP: We’re in a dead zone when it comes to great IndyCar driver nicknames, except for the new “Teddy Porkchops” given to Theo Pourchaire. I’ve responded to “Hey idiot” and “Hey a**hole” for most of my life. If it’s an Aussie or Kiwi driver or member of the community I know, we’ll greet each other with “Speaking of…” and leave off the last word in the sentence if there are people around because it’s really not meant for public consumption. I refer to that unspoken word as an “Aussie hello.”

Q: An old boss of mine used to say, “Good or bad, at least they’re talking about you.”

To those who think the Penske P2P debacle is going to be a permanent black mark on IndyCar, the heat has drawn more headlines and eyeballs than the series has gotten in a long time. Controversy creates interest too, and with the bar set so low by the Long Beach TV numbers, the only way to go is up. And if people tuned in to watch Barber because of all that heat, what a show IndyCar stepped up to deliver!

I think the penalty was appropriate. They raced with illegal cars, the cars and drivers were disqualified from the race where they were used, the Evil Empire is again crucified in the court of public opinion. Is it the greatest scandal in IndyCar history? Not by a long shot, and I don’t remember any DQs for Toyota’s magic pop-off valve spacer in ’01 – just one example…

Pete, Rochester, NY

MP: Thanks, Pete.

Q: Does the series understand it needs to levy penalties against the three lead engineers on the Penske cars? As you said, if this was NASCAR they’d be missing some people until summertime. I feel like the penalties for the drivers was appropriate.

The thing is, the drivers don’t appear to have either known about it in advance or have requested it, which means whoever is in charge of the cars deserves a bigger penalty. If they knew, then one use from McLaughlin doesn’t make sense since he was like, “Oh, I shouldn’t do that.” Not using it on the start for Newgarden doesn’t make sense. They figured it out and one chose not to do it again, and the other pushed the go-fast button again and again.

I’m a huge fan of McLaughlin and Power, but the series still has work to be done on this. Boot Cindric and Bretzman for the entire two weeks of the 500 and I bet the severity of the punishment is felt.

Ryan, West Michigan

MP: I wish IndyCar could go back and handle this in a much different manner.

Q: In last week’s Mailbag there was a lot of talk about the popularity of Zak Brown and McLaren.

I think you could make an argument that McLaren is failing upward at the moment in both F1 and IndyCar. Last year in F1, McLaren finished fourth with what was firmly the second-fastest car for the around half of the season. McLaren in IndyCar has had the Palou situation, the Malukas situation, only one win (that was retroactive) in over a year, Rosenqvist ahead of them in the standings, and Pourchaire matching/beating the established drivers in a car with which he has way less experience.

Obviously no other IndyCar teams have F1 connections, but why are all the other teams not copying the McLaren marketing efforts?

Will, Indy

MP: I don’t think you’ll find an IndyCar team with 25 percent of the marketing staff McLaren Racing/Arrow McLaren has to deploy, or anyone with the expertise Brown/McLaren bring to the series.

Q: I saw the Mailbag letter regarding McLaren gear at Long Beach. I was at the race at Barber, and I had quite a few thoughts regarding fan gear too. I think there are a lot of takeaways for the series just from observing what people are wearing.

First, McLaren ruled the roost with team gear even in Alabama by a mile. More importantly, the vast majority of those wearing McLaren gear were <35 with essentially all being in their teens or 20s.

Colton Herta gear was a distant second. Surprising to me, as I thought Newgarden gear would be more common.

Third most common was absolutely Grosjean… maybe even tied with Herta.

Just because you’re good, doesn’t mean you have tons of fans. Examples: The basic non-existence of Dixon gear. There was more Power gear than Dixon, but it was also few and far between. And Newgarden? About the same as Power, which I found surprising.

There was virtually no MSR gear outside of MSR Castroneves shirts.

I saw three or four Ferrucci shirts being worn. I’ll just say the demographic wearing them probably were probably adults at A.J.’s first racing win. They know what an Offenhauser is.

I even saw a couple of new Sting Ray shirts being worn which was absolutely shocking. However, being in Alabama and having emblazoned across a shirt… well that did make some sense.

I’d surmise that despite sometimes questionable on-track performance, McLaren has probably been the biggest win for the series potentially ever. Years ago at races, half the gear worn would be NASCAR gear. Now, half the gear is McLaren. There’s a lot to unpack there… rocking a McLaren shirt is a lot cooler than a Chevy or Honda shirt. The drivers are fun and young. You have a European influence from F1. If apparel is any indicator, if IndyCar wants to grow the sport, they need to be thinking less about locking in current teams and more about how to attract more European teams.

Ross Bynum

MP: So what you’re saying is all IndyCar driver merch needs to be done in papaya orange… ;)

Arrow McLaren is winning IndyCar’s merchandise championship. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Q: Josef has been my fave even since before he was a Penske guy. Hella fast, seemed like a heck of a nice guy and looks like he was forged in a Superhero factory. I didn’t want to hear or even believe any of the stories or innuendo being told. But it wasn’t until I finally saw Episode 1, Season 2 of “100 Days To Indy.” Only a true sociopath wears socks with sandals, much less walks around on the grass in socks. Not even sure who to cheer for now…

Shawn, MD

MP: I haven’t seen any of the new episodes so far, but that sounds amazing.

Q: I recently saw a story about Mario Andretti and the 1987 Indy 500. Mario said that when his engine dropped a valve, it backfired into the intake plenum. He knew this right away because of what he called a “listening tube.” He thought that this backfire blew out his eardrum. What the hell is a listening tube? When and why was it used? Was it a legal item?

Brian Sanborn

MP: Legal item. Back before electronically controlled turbo wastegates, we had mechanical “pop-off” valves. These often sat on top of the engine’s intake plenum where the turbo charger forced all of that compressed air into the engine.

When boost pressure limits were introduced to try and rein in horsepower, these valves would be used to police that limit. (Again, this was before electronic controls of such things.) The pop-off valves would be mounted atop the plenum (or sometimes behind or in front) above a hole that was cut into the plenum. The valve had a round disc at the bottom that sealed the hole in the plenum, and was held in place by a heavy spring. The spring was rated to match the maximum boost pressure.

If the max boost was 50psi, for example, the spring was rated to resist up to 50psi of force pushing on the pop-off disc which kept the plenum sealed and firing that boost into the cylinders.

As long as the turbo boost was kept at the maximum pressure, the spring would hold firm and keep the plenum sealed. But if the boost exceeded the maximum pressure — went to 51psi, in this example — the spring would start to compress and the disc would move upwards and open the plenum to atmosphere and all boost would be lost.

So, to help drivers to get a feel for when they were flirting with popping the pop-off valve and losing boost and a ton of power, teams were permitted to fit a small tube to the valves that ran to the cockpit and connected to the drivers’ helmets into a port on one side that was near their ears. There was nothing to hear through the tube if the valve was closed, but if it just started to crack open, that high-pressure air would act like a whistle, which the driver could hear and then ease off the throttle to prevent the valve from opening. It was a super-analog way of doing things, but it worked.

Q: Has Penske ever competed in a racing series where his team wasn’t caught cheating? IndyCar, NASCAR, IMSA, Australian Supercars… Penske cheated in all of them! Don’t forget, Penske was one for 10 Indy 500 wins from 1969-78 when he was instrumental in forming CART. Penske then won nine of 17 500s before the IRL. I was hopeful that Penske would take IndyCar even higher with all his success. But he hasn’t — Penske is only about Penske!

James Boston, Oklahoma City, OK

MP: I covered the team in its one season of Grand Am and do not recall any tech issues with its Riley-Porsche Daytona Prototype.

Q: Have Roger Penske contract with Adrian Newey to set up an IndyCar design bureau to design a new IndyCar chassis to take a standard stock block engine of generic design. Have the chassis built by Dallara and provided to the teams. A fitting final project for Adrian. Just thinking out loud.


MP: I love the idea.

Q: I was very disappointed to hear Malukas was dropped by McLaren, he looked to have a great future when it was announced he was moving there. When drivers sign contracts, do they ever have clauses stating they can’t do certain sports or hobbies? Mountain bikers crash on a pretty regular basis, I would think the team would want to protect their investment, although VeeKay and Alonso, who also had bike accidents, would seem to indicate the answer is no.

Angelo, Skokie, IL

MP: Yes, they often do. It’s also a time-honored tradition for drivers who have the lockdown clauses to crash their motorcycles, get into bar fights (or similar) and then lie about it and tell us they had a cycling incident or tripped over their dog and we just nod our heads and play along because if the truth was told, they’d lose their jobs due to the clauses in those contracts.

Q: While I’ve never been a huge Team Penske fan, the past year has caused me to lose all respect for the organization. We know they have been caught cheating in NASCAR, IMSA, IndyCar and let’s not forget the Formula E situation at Portland last year. [ED: DS Penske, the Formula E team, is led by Jay Penske and is does not fall under the Team Penske umbrella].

It makes you wonder what else they’re up to in their quest for wins. Perhaps it’s time for a severe punishment rather than a slap on the wrist?

I will say, good on Will Power for not using P2P while it was illegal…  or was he not privy to the cheating? Time for him to give Team Penske the double bird and drive for a classy organization.

Kevin, Vancouver Island

MP: Thanks for writing in, Kevin.

Q: Any rumors going around as to what Ganassi and Shank might be doing in IMSA next year? Great to see Rosenqvist and Shank doing well in IndyCar. Is it possible Scotty Mac and/or Will Power would seek to leave Penske to get away from all the mess going on there?

Lance Q., Greensboro, NC

MP: Indeed — we posted an IMSA GTP silly season piece last Thursday.

Team/manufacturer silly season is alive and well in IMSA’s GTP class. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Q: After all the drama leading up to Barber event, there was a light moment at the end of the race. During the cooldown lap, a McLaughlin crew member was giving him instructions about the location of victory circle. McLaughlin stated: “I know where it is — I was there last year.”

With the release of Malukas, does he get some sort of severance payment?

David, Waxhaw, NC

MP: It’s not uncommon for an early-release driver to agree to a buyout or to receive the rest of their salary for the year if they don’t put up a fight and go peacefully. I don’t know on the Malukas side, but they are letting him continue to work with their trainers, so it sounds like the peaceful option might apply.

Q: As one who has been engaged in crisis management as an employee and educator, the mistakes that were made by the Penske organization, and in particular Josef Newgarden and Tim Cindric, are classic in their questionable motivation and the resulting unfortunate outcomes.

Given the history of Roger Penske and his era of achievements in racing, it is hard to believe that his organization could be so reckless, if that was indeed the case, with the P2P software. I have been involved in racing in various capacities and can certainly remember the beginnings of the “Penske Perfect” mantra, and the classic book from his legacy driver, Mark Donohue. “Unfair Advantage” told the story of preparation, strategy, and innovation. The title does not mean to suggest cheating rules and regulations, although detractors were quick to draw that conclusion.

The facts of the current controversy stemming from the St. Petersburg event and what might have continued if the problem had not been revealed, would have been far more damaging to all. As it is, the Penske team is enduring criticism, other team and driver skepticism and perhaps even lack of trust going forward. Questions are being asked and answers are inconsistent. This is a gold-plated case study example of how not to handle what quickly grew to crisis proportions.

I don’t think it is appropriate to indict the team or individuals as, at the moment, consistent transparency and facts seem to be rather fluid. It’s up to IndyCar, without allegiance to Team Penske or R.P., to investigate and reveal documented facts to all. Unfortunately, the intertwined owner and employee relationships does make that investigation difficult, but nevertheless required. Penalties to drivers are one thing. Loss of points, sure that hurts, Token fines to the team solve nothing. Does historic data from events reveal anything… who is looking? Is there a problem in the culture of the organization?

This will not go away by absolution, i.e., ignoring the situation until the anxiety cools down.

Dennis Elliott

MP: I wish someone else owned the series. Then we’d have so much less to talk about with this penalty.

Q: This past weekend I spent time with my younger sister (I’m 69 and she’s 61). As I’m from the KC area and she’s from Chicago, it’s only a once or twice a year thing. I have been a lifelong motor racing fan of all types and generally the only one in the family.

The issue of Indy came up as my sons and I plan for our annual pilgrimage. She then surprised everyone by indicating that she was now really into Formula 1. The conversation steered toward the F1 vs IndyCar thing, with Little Sis claiming she had no interest in the IndyCars nor even knew there were races other than the 500 itself.

I asked her if she knew the differences between the two, which she did not. In full disclosure, I’m a fan of all racing but get a bit bored with F1 as we always know from race to race now who will win, so I asked her about that. She iterated that it was the crowds, the Netflix series with the drivers working out, the crews in their seats that remind her of the NASA Moon landing, the tracks themselves, the celebrities, and the whole post-race ceremony.

Other than Verstappen and Hamilton, she had little recollection of any of the rest of the drivers nor had she ever heard of the name Adrian Newey.

What’s the point? With all the distraction of the St. Pete Penske P2P, we’ve gotten away from the whole conversation about marketing the IndyCar Series. It needs to be back on the front page.

Since the IMS Museum will be closed this year, will there be any additional historical cars on display? My teenage son has hyped the museum to his two friends who are making the trip with us and we want them to get the full monte.

Lastly, I don’t think there is P2P at the 500. Am I correct on that?

James Herbert Harrison

MP: No P2P on ovals. Some cool historic Indy cars will be out on race weekend. Gil de Ferran’s 2003 winner is meant to be driven by one of his friends in the pre-race parade.

Q: It’s time to move on and get off Newgarden’s back. Josef Newgarden is a class act. He has handled this in an adult manner with class and told the truth as he understood it. The P2P debacle was clearly a team oversight or error. S… happens occasionally and people are human. The call to “say it isn’t so Joe” needs to stop.

Joe Weiss, Spooner, WI

MP: Thanks for writing in, Joe.

Q: Thank you for your hard work in bringing us dedicated IndyCar fans insights on the series. None of us are perfect and I’m just writing to bring your attention to something you were obviously not aware of at the time the May 1 edition of the Mailbag went live.

You responded to a question from Anthony Jenkins in which he asked whether there was any reaction from Roger Penske to the Team Penske penalty.  You responded “Nope…”

Actually, on April 24, 2024, Roger Penske was asked to comment by the Associated Press.  He replied via text message: “Very disappointing. I am embarrassed.”

Can you please post this in the next edition of the Mailbag to let readers know that R.P. did provide a statement when AP reached out and expressed embarrassment?

Gary S., Glendora, CA

MP: Thanks for sharing, Gary. You are correct. Those five words do qualify as a reaction. But I don’t know if I’d classify that as a statement.

Q: But do you know the fate of Georgina after she fell from the Barber bridge and had her hand amputated? I saw the photo of her with Scotty afterwards. But is she going back up on the bridge? Is she going into a museum? Is she being replaced on the bridge? These are the important IndyCar questions we need answers to.

Also, Barber was one hell of an entertaining race.


MP: It was. I heard she was being replaced by her sister Sabrina on top of the bridge.

Q: I just read an article where Dale Coyne was quoted as saying he’s ready for a new IndyCar chassis. If a team as small and resource limited as DCR is openly willing and able to pony up for a chassis switch, what is the series waiting for? Having a chassis designed to accommodate the hybrid system and aero screen from day one seems like a no-brainer for me, especially if teams are actively saying they want it and can afford it.


MP: It would take a vocal majority for a new car to be commissioned, and we don’t have that right now. We also have half the teams struggling to pay for what it takes to do a full season with the cars they already have.

Coyne’s call for a new chassis is probably popular with fans but perhaps less so among the other team owners. Josh Tons/Motorsport Images

Q: My question concerns P2P, but not PenskeGate. With deference to The Great Tony Stewart (TGTS); fans, and probably racers like passing.  I don’t hear much cheering at Indy when they continuously run nose to tail, but the stands go nuts when a great pass is made. Great passes become the thing of legends.

To that end, I’d like your thoughts on the acceleration offered by each of the different methods to achieve an increase in performance and aid passing. We can argue if that is real racing some other time, I am interested in the technical side of things.. For example, when I jump on the accelerator of my turbocharged MINI Cooper, there is a definite lag before acceleration begins. Whereas my somewhat wimpy Chevy Volt does accelerate immediately when in all electric mode and the “gas” pedal is pushed all the way down.  Does something similar happen in an IndyCar? Will the acceleration curve be different between the current IndyCar P2P mechanical boost and the boost from the hybrid electrical system? How do each of these compare to the acceleration offered by a change in aerodynamics, as in F1?

Since the amount of time that a passing aid is available is typically limited, it seems to me that the method that provides the most rapid acceleration would provide the most interesting racing.

Ed R., Hickory Hills, IL

MP: The upcoming addition of the energy recovery system and its instant electric torque will be a cool tool to play with. It’s believed the series will give teams a lot of latitude in how it can be used — manual or automated or both — and it’s here where I expect the ERS to be deployed for a lot of torque-fill moments off slower corners where, like in your MINI, turbo lag would otherwise cause a slight delay in acceleration.

If the supercapacitor energy storage system has a charge, it could be used to improve overall lap times by helping on low-end acceleration and, with a charge, give drivers a second push-to-pass option to go with the turbo P2P. The series is also likely to allow both turbo and ERS P2P to be used at the same time, which would make for real fun.

Q: For Marshall: Do you think the increased popularity of F1 is the U.S. has trickled down into more fans of U.S. open-wheel racing? If not, why?

For Chris: How did Liberty Media manage to make F1 popular in the USA within only a few years when Bernie Ecclestone couldn’t do it in decades?

Sanford S., New Yorker in London

MP: I’ll give you a solid maybe! We’ve had some welcome increases in trackside attendance this year, so that could be an indicator of F1 piquing the curiosity of new fans who might want to check out our domestic open-wheel series. But IndyCar’s TV audience size has not matched the trackside growth, so there’s nothing linear for me to draw from.

CHRIS MEDLAND: A big part of it was simply the focus. Bernie really did not prioritizing North America at all as he was able to attract bigger race-hosting fees elsewhere. That was Bernie’s main model — significant revenues solely from race hosting fees (where he’d be restrictive) and television deals.

While it was a market he didn’t understand as well as others, it must be said he did help the sport get a permanent home at Circuit of The Americas, and as the media landscape changed, so too did the ownership to one that knew how to capitalize on that.

Liberty saw the huge potential and knew it would need to invest in the sport’s future in the U.S., rather than simply go looking for a big race-hosting fee. It opened up access by allowing the teams to do more in areas like social media and activations, and by working out different deal structures for Miami and investing in Vegas.

Add in the fact that the Drive To Survive TV show was generally targeted at a U.S. audience, and it clicked pretty quickly.

Q: I’ve been following F1 since the mid-‘60s. I’m not a fan of the direction that things have been going, so I have a suggestion that I think will improve the racing: eliminate front and rear wings on the cars. Here are my reasons:

Eliminate DRS. First of all, let’s face it, DRS is a kluge. It is an artificial way to make it easier for a following car to pass despite the effect of dirty air from the leading car. Without wings there will be less impact of dirty air on the following car.

Closer following: Since a car’s front end won’t wash out from lack of downforce when following, drivers will be able to follow more closely while trying to pass. This will make for more exciting viewing and more drama.

Sticking the nose in: With no front wing, drivers will be able to stick the nose of their car in to create an opening without worrying about damaging the front wing.

No changing damaged wings: Today, if a driver has to pit due to front wing damage, he may as well park the car. He will have no realistic chance of placing well in the race, let alone winning it.

Driver skill on display: Without the gobs of downforce created by wings, drivers will be forced to rely on mechanical grip. A driver with the skill to cope in low grip conditions will be rewarded.

Slower corner speeds: The lack of downforce will necessitate slower cornering speeds. This is actually a safety feature since most incidents occur at corners. But the fans will be rewarded with closer racing. The absolute lap speed achieved during a race is not really an issue if the race is exciting.

Straight-line speed: Decreased drag due to no wings may result in higher straight-line speeds. This is not assured since the corner exit speeds will be slower. And drivers may have to brake sooner for the next corner.

Shorter nose: Without the need to push a front wing out into clean air the cars won’t need such a long nose piece.

Less carbon fiber litter: How many times have the officials had to slow the race to clean the track of carbon fiber pieces from damaged front wings? No wings = fewer shards.

Improved sight lines: Rear wings in particular make it almost impossible to see past the car in front or to see the car(s) behind. No rear wing, better vision all around.

Aero between the wheels: F1 teams have spent huge sums of money on research facilities like wind tunnels. Eliminating front and rear wings will never eliminate the need for those. It’s simply that aero work will be confined to between the front and rear wheels.

Bob Mason, Winston Salem, NC

CM: It’s a novel idea Bob but I always point to the fact that IndyCar has Push to Pass to help with overtaking too, so I don’t get why DRS gets such a bad rap sometimes. My main question back to you though is, do you not think F1 would then be heavily diluted by not having the level of performance that currently makes it the fastest single-seater category (superspeedways aside) on the planet?

As much as I loved the cars of the era, it feels like a step back to the ’60s in terms of performance, as cars have always had front and rear wings since then. Given the fact that IndyCar would then be quicker, and very likely F2 and even F3, surely it would have a big impact on motorsport in general?

Pre-winged F1 cars were gorgeous, but the cost to performance would be a massive turn-off for modern fans. Motorsport Images

Q: The F1 steward review process seems to be a joke. What is allowed one race is not the next. A car is knocked out of a race and the car that took it out is allowed to continue with a few seconds of penalty. Why not really make it a penalty for the best drivers in the world and say, “you caused an incident that knocked out a car, so you will finish behind that car.” The drama and other politics of the series are taking away the enjoyment of it. Thoughts?

Craig Nelson

CM: I agree with you that it can be really frustrating when different stewards make different decisions on similar incidents, although I would point out most sports have to use different officials for different games, etc., based on availability and schedules.

I think because fights are rarely personal, it’s generally better not to do the direct penalizing versus a rival approach, as it can lead to a much bigger penalty for a driver. That would then discourage hard racing, and I think everyone wants to see it encouraged.

There’s never going to be a perfect solution as everyone always has a time when they feel the need to complain about officiating in sport — partly based on their outlook or allegiance — but I actually think we’d have less racing to enjoy if you make the penalties that harsh.

There are bits I agree with, though. I think a race control penalty should be “Car X, drop two positions” or similar, when the stewards feel there’s a clear need for a driver to be behind a specific car based on an incident.

Q: It seems like the Andretti team can’t get in the front door of Formula 1. They have GM backing, and they’re a winning professional organization. They’re investing in infrastructure and hiring when they don’t even have a place in Formula 1. I applaud their business decisions. If they have to go down to the minor leagues to prove they’re worthy of Formula 1, so be it… But now Formula 2 and Formula 3 are denying them admission? Why the freeze-out? It seems personal.


CM: That’s not the case, Peter. All F2 and F3 stated was that Andretti hasn’t informed them that it wants to join either series, and even so it has a limit on how many cars it can handle so might have to help it take over an entry (or grant it one and remove one from someone else).

As far as I’m aware, Andretti only intends on entering the lower categories if it gets into F1 as it will be part of its wider program to prepare drivers for F1, but it certainly hasn’t been denied admission.

Q: Is it crazy to think that if Adrian Newey was truly looking for a real, new “challenge,” he could find that at Andretti?


CM: Not crazy that he could find it there, and that Andretti would love to have him — Mario Andretti was actually seen talking to Adrian in Miami — but I don’t think that’s a project he would commit to at his age without there being a confirmed entry.

Don’t forget Newey is 65 and there are some iconic teams he has yet to work for, with Ferrari very much the favorite to get him as he could help it win its first drivers’ championship since 2007. That is also a huge challenge!

I’d love to see Andretti get a spot on the grid and attract Newey to be part of the team’s management though, it would be some story given his history working in IMSA and IndyCar, including a stint with Mario back in the ’80s.

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, May 9, 2018

Q: Who are the two drivers of past Indy 500 with the worst luck in terms of having the potential winning/best car?

JR, Northlake, IL

ROBIN MILLER: That’s a huge list. In 1952 Vuky was long gone and his steering failed with nine laps left, Parnelli Jones and the turbine in 1967, Mario with a two-lap lead in 1987, and Michael Andretti with a two-lap lead in 1992 are the four that immediately come to mind. They could all but see the checkered flag.

Story originally appeared on Racer