Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 4

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 4

IndyCar

Robin Miller's Mailbag for September 4

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If you have a question about open-wheel racing, send it to MillersMailbag@Racer.com. We can’t guarantee your letter will be published, but Robin will always reply.

Q: I’m starting to be disappointed in watching IndyCar. Not the product, or the races themselves, but the rules, whining, bitching and complaining. I’ve never heard so much whining from every driver on the grid. It’s getting old, and I wonder how these drivers would cope if they were racing in the days of CART in the early 1990s. I’m sorry, but that “avoidable contact” rule needs to be thrown out. Besides, what really constitutes avoidable contact? It’s racing, it’s going to happen. So what you got punted, isn’t that what all the great Indy car drivers of the past are famous for? The Chrome Horn? I’m not just talking Paul Tracy, but Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr. Michael Andretti, these and other “named” drivers have all been guilty of “avoidable contact,” and there was never a punishment. (Watch Cleveland 1995 for an example). 

I’m still trying to figure out the big deal with Dixon at Sonoma. He hit a pit crew man; you can’t do that, it’s in the rulebook. Maybe I am old school, but I hardly saw Wally Dallenbach on TV or his name even mentioned in the broadcast when he ran the show in CART. It just seems like there is too much focus on Race Control than the race itself. Let them settle it on the racetrack. Was Baltimore a fiasco? I’m not so sure. I enjoyed the race. Come on people, it’s a street race; you are going to have pile-ups, backups, and a lot of contact in those close quarters. What are people expecting? NASCAR thrives on chaos, and it brings people to the track.

I’m very disappointed that there isn’t another race for a month, cause emotions are high, and again IndyCar fails to capitalize on it. IndyCar is a great product, let Race Control do its job and stop questioning everything. I’d like to see Dixon fined for calling Beaux Barfield an idiot. Wasn’t Paul Tracy fined for calling Chris Kneifel an a** clown?  IndyCar and Beaux Barfield need to take control of the show, and if the drivers don’t like it, go somewhere else to race, or pull up your panties, climb in the cockpit, shut up and go racing.

Kris Branch, Ocala, Fla.

RM: You’ve hit on all my hot buttons. The bitching and moaning is out of control. Unavoidable contact is the most objectionable and senseless rule in street racing. Street racing is like indoor midget racing there’s always going to be contact. The greats of the 1960s and ’70s didn’t use the Chrome Horn because it was way too dangerous, the cars weren’t safe, the tracks weren’t safe and there was no such thing as a street race. Nobody in the ’60s had a clue about who was the USAC chief steward (it wasn’t Harlan Fengler, he was Indy only). Dallenbach did a good job and I feel bad for criticizing him unfairly a couple times. The chief steward’s job is thankless and the people screaming for Barfield’s head are the same ones who backed Brian Barnhart and then wanted him beheaded. It’s just IndyCar’s luck that we’ve got to wait a month before the next race and it sucks. But hey, Little E’s going to make The Chase so life’s not all bad

Q: What a race and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way!. Incredibly aggressive driving on a crazily unstable track surface, tons of stupid or unwise moves, and an actual race to the end. Will Power as unintentional kamikaze, Seabass looking like a sure thing and then getting punted, Pagenaud finally winning, and enough rubbin’ and racin’ to resemble a Nascrap race. Who woulda thunk it? I hope someone notes somewhere that the reason the race was so fantastic was due to two discreet things: the track surface in the braking zones to the hairpins was deliriously unstable and difficult to maintain threshold braking on, and the hairpins themselves allowed for very real passing opportunities on every lap, albeit with a heavy penalty if you or the guy next to you or behind you screwed up the line. Thus, nearly every lap saw the drivers trying to pass under extremely unforgiving but opportune circumstances, and the result was great racingand ridiculous carnage as well. As you said that evening in the roundtable video: “If that race doesn’t do it for you, I give up!”

David Eblovi

RM: All I can say is that I’ve covered endless street races where one driver took off and disappeared and the only passes were in the pits and everybody bitched because it was boring. Well, I sure as hell wasn’t bored last Sunday and I sure hope IndyCar returns to Baltimore, because it’s 3-0 in terms of not being boring.

Q: Ganassi and Dixon are sharpening the knives for Barfield’s head. I think he’s done as level-headed a job as is possible under the gun of race day. Is the knife sharpening justified or is Dixon out of line??

Gordon from Dallas?

RM: I don’t blame Dixon for being mad about being spun out and then speared. Obviously the last two races have pretty much gutted his chances at the title and he was definitely the victim at Baltimore. But they were racing accidents in my mind and not premeditated like most of Sunday’s incidents. I don’t think Barfield plays favorites either. TGBB had 15 years of yelling at drivers, waffling on calls, looking the other way and starting an oval race in the rain. This is Beaux’s second season so I say let’s give the guy with the toughest job a fighting chance. Sure he’s made some mistakes and maybe needs to be more consistent about blocking but he’s also made some damn good decisions about local yellows, opening and closing the pits and being decisive on a tough call. He ruffled feathers in ALMS, too, yet wasn’t treated with such disrespect.

Q: If Scott Dixon loses the championship this year, he needs to look no further than his Target-bought mirror for the reason, and this is why. At Sonoma, Dixon got aggressive on pit exit and clipped the Penske guy. It doesn’t matter if the Penske guy was playing games or not, Scott took a hard line out and hit him. At Baltimore, Dixon got very aggressive on a restart from Row 3. Power screwed up big time, but it was pretty clear by the replay and his reactions he had no idea Dixon was there as he went to make a move on Bourdais. Where exactly did Dixon think he was going to go once they got to Turn 1? Decent chance he was headed for a nice pileup. What’s the common thread between the two? Dixon got very aggressive and put himself in bad spots.

I don’t have an issue with that if it was just for race wins. Dixon didn’t keep the big picture, aka the championship, in mind. If he keeps his head and doesn’t force either issue, he’s probably 1st or 2nd at Sonoma and Top 3 (God only knows the way that race went!) at Baltimore. In the end, Dixon messed up at Sonoma and Power screwed up at Baltimore, but both were situations Dixon could have avoided had he played it with the big picture in mind. As Chip and Dixon look for Roger Penske on the grassy knoll, they should understand that. Dixon and Ganassi may lose the championship to Helio Castroneves and Penske not because Helio was the best driver in 2013, but the one with the smartest strategy.

Mark, Maineville, Ohio

RM: You can’t fault Dixon for going for the throat at either place: he’s the hunter in this deal and winning is what he’s paid to do. I love that he’s aggressive and I hated that he brushed the tire and had his race ruined at Sonoma. But it’s the rule and the buck stops with the guy who holds the steering wheel. As for Baltimore, Power got a run and pulled out just like Scott and unfortunately they ran out of room. Maybe he should have been running for points and accepted a podium but I like the fact he goes for it.   

Q: What an insane race, one second I am embarrassed, the next, I am leaping off the chair, cheering. After calming down, I decided it’s all your fault, Miller. You said yes to double-file restarts on street circuits and I believed you.

Gearin, Vancouver

RM: It was a suggestion from Ganassi and Penske to Randy Bernard and he opted to give it a try. I’d say it’s only made street races 1,000 times more watchable and exciting. Yes, it’s difficult for the drivers but so was running Langhorne.

Q: Fantastic race and this year keeps getting better… except I have to wait a month for the season to continue. P***ed off drivers, pile-ups, badass passing, equipment breaking down, etc. You cannot like racing and not love this season unless you are simply a hater (and we have way too many of those). Would have been a tough day to be a race steward.?

Any surprises or positives for 2014? New tracks, driver/team rumors? Any word on a replacement for IZOD??

Mike Nicholas, Fishers, Ind.

RM: Nobody deserved all the crap that Race Control had to deal with last Sunday but I’m sure one of the experts on Track Forum would have done a much better job. Other than the road race at IMS, next year’s schedule will look almost identical to this year’s if Brazil and Baltimore return. Too early for driver changes but I know of a couple in the works.  

Q: What a pile of crap that was. The last 10 laps were great but most of the 65 laps that preceded them were abysmal. Forty laps of very little happening on a course where passing is largely impossible followed by lap after lap after lap of yellow. Not only were there too many yellow flags but at as many as six laps before they return to green, they simply last too long; in the 25 laps from 41 to 65 inclusive, there were five yellow flags and only six laps were run under green. Formula 1 does not specialize in street races but they manage to clear the wrecks at Monaco in one or two laps of yellow, not the five or more that IndyCar often seems to need. I have always hated street races and Baltimore was a perfect example of why.

Mike Grove, Copley, Ohio

RM: You just described a NASCAR Cup race Mike. I agree the cautions can bog down a race and a couple seemed too long but I disagree about it being lackluster in the first two-thirds of the race. Bourdais, Servia, Kanaan and Rahal made all kinds of good passes and so did Saavedra.    

Q: Just finished watching NBCSN’s re-air of the Baltimore “I can spin you out, no you can’t if I spin you out first” race! That was twice the fun again! Was there anybody who didn’t get spun around at least once during the entire race? If Race Control was to hand out drive-thrus for every single punting infraction, they’d still be out there! Guess this new car is really stout enough that the drivers know they can make dive-bomb moves inside another driver.

Have to say the last 15 laps when Marco was in the lead turned out to be the most exciting and suspenseful laps of the race. You just didn’t know who was going to end up where, who was going to take who out, who was going to make it till the end! Marco gave it a helluva of a go in a wounded car and it was just too spent to hold off the hard charging Pagenaud and Newgarden. Hats off to both of them, especially for young Newgarden. I was really pulling for him to try to get past Simon for his first victory, but I think that will come, no doubt!

Now, can anything be done about that chicane on the main straight? The cause of considerable problems for many of the drivers during the event, including the ALMS race drivers as well! The start and restarts were a joke, at best there was maybe 2 or 3 rows that were side by side after the chicane before the green was thrown! On one of the late restarts with Marco out front, I saw only three cars lined up that were past the chicane when the green was thrown! Hoping this race continues, as everyone involved seems to want it back, just need a new date for the weekend. Do you think this move to a new date will help or hurt the race?

Tony Mezzacca, Madison, N.J.

RM: Don’t think Helio did and he finished ninth with a penalty. Newgarden’s first podium was well deserved and a nice boost for Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman. Marco kept jumping the restarts and he was about to get a penalty. If Baltimore returns, the railroad tracks must be paved over and give the drivers a straight shot to Turn 1. Crowd looked down from a year ago and way down from the opener but the 25,000 (my guess) who showed seemed to enjoy it. Yes, I think a new date will hurt.  

Q: My thoughts from Baltimore: The restarts looks like we’re back to the beginning. How the hell do these “professional” drivers not comprehend the idea of a double-file restart? They need to adapt to this. When they work they are fantastic. Bunching up for the double-file (Andretti is a punk); only four on the next to last. And then three on the last. There are no excuses here. Hey! You’re all bunched up, don’t turn into each other at the first corner when your tires are a little cooler, and you’re brakes are probably cooking. Feel for Dixon. Power just didn’t see him. This will be interesting going forward. Oh wait, probably not, since we have a MONTH between races for this to cool down.

Jordan P., St. Louis

RM: Marco drove his butt off at Sonoma and Baltimore with damaged front wings but those two restarts pissed everyone off because he jumped them so badly. Hate was in the air late Sunday afternoon but yeah, by the time we get to Houston they’ll be buddies again. Well, except Dario and Will.

Q: I have been a passionate and loyal Indy car fan since my first visit to the Speedway as a boy in 1963. IndyCar needs to stop racing at temporary street circuits, effective IMMEDIATELY. Supporters of these races always point to things like activating sponsors, marketing opportunities, energizing a downtown area, creating a buzz in a city, etc. But they always miss the most important thing: the racing product itself! These cars were designed to dazzle us on large and small ovals, and natural terrain road courses. Sticking them in a confined, bumpy, concrete lined maze of city streets only produces what we saw at Baltimore: endless yellows, little passing, racecars going 40mph around hairpin turns (yawn) and ridiculous and embarrassing car pile-ups that look like a high school parking lot on the last day of school. If IndyCar wants to present itself to sponsors and the sporting public as a world class racing series, this is NOT the way to do it. Put these cars on the tracks they were designed for, let these gifted drivers show their true skills, promote and market it correctly, and the racing consumer will thank you and reward you with butts in the seats and eyeballs pointed at TV screens.

Mark in Centerville, OH

RM: I think we all wish there were more ovals but the reality is that promoters aren’t interested right now in IndyCar turning left. At least not interested enough to pay a sanction fee and host a race. But I’ll argue with you because St. Pete, Brazil, Detroit (race 2) and Baltimore were dramatic and entertaining with lots of overtaking. And, trust me, it takes as much if not more skill to negotiate a concrete jungle in an Indy car as it does to run an oval.

Q: I just finished watching the monstrosity that was the Baltimore Grand Prix. What a joke. I love watching races run nearly completely under caution where drivers have no fear of consequences for stupid driving. The course is a joke. I am sure the French are spitting on Baltimore organizers for using the word “chicane” to describe the two parking stops they put in the street to slow the drivers down in the straight. 

Also, Will Power made some goods points during his sheepish interview regarding the incident with Dixon. He clearly hates the running side-by-side starts on street courses and blames this for all of the cautions.  I agree. Unless you make them line up at slow speeds under caution, why would they care to follow the rules and do so when the green waves. I could care less who wins the championship but I have two issues with the Race Director. Why would he not allow Scott Dixon’s car back to the pits when the rules clearly state it is allowed unless there are 10 or less laps left? Why was there no penalty assessed against Helio Castroneves when he passed nine people under the yellow? After the ignorant ruling at Sonoma on the pit incident between the Power and Dixon teams, all of this happens. This Race Director has no clue. The series is losing integrity by the race. They should adopt the rules of the Grand Am series immediately. This is supposed to be a league of ladies, gentlemen and precision driving. It is NOT NASCAR. They are going to lose racing fans like me if this continues.  ??

David Hullum?

RM: I think everyone hates that chicane and it needs to go away but IndyCar was stuck with it this year and made the best of it. I was told by a safety worker that Dixon’s car was too badly damaged to be repaired in 15 laps and that’s why it wasn’t towed back in. I saw Helio pass some cars that were stacked up and stationary in Turn 1 but that’s legal (he did get a drive-thru for hitting a crewman). A lot of people agree with the Sonoma penalty on Dixon because it was the rule. Grand-Am has more beating and banging than anybody. Sorry you didn’t like the race.  

Q: I‘ve always enjoyed the Grand Prix of Baltimore and this year was no exception. It was great to see Simon win for the second time, but I was more happy to see Josef Newgarden score his first podium. It’s unfortunate that he’s had a run of bad luck this season. The kid has talent and tons of personality. IndyCar needs more young drivers like him.??

Sue from MA

RM: Totally agree. I’ve watched Josef interact with the fans and he’s exactly what IndyCar needs at the front of the field. He’s also quite good with the media. I think if he had a teammate like Oriol Servia he’d be light years ahead but, like you said, he’s got the chops. 

Q: I’m loving all the IndyCar coverage from RACER.com! I really hope we keep Baltimore on the schedule next year as a USCR double-header; I finally convinced my friends to go this year and they had a blast! If we do go back to Baltimore, would I be correct in assuming that the frontstretch chicane is here to stay? Watching a couple of the drivers make up time over the chicane reminded me of the CART days when drivers had different approaches to the Surfer’s Paradise chicanes. Unlike Baltimore, the drivers at Surfers were able to decide whether or not to attack the chicanes and set up their cars accordingly. Is there a chance the series can adopt “Surfer’s Paradise-style” chicane for future races?

Kyle Lantz

RM: The city doesn’t allow those tracks to be paved over for the race so that’s why IndyCar went back to the chicane (instead of the launching ramp of a year ago) but it needs to go away and I think Derrick Walker intends to make that happen. Of course some guys figured it out and others struggled. But a straight line with no chicane is the preferred choice.

Q: My question is in regards to the driver’s meetings. The last few years we’ve seen a lot of bizarre calls that confuse fans, both casual and die-hard alike. There seemed to be another one this past weekend in Baltimore with Dixon’s car left parked somewhere on the track after his tangle with Power. Dixon says that IndyCar would bring cars back to the pits unless it was inside 10 laps remaining. My first reaction was that IndyCar was picking and choosing who or when to bring cars back, but that can’t be right. I would very much doubt the current people in Race Control are trying to manipulate results. In order to clarify for the fans what was actually said in the meeting why not make a video or transcript available for everyone? Surely these meetings aren’t so top secret we can’t know what is going on. It would clarify why calls are being made and maybe prevent Race Control from being lambasted every week by commentators and fans.

Ryan, Calgary, Alberta

RM: I guess showing parts of the meeting on NBC’s pre-race show when it was pertinent could be requested but, in Dixon’s case, the safety team told Race Control the car was too badly damaged to be repaired and they would have had to tow it into the paddock not the pits.

Q: If Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car was having battery issues, why didn’t the team just replace the battery? Sure he would have gone a few laps down, but he would have finished ahead of Scott Dixon.

Gene Scanlon

RM: When the electronics went away, the car was stuck in gear. To reboot the system and be able to move the car you must have a charger to activate the software, which none of the safety cars do but they will from now on.

Q: Doing my part to get a younger crowd interested in IndyCar, I sprung for tickets for my buddy’s son and I to attend Sat and Sun. Simply put, it was worth every cent we spent. Paddock passes were awesome, seats were great and the last 10 laps were very intense. As for race track logistics, it was a snap! Parking less than a block from our seats? Seriously?! You know how many times I’ve carried coolers of beer over a mile just to get to our seats at IMS? Air conditioning at the Fun Zone w/ real bathrooms and running water? Are you kidding me? Kudos to Andretti and his production team, no stone was left unturned.

Regarding the race itself, sitting in turn one was the place to be. Watching Simon pull a 4-wheel brake lock to pass Marco was awesome, how he didn’t lose it baffles me still. The intensity of the racing was conveyed every single lap and most especially the last 10. Those laps were worth waiting for given all the caution laps we had to sit through. All in all it was a great weekend. Patrick summed it up best when I asked him what he thought. “It was really cool, up close to the drivers and cars, and I really liked how it’s under the radar and we are allowed access everywhere.” He also really liked the racing and how much “action” was in turn 1. I like your new gig at RACER!  

Chip Stetson, Wilmington, Del.

RM: Good job Chip, thanks for recruiting new fans, we need them. I told Kevin Healy of Andretti Promotions that I get lots of letters from fans raving about the access and accommodating conditions at Baltimore.

Q: It looks like Mark Miles is going to press forward with this idea of a race on the infield at IMS. If this does in fact happen, I hope the “serious improvements” they are considering for the course would involve some re-grading of the layout to include elevation changes, a true hairpin, and some off-camber corners. If they want a decent sized crowd, they should offer free tickets next year for General Admission areas and select grandstands to people who have already ponied up $$$ for the jacked up prices to next year’s 500.  

Mr. Piker in Naperville

RM: Derrick Walker is thinking about major changes and we should know more after today’s test with Rahal and Briscoe. But I like your thinking about tickets.

 

Q: What a bizarre race at Baltimore? Poor Dixon. It’s hard not to see him thinking that Power did it intentionally. I don’t think he did, but there’s only one person that knows for sure. On to the IMS issue. I agree with Mark Miles. It’s not 1960 or even 1990. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting the outcome to change. I e-mailed you about the following once before. Don’t judge IMS based on the F1 experience. F1 may have a lot of drama and intrigue, but there wasn’t much actual racing going on when they were running at Indianapolis. That isn’t the fault of the track. It’s just that F1 wasn’t very racy back then. I think the current IndyCar format can make an exciting race on any racetrack you take it to. I say, give IMS road course a chance and see what happens.

Doug Mayer

RM: I told Miles I’d rail against it until it was finally put on the schedule and then I’d support it with stories and videos on RACER.com. I’d rather see it at the end of the season if it has to happen.

Q: I am one of those “few thousand people” per Mark Miles that attended Opening Day at Indianapolis this year. I schedule vacation to attend each day IMS is open in May. Why only a few thousand attend is probably because of poor management decisions about Opening Day. Limiting tires, engine miles, increased pricing, lack of spend, no marketing, and having rookie orientation right in the middle of the day has helped drive away the masses because no other entertainment has been added to make up for the loss of on-track activity. I am a hardcore fan with a bronze badge and I found the middle part of Opening Day this year very boring watching one car on the track running 200mph laps.

I have attended every Indy Car, NASCAR, F1, and MotoGP race and associated races that have been held at IMS since 1987.  I will find it extremely difficult to support an IndyCar road race during the month of May. I will not take vacation time to watch IndyCars on the road course. If this IndyCar road race takes away time from the oval practice time on a weekend, then I will not support it at all.  The Boston Consulting Group and Hulman management are taking a serious gamble with the IndyCar brand at Indianapolis.  Since “it will be a Central Indiana event” per Mark Miles, I then feel a poorly attended race will damage the average fan’s perception of Indy during May.  I feel this would hurt the only remaining pillar of the Indy Car brand.

Jim, Indy

RM: I agree wholeheartedly, Jim. We all fell in love with Indy because of the speed, the danger, the thrill of watching the fastest race in the world. We don’t want or need a glorified Formula Ford race. I agree with Mark Miles that doing the same thing since 1996 hasn’t worked so try something different. I just don’t agree with a road race in May.

Q: I just finished reading your article about Mark Miles’ comments on the IMS road course race. While there wasn’t anything too earth-shattering on that topic, I noticed you mentioned that the Labor Day date for Baltimore would not be feasible for the next couple years. What is the reason for this??? Assuming it is an issue with the city, it leads me to wonder…why wouldn’t they run the IMS road course race that weekend? I’ve always thought that if this race happened, it would be a perfect way to end the season. Indianapolis has more IndyCar fans than anywhere…Bringing the championship race “home” would be a natural fit and much better than May. It would also give them extra months to renovate the road course, as Miles mentions. The only reason I can think to not do it would be the conflict with the NHRA’s US Nationals, but I don’t really see the same crowd going to both anyway.

Elliot Simon

RM: The Navy-Ohio State football game and a huge convention will make it impossible for Labor Day in 2014 and 2015. I think they looked at IMS on the road course as a finale but decided it might have a better chance in May. I agree, not much crossover with straight liners and IndyCar fans.

Q: Congrats to TK for setting the consecutive start record. You don’t set a record like that without some luck and a lot of grit. I know there were many starts during those 212 that Tony was hurting big time. Of all the drives I’ve watched over the last 10 years, Tony seems like the only throw back to the time of Vuky, A.J., Herk, and Gordie. What do you think?

Gerry Courtney, San Francisco

RM: TK once drove Milwaukee with broken ribs so that says it all. I asked A.J. Foyt once if any of today’s drivers could have hacked it in the 60s and he said: “Maybe that Kanaan.” Pretty big compliment from Super Tex.

Q: I’ve been intrigued by the silly season so far with TK and Hinch being the two biggest free agents on the grid and now we’ve got the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya possibly joining in the fun for those Ganassi or Andretti seats. I can’t quite follow what’s going on with the rest of the grid. What’s the picture looking like so far for the other teams? What are the odds that a new face outside of Indy Lights might join the series for next year? I heard former F1 driver Jaime Alguersuari might get a test.

Kashvinder Mann, Singapore

RM: I think Bryan Herta really likes Luca Filippi (and who wouldn’t?) and I’m positive Briscoe is going to be Panther’s new driver but nothing else is set. TK and Hinch are the keys but I doubt if Montoya is serious about coming back to open wheel. I think you’ll see a lot of GP2 drivers looking here.

Q: What would IndyCar have to do to get NASCAR to allow them to race at Richmond next Saturday afternoon before the Cup race and the Saturday before New Hampshire? IndyCar needs to keep up their momentum and two short tracks seems to me as great ways to do that. ??

Ray Hando

RM: Kidnap Brian France and hold him for ransom (although not sure his sister would pony up anything). I suppose if NBC asked, it could happen but it’s a pipe dream. NASCAR doesn’t want to run 30mph slower after an IndyCar race at the same oval.

Q: I know you remember the old Tasman Series from the 1960s, where the F1 drivers would run the tracks in Australia and New Zealand during our winter months. Can you see Will Power at Mount Panorama, fighting for the lead with Scott Dixon? The crowd would be enormous. I think Walker might be onto something here: maybe include some South American venues, even South Africa (remember the old Winter Series?) You could almost create a Southern Hemisphere Championship during our off season. All it takes is money!

Jim Scott, Wisconsin Rapids

RM: I think a lot of us have told Mark Miles how great the event was at Surfers Paradise and how popular it was even without any local heroes. Now that Dixon, Power and Briscoe are front and center, it could be huge. And putting China or Japan together with Australia makes sense if it can be pulled off

Q: We have seen over the decades that CART was a leader in the world of motorsports with safety innovation. They had water-soluble fuels, a trackside medical center, professional safety crews, and the HANS device to name a few. But they also were the first to put helmets on pit crew after a couple potential fatalities during pit stops. All of the other series followed CART’s lead in safety regulation to protect drivers, fans, and crew. So when did the pit lane speed limit arise? I recall in the ’90s, both F1 and IMSA had unlimited pit lane speeds, really exciting to watch on TV but the crew must have lived in mortal fear. Also, when did full firesuits for the crew members begin? I saw a fire at MIS that would have caused more than a few severe burns.

Terry, Michigan

RM: I believe the pit speed limit was a result of a NASCAR crew member being killed at Atlanta in the mid-1980s. I worked on Indy crews for Lloyd Ruby, Bentley Warren, Johnny Parsons and Mike Hiss and there was no speed limit and Rube used to come in at about 140mph and never hit anybody. I also was the vent man and wore only fireproof gloves but never got burned. That was the 1970s so I think the full uniforms came along in the mid-’80s. Formula 1’s pit lane speed limit was introduced after the third round of 1994 at Imola with immediate effect when a car lost a wheel in pit lane and it bounced into four mechanics who had to go to hospital.

Q: Very interesting to note a sponsor on Pagenaud’s car when it was in Victory Lane, namely, Magneti Marelli. Granted, MM is global aftermarket player for most OEMs but since it is most closely affiliated w/ Mopar here in the U.S., it still seems odd MM would put their logo on something totally disconnected to their normal marketing channel. Unless, of course, Fiat/Dodge is interested in more than just the NHRA as a top tier seriesoh, yeah, all the SRT banners around the Baltimore circuit. I just gotta believe both Mopar and Ford have been at least doing a one-off IndyCar block in their “Skunk Works.”

Mike McDonald

RM: We all had hopes that Ford would follow GM back into IndyCar racing but I keep hearing Ford may be cutting back in 2014. Dodge would be logical and I know Randy Bernard met with them but nothing came of it. Yet.

Q: I read elsewhere that Michael Andretti has two entries in each of the USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights series in addition to his four in IndyCar and promoting three races. How much more dire straight would IndyCar be in right now if he was not doing all of this? It would be nice if some of the other owners would follow his lead.

Nice seeing you pop up somewhere after the demise of SPEED.

Jack, Beavercreek, OH

RM: Well, obviously the IndyCar grid would be four cars smaller every race and minus-5 at Indianapolis so, yes, Michael is to be commended for fielding cars in the whole ladder system. It would be nice to see IndyCar make a rule that if you run an IndyCar, then you’ve got to run something in one of those categories. But I’m not sure it could be enforced.

Q: You were right, AJ Allmendinger is heading to a mid-pack-at-best NASCAR Cup team, JTG Daugherty, to end his career in obscurity just like Sam Hornish and Danica. Hopefully we can try to keep some good drivers around for next year like Bourdais.?

BSU Darren

RM: I realize he’s got to make a living and NASCAR pays a lot more than IndyCar. But it’s just sad an open-wheel guy couldn’t come back here full time in 2014.?

Q: While the penalty to Dixon at Sonoma was deserved, the NBCSN booth commentators’ comments were certainly biased and, in some respects, disrespectful. Townsend’s comment that he would not serve the drive-through was very unprofessional. Can you imagine the uproar if Dixon had stayed out on the track and been either black-flagged, which would have cost him more time than a drive-through or disqualified and finished even lower. Comments that the penalty was not deserved are just ridiculous. The rules are clear! The driver is responsible for avoiding items in the pits, be it equipment or crew, and the penalty is black and white in the rulebook. The conspiracy comments are not even worth a comment as a crew member doing that intentionally is just ridiculous.

I have enjoyed the mailbag and glad it is continuing.

Ben Loosli, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

RM: I’m thankful that NBC allows us to voice our opinions and not spew the intelligence-insulting company line like they do in NASCAR telecasts (except Kyle Petty). Wally and Townsend were definitely outspoken but that’s refreshing and a lot of fans agreed with them and a lot didn’t. True, it might have been nice to mention the rulebook but I thought both sides were represented nicely in last week’s pre-race show.

Thanks for reading and participating.

Q: Opinions differ as to whether IndyCar got it right with Dixon at Sonoma. Fine!

Kudos to IndyCar that we do not see the dreaded, “INCIDENT INVOLVING CARS 9 AND 12 TO BE INVESTIGATED AFTER THE RACE. DRIVERS SHOULD NOT GET THEIR FINGERPRINTS OR CHAMPAGNE ON TROPHIES AS THEY MAY NEED TO RELINQUISH WIN ONCE WE FINISH OUR BRIE AND MOET, THEN ACTUALLY MAKE A DECISION”  banner seen on many Formula 1 broadcasts. Officials made an informed decision and stuck by it.

Bran Bristo, London, Canada

RM: I agree. Barfield reviewed the tape, made a call in a very reasonable amount of time and stuck with it.

Q: After reading this week’s mailbag, I’ll add one more thing re: Sonoma. My garage pass got me onto pit lane before the race. I wish every IndyCar fan could get that experience and see that the pit boxes are smaller than they appear when watching on TV. The Dixon incident was a classic racing accident. Racing is very difficult to officiate. You could not pay me enough to be the right-rear tire changer.

You and I have been around long enough to realize how lucky we are no one was seriously injured. That is really the main thing.

Mark Millikan

RM: It’s easily the most dangerous job in IndyCar (besides chief steward) and if the pit boxes were the proper size we wouldn’t have had this controversy.

 

Q: I’ve been watching Indy cars for 20 years, but just recently started to make it my primary venue for motorsport after attending my first Indy 500 this past May (which was as epic a race as I’ve ever seen in my life). That said, whenever someone brings up doing the double on Memorial Day, it’s always about what NASCAR driver will run an Indy car, but never the other way around. Has anyone on the IndyCar side of things tried looking for a NASCAR ride so they can attempt it, thus bringing some more eyes on the open-wheel side of things? I know sponsorship is the driving factor, but why not have an IndyCar guy run a couple of Nationwide races to get a license for a Cup car and try it one day?

Alex Martinez

RM: Well, A.J., Rutherford, Mario, Parnelli, Gurney, Hurtubise, Bettenhausen, Johncock, Sneva and the Unsers all competed in the Daytona 500 and Cale Yarborough, Lee Roy Yarbrough, Bobby Johns and the Allison brothers came to the Indy 500 back in the ’60s. But I guess it’s a lot more prestigious to come try Indy than it would be to go run nine hours at Charlotte. But my vote for the double in 2014 is KYLE LARSON! 

Q: Robin, how come on road and street circuits it always goes around to the right, while on ovals it always goes around to the left? And how come at most every local short track, the open-wheeled modifieds are the quickest, most exciting, and most popular racecars over the late model stocks (though stocks are awfully cool too, it’s true), while on the bigs it’s the stock cars that are more popular than the Indy cars? I don’t understand that. And how come in the 1970s it was OK to like NASCAR and IndyCar both, like I STILL do, but now so many NACSAR fans turn their nose up at Indy cars? Just wondering.

Craig Kovach, Manalapan, N.J.

RM: I’ll ask Donald Davidson to answer those first two questions but I like your very last question the best. I don’t know the answer but you always hear Harvick and Johnson talk about growing up Indy 500 fans. I think there was admiration by race fans for both back in the day, but not anymore for some reason.   

Q: I believe the comment you made in the last Mailbag in reference to ruining the race by virtue of the building necessary for the Winter Olympics should read “Vancouver” and not “Edmonton.”

Rick Morris

RM: Good catch, Rick, my bad.

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