Revved Up! Readers React to Week's Biggest Racing News, March 9 Edition

auto mar 05 indynxt series streets of st petersburg
Readers React to Week's Biggest Racing NewsIcon Sportswire - Getty Images

It’s that time again, time for our regular mailbag, REVVED UP!!

Today, we touch on Chase Elliott’s injury, F1’s season-opening race in Bahrain, the IndyCar season opener (and the massive first lap crash, as well), Tony Stewart’s early exit at the pre-Gatornationals and F1/Red Bull’s ability to get a new couch out of its “budget breach” fine.

Oh yes, and let’s not forget about Lewis Hamilton’s “nose stud.”

So, without further ado, to paraphrase Darrell Waltrip, “Boogity, boogity, boogity, let’s get REVVED UP!! boys and girls!”

chase elliott snowboarding nascar
Chase Elliott broke his left leg in a snowboarding accident on March 3.getty images

Kyle Busch on Chase Elliott, Off-Track Injuries: We “Can’t Be Wrapped in Bubble Wrap”

Readers Say:

• justbob: To me, it would be fair to allow drivers the freedom to have a life. But with that said, they should have a clause that if their outside activities causes their inability to fulfill their duties as per said contract. There should be penalties. Why should the team have to absorb the costs and hardships that arise from a drivers actions outside of the sport. My thinking is not just the monetary loss to the team associated with the drivers inability to fulfill his duties. But also the possible lost results for the team and sponsors alike. It may sound harsh. But it does allow the drivers the freedom to make their own decisions at their own peril.

• Lxsusrcks: But don’t you draw the line somewhere? 1.When your dog pulls you off balance on steps and you fall? 2. Food poisoning? 3. Volleyball injury? 4. Struck by a car while running?

• realbigfun: I'm more interested in whether or not NASCAR gives him an exemption that allows him to race for the Cup championship. The rules state that you have to race in all the races.

Autoweek Contributor Jerry Bonkowski Says

JB Says: Working backward in my comments, NASCAR makes the rules and can change the rules, realbigfun. Plus, let’s not forget that Kyle Busch missed 11 races due to a race-related crash injuries in 2015, yet was allowed to not only get a waiver, he also wound up winning the championship that same season. As for Lxsusrcks, I agree to an extent, but where do you draw a line on what a driver can and can’t do in his own personal time? And as for justbob, I couldn’t agree more. I admit I like Elliott as a driver and a person, and he should be allowed to have a life. But who knew he would go out and fracture his tibia on a snowboard, of all things? I wouldn’t put snowboarding in the same category as water skiing or ski jumping when it comes to risk and danger, but I’m betting Elliott’s injury is going to prompt at least a few NASCAR owners to reevaluate their contracts with drivers and further limit some of the “fun” things they can do going forward.

max verstappen formula 1
Two-time defending F1 champion Max Verstappen made it look easy in the 2023 season opener.getty images

F1 Bahrain GP Results: Beat Goes on for Max Verstappen, Red Bull

Readers Say:

• gro1231: Nothing will improve over '22. It’s a great fast track, the leader pulls away again. They said wider tires will improve passing. lol

• FranklinCain: Toto did not mind when Mercedes was able to outspend everyone else 3-1 and have the 2 dominant cars for 7 years – LOL … (As for Verstappen) Max is just taking up where he left off winning 15 races last season - but all the haters and blamers will say he somehow cheated or lucked out, or some such nonsense.

Autoweek Contributor Jerry Bonkowski Says:

JB Says: I would like to think 2023 will not be like 2022, but several readers/writers said the same thing, that little will change this season. Can Verstappen win 3 straight titles? No question. Does he have any serious challengers or rivals? Believe it or not, I like Fernando Alonso, even if he is 41 years old. And this could definitely be the breakout year for George Russell.

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The clean start at St. Petersburg didn’t last long.getty images

Video: See the Massive Lap 1 IndyCar Crash from Opener at St. Petersburg

Readers Say:

• sar4614: maybe they should hold races on actual raceways with room to race instead of street courses made for commuting and shopping.

• DethB4Prius: Yeah these Indy street races are joke. Not quite Formula e level joke but close.

• WadeJMichael: End of the day, it was an epic race - strategic battles for the lead played out throughout the day, and in typical fashion, the race was decided in the closing stages. Crash fest aside, St Pete was an exceptional start to the season. Too bad we have to wait another month until Texas Motor Speedway. F1 is cool and I've loved it my entire life, but the OG racer chasers know IndyCar is where all the action is.

• abc3388: Dixon, Power and all the so-called hot Indy drivers are hamfisted at best. Look at it this isn't just the drivers. Pit stops in F-1 are two seconds.....7.4 seconds was the average in St. Pete. F-1 has 10 engineers watching the vehicle, two in Indy racing. We rest our case.

Autoweek Contributor Jerry Bonkowski Says:

JB Says: I have to admit, as much as I like St. Petersburg, I agree with sar4614 that parts of the temporary street course track layout—most notably turns 2 and 3—should be widened somewhat. St. Pete has long seemed to aspire to be the Long Beach Grand Prix of the East Coast. Widen things up and you may get closer to that goal. I also agree with WadeJMichael, and this is something that is very frustrating to IndyCar fans all over: why is there a month between races? Sure, weather is one consideration, but it’s like we have the race at St. Pete and then IndyCar is a forgotten entity for the next four weeks. How does anyone build momentum if you have four weeks between races? IndyCar has some great minds. Surely they can put those heads together and come up with some type of solution or game plan going forward.

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Tony Stewart is racing for a championship in the NHRA Top Alcohol class.RMH PHOTOS

Tony Stewart Out Early in NHRA’s Baby Gators at Gainesville

Readers Say:

• Lxsusrcks: This is newsworthy?

• aak2733: Actually, yes it is. Tony Stewart racing in NHRA is huge for the sport.

• cc35574: No second chances (laps) in drag racing!

Autoweek Contributor Jerry Bonkowski Says:

JB Says: Yes, Lxsusrcks, it is newsworthy. Any news about Tony, even if it means he makes an early exit at a prep race leading up to the Gatornationals is indeed big news in NHRA circles, and it’s even larger with Tony Stewart involved. Couldn’t have said it better, aak2733. And yes, cc35574, that’s the beauty of drag racing. If you come up .0001 of a second short, or you miss a shift or you get a late jump at the Christmas tree, your day is typically done. That’s why drag racing demands perfection from its drivers at all times.\

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Red Bull F1 team principal Christian Horner is still not happy with how his team was treated during last year’s budget cap investigation.getty images

Red Bull’s Horner Glad the FIA Got a “New Couch” Out of Team’s Budget Breach Fine

Readers Say:

* rvi3430: It's simple—if you don't want to be penalized, don't go over the budget cap.

* jorge.pascal: Sarcasm in poor taste. IMHO, the class thing to do: quietly accept the penalty, correct whatever internal procedures allowed the “cap lapse,” and win the championships again this year!

• jay5611: Horner needs to grow up and accept the penalty.

• ron4401: Whiny baby caught breaking the rules says what?

*• jsa4465: They could have and should have taken the championship away for cheating. I think the penalty was a cheap exchange for a world championship

Autoweek Contributor Jerry Bonkowski Says:

JB Says: RVI3430 hit the nail on the head. Keep your costs under the cap, or you wind up being penalized. Pretty simple and straight forward. Duh! As for the comment from jsa4465, yes, in theory, you want to take the championship away. But that would set a very difficult precedent for F1 (and any other series that might adopt a similar gameplan). Let them keep the title, but bill them—say—$50 million in penalties. That might finally convince teams to toe the line, whether it’s budget caps, cheating or what have you. And if it doesn’t, F1 (and any other series that is relevant) should keep increasing the penalties. A $100 million penalty? That’s certainly within the discretion of a sanctioning body. And trust me, if we ever do see a “hammer-like” penalty of like $50 or $100 million, you’d quickly see very few, if any, teams break the rules or even come close to pushing the envelope.

lewis hamilton formula 1
Lewis Hamilton seems to have found a way around F1’s jewelry ban.getty images

F1 News and Notes: Why 7-Time Champ Lewis Hamilton’s Nose Stud Is Okay in 2023

Readers Say:

• bwe6740: Alonso - no nose piercing and passed Lewey on 2 different occasions during the Bahrain GP, and with some very nice passing maneuvers at that! Maybe Lewey should worry a little less about his nose jewelry, and concentrate a little more on driving & developing his way too slow Mercedes W14!

• danam0228: If the doctors are worried about him frequently taking the nose ring out for driving and putting it back in afterwards they should advise him to not wear it at all given the rules which he was already aware of prior to getting it, but hey it's his face, let him do whatever stupid stuff he wants to do to it.

Autoweek Contributor Jerry Bonkowski Says:

JB Says: F1 folded on Hamilton, plain and simple. Rules are meant to be enforced, not broken or overlooked just because you don’t want to hurt the feelings of your sport’s No. 1 draw. That would have been like NASCAR forcing Dale Earnhardt Sr. to shave off his Snidely Whiplash mustache because it was a “safety hazard.” While I don’t necessarily agree with F1 that a nose stud is a safety issue, how can it be an issue one year and not an issue the next year? But look at it this way: if Hammy has another bad year in 2023, he can retire—and then blame the nose stud for getting him out of his game.

marcus ericsson indycar st petersburg
Marcus Ericsson opened the NTT IndyCar Season with a win in Florida.getty images

IndyCar St. Petersburg Results: Marcus Ericsson's Late Pass the Difference

Readers Say:

• mdd1965: Why do the Andretti cars have the worst strategy? They seem to be fastest then somehow end up behind after pit stops. … (As for IndyCar making a quick exit off NBC to join golf in progress) sports on a pay service requires one of two things. Either a service so popular that most of the sport's fans have it anyway. Or a sport so popular that fans will do anything to see it. Peacock and Indy are neither.

Autoweek Contributor Jerry Bonkowski Says:

JB Says: I respect Michael Andretti as a team owner, but he has to have some of the worst luck there is. Honestly, Colton Herta leaving for F1 may be the best thing to ever happen to Andretti Autosport because this is a team that needs a significant top-to-bottom makeover for 2024 if 2023 winds up being the same as 2022, as is the same as 2021, 2020, 2019 and, well, you get the point.

Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski