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Tech Mailbag

Have questions about the technical side of racing? Send them to:  PruettsTechMailbag@Racer.com

 

Q: I have been wondering about a couple of things on the F1 cars regarding the engine cover and rear wing. Even before the F-duct, we used to see large shark fins on the engine cover, but now there is only a minimal area on some of the cars. Why is that? I was also wondering why F1 cars don't make use of the goose neck/candy cane style of rear wing pylon. I would think that they could integrate the DRS mechanism into it. With the way the some of the Le Mans Prototype cars have the required fin line up with a single candy cane pylon, I'm surprised we haven't seen something similar in F1.
Daniel, Atlanta, GA

MP: It's more of a general answer than a specific one on F1 engine cover fins. Trends, either driven by interpreting the rules or through genuine innovation, are often followed and eventually change. Team Penske was one of the originators, if not the very first Indy car team to add small fins to their engine covers in the early 1990s, and barely two races went by before most of the other teams had their own versions installed. Looking at the 2014 F1 designs, Williams has a pronounced blade-like fin that follows the general contour of the engine cover while McLaren has a much smaller blade running down the MP4-29's spine. Depending on the shape of each team's engine cover and the aerodynamic benefit they feel will come from the height of a fin, different decisions are made.

On the swan neck rear wing mounting solution, keep in mind this year's F1 rules require the exhaust outlet to run down the middle of the chassis – below where a single swan would normally be mounted to the chassis without interruption. Despite this rule, you will note swans are being used, but not in the same bog and obvious manner they're employed in LMP1. They can also serve as the actuators for the DRS system, adding another layer of complexity to their design in F1.

Q: What suspension design changes can be expected if F1 adopts 18-inch tires? Also, can 18-inch tires be adopted to the current Indy cars?
Redding Finney

MP: Other than changes to where the A-arms mount to the uprights, I would not expect to see anything significant in terms of suspension development if and when F1 moves to larger wheels and tires. Almost anything can be adopted to a spec racing car, so the answer is yes on IndyCar. Depending on the wheel and tire sizing, bodywork clearance would be the first knock-on item to consider, and with a possible change in brake vendors being considered, disc and caliper fitment would also need a re-think, along with brake cooling.

PoconoQ: Superspeedway spring rates: How do the spring rates at each corner affect the DW12's handling in corners at Indy and Pocono? I understand that a softer spring gives more grip, but how do they prevent the right front from bottoming out yet give the RF proper grip?

Fuel mileage: You made the observation that Honda had better fuel mileage than Chevy at Houston. However, it seemed that Chevy closed the gap or even had better mileage than Honda at Pocono based on what I saw from the stands. What can the engine manufacturers change on the engine from race to race to improve mileage?
Aaron, Lafayette, IN

MP: There's more than one philosophy on open-wheel springing when it comes to ovals. Most engineers choose their springs, and they are almost always different at each corner, to provide optimal crossweighting – a high spring rate on the right rear to push diagonally across onto the left front, and so on. In basic terms, yes, a softer spring will provide more mechanical grid, but the spring isn't the only adjustment or tool to manage ride height while cornering. Anti-roll bars will control chassis lean, ride height settings obviously play a big role, and depending on the engineer, packers or bump rubbers will be used to prevent the car from bottoming too heavily. A track like Pocono definitely asks for more mechanical grip than Indy, for example, so you'd see teams working more on mechanical compliance than at a track where a solid and stable aerodynamic platform plays a greater part in achieving fast lap speeds.

On fuel mileage, manufacturers are constantly evolving their respective engine mapping – it's the most accessible outlet to find gains between races. As for Houston vs. Pocono, keep in mind mapping on a street course where drivers are coasting into the brake zones, at partial throttle many times each lap, and working up and down the gears is a lot different than a big oval where they spend most of each lap at wide open throttle. It's easy for one manufacturer to get the jump on wide-open mapping while the other ekes out an advantage on partial-throttle maps.

Q: I just finished reading the various State Of The Union pieces, and I'm just amazed at how amateurish the whole merger was handled. Especially with the prototypes.

Would it have been SOOO bad if they left all of the classes unchanged from 2013 and (gasp) had 5 classes for 1 season? The DP teams have sunk ridiculous amounts of money I to updating their cars to compete with the P2 entries, and for what? IMSA could've said, "OK for 1 season we'll have both a DP and a P2 class (in addition to PC, and the two GT classes). 2014 will be a transition year as we build for the future". They'd have a full year of technical feedback to work with when it came to trying to integrate DP and P2 under 1 roof.
Otto Kinzel

MP: Technically, spiritually, and in every other related word that ends in 'ally,' you're spot-on, Otto. I said the same thing last year, have said it this year and continue to wonder why separate points for P2s and DPs seemed like too tall of a task to handle. Granted, I love how far DPs have come with the long overdue upgrades IMSA approved, but seeing as how I didn't have to pay for any of those upgrades, my opinion means little to cash-strapped DP team owners.

Whatever, we have a blended Prototype class with three distinct vehicle types (don't forget the DeltaWing) and the racing – at least among the individual P2s and DPs, instead across the entire class – has been good. I'm hoping the series can make some tweaks for 2015 that makes the Prototype racing better than good and closer to great.


SNE15502

Q: After Aleshin's crash (in Toronto) I heard a few comments on "WE NEED ROLLCAGES TO PROTECT OUR GUYS." F1 also talked about that a few years ago after that crash in Spa's first turn when Alonso almost got decapitated. I saw a guy posting an image of an open-wheel car with a roll cage--do you think we'll have to look after things like that in open-wheel competition?
Chip Toone

MP: Yes, at some point, F1, IndyCar, and every other form of professional open-wheel racing will need to evolve and adopt some form of protective canopy. Massive head injuries happened more often than anyone wants to remember prior to many of the modern safety advancements that were spurred on in the 1970s. From Francois Cevert to Tom Pryce, bludgeoning or worse has taken place, and many of us lost a dear friend in Dan Wheldon when he was struck by a steel pole just three years ago this October.

As open-wheel racing looks to take its next steps creatively and through logical safety improvements, the thought of drivers racing in tiny cockpit with their heads exposed seems like a left-over relic from back in the day, not something we continue to practice as an afterthought in 2014.

Q: I have given up on P2s being able to win races in TUSCC this season. They are able to be fast and win poles, but under the present circumstances, they can only win races at certain tracks and under certain very specific conditions.

Do you think any of that will change next season when most if not all of the open-cockpit P2s are replaced by P2 coupes (HPD, Ligier, etc.)? Will the fact that these are new designs (compared to the existing ancient P2 designs) help them compete with the DPs?

Aside from that, are there likely to be any BoP Changes coming for next season that would make the racing more competitive between P2s and DPs? New Tire regs, perhaps? More downforce/less horsepower for DPs?
S2000_moose

MP: I absolutely believe a new generation of P2 coupes will be more competitive than the current fleet of open-top Morgans, ORECAS and HPDs. Keep in mind that most of the P2s we've seen in IMSA this year, barring the Multimatic-Mazda chassis, are getting rather old. Aerodynamic gains alone will be a big help, and as even the Multimatic has shown, cornering speeds are always going to be impressive. The Ligier JS P2 dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans on its debut in June, and but for some wonky new-car mechanical issues, was on its way to a decisive class win. The improved aero and mechanical efficiency won't fix the torque and tire warming deficit they face against DPs, but if they can reduce their lap times elsewhere, we could see the two types of cars mingle a bit more under braking and off the corners.

No clue on what IMSA will do for next year. I know of a few ideas that have been batted around, but we'll have to wait and see if any of them become a reality.

Q: Are air boxes present or absent in the 2015 aero kits? I caught a piece of a discussion about that on one of the forums and there didn't seem to be a clear answer. Also, from Walker's comments I'd guess that the sidepods will look substantially different. In a good way. And that's good. IndyCar!
Mike Thurman

MP: IndyCar aero kit manufacturers can keep or ditch the overhead airboxes, and from everything I've been told, both have binned them so we should have Champ Car and CART-style low-slung engine covers. Not so sure the sidepods will be as drastically different as we'd hoped; Walker told RACER last month that allowing more freedom with sidepod design is the one regret he has with the 2015 regulations.

Q: I have really enjoyed your mailbags this year, and although it is a bit late, I have two questions about this year's Le Mans:

1) Before the season started you wrote that the new fuel consumption rules would have a strong effect on the racing at Le Mans. Was the effect as big as you expected, and how did it show up during the race?

2) I don't know if this was a trick of the light or not, but the spacer between the swan neck and the rear wing on the Audis seemed to be a transparent material. What was it made of?
Campbell Perry

MP: Great question, Campbell. I was very concerned the racing would suffer due to the fuel consumption restrictions placed on the LMP1-Hybrid cars, and so far, it looks like those fears have been unfounded. To be fair, everything during pre-season testing said the new rules would indeed dial down the ferocity of LMP1-H competition; one team reported coasting between 0.5 to 0.7 kilometers per lap to meet the maximum fuel consumption limits, but based on what I've seen firsthand at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the costing isn't obvious, nor does it detract from the show.

The actual mount between the carbon swan and the main rear wing element is made out of metal – looks like aluminum.

2014LM24PruettTues61014 420Q: I found Rob Edwards' answer about Schmidt Peterson staffing very interesting, The technical staffing sounds about right, but I was surprised about the "three commercial and office staff." Where are the people who solicit sponsorships and work with sponsors on events? Where are the people who handle the advertising and public relations activities for the team? Who is doing their website and social media? Do the teams and drivers, and therefore the series, have such a low profile and sponsor problems because no one is working it?

Sam Schmidt is an inspirational story that could be told in every market. Aleshin is interesting story that would be easy to present in every market. Pagenaud is a proven, successful driver with two wins and a fourth place in the title fight. Good, interesting stories are sad when they are not told.
John in Charleston

MP: It's not uncommon for a smaller team like SPM to outsource many of those marketing/PR/sponsor hunting responsibilities. Rather than pay full salaries for 3-5 people, healthcare, benefits, etc., it's a wise move to sign an annual contract for a fraction of the cost to acquire the same services.


2015 Lights

Q: What would have to be sacrificed to make an Indy Lights car that costs $75K instead of $235K? Safety? Reliability? Drivability compared to the DW12?

Or is there enough interest in teams to shell out $1 million for a primary and backup for two drivers (before engine lease)?

By the way, the car does look sharp. I just hope there's enough interest to get more than a handful of them on track.
Alan K, Raleigh, NC

MP: Awesome question, Alan. To hit that price point, it would need to be a spaceframe car and carry over a lot of the existing components from the 2002-era Infiniti Pro Series car. Mass producing a full carbon tub, a bespoke bell housing, sourcing a proper transmission, all of the data systems, electronics and paddle-shifting bits, brake systems, suspension, dampers, wings, bodywork and the floor has become an expensive endeavor – no matter who's manufacturing the car.

Going to a chassis made from either a steel tubeframe wrapped in aluminum panels or a spaceframe monocoque using aluminum honeycomb panels would be the first area to save money, but the last open-wheel ladder series car I worked on that featured that type of construction was the Swift DB-4 in 1991, and even then, only the bottom half of the chassis was made from aluminum honeycomb – the top half was carbon. Reverting back to decades-old construction materials and methods would drop the price, but I'm not sure we'd be maintaining the necessary level of safety.

Simply put, if you go low-tech, the price comes down, but with a 12-year-old Indy Lights chassis currently in use and painfully small grids, it's safe to say going even lower tech with a next-generation car would make the problem worse. A kid wanting to reach the Indy 500 or F1 wants to drive a cutting-edge car at the top rung of the ladder and, in 2014, those cars aren't cheap.

Another aspect to consider: While Dallara hopes to sell dozens of IL15s, it's doubtful they'll push more than 12-15 out the door by the time the 2015 season begins. It's a comparatively low-volume market and from an economy-of-scale standpoint, having to make 15 of something costs more than producing 30 or 60 of the same item. As the Lights series continues to rebuild, hopefully they'll move a lot more cars but, at least for now, Dallara has to set its pricing based on limited sales.

Q: Please explain the FRIC system in F1 cars.
James R. Thomson

MP: Here's what I wrote in the last Mailbag, James:

FRIC is a relatively modern concept that connects the front and rear shocks through a hydraulic management system. Most racing cars have independent front and rear suspensions which must be set up to manage roll, dive, and squat. Teams do their best to get the front and rear settings close enough to have both ends of the car working in unison – creating a good balance for the driver – while also delivering a high level of performance.

With FRIC, some F1 teams have tied all four corners of the car together through hydraulic actuation – done away with each end acting in a true independent manner. The biggest benefits include running lower ride heights and better ride height management – controlling the car's floor to generate more downforce.

Q: Will Buckypaper replace carbon fiber and bloom energy replace fuel and batteries when it comes to racing car construction, or is it just too expensive and not that important things to be replaced?
Cheers from Brazil,
Giu

MP: I'd say Buckypaper is the most likely to be adopted right away, provided its rigidity and deformation in an impact exceeds current state-of-the-art carbon-fiber. Bloom's fuel cell concept is really interesting, but in racing, size and weight matter, and if they can miniaturize a unit to replace an internal combustion engine, there's no reason it couldn't be used. Like most new technologies, both items are in their infancy, but as someone who grew up in an era where new technologies were embraced in racing, I'd love to see some of the spec-minded series open the door to these kinds of innovations. Beyond tech advancements, the commercial opportunities are also considerable.

Q: Based on your experience of engineering racecars, how many people would it take to properly engineer and work on a USF2000 or Pro Mazda car, and could a person use Formula SAE members to do some of the work?
Joe, San Jose

MP: Hi Joe – greetings from 15 miles up the road. Formula SAE experience would be perfect for any team on the open-wheel ladder or in sports cars. For USF2000, one mechanic and one engineer – sometimes, it's the same person doing both jobs on a single-car team, and for a multi-car team, it's not uncommon to have individual mechanics and an engineer plus a data engineer handling the fleet. You'd also see the same model in Pro Mazda – it's all about the size of the team.

Q: Regarding the Dave Sims article on RACER (about IMSA's lack of a traveling safety team -Ed) : We all know that the NASCAR control of sports car racing is devastating to the sport. I, like Sims, go way back. In fact my first endurance sports car race as a fan was 1962 at Bridgehampton. I've traveled the U.S. to see endurance events and have done Sebring 15 years and the 24 at Daytona six times but not since the original IMSA died.

The disbanding of the IMSA team is a disgrace. (My other passion is 410 sprint cars. I'm amazed at the safety at many ovals: OK, lack of safety). I'm amazed the manufacturers who have made the GT (no need to say LM) racing so great are staying with this model. Is there another John Bishop out there to poach the best to start the new IMSA?

On a positive note: they have improved things since the yellow flag event at Sebring, but again the Glen was a disgrace. Fans don't want competition manufactured!
Ed Church

MP: The IMSA Safety Team was a great point of pride for all those at the ALMS, including its top brass. I know for a fact that serious discussions are taking place about its possible return.


IN1 5176

Q: Since they say that Ford has no interest in returning to supply engines for Indy cars and that Cosworth wants to, under another manufacturer's name, has anyone considered contacting maybe Jaguar or Volvo since they are no longer under the Ford ownership? That would be neat! Seeing some engines supplied by Jaguar, Volvo, Volkswagen, BMW, or maybe even Aston Martin.

The return of Buick power would get my attention, too, even though I know they're owned by GM which gives us the Chevys; but it would be sweet to see some engine manufacturer expansion, as everybody else is saying. And I agree. I know it's a pipe dream but at least I should think Jaguar could be at some liberty being owned by TATA. Imagine: Jaguar-Cosworth engines. I just hope that if that was considered by the Indy car big bosses, that there's enough time to test and work out every bug so it doesn't end up like Lotus in 2012. And hopefully much more competitive compared to when they raced in Formula 1.

And as for what everyone says that the people who run the IndyCar Series is doing a pathetic job. I have to agree. Curse Tony George for the Split. Clearly Cheech Marin would do a much better job at running and promoting the series than what we've got right now.
Aaron, Media, PA

MP: Unfortunately, Cheech doesn't know the right people at many of the car companies you mentioned, but IndyCar President of Competition Derrick Walker does and has met with some of them and a few others about joining the series. Jag would be the most obvious of those you've mentioned – so much of their current marketing plan involves promoting itself as a high-performance brand, and for a relatively small sum (compared to NASCAR), they would have a great chance to elevate their brand through open-wheel in North America.

rainQ: I have several questions:

1) If temporary street courses present different conditions and challenges when compared to road courses, how come Firestone doesn't develop a rain tires specific to these circumstances? Taking Toronto into consideration, I remember that when the track was just wet it was way too slick. Does it all boil down to ROI & costs or is my idea too far-fetched?

2) I may be mistaken, but It looks like the concrete fencing required for temporary street circuits greatly reduces water drainage. Can't they figure out a way to install a hose with ducts in critical areas right next to and along the bottom of the fencing and hook it to a ventilation/vacuum system? Also, if possible, install it on the opposite side of the preferred driving line to minimize the chance of it getting damaged and turning into debris. It could also help with the lack of airflow caused by the fencing.

3) A lot has been said about the P2 tire temperature problem. Weren't P2s required to change their wheel size for the reunification of the series? Wheel size makes a huge difference in unsprung weight, offset, etc. If so, wouldn't it be better for them to be allowed to go back to the original wheel size and have Continental develop a better compound for the P2 characteristics?
Rudy Lopez, Canton, Ohio

MP: Firestone makes excellent slicks and has made excellent rains in the past. As you point out, their prices have gone up and they've had to reduce costs, so I'd suggest the lack of rain tire options has to do with budgets. They certainly don't lack the knowledge or capabilities to manufacture rain tires that would have allowed drivers to race harder at Toronto.

Great idea on aiding drainage, and P2 wheel size isn't the issue. DP teams were the ones that went to new, lighter single-piece wheels for 2014. P2 wheels have been/are plenty light – a slightly softer compound would do the trick, but I doubt separate P2 and DP tires will ever happen. I've asked, and received a vaguely hostile reply from the vendor on that topic...

Q: With the new aero packages coming out, will IndyCar have to change any rules to keep the cars competitive? New bodywork will mean downforce levels may vary between the two cars, but I understand wing main plate angles are specified at some tracks. Will this specified angle cause a car with more downforce from the bodywork to dominate at street courses and bring up the rear on the big ovals? Will the two manufacturers be able to come up with new wing designs (and crazy front wing vanes like F1)?
Ryan D. Gamber

MP: I sure hope they don't. Allowing genuine innovation and creativity into the series for the first time in ages is great. Balancing those cars if one has a superior design would seem like a massive waste of everyone's money. If Chevy or Honda finds an edge, they need to keep it until the other one can respond with a better mousetrap. Look for downforce to go way up on road and street courses, and drag to come down on big ovals. I don't expect either manufacturer to end up far ahead or behind at any track. You could see some creative wing profiles, but I don't think they'll be too insane. Wings have been sent into the wind for many years – there's not a lot that's left to discover.

Q: As we know, the new engine for Indy Lights is a turbocharged inline-4 made by AER (having previous experience with that kind of engine through their work with Dyson Racing). The last P1 Dyson car had an engine designated as the MZR-R by Mazda and the P80 by AER. As the new Indy Lights power plant is designated the P63, are there any similarities or shared components between the two? And is there a future for that engine in sports cars?
Patrick Palony

MP: I asked the fine people at AER to help with an in-depth answer to your question, Patrick:

The AER P63 engine is a new and features proven components and applications from the previous, port-injected P07 and P70 / P80 inline 4-cylinder turbocharged designs. The P63 engine has been optimized for a single-seater application and at present there are no plans for the engine to appear in sports car racing.


 

 89P4508Q: I see Formula E (pictured, ABOVE) is scheduled to visit Long Beach on April 4 next year on a track slightly different than what IndyCar uses. Based on the 2014 IndyCar schedule, this race would be one week prior to a potential IndyCar race. Is IndyCar moving to a different track, and is IndyCar concerned a Formula E race so close on the calendar might impact promotion/attendance?
Lou, Edina, MN

MP: It's the same track, and IndyCar should be concerned. I'd work with the folks at the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach and the FIA Formula E series to fold their event into the Grand Prix at Long Beach – it benefits all parties.

919 hQ: I keep hearing surprise that the Porsche 919 doesn't use it's exhaust energy recovery system in the anti-lag role. I've also heard Sam Collins of Racecar Engineering say he feels Porsche is wrong to think that they wouldn't benefit from it.

My question is, why is this being said? If you are harvesting wasted energy from the exhaust what is the difference if that same energy is applied to spin up the turbo or if it is used on the front axle, which would then put direct power to the track while the turbo is "lagging"? Seems to me Porsche is right here, especially when you consider that Audi dropped the anti-lag system on the R18 and that F1 teams only run what they are told to run, and therefore do not necessarily have the most efficient system.
Eric Hall, WI

MP: Great question, Eric. Attempting to read the mind of my dear old friend Sam Collins is always a perilous endeavor, but I'd guess he's referring to one key item. First, and as you rightly point out, the instant-on power provided by the hybrid system helps to minimize any effects that turbo lag would induce, but with the turbo ERS helping to keep the turbine spooled up when the driver's off the throttle, you'd get a faster build of power from the engine and the hybrid power combining to increase acceleration. Think of it as adding onto what the hybrid system sends to the front wheels.

Second – while there would be a benefit to using an ERS-based anti-lag system due to the sheer size of Porsche's single turbo mated to a small-displacement 4-cylinder engine, it's likely they determined the reward was minimal, and as the most efficient LMP1-H car in the class, I'd assume they were concerned about parasitic friction.

On one final note, Porsche has also been revealed as a LMP1-H constructor that doesn't mind bending the truth when it comes to revealing the systems and functionalities the 919 contains beneath the bodywork. Statements made about using/not using ERS anti-lag should be taken with a high level of skepticism.

Q: Ignoring for the moment that Acura just fried a production NSX in Germany, a growing number of companies are producing hybrid sports cars that will be hitting the market in 2015/2016, but there is nowhere to race them. Where do you think we will first see BMW, Porsche, Honda and McLaren racing their hybrid sports cars? ACO? GT3? What are the challenges of balancing the performance of these machines?
Ed Joras

MP: My guess is Pirelli World Challenge, if they want to bring them Stateside. We're a ways off from hybrid GTE cars, and I'm not sure how many GT3 pro-am drivers/owners, at least at the moment, want the hassle of hybrid cars to deal with. It's definitely a question that needs answering from the ACO, FIA and IMSA ASAP.

Q: Perhaps this is technical perhaps not. I watched qualifying for the Grand Prix of Hungary this weekend and I watched Rosberg turn a 1:23.310 in Q2 on the soft tires. I then saw him turn a 1:22.9 in his first Q3 run and then a 1:22.715 on the soft tires later in Q3. Had he run soft tires in Q1 it would have likely been a high 1:23. I get that the track evolves as rubber it put down, but why does it evolve so much in qualifying and not much in practice? Is it because on long runs drivers aren't laying down as much rubber as they do when they push qualifying runs? To give you an idea drivers ran 730 laps in Free Practice 2 and 293 laps in qualifying. Yet over the course of qualifying the track improved significantly more than it appears to do in practice.
Ryan

MP: Rubber being put down helps, but keep in mind the type of lap time progressions seen in qualifying come because it's the first regimented session of the event. Prior to qualifying, teams use free practice sessions to work on a variety of options like chassis setup, tire degradation, testing of new components and 20 other things that involve articulated run plans. Rarely will you see a team send a driver out with the sole mission of producing the fastest lap from start to finish until the end of the final practice session prior to qualifying. The same is true in IndyCar and most other series – outright lap speed is something that tends to become a focus when qualifying nears, and up until that point, shaping the car into race trim – through trying different setups, tires, etc. – is all that really matters. You will have an exception at tracks where grid position plays a major part in how the race will finish, but those are select instances on the calendar.

Reliability biggest Mercedes worry

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The Mercedes Formula 1 team says fixing recent reliability problems is its main priority, rather than diffusing the team orders controversy at the recent Hungarian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton has failed to complete either of the last two qualifying sessions owing to technical issues with his car, and controversy flared during last Sunday's Hungaroring race when Hamilton ignored a request from Mercedes to let teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg pass him.

The Mercedes drivers were running alternate strategies owing to the fact Hamilton had to start from the pitlane after his car was stopped by fire caused by a fuel leak in the early stages of Q1 on Saturday.

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff said preventing problems like this and the brake failure Hamilton suffered at the German Grand Prix was the most important priority for his team.

"Reliability is our main concern," he said. "So we have to push flat-out and understand why it is happening.

"We are trying to sort and fix problems and when you fix problems you are running behind, you are chasing and can't really catch up. We need to calm down, analyze everything properly and come back with more power after the summer break."

Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has backed Hamilton's decision to ignore team orders and Wolff has admitted the team could have handled the situation differently at the time. But Lauda dismissed suggestions Hamilton's recent run of reliability issues and the team orders controversy meant Mercedes was favoring Rosberg.

"I hate this discussion," he said. "Both guys, from day one, have the same cars – everything is equal. Unfortunately, the engine that failed was Lewis's. These things should not fail.

"We're going to fix them. We want both to have the same material and race each other the way they want."

RELIABILITY WOES AN ONGOING ISSUE

Lewis Hamilton's spectacular failures in qualifying for the German and Hungarian Grands Prix highlighted how important reliability will be in the title fight this year. Although the issues have prompted wild talk across the internet of a conspiracy to deliberately favor Rosberg, the reality is that both drivers have suffered car failures during the campaign.

Here is the run down of the issues that both men have faced during 2014:

HAMILTON
Australia: Engine stops in FP1; retires from race with spark plug insulator failure
China: FRIC issue in FP1 limits running
Canada: Retires from race after ERS-K failure and brake failure
Britain: MGU-K problem limits running in FP2
Germany: Brake disc failure in Q1
Hungary: Fuel leak in Q1 causes fire

ROSBERG
China: Telemetry problem in race, finishes second
Spain: ERS problem limits FP1 running
Canada: ERS-K failure in race, finishes second
Austria: ERS problem limits FP1 running
Britain: Retires from race with gearbox problem

 

Originally on Autosport.com

1965-action2Back in January, we ran a story about favorite racecars and asked RACER.com readers to select their top five. Your votes flooded in and, in the end, we had more than 400 different racecars to consider… but 10 clear favorites emerged.

Many of you had found it tricky to narrow your favorites down to just five, yet some of you had a clear No. 1 and no others. And, like ours, many of your selections were ones that fulfilled multiple criteria from a personal point of view – aesthetic beauty, period when you were first becoming addicted to racing, success, livery, piloted by your heroes. We understand, completely!

Your favorite racecars #10: Porsche 956/962

Your favorite racecars #9: Chaparral 2K

Your favorite racecars #8: Lotus 49

Your favorite racecars #7: Lola T70

Your favorite racecars #6: Ford GT40

Your favorite racecars #5: Porsche 917K

Your favorite racecars #4: Ferrari 330 P3/P4

3. Lotus 381965Indy1

The Lotus 29 had confirmed the concept of a rear-/mid-engined car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 34 had shown what not to do – namely swapping from Firestone to Dunlop without adequate testing. And then the 38 sealed the deal – a win in the greatest race of all. Now, almost 50 years on, RACER/RACER.com readers have voted Colin Chapman’s third Indy car at No. 3 in their all-time list of Favorite Racecars.

How the wheel turns! Lotus was not exactly pilloried for the way its 1963 Lotus 29 kept up with the far more powerful roadsters of the day at the Indianapolis 500, but certainly Colin Chapman’s gang wasn’t made welcome that first year. It just seemed too easy, too foreign and too untraditional at a venue with over a half a century of brick-built tradition.

Jack Brabham’s performance in 1961 had first shown the potential of the mid/rear-engined concept at the Brickyard. Despite his 171 cu. in. (2.8-liter) Climax-engined Cooper T54 being burdened with a 200hp deficit, and being 8-10mph down on terminal speed at the end of the two straights compared with the roadsters, it was that same amount quicker through the turns. As a result, “Black Jack” qualified 13th and finished ninth – pretty impressive for an underpowered, modified F1 car.

So after Dan Gurney had urged Chapman (RIGHT, with Clark in ’65) to visit the “500” in ’62, “Chunky” did the obvious math. If he brought a highly modified and strengthened Lotus 25-type chassis to carry on smoking the roadsters through the turns but used a more powerful engine to get closer to matching the big boys’ straightline performance, suddenly racing’s biggest payout could be heading back across the Atlantic. A couple months later, Gurney and Chapman headed to Dearborn, Mich., and convinced Ford to build a very heavily modified version of the Fairlane’s 256 cu.in. (4.2-liter) motor.

63pitstopWith this 370hp unit, the Lotus 29s of Jimmy Clark (LEFT) and Gurney qualified fifth and 12th and finished second and seventh in that first year and the combo of Parnelli Jones and Ol’ Calhoun – A.J. Watson's gorgeous front-engined roadster – only just beat the British invasion, despite Parnelli being a genuine genius of a driver with around 80hp extra from his Offenhauser. Chapman's math had not been faulty. At Milwaukee in August, Clark and Gurney locked out the front row and Clark won; at Trenton one month later, again the Lotus pair dominated qualifying although neither car finished. But the writing was on the concrete walls surrounding every oval in America: the revolution was here.

Ford’s quad-cam, fuel-injected V8 for the 1964 Lotus 34 would surely have allowed Clark and Gurney to blow everyone into the weeds at Indy, given that it produced 425hp. But Chapman had already inadvertently killed Lotus’s chances that year with a move from Firestone to the grippier but less durable Dunlops. Clark and Gurney qualified first and sixth, but Dan had discovered on full tanks that his tires were overheating and losing chunks of tread. Dunlop honorably and swiftly came up with an alternative compound and design, but it wasn’t enough. Clark 1964ClarkMarshmanaction-7365led but the vibrations caused by the tires losing rubber and going out of balance caused his rear suspension to collapse just before quarter-distance and Gurney’s car was retired as a safety precaution just past half-distance. In truth, the excellent Bobby Marshman (RIGHT, chasing Clark), who’d qualified second could have netted that win: he was using last year’s Lotus 29 but with the new quad-cam Ford and running on Firestone rubber. That seemed like the perfect lineup, but Marshman retired with failed transmission.

However, the inherent rightness of the Lotus 34 was proven by Parnelli, as he used a Lotus to dominate at Milwaukee and Trenton. The following year, A.J. Foyt, who’d scored the last Indy win for the roadsters a year earlier, used a 34 to beat Clark to pole for the “500.” In fact, five of the top seven places on the grid for the 1965 Indy 500 were from Lotus. But it was Jimmy’s new 38 that dominated.

Designer Len Terry, who’d just finished helping Colin Chapman evolve the 1963 F1 World Championship-winning Lotus 25 into the 33, had been assigned the task of designing the 38, and what emerged was a sleeker-looking car than its two predecessors. Its nose was longer and its air intake narrower because, unlike in the 29 and the 34, the Ford engine in the 38 would be running methanol, which runs cooler, allowing for a smaller radiator.

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A019This choice of juice also bumped the Ford’s output to around 500hp, but inevitably increased fuel consumption, which had been a Lotus ace card when running pump fuel the previous two years. Along with the design’s relative kindness to tires (well, Firestones, anyway…) it meant Clark had needed to pit just once to Jones’s three stops back in ’63. And so Terry’s 38 design compensated for the car’s new thirstiness with a 40 percent increase in fuel capacity, with tanks on either side of the cockpit and behind the seat. Chapman, who’d recognized the need for slicker pit work, also hired the mighty Wood Brothers NASCAR team to minimize time spent standing still.

The stars had aligned perfectly for ’65, then. Aside from a brief moment of resistance from Foyt at the start, and a distant challenge by Jones, Clark won as he pleased, leading 190 of the 200 laps and setting a new record average speed of 150.686mph to become the first non-American to win the race since 1916.

2030When the following year’s Lotus IndyCar, the Type 42 proved to be a failure – burdened with BRM’s ridiculously overambitious H16 engine, how could it not be? – Lotus brought its Ford-powered 38s back to the Brickyard, now smothered in the striking STP Orange (LEFT). And Clark may have won again. The record books show that it was Graham Hill’s Lola that crossed the line first, but confusion still surrounds whether one of Clark’s laps was credited to his teammate, Al Unser, by mistake after Jimmy spun. If that was the case, Jimmy was the winner and Gordon Johncock relegated Hill to third….

These many years on, we'll never know for certain. Maybe it's immaterial, though: Lloyd Ruby was clearly the quickest at Indy in ’66, driving an Eagle designed by…Len Terry. An oil leak robbed him of justice.

In ’67, Team Lotus was back, again with the 38s, but a dropped piston caused Clark to DNF.

Regardless, the Lotus 38 has passed into immortality now and your votes (along with the comments below) reflect that. Even aside from its provenance, its visual appeal can’t be faulted. In the early to mid 1960s, Formula 1 cars were pretty but spindly, with anemic 1.5-liter/200hp engines. The 38 had a 4.2-liter V8 with more than twice the power, and its necessarily more substantial chassis gave it a far more aggressive stance than its European contemporaries, yet it was still clothed in a Lotus-typical sleek body that perfectly suited the glorious British Racing Green-and-yellow color scheme. And while the idea of yellow exhausts sounds garish, they actually enhanced a car whose livery was relatively simple compared with the roadsters it was up against, covered as they were by sponsor names, logos and the names of the principal players on the team. (And this author thinks Andy Granatelli's STP Orange livery with white exhausts suits the 38 just fine, too.)

Let’s also credit Clark with some of the 38’s enduring popularity, for he’s as much revered here in the U.S. as in his native Scotland. Aside from Chapman’s indignant yelping at officials when Parnelli’s Watson-Offy was leaking oil on the track in the ’63 “500,” Colin and Jimmy handled their losses at the Brickyard with good grace and truly paid their dues before (and after) victory. Jimmy won over not only his fiercest rivals butClark65Indy also the crowd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway each May, just by being a modest racer of immodest talent. He truly fitted in well among the no-B.S. Indy car fraternity. To this day, Jones and Foyt still speak fondly of him.

For many of us, the early rear-engined Indy car era is still one of the most fascinating times and places in motorsports history, and leading the pack of game changers is the Lotus 38.

Some of your comments…

Dennis Wingfield: “This is the best looking racecar ever, hands down!”

Lindsay Fraser: “Interesting to see the frequency with which the 49 is mentioned but I feel that may be more associated with its significance from a technical advancement perspective and less from its looks.  The lines on the 38, with the exhaust system dominating the flow of the shape, would make it stick out even if it never won anything!”

Brian Henris: “Maybe it's because this car and Jim Clark attracted me as a small child to auto racing, but it still looks fast.”

Jerry Sudduth: “The first rear-engine car to win Indy had both the form and function you'd expect from a Lotus, especially in a British Racing Green and yellow livery.”

John G. Hill: “There is a fondness in my heart for Dan Gurney's F1 Eagle, but for me the car that really took my breath away, and made America pay attention to the new changing of the guard, the Jim Clark Indy Lotus 38, with that magnificent green and yellow paint combination. Who ever thought of yellow painted headers and exhaust?”

Royal Richardson: “Visually stunning, perfectly painted and very effective. As a kid, A.J. Foyt was the driver in our household; then Jimmy came along and stole my breath away. I still love this car…”

John Fulton: “Perfect by the standards of that era.  It's as if Len Terry was saying, ‘Top this, if you can’”

Tom Jensen: “The Lotus 38 that Jim Clark drove to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500 was so beautiful and so right that it needs no words to enhance. The perfect car and the perfect driver at the perfect moment in history.”

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ABOVE: James Hinchcliffe has an Andretti Autosport ride, Simon Pagenaud might be in line for one, but both face a few twists and turns before settling 2015 plans.

 

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But for a few drivers looking to maintain or possibly upgrade their current situations, this year's IndyCar's Silly Season will likely be remembered for stability rather than blockbuster moves.

As RACER's Robin Miller recently revealed, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' Simon Pagenaud is the biggest name on the free agent board, and while there are a few others in need of a new contract, the four-time race winner will dictate how the Silly Season plays out.

"Once we know what Simon's doing and where he goes, I expect the rest of the seats to fall in place," said one driver who's following Pagenaud's movements.

At the top of the list, two of IndyCar's Big 3 teams, Ganassi Racing and Team Penske, are set to return with the same lineups. All four of Ganassi's drivers are under contract through at least 2015, and the same is true for Roger Penske's trio.

Penske holds the strongest driver package in the series right now with Helio Castroneves leading the championship, Will Power close behind in second and Juan Pablo Montoya in fifth. All three have won for The Captain, and with JPM locked in for 2015, the threesome should be even more effective once the Colombian has a year of experience to draw from. Roger has the team everyone wants to be a part of, but sadly, there's no vacancy until 2016 arrives and even that date could be pushed back if JPM remains interested.

Stability can also be found with the defending series champions. 2013 title winner Scott Dixon is a lifelong Ganassi employee, and Charlie Kimball, who is in his fourth season with the team representing sponsor Novo Nordisk, has quickly become a company man. But the conversation starts to shift when we at the other two Ganassi seats and their status 12 months from now.

Newcomer Tony Kanaan has been on a hot streak of late and will be in the No. 10 Target Chevy through 2015, and the same is true for Ryan Briscoe in the No. 8 NTT Data Chevy. Although there's no indication the team is looking to make a change, Ganassi will need to decide whether they want to extend those two contracts into 2016, or consider their options with whoever's on the free agent market. For the drivers in the paddock with hopes of driving for Chip, the stampede begins next year.

And then there's the question of availability. Many of this year's top free agents will have new multi-year contracts signed in the coming weeks and months, and that bodes well for Kanaan and Briscoe... unless some of the bigger free agents sign one-year deals to keep their options open with Ganassi.

pagenaud2Pagenaud is a perfect example of a top-tier driver with a series of hard decisions to make. He was rumored to be on Ganassi's short list, but signing Simon (or any other free agent) would require Ganassi to reach into his pocket and buy TK or Briscoe out their contract at the end of the season. For those who know Chip, he's accustomed to earning money, not spending it, which makes the buy-out scenario hard to fathom.

If Pagenaud wants to drive for Chip, he'd be wise to sign a one-year deal with Schmidt and start negotiating on 2016 after the ink has dried. It's also worth noting that as the closest thing Honda has to a factory driver, a move to Chip's House of Chevy would sever many close relationships within Honda Performance Development.

After Simon's Champ Car career crumbled along with the series, it was Honda that came to the rescue, pairing Pagenaud with Gil de Ferran's Acura ALMS team in 2008. They were also invaluable in helping to kick start his IndyCar career. Simply put, there are genuine ties between Pagenaud and Honda that run deeper than most driver/manufacturer combos, and crossing the line to represent the Bowtie would carry a significant personal and professional toll.

Thinking long term, Simon would be a perfect fit in the No. 10 car and could easily spend a decade alongside Dixie in a Target car, but the timing is far from optimal at the moment and it would be a bit messy on the interpersonal front.


 

lat abbott detroit 05149536Of the Big 3, Andretti Autosport is the only one with a serious chance of having different tenants next year. The Pagenaud-to-Andretti story continues to evolve each day; I awoke Monday to have two well-placed members of the IndyCar paddock telling me it's a done deal, but it isn't.

Granted, it could eventually happen, but you could also see Simon back with team owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson as part of a new multi-year deal. In fact, the odds are leaning in that direction at the moment and all three are believed to have opened a dialogue on drafting a new contract.

If you were Pagenaud and had to weigh the pros and cons, the first question to ask is whether you'd find more success as one of two SPM drivers or as one of four or five Andretti pilots. Going strictly by the numbers, Andretti's Ryan Hunter-Reay has won three races for the AA team this year, and he's closely followed by Pagenaud with two wins for SPM. Granted, one of RHR's win came at the Indy 500, and Pagenaud certainly wants the best shot to have his face immortalized on the Borg-Warner trophy. In that regard, Andretti would seem to hold the upper hand.

The next question would involve the environment offered by both teams, and despite their Big 3 status, could Andretti match the everything-we-do-is-built-and-geared-for-you home that SPM has created for the Frenchman? SPM general manager Rob Edwards, race engineer Ben Bretzman, crew chief Don Oldenburg and the rest of the No. 77 Honda team live and breathe to make Pagenaud a success. Advantage SPM.

The last question involves earning potential, and with both owners known for their frugal spending habits, it's unlikely Pagenaud would earn significantly more money from either contract. That's a draw.

Provided Simon wants a change of view, Andretti would certainly be the No. 1 option to choose within the Honda family, but it's debatable whether that change of scenery would significantly alter his competitive situation. Heading into Mid-Ohio, Pagenaud's fourth in the standings, three points shy of taking third from RHR.

If the past two seasons have taught us anything, it's that SPM has risen to a level where they live among the Big 3, and that only complicates matters for Simon. If he was driving for one of the minnows, moving to Andretti would be a no-brainer, but on almost every front switching camps would appear to be more of a lateral move than a practical upgrade.

He's also heading into the final month of the 2014 championship, and with the title still within his grasp, it's doubtful Pagenaud would let contract negotiations become a distraction. Andretti and SPM still need to put the requisite funding together to put a multi-year deal in front of Pagenaud, and it's highly unlikely the situation will be resolved until after the season finale in Fontana.

hinchA more interesting scenario on the Pagenaud-to-Andretti story involves James Hinchcliffe, who has occupied the No. 27 entry since 2012. Like RHR, Hinch is also seeking a new deal, and one report even positioned the three-time race winner as venturing out to test free agency. A more accurate description would be of the Canadian and the Andretti team needing more time to get the funding together before a new contract can be tendered.

Hinchcliffe isn't silly enough to test free agency this year, making any suggestion he's on the lookout for a better deal comically short-sighted. As I noted with Pagenaud, all the prime seats, other than the one Hinch currently occupies, are filled. With the No. 27 Honda ride open at the moment, Pagenaud will be mentioned as a successor until a deal is concluded and if you're a fan of betting, put your money on Hinch returning to Andretti in 2015.

The Andretti team has also expressed an interest in expanding to five cars next year, and with RHR, Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti and Hinch/Pagenaud filling the first four cars, a fifth car could happen if one or both of the team's Indy Lights drivers can muster the money to graduate.

Adding to the complexity of the situation, slotting Pagenaud into a fifth car is also an option. As Michael Andretti recently told RACER, it's too early to rule anything out: "Do we want to keep Hinch? Yeah. Would we love to have Pagenaud here? Yeah. There's a lot of different things that could happen, so stay tuned."


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Working down the roster of teams, Mikhail Aleshin will be back with SPM, and thanks to the rookie's remarkable pace – especially on ovals – and close working relationship with Pagenaud, the team would be even stronger next year with both drivers continuing in the close-knit program.

Provided Simon signs a new contract to stay with the team, Hinch's return to Andretti would become a formality. A prized seat at SPM – one that's coveted by most free agents – would also be taken off the market.

If, for whatever reason, things go sideways between Pagenaud and SPM, the team has an obvious replacement in Hinchcliffe, whose strong ties to Honda through Honda Canada are well known. Honda favorite Justin Wilson would also be a perfect fit for the team.

KVSH/KV AFS/KV LMNOP Racing has Toronto Race 1 winner Sebastien Bourdais locked into a multi-year deal, and that's nothing but a good thing for both sides. KVSH team owners Kevin Kalkhoven, Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan have transformed the program into a contender at every venue, and "Sulli" is now looking at expanding to two KVSH entries next season.

He's the best sponsor finder in the paddock, fields his own Global Rally Cross team with Nelson Piquet Jr. as his driver (Piquet's leading the GRC championship, and wouldn't be moved over to a second KVSH Indy car, according to Sulli), and tends to make things happen when he sets his mind to it. It's hard to put a percentage on a second KVSH entry coming to fruition, but it's worth keeping an eye on during the offseason.

KV AFS driver Sebastian Saavedra, who enjoys the unwavering support from Automatic Fire Sprinkler owner/sponsor Gary Peterson, has had an unfulfilling string of results since joining the program, yet they are happy with the team, want to continue, and KV echoes the sentiment.

With the KVSH side of the team on the rise and Sulli's interest in adding a second car for 2015, it will be interesting to see whether the program expands to three cars, remains at two, and if Saavedra and Peterson will continue to fit into KV's overhaul without an uptick in overall competitiveness.

WilsonProvided a second KVSH entry materializes, drivers like Hinchcliffe or Justin Wilson would give the team a lot of firepower to place alongside Bourdais.

Wilson and the Dale Coyne Racing team have weathered a trying year, and the Englishman always ranks as one of the most prized free agents in the IndyCar paddock, but with so few openings to pursue, the three-time IndyCar Series race winner is likely set for his fifth season with DCR.

His teammate, Colombian rookie and Houston Race 1 winner Carlos Huertas, has shown promise on occasion and even expanded his current program to include ovals. It's unclear whether Huertas will return in 2015, yet based on his performances so far and the budget he has at his disposal, DCR could hold onto both drivers and build the continuity it so often lacks.

Ed Carpenter wants to keep going with Mike Conway in their ride sharing program with the No. 20 Chevy, and provided Mike isn't lured away with a full-time World Endurance Championship sports car ride, it's a partnership that needs to continue. Minus Conway, Oriol Servia and Luca Filippi could be amenable to such an arrangement, and both would deliver for the team.

A.J. Foyt Racing is talking with Takuma Sato about a possible return for a third season in the No. 14 Honda. The team is always also looking to add a second car and as we noted on Tuesday, it is also interested in fielding an Indy Lights entry.

Buried down between Carlos Huertas and Sebastian Saavedra in the standings, Sato's mired in a disappointing season which makes listing him as a lock to drive the No. 14 somewhat of a challenge. Finishing fifth at Toronto Race 2 was a welcome change of fortune for Taku, and hopefully the trend continues, but if he were to depart the No. 14, the team would be overflowing with suitors.

From within the Honda family, Hinchcliffe and Wilson come to mind as options, and Oriol Servia, Luca Filippi and James Davison could be quality solutions.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan's Graham Rahal will be back with the team next season, and with a second entry to fill, RLL has a rarity on its hands – an open seat with a full staff of mechanics and engineers capable of fielding a front-running program. Based on the near total lack of available drives, I'd expect RLL to command plenty of interest from funded drivers looking to make the jump from Europe, or from Indy Lights drivers trying to land a ride in the big series.

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's Josef Newgarden is under contract for 2015, and could command interest from other teams if and when he moves on. Bryan Herta Autosport's Jack Hawksworth has been a revelation this year – he's only one point behind Newgarden in the standings – and the team has expressed an interest in picking up his option for 2015.

Dennis Reinbold intends to make a return next year, yet other than running the Indy 500, the veteran team owner isn't sure of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's upcoming activities. DRR ran Sage Karam in the Indy 500 through a partnership with Ganassi Racing, and could field the 2013 Indy Lights champion on Aug. 30 at Fontana. The Byrd family will make its long awaited return to the Indy 500 next year, and has signed USAC star Bryan Clauson along with support from KV Racing for an endeavor known as "KVSH/Jonahthan Byrd's Racing."

Finally, plenty of young talent will be looking for homes in the IndyCar Series next year, yet few are known to have the kind of budget required to land a full-season drive. RACER will cover their chances in a future Silly Season update.

Honda Racing MailbagWelcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, Calif.-based company at http://hpd.honda.com/ and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD . Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you.

And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, remember that Marshall Pruett tackles them in his Tech Mailbags each week. Please send tech questions to PruettsTechMailbag@Racer.com.

 

Q: My home race is coming up Robin; the Mid-Ohio Grand Prix in Lexington, Ohio. I’ve been attending the race since Teo Fabi won there in 1983. It's my favorite IndyCar race and unfortunately it is also the most boring race on the IndyCar schedule. The narrow track and undulating terrain makes passing nearly impossible. Since the current IndyCar regime seems open to new ideas, why don't we try something new at Mid-Ohio – a shortcut or Joker if you will?

Leading out of Turn 1 and up towards the Keyhole, drivers could follow the motorcycle part of the race course. Then once during the first half of the race and then again during the second half, the drivers could go straight into the keyhole just as they have done in past years. A line to be painted around the top part of the Keyhole for the shortcut driver to follow so they wouldn't crash into each other on the entrance to the back straight. I know the old coots don't like new ideas for anything that goes away from the so-called “heritage” of the sport, but racing is an entertainment business and right now Mid-Ohio provides very little on-track entertainment.
Don, Chardon Ohio

RM: Have you been talking to Will Power? He attended the Rallycross race at Charlotte recently and suggested in a phone conversation that a “Joker” might be an added benefit at some IndyCar tracks like Mid-Ohio. Owners Kim Green and Kevin Savoree also discussed lengthening the keyhole section and giving the old girl a braking zone, which it desperately needs. But, in these days of alternate tires and push-to-pass, looking at different ways to entertain the fans is paramount and maybe the shortcut is a way to spice things up in Lexington, Ohio.  

Q: Yet another report of increased ratings following the Toronto race. Your Mailbag typically is filled with mentions of low attendance at races, but the reports of increased ratings this year has not seemed to have received much traction. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't TV ratings more important to attracting national sponsors than race attendance? If IndyCar is able to capitalize on these gains and translate them into attracting new sponsors, could this actually be a sign that the series is beginning to head in a positive direction? More sponsors, more money, more teams, more coverage – we need one of these dominoes fall to feed into everything else.‬ On a totally different subject, when can we expect to hear about the 2015 schedule being released?  
John, Clawson, MI

RM: You are correct John. Television ratings rule in that key area and, so far through eight races on NBCSN in 2014, viewership is up 46 percent from 2013. Mike Conway's victory in Race 2 at Toronto was the most-watched Verizon IndyCar Series race telecast on NBCSN since the 2011 Grand Prix of Baltimore. And more than 600,000 people watched the last hour of the Iowa race, which is a damn good number for cable TV on a Saturday night. But, of course, IndyCar’s upswing in ratings is tempered by NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 pulling a 3.2 on ESPN last Sunday. As for the schedule, ideally I would think by Labor Day.

Q: I just watched Hockenheim F1 race and took a peek at the Brickyard; NOBODY came. Nobody goes to racing anymore in this country and when they’re not going in Europe, things must be bad. Racing fans are like Frank Zappa fans, we recognize unique greatness and appreciate the talent that few others do, but it is not reflected in sales and it just isn't enough. We yearn for the days when CART was bringing fans to the tracks and Nigel, Ayrton, and the Professor were thrilling us in F1. IndyCar has lots of different people winning and F1 is actually not a fait accomplit for the first time in three years so where is everybody? I know I wrote last week saying you could see better on TV than at the track and I sound like a hypocrite now but good racing is not the reason not to go.
Tom in Waco

RM: Attendance for auto races is a universal problem and, at least from the perspective of IndyCar, it’s got nothing to do with the quality of driving or racing. People just don’t care like they use to and they’ve found other things to do.  NASCAR still gets damn good TV ratings (a 15 in Indianapolis) and has loyal driver followings but that’s the Catch-22 because more and more are staying home and watching. IMS was only a quarter full for the Brickyard 400 last Sunday and it looked awful but in reality a crowd of 50,000 would be the second or third largest of the season for IndyCar. Iowa was half full, Pocono was pretty barren, Toronto was a shell of its former self and Fontana will be sparse. As I’ve been saying, a crowd of 30,000 must be considered a good one for the Verizon IndyCar Series these days.

Q: A couple years ago, you trumpeted the fact the Indy 500 had reclaimed its status as THE race in Indianapolis, in terms of attendance and atmosphere. Based on last Sunday, I don’t think there’s any disputing those claims but how did you arrive at 45,000 attendance (I heard you on JMV’s radio show, Monday) when The Indianapolis Star estimated 85,000?
Dan in Indianapolis

RM: Because I don’t care if I get a Christmas present from the Speedway. Seriously, Curt Cavin counted all the seats a few years ago and came up with roughly 250,000. A couple grandstands (going into and coming out of Turn 3) have been removed so let’s say 225,000 remain. At least four sections weren’t sold for this year’s Brickyard 400 and covered up by advertising so, for the sake of arguing, let’s say there were 200,000 available seats last Sunday. For there to have been 85,000, you needed one person in every fourth seat, 20,000 fans in the infield and 15,000 in the suites. Helicopter shots don’t lie and there wasn’t one person in every 20th seat of the stands that were open and the infield only holds a few thousand when it’s packed.

But let’s look at what longtime NASCAR observer/writer Monte Dutton wrote: “Forget what I think the crowd was. The best counter in the sport, Humpy Wheeler, figured the Brickyard Sprint Cup attendance was less than 50,000. The sport used to have lots of funny people. One of them, watching from home like me and almost everyone else in America, opined that there were entire sections on the front straight that could have withstood live hand grenades without any casualties.” As I stated in an earlier answer, a crowd of 50,000 is damn good for any IndyCar race other than IMS and considered major league in baseball or football. But it’s an eyesore at the Speedway because there’s no place to hide all that aluminum.

Q: You quickly mentioned in an answer in the July 25 Mailbag that James Hinchcliffe has opted out of his Andretti Autosport contract in 2015. Really? I would assume he wouldn't do this unless he had someplace else to go. So where is he going? Who takes his place at AA? 
Brian Henris, Fort Mill, SC

RM: Let’s just say that report was erroneous from the standpoint that Hinch didn’t opt out of anything and both sides claim they want to stay together if possible. It’s all about sponsorship right now. More later.


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Q: It has been a long time since I have participated in the Mailbag but I am always reading it and soaking in as much IndyCar as I can while over here in Afghanistan. My question concerns TK's points standing. I know it is a LOOONG shot that he could secure the title but hear me out. If TCGR can give him a solid car at Mid-Ohio – not out of question since they usually dominate there – and he can manage a podium and have some luck with others not finishing well and he could win in Milwaukee, he could surely move into the top five. From there if he finishes on the podium in Sonoma I think he could become a serious title contender moving to the 500 miles at Fontana and double points... am I just a crazed TK fan or is this not out of the question?
Kaleb Hartman

RM: Considering he’s 153 points behind leader Helio Castroneves with only four races remaining, it sounds crazed. But, considering the winner gets 100 points at Fontana, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see a DNF or accident coupled with somebody else’s victory and suddenly it’s a four or five man race. And Ganassi had a real good test at Mid-Ohio last week.  

Q: With the season quickly coming to a (premature) close, any thoughts or insights on next year’s schedule? I’m assuming all of the current venues will return – St. Pete and Long Beach have already announced their dates – but when will we know about the proposed races outside of North America (Brazil, Dubai, etc.) and are there any others that might be in play? Champ Car put on some good shows at Lausitz (Germany), Rockingham (UK) and Monterrey (Mexico) in its day – any chance of those being considered going forward? With Bernie continually giving the one-finger salute to the track in New Jersey, would that be worth a look? Give it the week after Indy and the series could cross-promote during its pre-Indy 500 media blitz.

Any word on potential new teams coming in for next season? Finally, you frequently mention that you forward e-mails and suggestions to Mark Miles and the rest of the management team at IndyCar, but is there any feedback or evidence that they’re actually listening?
Scott, Bargersville, IN

RM: It sounds like IndyCar would like to open the season in late February at Dubai, followed by Brasilia in early March and then head home. I think New Orleans is still in play but the question marks are Pocono and Fontana. Can Houston get a decent date? None of those old Champ Car venues seem viable and I haven’t heard of any new teams yet. I know Derrick Walker and Jay Frye respond weekly to the fans’ mail that I send them and Miles does, sometimes, as well.   

Q: Yes, IndyCar needs ovals. And damn-skippy Yes, IndyCar needs to go back to Phoenix International Raceway. And, unfortunately Yes, money is, as usual, the issue. So I have a suggestion…or a dream, whatever. Reprise the Copper World Classic. Make it a two-day event featuring IndyCar, Indy Lights, USAC Silver Crown, USAC Sprints and USAC Midgets. Saturday would feature practice and qualifying for all five series with Indy Lights and IndyCar running their first of two features Saturday night, under the lights. Sunday would offer final practices plus five races, culminating with the second Indy Lights and IndyCar races.

Honda sponsors USAC and provides IndyCar engines. Chevy provides IndyCar engines. Between those two manufacturers, and some give ’n’ take from ISC and IndyCar they should be able to find a way to make this financially feasible. You want a race sponsor prospect? How 'bout Arrow Electronics, a Fortune 200 multi-billion dollar corporation based in Denver that has a plant in Phoenix. Arrow is the company that helped build the semi-autonomous Corvette that Sam Schmidt drove at Indianapolis last May using head movements. If Dennis Wood was alive he could make this happen.

Bill Tybur, MotorSportsPromos, Tempe, AZ

RM: I like your thinking Bill but I also recall PIR pairing the remnants of the Copper Classic with the Indy Racing League in a three-day show and it flopped badly (I recall they ran the midget feature on a Thursday night at 8 o’clock in front of 50 people). But, with proper promotion and some creativity, it could be resurrected into an open-wheel weekend with non-stop action. It behooves Honda, USAC, Chevy, IndyCar and how about we make you the promoter?  

Q: Maybe you can pass along this link to the promoter/manager at Iowa. http://www.ismasupers.com/. A 7/8-mile oval with Winged Supermodifieds alongside an IndyCar weekend? I'd drive from Pennsylvania to see that. I suspect with $10,000 to win they would get a great turnout of northeast and Ohio/Michigan Supers. If there are any left out west, they'd probably tow in too. :) Throw in the Must See Racing Xtreme Sprints… Wow, now that would be a fast weekend of racing. USAC seems to have all but dried up on pavement, but these other series might bring in some fans.

One thing I think IndyCar must start doing is to look at itself as a smaller series in the grand scheme of things. Don't believe they’re as big as NASCAR (they're not) and that they "deserve" coverage, fans, etc. just because Indy is a big race. They've got to look all over the country at ways to make new fans before they can start thinking it's 1995 again. I think that's the biggest problem overall with their marketing and promotion and even the way they run the shows. They're not hungry enough to try new things and go get people to come to the races. The promotion for Pocono that you've heard about (or lack thereof) is a perfect case in point. It's like they just expect people to be there. Yet there are ads like crazy for the two NASCAR races. It makes no sense!
Dave Long

RM: Again, I like the idea because those ISMA winged sprinters put on a helluva show at Winchester and other tracks around the Midwest and Iowa would suit them as well. The Iowa fans used to come to the USAC shows on Friday nights but, as you correctly stated, pavement racing (other than a few Silver Crown shows) in USAC is DOA with sprints and midgets, so these two would be an affordable alternative for Jimmy Small & Company. More bang for the buck is the key.

Q: With four races left the Carpenter/Conway tandem has been a success. You predicted that last March. Can you see a team in 2015 following the Carpenter strategy? If so, what unemployed road racer, or oval specialist might be given a chance?
Gerry Courtney, San Francisco, CA

RM: It’s a unique situation, obviously, and I don’t see anything similar waiting in the wings. A veteran like Oriol Servia is great out of the bullpen for ovals or road/street courses but, other than a second car, no owners want to rotate drivers like Ed has done so well.

Don’t know the ins and outs of the Verizon app.

Q: I just had a reality check. London, England, recently changed their laws so having a street race there is now possible. That would be a dream to see IndyCar on the streets of London. The only possible issue I see might be TV money and TV ratings. Unless I am missing something?‬
Shawn Olmstead

RM: I think if there was any chance of a street race in London, then Bernie and F1 would be the first choice. And there is going to be a British round of the FIA Formula E championship I believe Jenson Button ran a McLaren around the streets a couple years ago but I’ll have to ask Nigel Roebuck.

Q: I'm already hearing promotions for IndyFest on the radio in Milwaukee instead of the typical week before race. Kudos to Michael Andretti for going the extra mile and getting the word out earlier this year. I was never a huge fan when he raced but I do appreciate what he does for the sport. Without him, they probably wouldn't race at The Mile anymore. You'll have to let us know if the extra effort helps with attendance.
John Risser, Muskego, WI

RM: That’s good to know, we need Milwaukee to return to its days of glory. And you might not have liked him, but watching Michael run Milwaukee was always a thing of beauty.


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Q: I know you're not a NASCAR guy but, with IndyCar taking the weekend off, we spent the weekend at IMS. The most competitive race the whole weekend was the IMSA sports cars. There was passing, rubbing, bumping and all under GREEN-flag racing. I hope the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gets the idea that IMS is a single-lane track for the boys from NASCAR and that they need to get moving with installation of APRONS in the four turns so there are more places for deeper driving and more chances to pass under green-flag racing.

The Cup race was one of the worst, most boring races I've ever attended, I fell asleep in my seat in Penthouse E about halfway through the race and when I woke up, the three guys next to me were also sleeping. Maybe NASCAR should give the IMS road course a chance? It couldn't hurt.  I've been coming to the Speedway for 42 years for Indy cars, made every NASCAR event and every F1 race that was held here and Indy's new best kept secret, the Historic Races that were held here the first week of June. I will return for the 500 as long as my body will allow me and I plan to purchase IMSA tickets for 2015 but NASCAR? Time will tell if I return for this snooze fest. Can't wait for Mid Ohio next weekend.
Tony Piergallini, Steubenville, Ohio

RM: You’re right, the TUDOR Championship race, for IMSA’s UnitedSportsCar Championship, provided the best race by far at IMS. Supposedly there was talk about moving Cup to the road course and it makes sense because The Glen and Sonoma are always entertaining. But aprons would certainly help stock cars. How could you fall asleep? I heard an ESPN reporter on local radio Monday say the race was exciting and not to be missed.  

Q: I thought that when Verizon acquired primary sponsorship that they were “going to take things to the next level?” How do they increase awareness of IndyCar when the only advertising they do is to people who are already fans during the races? It seems like a no-brainer to me that if you want to increase the fanbase, you need to reach out to people not familiar with the series. Why Verizon, Honda, Chevrolet, Firestone... don’t cross-market IndyCar in their national advertising MUCH more is beyond comprehension. Honda seems to be the only company that promotes IndyCar a little in national advertising and in their stores.
Don Dahler, Minneapolis

RM: All I know is that Verizon has three or four cool IndyCar promotions that have played on prime time TV shows as well as the NBA playoffs and F1 races on NBC and they’ve got bigger plans for 2015. You’ve got to remember they didn’t sign up until last March so I’d say give them 18 months to get things rolling.

Q: I'm a big fan of IndyCar who has recently moved to Australia. The recent letters about promoting IndyCar have resonated with me. There's two things they would be wise to consider:

First, unlock the Verizon content app that's currently only showing live stuff to Verizon customers. I understand that Verizon wants some return on their sponsorship investment, but really, do they think anyone is going to switch to Verizon just to watch live streaming video on the app? Most people don't even know the app exists! Open it up and show stuff with a big Verizon bug or banner and they may triple their exposure. They would be wise to use the recent Americas Cup sailboat racing IT model – tons of very good live content that enhances viewing experience during the race and full streaming coverage of every race immediately upon completion of the race. All of that was open to everyone, all the time. Amazing stuff, really.

Secondly, at least open the app to out-of-USA viewers who couldn't sign up to Verizon even if they wanted to. What's the harm in that?
Jason Mulveny, Manly NSW, Australia

RM: I sent your suggestions to the folks at Just Marketing and IndyCar. With Verizon the series sponsor, it’s possible they could figure something out for you folks outside North America.

Q: I would love to know what Justin Wilson and Josef Newgarden thought of the late red flag at Toronto. I think it was a real BS move that totally negated the idea of an alternative strategy and playing the yellow flags. A very unfulfilling ending to say the least. Also, does IndyCar have any ability to mandate that the track surface be one material (preferably asphalt)? The concrete patches really messed up the ability of the cars to race in the rain.
Joe in Sacramento

RM: I flew home with Josef and he never said a word about the red flag and I think most of the drivers figured that considering what the Toronto fans had endured all weekend that a green-flag finish was the least IndyCar could give them. Don’t think IndyCar can mandate anything on a city’s streets – just deal with it – although the circumstances conspired on Saturday.

Q: I can understand why IndyCar didn't want to start the race in Toronto on Saturday – we didn't need a repeat of Surfers Paradise 2002. But what about sending out a support race series to help dry the track? When the track was too wet to start at Road America in 1997, CART sent out the Dodge Neon support series to run an extra race during the stoppage. The slow, heavy tin-tops had no trouble with the wet track, it gave the hardy fans some entertainment, and running a race on the track dried it out enough to run the CART race when it was done, complete with Alex Zanardi donuts at the end. It's unfortunate that IndyCar didn't use this same trick in Toronto to reward those loyal fans who sat through the rain. ‬‬
Max Leitschuh

RM: Not a bad idea. Mikhail Aleshin said he thought a few slow laps by everyone would have dissipated the standing water enough to race so sending out sedans might have worked even better. Reminds me of a funny story Dave Despain related. He was an aspiring flat-tracker and they were running the Sedalia, Mo. mile but the track was rougher than a cob and all the national numbers refused to go run. “Send out those novices,” barked national champion Gene Romero pointing at Despain. “They don’t know any better.”  

Q: My question has to do with an article I read in the Toronto Star. In essence it states that the Honda Indy Toronto must run in June due to a conflict with the Pan Am Games. The organizers have known about this for three years now. They can't race in August due to the CNE and track construction and take down being next to impossible. I know there are races that traditionally run in June that may have muti-year deals and fixed dates but hasn't Toronto come up with a solution yet if they knew this was happening three years ago?

Kevin Savoree stated that Toronto is too important an event to lose. If the fans who stood/sat there and wouldn't budge and waited and waited Saturday before the first race was scrubbed are the guide, he's exactly right that IndyCar, Exhibition Place and the City of Toronto would be foolish not to find a solution. After this event, how close in your opinion are they to a solution and should anyone worry that Toronto might not be on the schedule next year?
Geoff in Toronto

RM: I’ve heard conflicting reports. First I heard it would be held in June because of the Pan-Am construction but then IndyCar said there wasn’t any room in June. General manager Charlie Johnstone assured Paul Tracy there would be a race in 2015, but didn’t give a specific date.

Q: Your piece on the decision not to race Saturday made a lot of sense, which made me wonder about their process. Was this the same group who review incidents during the race? Maybe they were trying to avoid another “double number 1” salute from Power (see New Hampshire 2011). And speaking of that, how was it they revised the starting positions for Power, Montoya, and Briscoe? I know these are tough calls, but Beaux Barfield seems to function well in these pressure situations. Is Derrick Walker trying too hard to make everyone happy?
Lee Robie, Cincinnati, OH

RM: Yes, Race Control made the call after listening to the drivers and attempting to clear out the problem area but you have to remember that Power was pissed because TGBB re-started an OVAL RACE in the rain at Loudon with slick tires. Those three all came in for service/repairs of some type and were sent to the back, even though the race hadn’t officially started. That miffed some folks, pleased others and seemed to confuse most. I think Derrick’s goals are to be fair and consistent.   


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Q: I had the unique perspective of being able to attend the TUDOR Championship round at Canadian Tire Motorsports Circuit (Mosport) last week, and the IndyCar double-header races in Toronto the following weekend.

With the Honda Toronto Indy was the fascinating Pirelli World Challenge double-header, Indy Lights, USF2000, Canada’s Porsche GT Cup, and F1600. The sports cars had the smaller classes of the PWC series, and the Prototype Lites races on their bill. I saw lots of racing, and most of it was pretty good. Hopefully the same thing will happen next year.

I was able to see comparisons between the many series, and noted that the morning warm-up at Mosport was held in rain and fog, and it went according to schedule and no delays. I was surprised as anyone that the IndyCars did not race in the rain on Saturday. All of these drivers with maybe a couple of exceptions have raced in the wet before, and it made them look like prima donnas when they would not race in the rain. Not only was that a disappointment, but they left us fans sitting in the rain in our grandstand seats for almost three hours, encouraging us to stay, and since the drivers stayed in their cars throughout, the fans mostly stayed on in anticipation of a wet race. Then IndyCar decide to postpone the race, but did not bother to announce it. If I hadn’t got onto RACER.com when I got back to my hotel, I may have missed the fact that it was decided to run two IndyCar races on the Sunday. The sports cars however ran as per schedule, and with no caution flags laps, at Mosport, for 2 hours and 45 minutes with almost 40 cars in it. Mind boggling.

Am I upset with the IndyCar crowd? Hell no. I arrived at the Toronto track at 8am on Sunday, and the first race of the day was already half way over. There were eight races on Sunday, including two IndyCar races, a PWC race, and Indy Lights among them. I also read your Mailbag, and I read Marshall Pruett’s articles on the State of the Union in the TUDOR championships. I find it interesting that you feel that IndyCars should hook up with the TUDOR cars more, and yet the TUDOR competitors feel they should have less to do with IndyCar. I suspect from what I am reading that the reason is because of the headaches involved with scheduling and trying to get more track time for themselves; but I wonder if maybe some sports car entrants are preventing this from happening more. Oh well, the Pirelli World Cup races more than made up for this, and I got to enjoy both series in the same week.
Paul Sturmey

RM: As I reported, the lack of information and treatment of the fans on Saturday by the promoters was bush league. No announcements, nothing on the big screens and only when they saw the teams rolling cars back to the paddock did they realize it was over for the day. 

As I also wrote, if IndyCar couldn’t figure out how to run in a light mist to moderate rain then it can’t ever bill itself to an alternative to F1. Better rain tires would have certainly helped but, as some of the younger drivers suggested, at least go out and try to run a few laps at reduced speed for the people in attendance. As for the IMSA/IndyCar doubleheader, it’s a win/win/win for sports cars, Indy cars and the promoter. I hear people say IMSA doesn’t want to play second fiddle to IndyCar. Really? They’d rather play to an empty house? Look at Long Beach, Barber and Detroit through the years – great Saturday turnouts to see the sports cars. If both sides want to stay on the map, they’d best run as many double-headers as possible.

Q: A friend and I were discussing Marco recently and we both agree that he doesn't show much joy in what he's doing. Granted, better results might change that to some degree, and Michael wasn't overly emotional either, but Michael was able to light the fuse when he was in the car. Marco just seems like he's involved in the family business because it's what's expected given his last name. The passion and fire shown by Mario and Michael seem to be missing.‬ Speaking of generational drivers, what became of A.J. IV, and Mini Al? I can't help but wonder how much fun it would be to see another set of Rahals, Andrettis, Unsers, and Foyts all at the top of their game racing together again.‬‬
John Fulton, Akron, Ohio

RM: Marco is an introvert, like his dad, and showing a lot of emotion (good or bad) isn’t his style but he doesn’t seem to get the joy out of driving that Mario did. When he won at Sonoma, he didn’t seem as happy as his dad and grandfather. Michael never looked happy either and admitted he was the driven by the pressure to perform and live up to his last name. And I think Marco feels that same pressure but just may not have the chops to win like his two heroes.

Q: From the shots taken in the pits following Graham Rahal’s return to the pit box in Toronto, it appeared that Bobby Rahal was very displeased with his son. Graham seemed to be surprised by the apparent tongue-lashing his father directed toward him when he arrived back at the Rahal pit box following his demise. What was Bobby so upset over that could be attributed to Graham? I still like this team and they sure have had more than their share of bad luck and being caught up in crashes. I’d like to see some wins that other small teams have garnered.
Thomas Grimes, Waco, TX

RM: I didn’t see it but was told Graham was upset with his latest mechanical gremlin and Bob was trying to calm him down. It’s been a humbling and frustrating season, no doubt, and the pressure to produce is magnified by having the National Guard on board.

Q: With regard to making ovals work, two questions. From the way-out-there category, what do you think would happen if the Hulman-George family sold IndyCar (but not IMS) to the France family? Assuming they agreed on a price and contractual language to keep the ICS running and the 500 each year, do you think the France family would be invested to grow the ICS if they owned it? From the not-so-absurd category, since ISC has never been a friend of IndyCar, do you think the Hulman-George family could enter into a business relationship of some type with the France family such that a percentage of profits from races at ISC or other NASCAR-owned tracks would go to NASCAR? The point being if the France family stood to make money on IndyCar, perhaps they would be more willing to help it grow at the ISC tracks, perhaps even run ICS on Saturday and Cup on Sunday at compatible ISC tracks (I know, Sprint vs. Verizon would be a potential issue). And for the record, I did not smoke any crack before I wrote this.
David, Greensboro, NC

RM: Put that pipe down David. I suppose I could see ISC buying IMS (that’s only been a rumor for 20 years) but not IndyCar. Brian France has bigger fish to fry (the recently formed car owners’ group) than owning another series and everyone should have learned from the IRL days that NASCAR has no desire to help Indy car racing. Plus, what’s the incentive? NASCAR already has three series with half-full to empty grandstands.   

Q: IndyCar, like F1, is obviously having a tough time putting butts in the seats – IndyCar for its own bag of reasons, while F1 shot itself in the foot with both barrels, killing it's series' hallmark sound with it's bone-headed engine change. IndyCar has the perfect golden opportunity to throw F1 out of this country, again, and start filling the stands if they wake up and jump on this opportunity. All they have to do is get rid of their awful turbochargers, which killed their own lame sound, get Honda and the Bowtie folks to spin those things back up to 15k where they belong and make some real music. People don't go to races to hear a bunch of vacuum cleaners go around a track, they go there to feel the sound of each car, not just the boring drone turbos produce. If IndyCar ever expects to start filling the seats in the grandstand with something other than paint schemes to make it look like there are people there, they had better wake up.
Gary B.

RM: I gotta say that the old turbocharged engines in USAC and CART sounded damn good and plenty impressive so it’s not the turbos as much as the horsepower. But Townsend Bell and Gil de Ferran are firm believers that Indy cars need to be beasts like they were in CART’s heyday and more people would be attracted. I’m skeptical it would make a noticeable difference in attendance or viewership but I do hear a lot of people say the same thing about 1,000hp and having your breath taken away by a Penske, Lola, Reynard or Eagle aping around a corner and accelerating to the next one.


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Q: Based on Texas and Iowa, if there is a yellow with 20 or so laps left at Milwaukee or Fontana, will the LEADER come in for tires?
John Campbell, Oregon

RM: Good question. Depends on the situation. How old are the leader’s tires? How many cars on the lead lap? How many lapped cars between the leader and second place? Would it be a difference-maker at Milwaukee like it was at Iowa? I know what you’re saying but T.K. did what seemed logical at Iowa by staying out. If he pits, everybody follows. But why Ganassi didn’t split its four cars’ strategies remains puzzling to me.

Q: I am in total agreement with you. If I hit the lottery, I would gladly help fund SFHR and Josef Newgarden. Not only do I see tremendous potential in Josef, he is one of the most affable drivers in the paddock. Sarah always talks to everyone and has done a lot with her team and for IndyCar.

I was very surprised to see an for IndyCar on NBCSN. Someone is finally paying some attention to what you and everyone else has been saying. Any rumblings about Pocono?
Dino, New Hanover, Pa.

RM: I believe Josef has one year remaining with SFHR and a win would do wonders for that little group. He’s been close and he’d be Penske perfect in my opinion but we’ll wait and see what happens. Nothing on Pocono yet.

Q: One thing I like about Formula 1 is, race to race, it’s easy to tell which drivers belong to which cars. The sponsors and car colors do not change throughout the season. But how many sponsors and paint schemes has Marco's car had this year? I'm finding it hard to follow a driver on track. And hasn't Montoya's livery changed at least once as well?
Bill Jurasz, Oracle, Austin, TX

RM: I guess that’s a major difference between F1 and IndyCar sponsors. Tony Kanaan has different paint schemes because Target’s sponsorship utilizes different customers while Team Penske has Triple A, Shell/Pennzoil, PPG, Hawk and other companies for selected races. It’s confusing to the fans sometimes but it’s necessary to keep the drivers employed and on track.  

Q: First, I think Honda deserves a thumbs-up for using Hinch in TV commercials. Second, Honda deserves a thumbs-down for no mention of IndyCar at their dealerships. I bought a new Honda recently and the dealership had no posters or anything related to IndyCar. I was hoping to see at least one poster of RHR since he won Indy with a Honda. Only thing related to IndyCar I saw was a salesman wearing an old IZOD IndyCar polo shirt. Shame. My stepfather went to the Toronto Indy for the first time. He loved it! He's already talking about going again next year. IndyCar gained a new fan!
Tom W.

RM: Hinch is made for television and I imagine that Honda dealerships are under no orders to promote IndyCar. It would make sense at Bobby Rahal’s place but don’t you suppose it’s up to the individual dealers? Congrats for making a new fan but you must have taken him on Sunday, not Saturday.…

Q: This is a tough one because it might hurt the close racing, but we need more separation between the cars as it’s not really fun to watch the 15th-fastest guy win races because he pitted early and got lucky on strategy. Kudos for taking advantage of the rules but with the 15th-fastest car you really shouldn’t be in contention for the win. The close nature of the series, while producing great side-by-side racing, makes winning a crapshoot and it seems that more TRUE racing should reward speed and not good luck. I don’t want to go back to the early ’90s when Little Al would check out on a street course and lap everybody, but I also don’t like seeing a backmarker win because they pitted early and got a lucky caution and cycled to the front – that’s bogus.
Brady, Frisco, TX

RM: I imagine you’re referring to Mike Conway’s win at Toronto but he was rewarded for taking a chance the slicks would be OK for the drying track. Or Carlos Huertas winning at Houston. But opting for alternate pit strategy has always been around: it just seems more effective this season and qualifying really doesn’t mean what it used to on a street circuit or road course. And timely cautions are also part of an equation that is far from exact. Dale Coyne won Houston (and should have run 1-2) because he wisely adjusted to the timed race and was rewarded.   

Q: I have to say I am a little confused by the “lifelong race fans” who say they are tired of strategy being used to win races. Some people seem to think that smoking a cigarette and drinking a cup of coffee during a pit stop is racing, but it is not. Maybe these lifelong IndyCar fans should start a movement to get Ray Harroun’s victory thrown out, but then again it would take some work to figure out who didn’t use some sort of strategy. Or maybe they should go watch a sprint car race, where they don’t refuel…Oh wait, in sprints and midgets you have to select a right-rear tire then race accordingly, making sure the tire lasts and your car is fastest at the right time.

I just challenge those fans to try to learn a little about racing instead of just bitching that they’re going away, or simply turn off the audio and just watch. My teenage son can tell you which cars are on what strategy and who should pit when by watching live at the track, not by having a TV announcer tell him. For me, my car is almost ready for Saturday so I have plenty of time to work on my excuses. Let’s see…didn’t have time to work on the car, motor is four years old and wore out, tires are junk and of course all of the other racers are cheating.
Alex Curtis

RM: I hear educated and race savvy fans say they wish the fuel mileage races would go away but, as I said above, it’s been part of the landscape for a long time and it’s not going away. IndyCar adds laps to races to try and ensure it’s a minimum two-stopper but then a couple cautions at the right time make three stops a winning formula. Fans don’t like to hear about backing off to save fuel five laps into a race, and neither do I, but it’s the reality, sometimes.


lat abbott pocono 07142780Q: I’m a racing nut and I enjoy a full weekend of racing. I would rather have Indy Lights and IndyCar in 2-3 days (preferably three) at Pocono instead of one. I want to see as much IndyCar on track activity as possible. What other series could run on that weekend at Pocono?
Chad Frankfield

RM: We had a suggestion earlier in this Mailbag for the winged sprinters of ISMS super modifieds to run at Iowa but Pocono may be too big. If you don’t have 33 cars and a big financial incentive, I’d like to see the 500-miler at Pocono scrapped in favor of a couple of 150-mile heats. A race at 11 a.m. and again at 3 p.m. would be better than a strung-out field of 21-22 cars.  

Q: How about this idea for next season’s schedule? On last weekend in April they race at Kentucky Speedway. Friday is Verizon IndyCar World Fastest School Kid Field Trip at Kentucky Speedway. They invite every school in the area from Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and the first 50,000 school kids to take advantage of the offer get a field trip to Kentucky Speedway for $1. At 10:45 a.m. IndyCars race for one hour then at 12:00 all IndyCar drivers are required to go into a section of stands for autographs and pictures. Verizon has sales reps all over the seating areas that day to show and promote all its different apps etc. Just think, a great sales promotion for Verizon with younger kids who seem to want nothing more at any time than to text or play games with their phones and maybe convert some of them to IndyCar fans along with converting them to Verizon. Saturday night, you have the feature race and any school kid who presents their $1.00 Friday ticket voucher gets Mom, Dad, and sibling half-price tickets for the feature. Try it for one year with IndyCar, Verizon and Kentucky Speedway splitting the cost.
James Thomas

RM: Not sure about Kentucky but I like the concept and I sent your suggestion to Jay Frye, the IndyCar/IMS chief revenue officer, to look over. No doubt that bringing kids to a race is a better seller than sending drivers to schools. If you can hook them early, you can make fans for life.

Q: My daughter and I traveled six hours round trip to the Iowa race and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Seemed kinda dumb that the drivers autograph session was on Friday, but there were inflatables, games, and the Fan Experience on Saturday before the race. We met Pippa Mann, Paul Page, David Hobbs and PT – all were accommodating and gracious. My daughter even watched the entire race this year! Anyway, really hoping Iowa and IndyCar continue their relationship, certainly it can't rain or threaten rain every year, can it? I wish all the people who complain about the series could have an experience like we did!‬‬‬
Richard from New England

RM: Glad you had a good time and that’s well deserved for such a trek. The last three years the weather has been threatening or has actually rained at Iowa so that never helps the walk-up crowd and had you been in Des Moines at 6 p.m. on Saturday night, no way you’d have driven an hour to the track with the ominous storm clouds. Always one of the best races of the year so I hope it stays forever.

Q: I see Formula E is scheduled to visit Long Beach on April 4 of next year on a track slightly different than what IndyCar uses. Based on the 2014 IndyCar schedule, this race would be one week prior to a potential IndyCar race. Is IndyCar moving to a different track, and is it concerned a Formula E race so close on the calendar might impact promotion/attendance?
Lou Edina, MN

RM: No, IndyCar isn’t moving and the Formula E race is free of charge so I don’t see any conflicts or problems that would impact the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach crowd.

Q: I just read that, as of last week, Kurt Busch was 25th in both Sprint Cup points (where he has only one win and is virtually locked into the Chase) and IndyCar points. That is awesome and pathetic at the same time. It's awesome because Busch has only one IndyCar race under his belt, and he is 25th in points (which bodes well for him, since his one race was the Indy 500 in which he finished sixth). It's pathetic because he has only one IndyCar race under his belt, and he is 25th in points (which bodes poorly for IndyCar because to have a guy who has run only one race to be in 25th in points means that the number of competitors in IndyCar this year has been LOW, LOW, LOW).

In any event, kudos to Kurt on his points position in IndyCar and on his likely spot in the Sprint Cup Chase.

On a final note, I didn't get to watch the truck race at Eldora, but it was another huge turnout. When will "the powers that be" in NASCAR and IndyCar realize that PEOPLE WANT TO WATCH DIRT TRACK RACES?!
Jay Matheny

RM: I don’t think it’s pathetic: there are only 22 full-time cars and IndyCar pays double points for the 500-milers so sixth is like two decent finishes. Tony Stewart wants Cup and/or Nationwide at Eldora and it’s a great idea because he could add seats and draw more people than showed up here last Sunday. But he needs to put some real clay on that track and give us a cushion again.   

Q: May I suggest that IndyCar, the drivers and owners may be the biggest problem with growing IndyCar. 1) The fans want double-file restarts and the drivers shout, “No!” and IndyCar caves. I guess they want to leave the double-files to the “best drivers in the world”, NASCAR. 2) The fans and some drivers want “beasts” to drive with 900+hp but the manufacturers, IndyCar and maybe the owners say “NO!” I suppose they like NASCAR having the “beasts” (in more ways than just horsepower). 3) The fans want technology, different cars, anything other than cars that came from a rubber stamp; “NO!” shouts IndyCar and owners! Instead we get “kits.” Really? If IndyCar thinks the fans are the biggest problem I would suggest otherwise. Maybe they should look in the mirror and paddock for their problems instead of the empty stands. Just how does a promoter sell single-file restarts, lower horsepower and kits?
Donald McElvain, Polson, Montana

RM: The owners and drivers lobbied against double-file restarts, even though they’d been a big hit with the fans and had gone exceedingly well. Sometimes owners and drivers shouldn’t be seen, heard or allowed to vote. The aero kits are costing the owners more money and I think I’d just as soon see things left alone because the racing is so close and so good. 


lat masche 140706-7995

Q: I've enjoyed following the "Gospel according to Robin" for a lot of years: I THANK YOU for your interest and passion! Unfortunately... in a way... there have been more than a few weeks where your "bag" has been of more interest than the actual on-track show. Fortunately not nearly the case as much in these past couple of seasons!

1) I SO want to agree with you on the abolition of pit speed limits. However, the minute a driver loses control doing 160, instead of 60 and simultaneously wipes out several crew members ON MULTIPLE TEAMS I'll feel exactly how I did after the Vegas tragedy. Going into that race, I minimized and rationalized away so many unnecessarily dangerous circumstances, only for them to horrifically materialize. Just not sure a dramatic increase in pit speed is worth the risk.

2) Forgive me if this is a dumb question, but do you know if any oval track promoters have considered just going to a single admission price with all reserved seating structure? To me this would reward both the fans and promoters. It helps all fans because of potentially and wisely lowering ticket prices, but also rewards them by purchasing early to obtain the best seating. Instead of having fans stuck at the BOTTOM of an oval (like Pocono) where the vantage is limited  and wasting a bunch of good seats, reward ALL of the people that come out with a GOOD high seat and try to build larger crowds from there. The reward for the promoter is that hopefully they could spur MORE advanced ticket sales and reduce the risk incurred by race-day walk-ups. I'd really hate to see venues like Pocono and Texas drop off the IndyCar map, as it will be difficult, if not impossible to get them back once gone. The pool of available, desirable and cooperating venues is scarily rapidly diminishing.
Rich "Wracked Opinion" Armstrong

RM: Thanks for reading. As far as pit speed limits, I wouldn’t let the crews go over the wall until the car had stopped. Obviously, that doesn’t mean another car couldn’t come roaring into the pits and slide into a crew already servicing a car but I think the drivers could handle it just fine. I think your one-price tickets would work on the ovals, for sure. And 15,000 fans all scrunched together looks much better than everyone spread out along the straightaway. Sounds better too. Pocono and Fontana both have very reasonable prices but maybe a $40 ticket for a reserved seat and paddock pass would help draw more folks.

Q: So this has been burning me up since April and I have wanted to ask it, but just haven’t. I am an increasing fan of IndyCar and a bit of F1 also. I have been dragging my family off to a few races. The last Las Vegas race was our first and very depressing as the accident that took Dan Wheldon happened at our first race. Been going to Fontana since and in April we discovered how fantastic Long Beach is.

So, the night before Long Beach we are checking into a hotel and Pirelli World Challenge is on a lobby TV. A guy strikes up a conversation. I tell him I am going to see that tomorrow at the Grand Prix, but I am here for IndyCar.  He says, “Why IndyCar?” I then proceed to tell him that...it’s because they are racier, more competitive, more fun to watch, etc. It turns out he was just an argumentative tool. This just rubs the guy the wrong way and he proceeds to “school me” that F1 is faster, better racing, whatever. I tell him they are quicker, but slower and that there is no way they could compete on a superspeedway, because their aero kits are different and they would fly off the track. The guy claimed that an F1 car could do 297mph at IMS. He didn’t like it when I laughed and told him who Arie Luyendyk is and how fast open-wheel cars can go without sailing off into the wild blue yonder. So tell me, oh open-wheel swami: who was right? Too apples and oranges?
Gary Nelson, Flagstaff, AZ

RM: IndyCar racing has been the best big-time series on four wheels the past two seasons, no argument. This year, because Red Bull and Vettel have been equalized, Formula 1 has been pretty damn entertaining as well. But, other than the refreshing driving of Daniel Ricciardo, the top step of the podium is usually between the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Hamilton, whereas it’s impossible to predict the winner of any IndyCar race. An F1 car going 297mph at Indy? Paul Tracy and Nigel Mansell are the only two brave enough to try that and they’re retired. Plus, that speed is ridiculous for an F1 car. You win the argument.      

Q: I first saw Indy car races in the early 1960s at Trenton and Langhorne. I was reflecting back on these races. Back then when Americans resisted the rear-engine cars that had taken over Formula 1, Jim Clark and, I believe Dan Gurney, ran the cars in Trenton. I can remember the fans cheering when Clark's Lotus broke down. I think they were actually expressing relief fearing that maybe these rear-engine cars were better than the front-engine American cars.

The link below is to a YouTube video of, I believe, the last race at Trenton in 1979. Back then, there was talk that Roger Penske was going to buy the track from George Hamid, who was the owner of the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. I remember thinking at the time: is this just a negotiating tactic in the Indy car war? You recall Indy car had split into two camps from which it has never recovered. Was Penske serious about buying the track or not? If he was serious, what happened? The link below describes the dogleg that had been added to the track to take it from a mile to a mile and a half. At the time, I thought it was a gimmick, but now with the road and street courses, maybe it was ahead of its time.

The criticism of Indy car racing at the time was that it was just four left turns. The nice thing about a track like Trenton was that you could see the cars all the way around. Pocono has that feature as well. You can see the pits and the track all from one seat. Last year I went to St. Petersburg and Pocono and sat where I could see the pits. I passed on both Baltimore races because they had no seating opposite the pits. Seeing the cars in only one corner of the track with no pit action has little appeal to me. The old New Jersey State Fairgrounds which contained Trenton Speedway remained vacant for many years and is now a sculpture garden which was created by Seward Johnson of the Johnson & Johnson family.
Tom Ryan

RM: As I recall, CART needed racetracks early in that war and I think RP was serious about buying it to go along with MIS. Not sure what happened but Trenton was a cool track and pretty damn challenging.  

Q: I just watched the Toronto Indy on DVR and despite not seeing race 1, was thoroughly entertained. Kudos to Seabass on passing PT and Dario on the all-time win list and winning again in open-wheel. I must be getting soft in my old age to be happy for someone who was once my least-favorite Champ Car sourpuss, but I’ll bet Paul Newman was smiling down! Kudos to IndyCar and Walker for red-flagging then calling race 1. 

I don’t agree with your assessment. TO is a concrete jungle, just look at the melee in the run-off. Aleshin and Hawksworth may race in the rain across the pond, but not on narrow street courses with changing grip and little run-off. Natural road course? Go for it IndyCar! Not in TO though. I doubt that Sarah Fisher or Herta or Coyne can afford to tear up racecars just for a show. Kudos to Race Control for allowing repairs BEFORE the race started. Nobody wants to see a championship decided on an ill-conceived start attempt.

Kudos to the whole NBCSN team for making the entire Saturday telecast entertaining, from PT’s overzealous use of the telestrator, to Bell’s insight, to your interviews. It was all entertaining (PT, get Patty to tie your tie, brotha). The booth has massive chemistry. Varsha is great, and TBell and the Thrill from West Hill rock. Find a way to wedge Hobbs in there too. The piece on Coyne was great. I sure hope TO isn’t derailed by the Pan Am games like Vancouver was by the Olympics. What a shame. IndyCar is gaining such traction, we are seeing Hinch in TV ads here, the local networks actually report results now, but I was shocked into reality when the commentators reminded us the season ends in a month! A MONTH! No kudos to Mark Miles!
Trevor Bohay, Kamloops, BC Canada

RM: Thanks Trevor, a good way to take us out of the third 10,000-word mailbag in three weeks.

Bounty Hunter5Ryan Hunter-Reay has now added an Indy 500 win to his IndyCar Series title...but it shouldn't stop there. The Andretti Autosport ace wants more of both.

 

Destiny, in the pre-ordained sense of the word, is a myth. While plenty people (including many of us at RACER) felt Ryan Hunter-Reay was destined to win the Indianapolis 500 one day, it was a foolish/optimistic way of thinking – as the man himself highlighted in his post-race press conference, sitting alongside his team owner, Michael Andretti.

"This guy next to me is one of the quickest drivers ever to set foot in this place," said Ryan, "but things just didn't fall right for him on race days...He ran so strong for so many races, and it just never went his way."

Bounty Hunter4Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been a place of extreme lows for Hunter-Reay since becoming its Rookie of the Year in 2008. Barely scraping onto the grid in '09 with a car whose weight distribution was all wrong; inadvertently triggering a last-lap shunt in '10 when his car ran out of fuel; failure to qualify in '11; a mechanical DNF in '12; missing a final chance to pass winner Tony Kanaan last year when the race finished under yellow. Surely, after those disappointments, the ultimate high was also going to come his way, too? Wasn't it?

Well, no, not "surely" at all. So, just in case this year's 98th running of the "500" was his last best chance, Hunter-Reay's resolve solidified during his shootout with Team Penske's Helio Castroneves over the closing laps. No one could honestly say he won because he wanted it more than his rival. Most Indy winners will tell you that victory at the Speedway makes you want it more, not less, and this was Helio's opportunity to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears in the four-time "500" winners' club. But Hunter-Reay's pass into Turn 3 on lap 197 was as revealing as it was thrilling.

Some may come to mis-remember it as the pass for the win. It wasn't: each driver retook the lead heading into Turn 1 on laps 199 and 200. But what that almost-in-the-grass moment did was demonstrate to Castroneves, as well as all who saw it, the extent of Hunter-Reay's ambition...and instinct. That was no calculated maneuver, but one that demonstrated Ryan's opportunism. OK, that same hold-your-breath-and-go-for-it attitude cost him a chance of winning Long Beach this year, but it also earned him the Baltimore win in 2012 that was key to his claiming the IndyCar Series title.

Bounty Hunter2This 230mph dive into Turn 3 may also have affected the outcome of the "500" race in a physical manner. On lap 199, Castroneves was back in front and, eager not to leave a gap down the inside again, he drove into Turn 3 hugging the inside line, while RHR was able to take the shallower, faster racing line. Consequently, he carried more speed along the short chute to Turn 4 and had a slight momentum advantage onto the front straight...which is where No. 28 passed No. 3 for the final time.

Ten days later, after several photo shoots (including one for RACER), media appearances (including The Late Show with David Letterman), and also a pair of bad races in the double-header at Detroit, Ryan gets a chance at last to talk about the future rather than the immediate past. Still, answering his call with "Is that Ryan Hunter-Reay, Indy 500 champion?" is something that just has to be done...

"Man, that doesn't get old!" says a cheery, but weary voice. "And it's not going to. This is one of those things that stays with you forever."

Right. But that doesn't mean it's mission accomplished for RHR. Just because he's now won the series title and the Indy 500, it's not like everything else is a bonus...

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Watch all episodes of "Dan Gurney: All American Racer," a six-part series presented by Bell.

 

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