The RACER Mailbag, September 13

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: While it would be nice if we had some shiny new objects to look at in IndyCar, like a new chassis or more manufacturers, I love the sport because the racing is great. Changing the way the cars look is not high on my wish list, and they are not likely going to fundamentally change anyway. Hybrid engines and renewable fuels do not even chart. I am not advocating for no new development, but I am not complaining about these things either. And remember, the law of unintended consequences may mean that desired changes hurt the quality of the racing.

About the look, the DW12 has changed over the years. Most notably, it grew rear fenders and then shed them. I recall the fenders being an answer to the hazard of a car being launched when a nose contacts a rear tire and it seemed to be effective in that way. So, I wonder why they were removed? I also haven’t noticed drivers doing Full Darios since the fenders were removed either, and I don’t know why. Any thoughts?

Gary, from The Road

MARSHALL PRUETT: The series arrived at the conclusion that the rear wheel guards did nothing to prevent a car from launching over the back of another, so they were binned when the UAK18 was introduced for 2018.


Q: Could the reason Andretti is downsizing to three cars be related to running a second GTP Acura in IMSA? Is it possible that Grosjean will be in IMSA or WEC with Lamborghini’s program instead of IndyCar? Is Vips the leading driver for RLL, with his showing in the last couple of races? [ED: This letter was submitted before Vips was wiped out at the start of the race at Laguna Seca]

Frank, Mooresville, NC

MP: Nothing related here, Frank. Team Penske’s downsizing from four cars to three helped it to find a new level of competitiveness in 2022 (and again in 2023), and with that in mind, the frequently underperforming Andretti team has certainly noticed.

I’m told it was all set to follow suit and just run Kirkwood, Herta, and Ericsson, but then some big $$$ offers were received to keep running the fourth and sticking with four became an option once more. I don’t know where they’re headed, but after solidly falling behind Arrow McLaren and now RLL in the drivers’ standings, they can’t keep doing the same things and expect to remain relevant.

How’s this: Alexander Rossi was Andretti’s top driver in 2022 by finishing ninth in the championship. Herta was second for them in 10th. In 2023, Rossi finished ninth again, but for Arrow McLaren. Herta was the top Andretti driver in the championship in 10th, meaning the team actually went backwards in the standings. Hard to fathom with the insane infusion of money the team received last year.

I saw Juri after the race and told him he should be proud of himself for showing so well and fighting to get the No. 30 RLL Honda into the Leaders Circle after being knocked around on the opening lap at Laguna Seca. If RLL doesn’t hire him, I’d think another team in a position to hire would give him a ring. Outqualifying Lundgaard and Rahal on his first visit to Laguna Seca spoke volumes about his talent, and the misfortune on the opening lap wasn’t his fault. It would seem silly to me to have him hang around, place him in the No. 30, see him make a statement, and then let him go.

Q: Regarding my question of last week about Can-Am vs IndyCar fastest laps, I accepted your assignment of finding them out for myself. After some digging, I was able to find much on the internet. (And we all know that if it’s on the internet it must true.) Where possible, I’ve also included F5000, another favorite series of mine.

I limit this only to tracks that use the same configuration for Can-Am and IndyCar. That eliminates Watkins Glen (due to the Scheckter Chicane and the inner loop, plus long course vs. short course), and Sonoma (way too many different configurations). Records shown are for race laps, not qualifying laps. Also, various tracks have been repaved (some more than once) which certainly affected lap records.

Can-Am1: original CanAm

Can-Am2: the attempt to resurrect the original CanAm by reconfiguring F5000 cars

So here goes…

Road America

CART 1998 1m41.874s
F5000 1976 2m02.220s
Can-Am2 1981 2m00.268s
Can-Am1 1973 2m04.374s

Mid-Ohio (using the chicane before the Keyhole)

CART 1987 1m19.984s
Can-Am2 1982 1m22.219s
F5000 1975 1m22.285s
Can-Am1 1974 1m22.470s

Riverside (long course, as best as I can determine)

CART 1982 1m30.6565s
Can-Am1 1972 1m34.030s

Mont Tremblant

Can-Am2 1978 1m33.400s
USAC 1968 1m37.550s
F5000 1970 1m39.000s
CanAm1 1966 1m44.900s


Can-Am2 1982 1m11.875s
F5000 1975 1m14.149s
Can-Am1 1974 1m14.600s
USAC raced there several times but I could not find the lap record.

Laguna Seca (original configuration)

CART 1987 52.926s
Can-Am2 1982 56.810s
F5000 1975 58.230s
Can-Am1 1973 59.710s

What does this all mean? Probably that Can-Am1 wasn’t the fastest ever, but let’s not forget that they were racing 50 years ago before computer-assisted aerodynamics and without modern tires. And I realize that today’s racing is excellent, with a level playing field. Nevertheless, if I had a time machine I’d be back there in a heartbeat.

Rick, Lisle, IL

MP: That’s some great research, Rick. Thanks for taking the time!

George Follmer brings the noise in Penske’s Porsche 917/10 TC at Edmonton International Raceway in 1972. David Phipps/Motorsport Images

Q: A reader wrote in last week wanting a comparison of the mighty Can-Am Porsche 917/30 of 1973 driven by Mark Donohue vs IndyCar at tracks they both raced on. The problem is, in 1973 Indycar was run by USAC and was an oval series. However, both a Can-Am race and the USGP ran at Watkins Glen in 1973. In Can-Am, Donohue sat on the pole with a time of 1m38.848s. In Formula 1, Ronnie Peterson took pole with a time of 1m39.657s.  Fastest lap was set by Donohue in the Can Am race at 1m40.00a. James Hunt ran the fastest lap in the USGP at 1m41.652s. In both cases the Porsche 917/30 bests the F1 machinery.

CART introduced itself to racing in 1979, so here are a few comparisons with later versions of CART machinery.

1973 Donohue Can-Am pole at Mid-Ohio: 1m20.335s

1980 Al Unser IndyCar pole at Mid-Ohio: 1m24.870s

1973 Donohue Can-Am pole at Elkhart Lake:  1m57.518s

1982 Rick Mears IndyCar pole at Elkhart Lake:  1m57.710s

1973 Donohue Can-Am pole at Laguna Seca:  57.374s

1983 Teo Fabi IndyCar pole at Laguna Seca:  56.920s

Finally, a win for IndyCar with a 10-year newer car than the Porsche 917/30.

The IndyCar numbers are for the first year CART ran on those tracks. I tried to do Riverside, but they obviously ran different versions of the course because the lap times were too far apart.

In conclusion, the Porsche 917/30 was a beast. The fastest closed course racing car of its day. They ran the thing a Talladega and it threw down a lap of 221.16 mph, which was the closed course world record at the time. And by the way, Mark Donohue was a bad man.

(The source of Can-Am times was the book Can-Am by Pete Lyons.)

Brian Henris, Fort Mill, SC

MP: Nothing like having a zillion horsepower and sublime handling perfected by Donohue to go with it.

Q: It’s basically universal in closed cockpit cars, but I wonder if IndyCars or open wheel cars in general have a fire suppression system for the driver or engine bay?

I know the cars have pretty tight packaging so I wonder if it is not there because of a belief that it’s easier for a driver to exit the car? If so, is that still the case even with halos and aeroscreens?

Matt, Cleveland, OH

MP: Yes on both areas for fire suppression. But it’s a gas now, not the big white cloud of smoke we once had, so times have changed.

Q: What would this white bottle be for on the right side of the car (below)? A small tube was entered into what appears to be the fuel…

Pongo of SoCal

MP: That’s a small vent/overflow bottle for fuel the Arrow McLaren team uses while adding fuel during practice sessions. It would only be used if the team was looking to do a full-tank run.

Q: The 2024 IndyCar schedule. Four words: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Legendarily known as Mosport!


MP: I’m there!

Q: I read your September 2, 2023 RACER posting titled “Herta’s multi-generational Reynard reunion shaping up for IndyCar finale week at Laguna” and read with interest the following quoted text (below). Within the quoted text it said Bryan Herta sent the motor to Cosworth for a rebuild.

“After Colton purchased and presented the car to Bryan on his birthday in May, the elder Herta got to work, sending the motor to Cosworth for a rebuild.”

Then as the actual running of the car was reported and shown in another RACER video or on an NBC Peacock segment I could have sworn that I heard the comment that the engine in the car was “borrowed.”

Now can you please provide some clarification? Did the car run with its original engine, i.e. rebuilt by Cosworth, or was the car run on a borrowed engine? If the engine was borrowed, from whom or what person or entities was it borrowed from? Do you know what the boost setting was?

Warbird Willie

MP: The motor was sent for a rebuild at Cosworth, but they chose to borrow a later version of the engine for this run. The rest is between them. It made 870hp according to Colton, and ran without a popoff valve and data, but Cosworth guru Ken Deagle tells me the wastegates were set to hold to 40inhg.

Pretty awesome. And notably, one of the few times over the past week that two IndyCars have run close at Laguna Seca without bouncing off each other. Penske Entertainment

Q: Unless there is an incident on pit lane itself, just leave pit lane open! It’s not like the old days when the safety crew would be running backwards through pit lane to respond to an incident. The safety trucks roll from designated safe locations. If somebody makes an unsafe dive for pit lane at the last moment, they’re exceeding track limits and they get a penalty. It doesn’t have to be complicated.


MP: But then what would we have to complain about?

Q: I am so disgusted with the “show” our illustrious IndyCar drivers put on at Laguna. How do we draw attention to arguably the best and most competitive racing series in the world when we drive like drunken Crashcar rookies?

My first race at Laguna was the 1968 Can-Am which was won, in the rain, by John Cannon in a four-year-old McLaren. I was there when CART first came to the Monterey Peninsula, and have attended hundreds of races there since 1968.

This just to say that I have seen so many races there, and never saw this level of foolishness — not even in the Rabbit Cup series which everyone knew would be mass mayhem (and it usually was!).

Dan, Arizona

MP: Those boxy little VWs did but on a great show… Yeah, this was more like a backyard brawl than a professional motor race. Maybe some folks loved it. I just wasn’t one of them.

Q: I’m having huge problems with Peacock and I wonder if anyone else is too? Right now, on Sunday afternoon, the Laguna Seca race has been over for well over an hour. But it doesn’t show up at all on the menu. It’s like it never happened. Peacock is trying to blame my TV, but I’ve unplugged it like they advised and that had no effect. Yesterday during qualifying the screen just up and went black and it stated the event was over with 25 minutes to go. Then qualifying disappeared from the menu also. HELP!

Mike Talarico, Charlotte, NC

MP: I’ve had similar issues with Peacock for quite a while. Compared to the dozen other streaming apps we have, Peacock is the one that’s crying the loudest for a complete revamp.

Q: With this Argentina race being floated around, I wanted to get your thoughts on IndyCar coming back to Japan at Motegi? How successful was it the last time they raced there? Has this even been considered in recent years? Any other destinations you’d like to see IndyCar go to?

Ryan Bailey

MP: The farewell event in 2011 was a fun and sad one at the same time. But it cost Honda a ton to fly everything over and put on the event, so in the absence of another company offering to foot the bill, we won’t be going back. IndyCar’s well-known lack of an East Coast presence is the big issue to fix. Give me a Philly Grand Prix or a Pittsburgh GP and I’m a happy guy.

Q: What do you get when you put 27 insane, crazed, desperate, careless and otherwise lunatic IndyCar drivers on a track? The 2023 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey!

There was never a dull moment, and I can’t think of anyone that shouldn’t be tarnished with those descriptions other than maybe Alex Palou. I can’t remember him making a foolish mistake. A deserving champion based on that alone.

Doug Mayer, Revelstoke, BC, Canada

MP: I think Pato belongs in that limited group, and Sting Ray as well.

Q: We all know and love the racing IndyCar produces, but how can they justify being idle for six months a year, not seem to care to promote their product, and still race cars a decade old? F1, IMSA and NASCAR are only idle for about two months a year each. Other than Indy, Long Beach and Road America, which are always total sellouts, what can be done to improve attendance and exposure to the general public? Disappearing is not the answer.


MP: Duly noted, Dan.

Q: When I first heard about the The Thermal Club story I had to go back to the wayback time machine and immediately thought of the days when IndyCar had the Marlboro Challenge that was raced at either Tamiami Park in South Florida or Nazareth Speedway. They were also trying to stage the Hawaiian Grand Prix back in 1999, but cancelled it because of the timely tragic passing of Greg Moore. Will they have a title sponsor for this event, and might we see IndyCar hook up with F1 during a non-championship race event like Austin, Las Vegas and Mexico with the top 12 drivers racing on some special prize money event with four or five million dollars?


MP: Maybe, and no.

Q: Given the appalling way the Argentinian IndyCar fans have conducted themselves this year, surely the series shouldn’t be racing there next year?

Mexico has just as passionate a fanbase and to the best of my knowledge, Pato O’Ward hasn’t had to put a message out telling his people to not send death threats en masse to fellow drivers.

Also, if they do race in Argentina, Callum Ilott is going to need a police escort and bodyguards outside his hotel room.

Jordan, Warwick, UK

MP: If we start trimming races based on where disgusting things are said to drivers, we’d take the U.S. and Canada off the schedule as well, so let’s not be precious and single out Argentina or any other country unless we want to include all of them.

That doesn’t change how sad and stupid it is to see some of Canapino’s fans treat Ilott in an appalling manner for a second time, but if we’re canceling races because of fan behavior on social media, we’re doomed as a society. I hate everything about this for Callum and have spoken with him about it at length in April and again this week. I hope he and the team can either find a peace accord or part ways, because this isn’t good for anyone.

Q: Josef Newgarden seemed to be slightly more temperamental this year, and way more so than when he was driving for Sarah and Wink. Did he have any post-race availability after Laguna?

Dino, New Hanover, PA

MP: I didn’t seek him out for comment, but I haven’t heard anything about him refusing to speak to folks afterwards.

Q: My first reaction to the race at Thermal Club was “cool” — until I saw some details. “Limited tickets available” is code for “F1 prices only club members can afford.”And members share in the proceeds? Seems very tone-deaf at best. Is it me?

Mike, Elkhart Lake, WI

MP: It’s you, but you aren’t alone. A couple of things: It’s a highly private facility, so after hearing nothing but complaints about Spring Training being locked down earlier in the year, there will be a very limited number of tickets and spectating options made available. It’s never been done there, so this is a cause for concern among folks who’ve spent millions to live in a gated and super exclusive property.

The tickets shouldn’t be expensive. IndyCar’s trying to create some new team owners, so that’s where the sharing part comes into play. And more than anything, the series needed something to fill the big empty gap between Round 1 and Round 2, and this is it. I’m not sure if this is just complaining for sport, or if there’s a wave of IndyCar fans who really want to book flights for Palm Springs to attend a demonstration race in Thermal, California, and are mad that they might not be able to get tickets?

If it’s the latter, I understand the frustration. If it isn’t, I’m not sure what to say.

Initial fan response to next year’s exhibition race at Thermal has been mixed. Who saw that coming? James Black/Motorsport Images

Q: Long time, first time. As a fellow Bay Area resident, I attended both Long Beach and Laguna Seca. Please explain how O’Ward didn’t get a penalty for punting Dixon into the tires in Long Beach, but Dixon got a drive through for contact with VeeKay in the middle of a Turn 2 melee?

On Dixon’s radio, when told of the penalty, after a few f-bombs, he said, “Arie’s boy, Arie’s boy…”

Dixon went on to call out the obvious conflict of interest when someone close to a particular driver is handing out penalties for incidents involving said driver. I see smoke, is there a fire?

Jeff Eyet

MP: There is no explanation because as I’ve mentioned on an increasingly frequent basis, I stopped understanding what race control was doing a while ago. If VeeKay was penalized for being hit by Dixon, I would not have been shocked.

Q: Can you give us a quick rundown on the final Leaders Circle results? Really a shame that Marcus Armstrong took out Rahal and Vips. It’s life, but it’s a shame that one bad decision has taken such a financial toll on other teams.

Now that the season is over, can you give any insight into what went wrong with Grosjean and Andretti during the season? Were there things going on internally beyond what the performance and crashing issues we know about?

Next year, do you see veterans taking the youngsters aside and having a serious talk about not trying to win the race on the first lap? Yes, the repave added a strong element of chaos and blew up any thoughts of strategy, but I ended up telling my wife on most restarts “They’re wrecking again!” It was wild, it was crazy, it was entertaining, but still left me shaking my head at times. A big change from the last few races that went mostly green.


MP: We did a story on the LC on Monday that covers the first item, John. Nobody doubts Grosjean’s speed, but his consistency has been an issue, and when that’s coupled with some mistakes by the team, it has been a mostly troubled relationship. When all went well, they were capable of winning, and yet, they never won, and there were far too many days where they were slow, something was wrong with the car, or Romain was making contact with a rival or a wall.

I expect nothing to happen among drivers. If it hasn’t already happened, Laguna Seca will be forgotten by the end of the week.

Q: What does the top 10 look like in 2023 only going by average qualifying positions?

John A

MP: Our statistician friend Scott Richard reports the following, and full respect to Scotty Mac:

Great question.  Based solely on their average starting positions during the season, the top 10 in terms of drivers looks like the following:

Alex Palou 6.00
Pato O’Ward 6.29
Scott McLaughlin 7.24
Scott Dixon 8.65
Felix Rosenqvist 8.71
Colton Herta 8.82
Will Power 9.12
Josef Newgarden 9.35
Romain Grosjean 9.76
Marcus Ericsson 10.59

Note that we removed Tony Kanaan’s average starting position of 9.00 since he only made one start during the season.

Another fun way of looking at it is if you awarded the same points structure used for finishes to starts (50 to win, 40 for 2nd, etc with no bonus points added).  Then the championship would have looked like this:

Alex Palou 517
Pato O’Ward 494 -23
Scott McLaughlin 493 -24
Colton Herta 454 -63
Felix Rosenqvist 441 -76
Will Power 420 -97
Romain Grosjean 420 -97
Scott Dixon 417 -100
Josef Newgarden 412 -105
Christian Lundgaard 374 -143

Either way, Palou is easily the best in this category!

Q: Thanks for all the reporting this past season. I particularly enjoy the human interest stories, especially the Barry Wanser piece. Two questions. I couldn’t tell what you and Dixie were drinking? And is there any chance Dixie will be giving fuel saving tips to the pace car driver going forward?

Can’t wait for the Romain Grosjean story!


MP: That was Double Mind Haze IPA [from central Californian brewery Firestone Walker, for any craft beer enthusiasts out there – ED]. I’m not an IPA guy, but the local 7-Eleven didn’t have any Belgian beers, and that was the most interesting thing I could find in Salinas on Main Street at 6:30am on the drive to the circuit. I think Oriol was lighting the afterburners during the eight cautions, so yes, Dixie might pick up some consulting money here.

Q: I know that on ovals, IndyCar drivers can pass once the green is displayed but I thought on road/street courses it was single file until drivers were on the start/finish straight? After the mess on almost every restart, that should be the requirement. Those restarts at Laguna were amateur hour, and that may be an insult to amateurs. On a related subject, 14 rows of two running nose to tail looks pretty, but maybe a strung-out start should be the allowed unless you enjoy big crashes. Very poor showing by the “best drivers.”

Mark, San Diego

MP: The series has tried some different things like going green right out of the final turn at Portland instead of waiting for them to get closer to the start/finish line, which was smart and avoided big kerblammos into the Turn 1 chicane,. Having the race restart in Monterey with folks charging into the final corner and barking hard was, in hindsight, not something to do again.

Q: What are the future plans for Force Indy and the Race for Equality & Change now that Ernie Francis Jr. isn’t returning? Are they looking for more prospects to support, or is getting Myles Rowe to IndyCar the only goal?

Lewis, Houston, TX

MP: They are supporting Myles in his move from winning the USF Pro 2000 championship to racing in Indy NXT. That’s the only public support they’ve announced, but I do know Penske’s helping another driver in USF2000 without stating it as being part of the RFE&C program.

For now, Indy NXT-bound USF Pro 2000 champion Rowe will be the only driver officially supported through the Race for Equality & Change program next year. James Black/Penske Entertainment

Q: So, let me get this right: Honda wins 12 races to Chevy’s five, and Honda snags 11 poles to Chevy’s six. I understand reliability counts towards the final tally, but come on, that was a total beatdown by HPD and second-best lifts the trophy. Ridiculous.

Rob, London, Ontario, Canada

MP: I choose to look at it the other way: The rules clearly state that only the four engines included in an annual lease are capable of earning points towards the manufacturers’ championship, and in this clearly defined structure, Chevy got more out of fewer engines than Honda. If Chevy had to plug fresh motors in on a more frequent basis instead of stretching more to their mileage limit, I’d bet their win total would be higher.

Q: The “don’t be surprised if…” moment I’m hoping for is CGR announcing that Alex Palou will be piloting a Cadillac GTP at Petit Le Mans.

Jonathan and Cleide Morris Ventura, CA

MP: Word on the street is no. But if you’re a fan of his now-former teammate Marcus Ericsson, “don’t be surprised” if he’s lapping Daytona in January from behind the wheel of an Acura ARX-06 GTP machine fielded by Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti.

Q: Considering how well-spoken and composed James Hinchcliffe and Townsend Bell are on TV broadcasts, do they have university degrees? Quite polished, and they team together well with Leigh Diffey.

Tom Fitzgerald, CPA-retired

MP: Our guy Towny Bell is pursuing a degree, and I don’t believe Hinch found time to cover off a complete stint at university, but he did try. The quality of IndyCar broadcasts with these three in the booth is something NBC should be proud of, no doubt.

Q: Is IndyCar race control under any pressure from the teams and drivers to be slightly more involved? Consistency is what you want out of officiating and race control has been consistent in its non-calls, but I have to imagine many of the drivers/teams would like to see a few of these non-calls get punished. Nobody wants to watch a “ref show” but at a certain point you can’t let egregious driving go unpunished.

Joey Selmants

MP: That would be a yes. And on other topics as well.


Q: Forgive me if this was previously reported, but was a specific explanation given for what failed on Pagenaud’s car at Mid-Ohio?


MP: There was not. MSR was direct in assigning blame on the series’ official brake vendor, PFC, but did not go into details because even if they’re at fault, the team still needs to work with them, so there’s no need to completely destroy the relationship.

UPDATE: Since this went to print, PFC has stated that its componentry was not at fault for the failure, with the issue being caused by another vendor’s product. Specifics on the item in question were not provided.

Q: Is there anything interesting behind why there are both 06 and 6 entries currently? With the double-qvist MSR lineup next year taking 06 and 60, might 6 now become unavailable?

Peter, Merida, Spain

MP: Not with David Malukas signed by Arrow McLaren to drive the No. 6 Chevy formerly driven by new MSR signing Felix Rosenqvist who is taking over the No. 60 Honda.

Q: During Mid-Ohio and Portland (maybe others, don’t remember), NBC ran a graphic comparing Alex Palou’s results over his first X number of starts to other IndyCar greats such as AJ and Mario.

The first thing I thought was, where’s Alex Zanardi? Who had a more impressive first three IndyCar seasons than Zanardi with Ganassi? Did you see this? What’s your thoughts, and do you have insights on why Zanardi is missing?

I believe Zanardi had 15 wins in his first 51 starts, putting him second on the list – way ahead of Palou. If they left him out just because he came in with F1 experience, they should have pointed that out.


MP: You aren’t the only one with a WTF response, and as my friend Russ Thompson explained, the comparison is of Palou against the drivers in the top five on the all-time win list. This nugget wasn’t included in the graphic, which led to the confusion and, with that top five filter, strips out Bourdais, Zanardi, and others, who are outside the top five.

Q: Pick a race, any IndyCar race (but ideally the Indy 500). If the race is run green for the entire length, is there enough fuel to reach the checkered flag?

I guess part two to this question is, in an ordinary pit stop, does the fueler manage to fill up the tank? If not, is this why we have “save fuel” strategies, because they would rather avoid another pit stop? Inquiring minds want to know!

Janis, Tampa (running out of push-to-pass in my old age)

MP: There are no races where a single tank would get a driver to the finish of an IndyCar event. Not even close. Yes, the refuelers pull and disconnect the fuel probe when they see fuel start to splash into and fill the vent hose. The only time they pull early is when they’re instructed to do so — a “short fill” –in order to leave the pits sooner than a rival to gain track position. Your questions are awesome, Janis — keep them coming!

Q: Any updates on the new Andretti Global headquarters in Fishers, Indiana? I read there were some legal issues and they stopped work on project. I live right down the street from the location and all the signs are gone, fencing is gone and the excavated land ins grown over with weeds. Is the project dead in the water?


MP: I asked the team, and here’s what a Andretti spokesperson told us:

“By no means dead in the water. We are taking extra time to build out the design at a much deeper level given all of the intricacies that accompany such a large project. We, of course, still have our architect (Ridge) from the UK and we have made some adjustments with bringing on a new, local architect and contractor to ensure we remain on schedule to have the building operational for our current race series by the end of 2024/early 2025.” 

Q: Regarding Romain Grosjean, has any driver ever gone back to Dale Coyne after moving on?

Gordon Mann

MP: My French Fry did. Bourdais split the 2011 season with Alex Lloyd, and returned in 2017 for a three-year stint. So did the Big Man. Justin Wilson gave Dale his first win in 2009, went to Dreyer & Reinbold, and returned in 2012 where he got Dale his second and drove through 2014 before forcing his way out at the end of the season.

Justin Wilson had an initial stint with Coyne in 2009 (above), and then returned to the team from 2012 until 2014. Motorsport Images

Q: I watched the in-car video of Colton’s handful of laps in the restored Reynard-Cosworth. The only word that describes this is “violent.” I can only imagine Colton’s thrill at being in his dad’s winning ride.

I say this as a preface for the powers that be to take a page from these cars’ characteristics and apply them to the product that they serve us today. Today, the operative word is “sanitized,” although IndyCar is far more raw than F1 or many other forms of motorsport.

But I was just in awe of the power and the necessary physicality of Colton’s drive. The product is supposed to transport us from the day-to-day reality into a realm of unfettered pure sport. It’s wishful thinking in the construct of corporate structure and politics, unfortunately. So sad to see, and it partially explains the popularity of vintage events, especially with Group C, IndyCar, F5000, Can-Am and F1.

Emmett. Dallas, TX

MP: As someone who grew up during the CART era, working alongside it in the junior series, and in it in 1999, I loved everything about it and wish we still had it today. I also wouldn’t diminish what we have today with cars that aren’t as violent, but require more driving at the extreme limit at all times. Without the big power, our greats today live life on the edge in every corner and every braking zone in ways that deserve our full respect. It’s just that today’s cars, compared to a raging CART machine, are less explosive, and because of that, it’s harder to appreciate how hard the Palous and Newgardens are working to create miracles.

Can’t argue with the underlying note, though. Unlike the cars of AAA, USAC, CART and Champ Car, I won’t be waxing nostalgic when I see some DW12s at vintage events in the next 10 or 20 years, provided they aren’t still in use.

Q: After Colton drove his father’s birthday present, his dad said, “What do you think?” What did Colton say?

Barney, Reno, NV

MP: Take a listen to the conversation here, Barney:

Q: I think it’s great that IndyCar might be going to Argentina, and it got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great to have a few international rounds after the season if the money would make it worth it for the teams? I get it that it’s easier said than done, but it could really compete the calendar. A race in Argentina in late September, an early October race in Brazil, and finish with a third round in Mexico around the same time CART/Champ Car used to race there in November. This would really shorten the offseason, and the races would be in places that are not consumed by the NFL and the series should be trying to gain traction. The races would probably end up on Peacock, but that might a way to get more subscribers and be of interest to NBC.

Brian, Joliet, IL

MP: If it’s a money maker for the teams, I’m all for it, even if it means the ratings will suffer by going up against the NFL and F1.

Q: No driver names on the CGR cars. I find this noteworthy. Certainly all cars are owned by the teams (owners.) But that can’t sit well with the drivers.  A sign of a megalomaniac who thinks of drivers like F1 teams in the 1970s — a commodity — or a nothing burger?

Mike, Elkhart Lake

MP: Nothing burger. Their names are on the inside of the aeroscreens, as of 2022, so there’s been movement on this topic.

Q: I have become a big Meyer Shank Racing fan over the last couple years, but the scandal that came out of the Rolex 24 on the IMSA side was jarring. Many have said it is naive to think it was a one-man job, as was put forth in the subsequent official MSR statement.

However, with my background in IT and software engineering, it’s certainty plausible that one person on the team was responsible for this — perhaps with some outside help or tips from a tech/software savvy associate. Even if a tire technician(s) had a role, they could have been misled, manipulated, or even coerced.

Do you think the punishment fit the crime and the penalties were fair? Do you think the ownership and other senior leaders on the team knew it was happening? Do you think they could lose any sponsorship over the ordeal?

Richard, Indianapolis, IN

MP: Happy to address some of this, but it was covered extensively earlier in the year so there’s no need to write everything twice.

I thought the win should have been taken away along with the Rolex watches. The “crime” here was stealing, the stealing of performance through falsifying the series-monitored data channel on tire pressure, which gave the series fake information that made it appear the No. 60 Acura GTP car was running compliant tire pressures. Whether it was one bad actor or 10 doesn’t matter to me. The net effect was the car ran in an intentionally illegal configuration that allowed it to outperform its rivals and win IMSA’s biggest race. The series took away points and many other things, but if you’ve caught someone stealing, they need to be punished for the entire act, and they need to give everything back that was stolen, which could have easily been done. And yes, there’s a significant concern that MSR is heading into its last two races as a factory Acura GTP team.

Q: Am I alone in being saddened by the demise of Captain America, Ryan Hunter-Reay? It seems that IndyCar is committed to a massive youth movement and weeding out most of the heroes of the sport.

I suppose it does get down to money, but I would like to see Ryan remain in the paddock in some capacity. I’m happy to see that with Helio as I’ve always felt that is someone isn’t a fan of Helio, they’re probably not a fan of anyone.

Speaking of Formula 1, is the Andretti quest for a team dead? And recent articles about Max Verstappen seem over the top. He would have to win in a lesser car and team to prove he is really Superman, as they seem to claim. Not taking anything away as Max is a great driver who is making his mark, but how many drivers in the world right now could win a Grand Prix after a year in a Red Bull car?

Last but not least, has IndyCar given up on tracks like Phoenix and Milwaukee?

Denny, Garnett, Kansas

MP: Not sure I get the “demise” part, Denny. He’s had an amazing career that most in the series today will never match, and at 42, got one more bite of the apple, which has made his friend’s team better. We posted a story last week about the upcoming IndyCar schedule that might help on the last question.

CHRIS MEDLAND: No the Andretti quest isn’t dead, and the FIA is likely to approve it as a potential entrant at some stage (I’ll admit I don’t know when) but then F1 itself still feels likely to be far harder to convince. It’s not about Andretti — if Michael buys an existing team he’ll be welcomed with open arms — but about F1 not wanting to expand the grid beyond the current 10 teams, which I’ve already written about as something that frustrates me.

For Max, the fact that the qualifying gaps are regularly very small (or he’s not on pole as Monza showed) highlights that Red Bull’s margin is not as big as other teams have had in the past. Mercedes in the early V6 era had a bigger advantage, as did Ferrari at times in the mid-2000s and McLaren in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Or Williams in the ’90s, or even Red Bull in the 2010s sometimes!

But Max is setting records because he is so consistent and adapts so quickly, which is what the best drivers do. If you’re reading articles saying he’s clearly better than anyone else ever then you’re right that’s premature, but he’s very much in the conversation as one of the best of all time and Red Bull saw that potential so early, promoting him in 2016 and him winning on debut. I think we can say he has won in lesser cars too, the Red Bull wasn’t the quickest car prior to 2021.

I think there’s a danger some people take praise of Verstappen as criticism of other drivers but that’s just not the case. You’re right that having the car let’s him show what he can do — just as any great driver with multiple titles tends to have been able to do. The way he’s made very strong young drivers like Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly, and experienced ones such as Sergio Perez now, look bang average is testament to Verstappen’s level of performance.

Yes, plenty of other good drivers could win a race in the Red Bull, but I think it’s a very select few who could be on the run he’s on.

I’d be smiling too if I had his resume. James Black/Penske Entertainment

Q: During the broadcast from Monza, Nico Rosberg said that Pirelli burns all the used tires after each F1 race. Is that correct? God, I hope not. First, there’s many ways to recycle tires in this world and burning them would not be good for our planet. Second, this does not fit in with F1’s goal to be carbon-free by 2030. Do you have any insight into what Pirelli does with the used tires after each race?

Joe, California

CM: No that’s not correct, Pirelli does have to dispose of both used and new tires (for safety reasons if they’ve been put on a rim and then removed again) but it crushes them down and recycles them. The last time I spoke to them about it the tires were being used to make cement! But it is one reason that we have things like the Alternate Tire Allocation (ATA) like in Monza, where teams get fewer sets and have to use certain ones at certain times, to reduce the amount of new tires going unused.

Q: Every time I see McLaren mentioned, they are described as a well-funded team. I have never seen a McLaren on the road. Where does all this money come from?

Dennis Reynolds

CM: As I live only about 20 miles from McLaren’s HQ in Woking I can tell you that there are quite a few on the road, but I appreciate that might not be the case everywhere!

Most teams are now well-funded given the budget cap and sponsorship deals, but the McLaren Group’s main shareholder is Mumtalakat, which is the sovereign wealth fund for the Kingdom of Bahrain. That’s why you sometimes hear McLaren call it a type of home race.

Q: We all know that Formula 1 has successfully conquered America with grands prix at Austin and Miami and later this year Las Vegas, and also the Netflix series “Drive To Survive.” But there is one place that F1 has not come to since the Liberty Media takeover: Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Will F1 ever return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway under Roger Penske’s watch?

Why has Logan Sargeant been so bad in the Williams F1 car this year? We American F1 fans want an American driver to succeed in a European-dominated sport, and Sargeant has not done well.

Kurt Perleberg

CM: I’m not sure about IMS, in the sense that F1 is carving its own set of races in the U.S. and focusing on events or circuits that are specifically built for it. We’ve seen the Indianapolis idea fail before and I don’t think IMS needs F1 when it’s such an iconic venue, and also wouldn’t say F1 needs IMS with the races it now has on the schedule.

I actually think F1’s recent success has been partly driven by not just trying to grab IndyCar fans, or even existing race fans, but Penske is such an astute businessman I would not be surprised if he’s had discussions with Liberty Media about anything that could prove mutually beneficial.

As for Logan, he’s the least-prepared of the rookies (Liam Lawson aside now) in terms of how quickly he rose through F2 in one year and got the F1 seat — Oscar Piastri for example did plenty of running with Alpine and then McLaren ahead of this year — and has a really high benchmark in Alex Albon. Until the last few races, the Williams has generally been a top 10 contender on rare occasions, and in Canada for example the team understandably gave Albon the upgrade and a new power unit to capitalize.

In Monza Williams was keen to point out that Sargeant was running an older spec of certain parts that meant his car was around 0.2s per lap slower than Albon’s (also partly due to them being on different PU sequences), and he came close to grabbing that first point.

I don’t think he’s “been so bad” at all, but I do agree that he’s also made costly errors at the wrong times, and ideally needed a big result to show his progress before the end of the European season. It’s only going to get harder for him on tracks he doesn’t know, and with the added pressure of uncertainty over his seat. If he can get even closer to Albon and pick up a point or two amid all that then he’ll certainly deserve to keep his drive as it shows his potential to develop and improve, but if there isn’t further progress then I fear for his future.

Sargeant hasn’t done a bad job relative to his experience level, but has he done enough to keep his seat for another year? Simon Galloway/MotorsportImages

Q: I heard F1 is planning on making changes to the 2025 aero rules, with the drivers saying that it is still quite difficult to follow in the corners. It looks like F1 cars still generate a decent amount of dirty air despite last year’s regulation changes, therefore making a few tweaks to the aero is certainly a good idea. I don’t know exactly which changes Nikolas Tombazis and his team are considering, but there’s one area on these cars that I think would benefit from a little simplification: the underfloor and more specifically, the floor edges.

I understand that the waves, cutouts and all the fancy geometry on F1 cars floor edges are here to create vortices and seal off the floor to maximize the ground effect downforce, right? But if so, don’t these also contribute to make the wake of the car extra dirty? I know F1 is all about innovation and creating the fastest race cars possible within the rules. However, if these cars can’t follow each other and eventually attempt a pass partly because of these, what’s the point in giving the engineers so much freedom for innovation?

There’s a reason why bargeboards and fringe rear wing endplates were banned with the 2022 regulations, just like winglets and other crazy aero devices were back in 2009: because they made following and overtaking nearly impossible. So, who thought it was a good idea not to ban the fancy floor edges as well?

Just have a look at IndyCars. These are high-downforce ground effect cars too, and what do they have? Straight, rounded floor edges. And other than the venturi tunnels, the rest of the floor is pretty flat and simple. Sure, these cars don’t corner nearly as fast as F1 cars, but at least the dirty air is manageable so they can follow each other. And I think most racing fans know which of both series has the better racing, and achieves it without using DRS or planning on implementing active aerodynamics.

Couldn’t F1 mandate straight, flat floor edges? Don’t get me wrong: I’m not talking about going back to totally flat floors. They can keep the venturi tunnels and the large diffusers, just like IndyCars. The idea is only to create ground effect downforce in a simpler, more “classic” and less disruptive way. Or is F1 considering such a vision as too low-tech to be even considered?


CM: So I’ll be careful not to make a fool of myself due to my fairly basic aerodynamic understanding without speaking to some team members, but the floor regulations were designed to send airflow over and above the car behind, limiting the dirty air. So if the floor is well sealed it’s more likely that the floor works more efficiently and if the regulations are being effective that air coming out of the floor and diffuser largely avoids the following car. But for such high aerodynamic performance, you’re always going to have dirty air.

F1 could mandate flat floor edges but it would greatly reduce performance, and why try and replicate IndyCar? IndyCar already does a good job as it is — as you’ve pointed out the racing can be great (but you do still hear drivers and commentators talk about the impact of dirty air there too at times) — but F1’s USP is the innovation and regulatory freedom that is still massively reduced from the past.

DRS gets a bad rep but it’s effectively the same as push to pass, they’re both overtaking aids that are deemed necessary because of the aerodynamic impact. I’ve actually had quite a few questions before suggesting DRS should be more like push-to-pass and have a limited number of seconds or usages per driver, so that it becomes tactical rather than the way it’s deployed now to solely help the following car try and overtake.

To me, that makes more sense. But still, each series needs its own space and not to simply replicate the other. While freedom for complex aerodynamic solutions can come to the detriment of following closely at times, it does lead to mind-blowing performance and I’d still say the racing has improved under these new regulations. They’re not perfect, but I’d keep tweaks minor and still encourage development and innovation.

Q: With all the discussions of A.I., has there been any discussions of the potential impact to press coverage of all motorsports? 

Steve, Rockford, MI

MARK GLENDENNING: Absolutely. I think the entire industry is thinking about its potential impact. With regard to RACER specifically, we do use A.I. in a very limited sense — a few of us use an A.I.-based transcribing service when we have a particularly long audio file to transcribe, or have to turn a transcription around quickly — but even that’s still relatively time-intensive because you need to go back through the transcription word-by-word and fix all the stuff that the A.I. got wrong. (Which can be a lot if the A.I. is thrown off by the driver’s accent — it struggles mightily with Dario Franchitti, and some of its interpretations of Takuma Sato are pretty funny too).

But that also reinforces why we don’t use it elsewhere: it’s simply not as good as a human, and the time it would take to fix a piece of A.I.-produced copy could be just as effectively used writing the thing ourselves in the first place.

Granted, A.I. will improve over the coming years — probably quite quickly — but it can’t overcome its other fundamental shortcoming, which is that it can’t walk out into the paddock and talk to drivers or team personnel. I can see us potentially incorporating aspects of A.I. into other areas of our workflow on the production side as the technology becomes better, but racing’s a human sport, and it needs humans to cover it properly.

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, September 9, 2014

Q: So now begins a ridiculously long off-season. Whatever happened to the idea of international races during the off-season? Doesn’t look like that’s happening now; it certainly doesn’t seem to have been mentioned for a while. So what will IndyCar be doing to keep drivers, teams and of course fans occupied between now and next season?

Dominik Wilde

ROBIN MILLER: As mentioned, the plan is a street race in Dubai to open the season in late February followed by a road race in Brazil. Haven’t heard anything about Dubai for a long time but I know Tony Cotman has been dispatched to Brasilia to get things rolling. As for the teams, I worry for the mechanics being laid off and I guess the fans can watch YouTube or buy Dick Wallen videos and, of course, go to the Chili Bowl.

[ED: Nine years on from sending Robin this letter, Dominik is now’s UK-based news editor. He still thinks IndyCar’s off-season is too long.]

Story originally appeared on Racer