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: Let me start off by saying, thank goodness Dario is going to be OK. There were a few moments there that were scarily reminiscent of Jeff Krosnoff and Dan Wheldon. Do you think the crash was a testament to the new car’s safety or was it luck that spared Dario more grievous injury? The Dallara seemed to perform pretty spectacularly under the circumstances.
Also, is it just me that gets extremely irritated when news anchors and reporters and other people that have never watched a moment of any kind of racing in their lives start sensationalizing accidents just for ratings? It drives me crazy that they are making sweeping generalizations about a sport that they know absolutely nothing aboutnot to mention that most of their coverage is just plain incorrect. ??
Mara?, Colorado Springs, Colo.
RM: Big credit to the Dallara’s safety cell because it did its job and probably limited Dario’s injuries. But it also was fortunate his car went into the fence with the bottom of the tub and not the cockpit, which never took a direct hit. ESPN only covers IndyCar when there’s a bad accident and CNN and other cable outlets can’t get enough sensational footage of anything, so that’s expected.
Q: When Dario Franchitti’s car was first shown at rest it looked like the nosebox was gone and I had images of Alex Zanardi at Lausitzring. As I sat there watching dumbfounded, and fearful that we were about to lose another champion to tragedy I started screaming at the TV: “Where is the safety crew?!” As it turns out Scott Dixon passed Franchitti all the way from the start-finish line, before any safety crew arrived on scene, and since I was so angry about the delay, I decided to replay the event on my DVR and time it. They did not show the actual accident in real time, but still I was able to get it reasonably close: 100 freaking seconds elapsed from the moment Franchitti came to rest to the moment that any qualified member of any safety crew spoke to him. The good news is that either really good design or really good fortune left his footwell intact- which shows how incredibly well designed the DW12 really is. The bad news is, if the nosebox had failed, and Dario’s legs had thus suffered the same injuries as Zanardi’s, then he likely would have bled out before decisive action was taken on his behalf. That is, to me, simply unconscionable. I have no idea who is at fault, whether it was inherent in the design of the track, or whether someone got their wires crossed, but this never, ever, should be allowed to happen again.
RM: It did seem like it took a long time but I think we have to remember that a street course is much more challenging than an oval, in terms of safety truck response. Cars were still running on that last lap at Houston and the trucks likely had to wait because you can’t pull out onto a hot track, especially at some of the narrow places at Houston. The first responder looked like an SCCA course worker with fire extinguisher but, thankfully, there was neither a fire or anything like Zanardi’s accident.
Q: I just watched a couple of replays of Franchitti’s wreck and have a question. Both Sato and Viso were unhurt and able to get out of their cars without help. Why didn’t they go to Franchitti’s to see if they could help? Especially had there been a fire, they could have had Dario out of the car before the safety workers got on the scene. Is keeping away policy? A safety issue? I remember seeing F1 wrecks where drivers remained on scene to help, and several drivers were out of their cars at Las Vegas 2011 and moved toward the more damaged cars.
John in Charleston
RM: Can’t answer that one but I’m sure if there had been a fire or the car had been upside down they would have responded.
Q: I saw the accident on Sunday, and I hate to talk in clich but I can’t look at that as anything other than a freak accident. What could IndyCar have done to prevent that incident? In my opinion the only way to avoid that is to stop racing. However, the end result brings up the question of Dario’s future. His accident was almost identical to Dan Wheldon’s accident in the sense that he went in to the catch fence and hit the support posts. I know Dario loves racing, but at age 40, having recently lost one of his best friends to an accident just like that and having suffered the injuries he has, I wonder if he is seriously considering retirement?
Ryan in West Michigan
RM: Actually it was more like Jeff Krosnoff’s crash at Toronto in 1996 but unlike Dan or Jeff, thankfully Dario didn’t rotate into the fence on the cockpit side. As for retiring or moving to sports cars, way too soon to even ask. He’s survived three flips and broke a few bones but Franchitti wants to win a fourth Indianapolis 500.
Q: So I think we have all the proof we need that these “wheel guards” do not prevent cars from going airborne after wheel-to-wheel contact. Is there anything that IndyCar plans to do to alter these wheel guards to be more effective? Personally I feel that if they aren’t going to work, then they should just be removed completely, but I doubt that is going to happen.
John Baadilla, Rialto, Calif.
RM: You are never going to 100 percent be able to prevent open wheel cars from climbing wheels especially in a scenario where one traveling at a high rate of speed runs into a slowing one. I think there have been cases where those wheel guards prevented lift or cut tires, or both, so they’ve made some contributions. And keeping Indy cars on the ground remains a challenge. Remember Mario’s flight at Indy a few years ago? That was caused by running over a piece of styrofoam off the SAFER barrier.
Q: I’m sure many of your letters this week will be about the catch fencing at Houston and how it could be made safer. As this incident and Daytona earlier this year showed, the fences keep the bulk of the car in the track, but rip small pieces off and do little to keep that small debris out of the stands. The design could use a rethink and all of the major sanctioning bodies, promoters, and track owners would do well to pool their resources to come up with a better idea. Motorsports as a whole cannot afford to have any fans stay away because they are worried for their safety, particularly if parents hesitate to take their children, the next generation of fans.
In all the talk about the fence I haven’t heard anything about the wheel and tire that was sent flying in the crash. If you watch the video closely before Viso hit Sato he hit one of the tires that had been ripped off Franchitti’s car and sent it flying. It hit the pedestrian bridge and fell on the other side of the wall. Besides giving anyone in that bridge the scare of a lifetime it didn’t look like it did any harm to anyone, but a wheel and tire can be one of the most dangerous pieces of debris to fly into the crowd. They’re heavy and can bounce and roll at high speed. Does the DW12 have wheel tethers? If not, I hope IndyCar can look into those.
Tyler, Azusa, Calif.
RM: A form of plexiglas might be the answer but how many street circuits could afford that? I know IndyCar is investigating the crash, looking at the fencing and debris field and will make improvements if necessary. The reality is that Indy cars do use tethers but sometimes the force of a crash dislodges them.
Q: With Scott Dixon taking the time to go the hospital in Houston with TK to visit the injured fans, it would be a classy move if IndyCar would consider his fine for negative comments on the series “paid in full.”
Wally, Eden Prairie, Minn.
RM: That’s a good suggestion and I think they would make him do some kind of goodwill instead of paying the fine but he’s already done it.
Q: What is it with Scott Dixon’s mouth lately? His dopey and aggressive accusations at Sonoma (where the tire changer “intentionally” ran into him) and Baltimore (where everyone and his brother conspired against him) are well documented. On Saturday HE WON THE RACE but went out of his way in an interview with you to bizarrely accuse Helio and Team Penske of “cheating” in order to win way back in Texas. Then on Sunday he predictably laid the blame for losing the race on Will Power bumping him all day in order to take points away. He’s quickly becoming one of the least likeable crybaby drivers in recent memory. Sure he’s had some tough and weird breaks lately, but so has Helio. Please Scott, just zip it and race.
Bert C. Reiser
RM: I think he was just having some fun about the Team Penske fine at Texas (entrant points, not driver) and he and Will definitely are building a rivalry (and that’s good) but I know what you’re saying. When you’ve had a great weekend nobody wants to hear you complain.
Q: Is there really a “curse” on the number 1 car or just Hunter-Reay? The champion from last year doesn’t seem to be doing all that well this year for a variety of reasons. I’ve noticed that when either Franchitti or Dixon have won the championship in past years that they kept their original number as opposed to becoming “number 1”.
RM: You might be onto something because it’s been a long time since the driver wearing No. 1 was able to repeat. RHR’s season has been a nightmare with mechanical failures and getting speared in pit lane. Time to go back to No. 28.
Q: First we get to watch ’em get launched by railroad tracks in Baltimore. Then we get the ski jump in Houston that dislodged Helio’s transmission from his engine, effectively ending his championship hopes. Welcome to IndyCar 2013 where every day is Bump Day! Mark Miles and company are damned lucky Dario’s car didn’t break through that flimsy fence and land in the laps of the good folks in Row 1. If it had, you’d be covering NASCAR next year and I’d be watching F1. Miles, Walker, Barfield etc. need to thank their lucky stars they dodged this bullet and get these cars back on the ovals and natural terrain road courses where they belong.
Mark in Centerville, Ohio
RM: First off, it was an FIA-approved fence and it did its job because it kept the car inside the track. There’s no denying the rough surfaces creates chaos and make things look amateurish at times but the racing was damn good. And you can only go race where people want you.
Q: How do you make a highly skilled IndyCar driver look like a 16-year-old trying to borrow dad’s stick-shift sports car for the first time? Answer: Use standing starts. Texas was a great choice for standing starts. Please press play for the Benny Hill music. The best thing that could happen to a series desperate for credibility with fans and the media is to abort the first start of Race 1, then have a car die on the second start and take out two others, which caused the FIRST TEN PERCENT of the race to be run under caution. Race 2 wasn’t any better. First attempt: One car stalled and another driver COULDN’T FIGURE OUT WHERE HE WAS SUPPOSED TO STOP. On the second attempt, a car made a false start. Let’s review the standing starts of 2013: Toronto Race 1: Aborted to a rolling start; Toronto Race 2: 1 car stalled but standing start went ahead. Houston Race 1 Attempt 1: 1 car stalled Houston Race 1 Attempt 2: 1 car stalled, took out 2 others. Houston Race 2 Attempt 1: 1 car stalled, 1 car couldn’t find its grid box
Houston Race 2 Attempt 2: false start.
The icing on the cake? Knowing that an open-wheel series that has been using standing starts for over 60 years will get their start perfect in Austin in less than two months. The IndyCar series is an embarrassing 0 for 6 on standing starts. Formula 1 gets it right every weekend. I love IndyCar, but this performance only perpetuates the international stereotype that IndyCar is a place for those who aren’t good enough for Formula 1. IndyCar is NOT Formula 1. Quit trying to be.
Kyle in New York
RM: There is no doubt that aborted or failed standing starts can be an eyesore and, with today’s technology, this is hard to accept (especially when Champ Car pulled it off in 2007). But I like standing starts on street circuits (Toronto and Houston were both good when they finally got things going) because it reduces those Turn 1 pileups and gives everyone more of an even chance than say a flying start at Long Beach (where the last six rows are still going around the hairpin while everyone else is in fifth gear on Shoreline Drive).
Q: OK, now you have had the full Houston weather experience, do you get why I was so passionate in my plea for sanity with regards to racing here in June? It’s Sunday race day, noon, 60 degrees this is hands down the most pleasant, coolest temperatures we have seen here since April, and it will last about two days at best; summer will return before the weekend. What you experienced Saturday is considered mild by our standards, at least 10 degrees cooler and a nice breeze compared to what the weather will be like here in June. For the love of all that is good and holy within IndyCar, please please please revisit this with Mark Miles, talk some sense into him.
John Cassis, ?Houston, Texas?
RM: I’ll admit I would not have paid to sit in those aluminum seats on Saturday (95 degrees with 98 percent humidity) and there was a nice turnout on Sunday (67 degrees). But the season ends on Labor Day in 2014 and late June is Houston’s date. Promoter Mike Lanigan is hoping for night races next year, which should help. ?
Q: You have often spoke of the lack of American star power in IndyCar as the biggest reason for its poor ratings. While I agree it’s a big part of the problem, I feel that the overall lack of innovation on display each weekend is keeping the old fan base away and hindering interest from the new generation. By lack of innovation, I’m referring to both the cars on the track and the venues themselves.
I think by and large, when it comes to professional sports, people want to see the best. They want to feel they are watching men and women compete in the pinnacle of their chosen sport. I don’t get that feeling when I watch an IndyCar race in 2013. Where is the technological innovation and competition between teams? To those who say, “I don’t want to see one or two teams dominate each Sunday,” I say, “Why not?” I enjoy watching other teams go back to the drawing board and come up with something new and close the gap.
Other than Indy, where are the world-class facilities? I’m sorry Shell, but the Houston circuit was a joke. Not unlike that ridiculous chicane in Baltimore, this was nothing more than a parking lot race. Do I want to see the NFL play in a high school stadium? No. Do I want to see an MLB game played in a college stadium? No. While this line of thinking is bound to annoy some who just don’t want to hear it anymore, too bad. I want IndyCar to thrive as much as anyone, but at some point the series is going to have to start thinking bigger and being more aggressive with its growth strategy. I’ve been hanging around the past three years, familiarizing myself with this new version of IndyCar in hopes that one day it will return to it’s former glory, but Robin I am losing my patience.
RM: We all know that Indy was built on speed, daring and innovation. But, to bring back those days, we need manufacturers and/or owners willing to spend money and take a chance. Not gonna happen. These ugly, spec Dallaras have given us some of the best racing I’ve seen in 45 years so that better be the draw. Would the TV ratings zoom up because we had some different-looking cars? Might help a little but not enough to make a difference. As for Houston, yeah it was a little rough around the edges and didn’t remind me of Elkhart Lake but the racing was good and the Sunday crowd was encouraging. I’d much rather be at Watkins Glen or Road Atlanta than a parking lot but until they get a Shell or Pennzoil to sponsor a race, IndyCar probably isn’t welcome.
Q: I just watched highlights from Houston qualifying and I have to say how annoyed I am with this event. This track was set up in six days? This is an IndyCar event, not an autocross! There is so much concern about producing a good product with our fan base and potential sponsors but yet we resort to a half-ass track. We have the best drivers driving on the worst quality track. I hope big time “future” sponsors don’t see this because &^%$ rolls downhill if you know what I mean.
Finally, I’m sure there are fans out there that like segments called “Where are they now”–What is Teo Fabi, Roberto Moreno and Gary B. up to these days?
RM: No argument that Friday was embarrassing when qualifying had to be scratched and the tire chicane was installed. But Houston is a big city and had a couple big-time sponsors and IndyCar had a chance to make some new fans or win some back. Did the rough track and last-lap crash cancel out the good racing and hurt the show enough to dissuade people from coming back? Have to wait and see next June. Teo lives in Italy, Moreno is still chasing women in Miami and Gary B. is fishing and having team lunch with us on Friday.
Q: I sure do love these double-headers. Watched ’em both in Houston. What do the drivers think? You’d think they’d be happy to race twice in a weekend; I know it must be hard, but racing is fun. With a limited number of seats per race 23 compared to 43 in NASCAR, I know it’s hard to break in. But with some of the older guys retiring in the next five years (Dario, Helio, Kanaan, etc.), there’s going to be a big youth shift like NASCAR had with Wallace, Waltrip, etc. Who do you see as the young Americans coming in? Do Sage Karam, Tim Paul, Shelby Blackstock, Zach Veach have the talent to move up?
Mark, Altadena Calif.
RM: I think they’d like double-headers more if the purses weren’t so puny and they need to pay more for mechanics and owners as well. Matthew Brabham appears to be a badass in the making and Karam has done a nice job this season in Lights.
Q: I know nothing about road course design and scouting, but why does it seem like every time the IndyCars visit a new temporary street circuit, a chicane has to be added after the first practice session? I know this happened at Baltimore as well. It seems like a good idea to look at every inch of pavement before giving a thumbs up to a proposed layout. This would include railroad tracks and places where football fields are stored and where cars haven’t driven for seven years. What am I missing here??
Kyle in NC
RM: Baltimore wouldn’t allow paving over the railroad tracks on the front stretch and Houston wouldn’t allow some concrete inserts to be installed to level out that bump. Temporary circuits are always a challenge because of politics or ordinances but going to the cities has proven popular with the paying spectators and so makes more business sense than running an oval race and just hoping people turn up. That’s the reality.
Q: What, in your respected opinion other than money, obviously drives the decisions regarding which tracks are chosen for the IndyCar series? There seems to be so many questions surrounding the 2014 as well as 2015 seasons, and the disappointment by fans in what those choices are. However, given the latest news of the season ending at Labor Day, several tracks must be omitted simply because of time frame allotted. Making the question more simple, what characteristics and amenities make one track more attractive than another?
Michael Baley, Mount Joy, Pa.
RM: IndyCar is attracted to whatever city or track can afford its sanction fee and which ones are willing to make a commitment. Houston is the fourth largest city in the country and also had the backing of Shell and Pennzoil. Baltimore was a big-city market on the east coast that had nice crowds but no title sponsor and shaky footing. If Providence replaces Baltimore in 2015, it’s because of location and a financial foundation. Phoenix is desirable because it’s a legendary oval in a warm climate but it didn’t draw flies for the IRL so it has to make some kind of financial sense for its owner, ISC. Elkhart Lake is coveted by everyone in IndyCar but likely needs a lower sanction fee than a place like Detroit or Toronto to make a deal.
Q: Matthew Brabham. Damn, dude. Don’t care where he’s from. You want younger fans? Fast-track this cat.
Glad Mark Miles didn’t try to sell anyone on next year’s schedule or GP of Indianapolis.
None of us were big fans of Marty Reid but I will always give him respect for the way he handled the 2011 season finale and his closing statement to that train wreck of a hijacked broadcast. Under the circumstances his eloquence and professionalism were admirable and truly appreciated by me, at least.
A night double-header in Houston sounds awesome, assuming they grind the turbulence out of that surprisingly fast surface. How about a Friday night race? Isn’t that the kind of curve ball Miles wants for this series? Well, assuming it can outdraw Katy HS vs. Lamar on Friday Night Lights. Best looking car on track all season is Josef Newgarden at Houston. So sexy it should have its own Carl’s Jr. commercial.
Dan Wagner, Ft. Worth, Texas
RM: Matthew is a native of Florida and a star in the making. IMS road race is a hope and a prayer. Marty is a great guy who just had trouble following the flow of the races. Friday and Saturday nights in Houston would be nice. Sarah Fisher’s car was painted by the O’Gara family’s paint shop and yes, it looked awesome.
Q: Who or what was Hinch so angry about/with after the standing-start incident on the first race? He was mad at something but would not give it up. His team? Standing starts? Ed Carpenter? The safety team seems to take forever to reach a car to get it restarted. They take two laps to get to anyone which really slows things down. They also seemed to take a lot of time to get to Franchitti. Is this fair? When is Mr. Ed going to hang it up turning right?
Justin, Park City, Utah
RM: I think he was upset with somebody on the team for messing up the software but he wouldn’t say (and that’s classy). It did seem extra long to retrieve cars and get to Dario but I think that was more a byproduct of the track and its tight confines. Ed has improved greatly at road racing so I don’t see him stopping (especially with so few ovals). But Mike Conway would make a good stand-in.
Q: I thought you would have asked Will Power if he would yield the lead to Helio if the time comes at Fontana. Penske has lost championships in just the last few years because he never gives team orders, but I just can’t see WP winning the race when his teammate needs the points. Will raced for Helio as much as for himself at Houston and I’m sure he will do so in the finale as well.
RM: I don’t think there’s any question he would pull over or do whatever The Captain asked if the title was on the line.
Q: Helio had two consecutive gearbox issues. Were they related? Did the team not resolve the issue overnight? You’d think The Captain would have replaced anything and everything to avoid something like that happening again the next day. Was Helio simply that unlucky?
RM: I don’t know for sure but they seemed to be different. Some people blame the bump for his Sunday DNF but it seemed like he was dropping oil and smoking before that piece broke off the gearbox casing. Let’s just say that as lucky as he’d been earlier this year, he was as unlucky as you can get last weekend.
Q: Why the hell doesn’t a top team hire Wilson or Bourdais? Stick either of them in a top car and watch the results roll in.
Hans in Wash.
RM: I haven’t a clue but I’ve asked that question in print for many years. Wilson in one of those red cars would be tough to handle on any road course or street circuit.
Q: I just got back from the Saturday race here in Houston. Glad to see they fixed the bump in Turn 1 enough to run without the tire chicane, but it’d be nice so see these guys be able to use all the track in that corner. I talked to one of James Hinchcliffe’s crew members in the pits, and he told me the track was “much, much better” on Saturday compared to Friday. That being said, what did the driver’s think about the work done to the bump??
On both Friday and Saturday I saw JR Hildebrand wandering around the paddock. Any news on if/where he might end up next year? Both times I saw him he walked into the Ed Carpenter Racing trailer; anything significant there??
Matt Dernick, Houston, Texas
RM: They hated it Friday because it was a ski jump but after having four inches ground off on Friday night it wasn’t any bumpier than Edmonton or Baltimore according to most of the drivers I talked to.
J.R. is talking to everyone about 2014 but he was spotting for someone last weekend and it might have been Ed.
Q: I’m beginning to doubt there is a market for oval racing. When you see a NASCAR Sprint Cup race on television these days, the stands are deserted and that’s the premier oval-racing series. It’s even worse for IndyCar. When Colorado hosted both an IRL race (at Pikes Peak) and a Champ Car/CART race (in Denver), the Champ Car race was the more popular race. After five laps of IRL oval racing, boredom set in with the people I attended the race with. Passing didn’t make it any less tedious. Champ Car was perceived as more challenging and more of an event. I don’t want IndyCar to become Formula 1 Lite, but maybe the Indy 500 is all the market will support.
Steve, Aurora, Colo
RM: I’m afraid we have to look at a crowd of 30,000 at an oval as a good one these days (Iowa when it runs at night). There might have been 25,000 at Pocono and I hope Fontana gets that many next weekend. But, for whatever reason, the most exciting form of racing and the one we all grew up with seems to be dying.
Q: From the looks of the IMS projected road course layout, there does not appear to be any grandstands open across from the start/finish line or the pits? I am assuming that the stands in red are the stands that are going to open. If a standing start is going to take place, would this not be a prime viewing location? Not to mention the rush of seeing the cars come out of Turn 1, down the front stretch into a prime passing zone. Am I missing something?
RM: I guess they figure nobody wants to just watch the start and that’s why they’re building bleachers and adding to the spectator mounds around the backside of the course.
Q: Do you anticipate the size of the field for the GP of Indy being any bigger than for a typical IndyCar road race? As with every May, there will be a number of teams and drivers entered to do one-off drives in the 500, so does it make economic sense for them to do the road race as well? And would IndyCar make room for additional cars on the grid?
Dan Wildhirt, Longmont, Colo.
RM: That’s a good question but unless the purse would be Indy-like, I can’t imagine too many one-offs.
Q: How large should the bonus prize money be for the winner of both the road course and oval at Indy next May? I’m thinking they could come up with a catchy name like they have for the “Triple Crown” for these two races. The winner from the road course race could add some additional excitement for the 500 in anticipation of them pulling off the “double”.
Brad, La Porte, Ind.
RM: It should pay $10 million and I think Mark Miles is working on some kind of a bonus package for the double.
Q: What’s your take on the Chipster’s switch to Chevy, and the result that all three of the sport’s top teams are now Chevy-powered? Does this mean we’re headed back to a single engine supplier? How committed is Honda to IndyCar, especially considering their forthcoming F1 alliance with McLaren?
Dan Wildhirt, Longmont, Colo.
RM: It makes sense since he’s got Chevy in NASCAR but, if anything, I think it will inspire Honda even more. Pagenaud has been tough all season, ditto for Justin Wilson. Sato has had his great moments and I think Rahal will be back on form in 2014. American Honda is totally separate from Japan so I think it’s going to be business as usual.
Q: Will Michael Andretti announce a switch back to Honda power before the end of the season, or do you believe he is waiting to see how the new twin-turbo unit performs in the off-season before confirming the switch?
RM: I asked him at Houston and he’s obviously giving it some serious thought because I doubt he wants Andretti Autosport to be #3 at GM when he could be #1 at Honda, where he always had a good relationship.
Q: The big news of Ganassi going to Chevy next years has got me worried. That means next year nearly all the races will be won by Chevy and it won’t be long before Honda heads for the door. What are you hearing about this? Should we be worried? The idea of ending the season on Labor Day weekend doesn’t bother me: as long as there are no loooooong layoffs in the schedule, I think it’s going to work out.
RM: Well, Pagenaud, Conway and Sato won for Honda so far this season and Wilson is always a threat. If Michael Andretti switches (like most figure he will), it will be very interesting. It’s 9-9 going to Fontana.
Q: What the hell am I supposed to do with my Honda Racing/HPD hat that I had all the Honda drivers sign at Long Beach since three of them are being forced to defect? I can’t believe Ganassi is giving up on Honda, the one engine that has actually won his team anything. So now I’m assuming SPM is Honda’s new flagship team? And if Chip is using his NASCAR team as an excuse to switch to Chevy, I call BS, because I don’t see anything about his sports car team switching to Corvette DPs.
And what about Franchitti? Honda is the only engine that has done anything for him in his career, and I cringe at the thought of Honda’s most successful driver being forced to use a Chevy. It’s going to be the same feeling as seeing Adrian Fernandez using a Ford, its just not the right thing. I’m going out on a biased limb here and saying Pagenaud is going to be our 2014 IndyCar champion.
RM: Honda helped put Ganassi on the map in CART from 1996-’99 and he had no problem taking Toyota’s money in 2000, so it’s not such a surprise. To be honest, Honda is going to miss Dario and Dixon a helluva lot more than it will miss Chip.
Q: I’m curious as to what Roger Penske expects to get out Juan Pablo Montoya after almost 15 years out of an Indy car? (Granted, it’s been only about half that time out of open-wheel. But still…) I also think it’s rather disingenuous of Juan to express his “excitement” at returning next season after slamming the door on Andretti and having said for years he had no further interest in IndyCar or open-wheel. However, I think the greatest tragedy is that Penske overlooked someone infinitely more deserving of the seat I speak specifically of Justin Wilson here in favor of a washed-up CART/F1/NASCAR has-been. Hope Penske’s satisfied next year…
Chris Pericak, Charlottesville, Va.
RM: R.P. thinks JPM is highly motivated to show he’s still got the chops to win races in his natural element (see video interview here) and I’m not so sure The Captain hasn’t found a big sponsor in South America, as well. Justin had one interview with Penske but never got a call back and it’s perplexing, because he’s a badass and a great guy who sponsors love.
Q: Really enjoy your new videos keep it up. With the DW12 they seem to tear up a lot of front wings. Can they be repaired or have to buy new? At what cost either way?
John T. Feeser
RM: Thank you. Depends on the damage but I think they’re $40,000.
Q: Thanks for all the great work you and the RACER staff do, I always enjoy reading. My question is why isn’t there more involvement between USAC and IndyCar? Their respective offices are literally across the street from one another and it seems to me that both series would benefit greatly from each other. IndyCar would benefit by having a direct source of American open-wheel talent, plus a strong grassroots fan base.
I understand the racing styles and cars are very different, but I have a hard time believing that talented guys like Tracy Hines, Dave Darland, Bryan Clauson, etc., couldn’t be competitive in IndyCar (just like I think TK, Will Power, and Dario could be good on dirt), especially if given the chance to do some road racing in Indy Lights. So why not offer some sort of scholarship for the USAC national champ to an Indy Lights ride or something? Honda is involved in both USAC and IndyCar so that would be a perfect chance for them to propel a driver through the ranks and build all kinds of loyal followers.
I could be wrong, but I think most USAC guys would jump at a realistic opportunity to eventually race in the 500, especially the younger guys who have a long career ahead of them. USAC would benefit greatly by having a partner in IndyCar and the national spotlight it gets. This is probably just wishful thinking but IndyCar and USAC both need a shot in the arm, and I think IndyCar is completely missing the fundamentals of what made it king back in the day. It’s like they are trying to resurrect the ghost of CART circa 1992-’93 without understanding why CART was so dominant back then. Then again I’m not in the loop of what Mark Miles and company are thinking, and I wish I could have seen the roadsters and guys like Hurtubise and Parnelli race so maybe I’m just out of touch.
Jonathon Roberts, I.U. Robert H. McKinney School of Law, ’15a
RM: Short version: When the USAC/CART war started it was the beginning of the end for midget and sprint drivers. CART went to road courses and street circuits and its teams were Can-Am and sports car-based so they hired road racers. After USAC finally threw in the towel in 1982, a couple guys like Steve Chassey and Rich Vogler got a shot at Indy cars in the mid-’80s but by 1990 it was all over.
Randy Bernard succeeded in getting a USAC champion (Bryan Clauson) back into the Indy 500 in 2012 but that program went away with him.
Q: There was an article on RACER.com about Sergio Perez sinking or swimming at McLaren in F1. If the team decides to have him out by next year and he can’t find a seat in Formula 1, IndyCar should try to reel him in. As a Mexican myself, we love to cheer our athletes on and will support them by going wherever they go. If we can’t do it with Perez, we need another Mexican in the IndyCar Series because we have a lot of Mexicans in the United States and, with our fan loyalty, I believe it can benefit IndyCar in the long run.??
Saul Hernandez, Buena Park, Calif.
RM: The largest crowd (other than Indy) I have seen in the past 45 years at an Indy car race came in Mexico City in 2001, when there were honest-to-God 175,000 people packed in to cheer for Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain and Mario Dominguez. And Fernandez helped draw crowds at Houston and Fontana, as well. Perez might be popular enough to get IndyCar back in Mexico City at the awesome Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Q: I’ve been an IndyCar fan for 10 years and ever since I’ve witnessed the 24-hour race at Daytona, I’ve always wondered what a 24 hour IndyCar race would be like. What would you say would be the outcome of one of these?
RM: Well I suppose with relief drivers and a starting field of 50 cars it could be interesting but I think the lure of an IndyCar race is going as hard as possible for a couple of hours. Distance racing is for sports cars.