Robin Miller's Mailbag for June 4, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for June 4, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for June 4, presented by Honda Racing/HPD

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Welcome 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: How great was it to see the Indy cars bouncing and sliding around all over the place at Detroit? Racing cars on road/street courses are so much more fun to watch when they look like barely-controllable beasts, with the back ends kicking out at every acceleration point. We haven’t seen enough of that since the glory days of CART, but the bumps at Detroit and the grip-less red tires finally brought it out in the DW12. Just imagine now much fun these cars would be to watch if they had enough power to do that on every road/street course. I’m also amazed at how great the racing is these days at Detroit. Back in the CART days that race was a guaranteed snore-fest (unless PacWest gambled on fuel strategy). But for the past couple of years, we’ve seen tons of passing all race, and it’s not just in that Turn 3 extension. We’ve seen moves at pretty much every corner, which was unthinkable back in the CART days.
Max, Washington DC

RM: After a close fight Saturday between Power and Rahal, we got more of a typical street race from the ‘90s on Sunday with Helio dominating and I said on my RACER.com post-race video that we have been spoiled the past two years with all the good racing. There was plenty of passing both days at Detroit, just not a lot at the front.

Q: Great races at Detroit when they weren’t under yellow. I sense a little Race Control manipulation of the duration of the yellows to affect the “show.” Aleshin got turned around quickly but the yellow dragged on, maybe to let Briscoe conserve enough to race to the end. And was there a need to clean the water up in the earlier yellow. These guys race dry to wet to dry on occasion and they do just fine. Barber comes to mind. Nice to see Graham up there. Also don’t see the benefit of these doubleheaders to anyone. Is this just to add to the race count for the year? Lot of good venues off the schedule still. Elkhart, Cleveland airport was always a great race, Watkins Glen. Lime Rock would be a great addition since Pocono is the closest for New England fans.
Jeff Sill

RM: Briscoe wasn’t able to make it to the end, he had to pit, and there was enough water that slick tires couldn’t handle. I hear you, it does seem like cautions take forever anymore but I don’t believe Barfield manipulates anything for the good of individual competitors. That was the IRL. Detroit and Toronto love the doubleheader concept, jury still out on Houston. As for Elkhart Lake, Watkins Glen and Cleveland, all three would be welcomed by everyone but it takes willing promoters with title sponsors.

Q: I was watching the first IndyCar race on Saturday, and the announcers commented that the teams that had issues would probably get the cars going again so they could use the rest of the race as a test session for the next day. They also mentioned that there would be a second qualifying session in the morning. I may get some grief for part of this, but other series that run multiple races in a weekend don’t run more qualifying sessions, they use the fastest race lap to determine starting position, wouldn’t that make it more interesting for the fans and worthwhile for the teams to really have the drivers pushing throughout the first race? The other thing is about the lengths of the two races. Why are they the same? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to have enough difference in the lengths so that the teams have to come up with different strategies for each? Wouldn’t it be great if they took both approaches, shortened the first race just enough to be a flat out two-stopper with the fastest race laps determining position and the next day being just long enough to be borderline 2/3-stopper for fuel-mileage or flat out?
Daniel, Atlanta, GA

RM: I totally agree with your observation. Not only does qualifying at 8 and 10 in the morning get IndyCar zero publicity, it puts an insane load on the mechanics. I saw a lot of them dragging in at 11 p.m. on Saturday night after a 15-hour day. Qualifying needs to be on Friday so newspapers and television can use it to promote the races and the fastest lap on Saturday is an excellent way to line up Sunday. Or the finishing order. I also like your idea of different distances. If you award double points for 500-milers, there’s no reason you can’t mix up the mileage.

Q: Forget for a moment that one of the foundations of open wheel formula racing is sportsmanship and respect for your fellow competitors; that Will Power got what amounted to no penalty on Sunday shows that IndyCar indeed wants to be a “have at ’em boys” series. As has been pointed out previously in the mailbag a drive through on a short pit lane on a street course amounts to a few seconds. Power deserved at least a 30-second stop and go. I really fear what the IndyCar atmosphere is going to become if amateurish driving and “intimidating” tactics continue to be allowed with no reprimand or penalty. I, for one, really respect the guys who their fellow competitors cite as drivers they can drive side-by-side with and have no worry because they are clean racers. Now I hear some of those drivers wondering if they have to start racing dirty to be able to compete in a series that allows you to take two of your competition out of the race on the first lap with no worry of penalty.
Alan in Louisville

RM: By ruining Josef Newgarden’s race, along with Graham Rahal’s, Power should have been given a stiffer penalty and I believe IndyCar officials felt the same way after reviewing the video. Street racing breeds contact, always has and always will, but if the penalty is more severe then maybe you think twice about using the Chrome Horn.  

Q: Three questions, please. Will Power: a) Has he ever been in the wrong? b) Is he ever currently in the wrong? c) Will he ever be wrong? Thank you for the interview series on RACER.com with Mr. Gurney.
Mike Walsh, St Louis

RM: Yes, yes and yes. Power admitted to IndyCar officials after the race Sunday he owed Newgarden an apology. Thanks for reading RACER.com and for enjoying the series on Dan.

Q: It seems Power drives thinking there will not be any penalties for anything he does. Just because he didn’t hit anyone the second time he dove into the turn in the second race doesn’t mean it wasn’t reckless. He should have had a one-lap penalty. Title sponsor and race promoter. I smell another conspiracy and Newgarden and SFHR got hosed again. Good driver on a team that needs more sponsor support. Sarah and Wink always have time to talk to the fans. Being from eastern Pennsylvania, I have gone from an Andretti/Penske fan to SFHR fan. See you at Pocono.
Dino, New Hanover, Pa.

RM: I know of at least two drivers who intend to give Power some of his own medicine at Houston or Toronto because they feel he’s been allowed way too much latitude. I think (judging by all the mail) the fans are in unison that some penalties need to be more severe. But Power climbed back through the field and he and Castroneves were the two fastest cars of the weekend so it had nothing to do with conspiracy. Newgarden has been quick all season but cannot catch a break.

 

 


Q: Was it noted during the Detroit broadcast that Texas will be on CNBC rather than NBC Sports Network?
Mark McCauley

RM: No, the IndyCar race will air live on NBCSN this Saturday night. Originally it was CNBC but after the Stanley Cup times were confirmed, it was moved back to NBCSN.

Q: My local listing show the Texas race is only to air at 1 a.m. Monday night/Tuesday morning on NBCSN. Is that correct? Nationally? If that’s correct, I am stunned. I know IndyCar has struggled with TV and NBCSN has been great for IndyCar & F1 recently, but wow… 1 a.m. on a Monday. If it can’t somehow be live, certainly early Sunday before F1 or later that day would be better. And, if they are going to bury it in early morning, why not 1 a.m. Saturday night?
Adam J, N.C.

RM: As I said above, it was changed and is now back live on NBCSN this Saturday night but most TV listings were published when it was still CNBC. And the re-air remains as you say.

Q: As of today CNBC, which is supposed to broadcast the Texas night race, is showing “Suze Orman” in the time slot. Direct TV normally picks up all the races correctly but it looks like CNBC hasn’t gotten the word.

Great Indy 500. Watched the start, took a nap from laps 30-90, had lunch and watched an incredible finish. Sorry for Marco. Major kudos for Kurt Busch. He had the smarts to know he probably shouldn’t mix it up at the end and risk a crash. Let’s hope he comes back next year.
Tom Patrick, Lake Arrowhead, CA

RM: It was a late switch and therefore didn’t make the TV listings in time but hopefully enough IndyCar fans will read the Mailbag and pass the word the race is on NBC Sports Network. Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy in the booth with Brian Till doing play-by-play and a big weekend for NBC with F1 at Montreal and Stanley Cup.   

Q: What specifically has IndyCar done to prevent last year’s snoozer from happening again in Texas? And which driver is going to be in victory lane on Saturday night?
Gerry Courtney, San Francisco, CA

RM: Well, I guess we won’t know until Saturday night but they tested at Texas and tried to find a suitable downforce level so the great racing from 2012 could return. The teams are being given more leeway with downforce for the race. Marco Andretti was long gone last year at Texas before some sketchy strategy backfired and he was fastest all season on ovals so he’s my pick.

Q: Can you clarify the rule regarding usage of the Firestone alternate tires? I thought it was two GREEN flag laps? Several drivers only ran them for the first two yellow flag laps of the second race. Has the rule changed or am I missing something? I’ve included links to the lap charts from IndyCar.com that show the first three laps were run under yellow. And I’ve included the Firestone live in-race tire tracker that shows Power, Kimball, and Dixon, just to name a few, only did the first two laps with the reds.
Derek McElheny

RM: Since the middle of last year it changed. Now if a driver takes the green flag on track and then does one yellow lap, you can change.

Q: I have two items first what is your take on the article on “IndyCar Series open to allowing production-based engines“? Also I love the after race reports from you. Is there a way we can get an after qualifying report too? I know you are busy running down stories, but it would be great to get some drivers’ perspectives about how they qualified.
Sean Jurjevic

RM: I guess I’m optimistic that maybe somebody would come to Indianapolis only like the old Buick days but it’s still going to take some kind of equivalency formula, which is always tricky. The Buick had more power for qualifying but had to back it down for the race and it was never competitive in other CART races so it will be a challenge. We will do the pole-winner interview on RACER.com the rest of the season. Thanks for reading/watching.

 


Q: First, commend Ed Carpenter for a great start to the “500.” All 33 drivers, mostly in their 11 rows, were all right there on the front straight at the start. Beautiful. Second, I worry the new aero kits will destroy the great racing in the “500.” Does anyone in IndyCar worry about fixing something that’s not broke in terms of the greatest racing the “500” has ever seen?
Mark Schneider

RM: I imagine the aero kits could create some separation, at least for a while, and it’s risky since IndyCar’s competition has never been closer. But a lot of fans are clamoring for different looking cars so we’ll see what transpires.

Q: I have to say I was shocked to see a Toyota commercial run on ABC during Sunday Detroit race. At first I was kind of P.O.’d at them for jumping on the IndyCar popularity upswing. I thought hey if you want to promote your product to the IndyCar fans, build an engine and compete. I guess I felt like Toyota is letting Chevy & Honda foot the bill for the marketing avenue Toyota is using. But after reconsidering maybe Toyota is recognizing the value of being involved in IndyCar, and this could lead to a bigger involvement. What are your thoughts on this? Should I be open minded and optimistic, or go with my initial feelings of “it just didn’t seem right”!??
Craig, Slinger, WI  (home of the world’s fastest paved 1/4 mile)

RM: You’ve got to remember that Toyota, through its SoCal dealers, has been sponsoring the second biggest race on the IndyCar schedule (Long Beach) for almost four decades so it’s always tied to IndyCar in that respect.   

Q: I read an article that Honda wanted and needed a third engine supplier by 2016. They did not say what would or could happen. Any rumblings on a strong third engine manufacturer? Ford (Cosworth) needs to be in Indy Car. Ford and Toyota are both struggling in NASCAR. Toyota does OK in the Truck Series, and Ford is out to lunch. A lot of good stuff is going well for IndyCar and I hope they don’t screw it up. Verizon has done a great job promoting the Detroit races on ESPN, so compared to the past, that is good.
Edgar Arnold

RM: Honda and General Motors both welcome another engine manufacturer but it’s not imperative to their continuing and it’s not likely to be Ford after Edsel Ford’s recent comments. Maybe Dodge? Maybe Audi? Nothing on the horizon so maybe that’s why Derrick Walker opened the door for a normally-aspirated engine. ESPN has been doing a good job of promoting IndyCar this season and Verizon has some awesome commercials in the pipeline.

Q: Seems the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team is having a tough time turning it around this year (and last year). Servia seemed to fare a bit better most races and they touted the second seat as a way to get that important second car data. So what’s the story on Servia? What happened to the NTB sponsors?  You would hope, with the National Guard deal, they could find some money to keep running Servia.
Pat in Detroit

RM: Obviously they’ve been struggling and finally got a good run out of Graham last Saturday when he finished second. He’d love to have Servia as a full-time teammate but NTB is gone. However, RLL is hoping it can run Oriol a couple more times in 2014.

Q: What a great race Indy was! I’ve sat at the end of the backstretch the past 3 years and watching Oriol Servia on restarts is worth the price of admission alone. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen or hear the commentators pick up on this. Going into the last restart on Sunday I had everyone near me watch him and without fail he passed three cars on the outside in T3 like they were standing still. It’s a shame that it doesn’t look like he’ll be running the rest of the season.
Ryan, Greenwood, IN

RM: Servia is a wise old bird and he’d be the perfect choice for a teammate because he’s fast, sharp and honest. Glad to hear he kept you entertained up in Turn 3.

Q: I do miss innovation in the cars at IMS, but after the amazing racing for the 2012-2014 Indy 500s, I fear adding new aero kits will lead to poorer racing for 2015. Fair concern or not? Watched the local replay of ESPN/ABC coverage Sunday night after attending the “500.” Is there any other sporting event where the climactic moment would be shown in a split screen with a box the same size as a box featuring participant’s wife or girlfriend? Do they show Peyton Manning’s wife on a split screen during a late touchdown drive? ABC blew it on the Mears/Johncock duel with a wife shot in 1982 and ESPN is sticking to this terrible coverage plan.
Fred Cunningham, Simpsonville, SC

RM: Absolutely it’s a fair concern. What other series can a rookie on a one-car operation come into and shine like Jack Hawksworth? And Mikhail Aleshin and Carlos Huertas have also been able to show their talents. Ditto for Sage Karam. The cars are equal and the engines are as close as anyone could have hoped so aero kits are the big unknown. ABC began showing wives and girlfriends at inopportune moments 35 years ago so it’s not going to change.

 

 


Q: I know old school purists have their opinion of the Indy 500 this past weekend. But that is the race the series has badly needed in front of a decent-sized audience. Times have changed and I know the red flag was controversial, but it was needed. It wasn’t a made-for-TV-yellow-flag-for-invisible-debris-so-Jimmie-Johnson-can-try-to-win NASCAR moment. There was a legitimate incident and the red flag would allow the race to finish under green which is needed in today’s world. Did we mention what a great finish it was? Despite kids screaming, at least one crying, an awesome sunny day outside and the promise of cake, we were glued to the TV for the finish of the race to see if RHR could hang on for the win. The only thing that would have made it better was if Ed Carpenter was there to make it a 3-way fight for the checkered. The red flag was the right call and IndyCar badly needed how those last five laps worked out. Now, the big money question is will IndyCar actually do something with an American winning or will they stupidly throw it away like they did when RHR won the title?
John Balestrieri, misfit from Milwaukee

RM: It’s the only call I can remember that not a single fan complained about and that speaks volumes for why Beaux Barfield did the right thing. As for publicizing RHR, I don’t think IndyCar can do any worse than it did after his 2012 title but I’m not that optimistic. David Letterman did his part last night but IndyCar is losing its biggest national ally to retirement and I doubt he can be replaced.   

Q: As someone who attended the “500” this year, I can attest to many of the viewpoints you have expressed in your commentaries about the race. EVERYONE in my section was thrilled that the race was red flagged and did not sit down for those final laps. While the thought of a green-white-checkered NASCAR scenario makes my skin crawl, Mr. Barfield used his discretion very well and gave us paying fans what we desperately needed. What a fantastic battle by three incredible drivers that would never have happened without his decision to stop the race.??

Another reason to have massive respect for RHR: we were seated in the handicap section at the yard of bricks (Grandpa is 86 and in a wheelchair, but by-golly we know where he’s going to be Memorial Day weekend) and when RHR was draped in the American flag and preparing to kiss the bricks, he took the time to gently fold our American flag and hand it to a crewmember so that the symbol of our nation would NOT touch the ground. Several military veterans close to us also took notice and were extremely impressed, as was I.
Kyle Ford

RM: There’s a chance T. Bell’s wreckage could have been cleaned up in time for a couple laps under green but this insured it. RHR is proud to be the first American winner in eight years and it showed last night again on Letterman.

Q: I hope the TV ratings reflect the fact that the Indy 500 was by far the best race of the three on Memorial Day. Monaco was a snoozer and the Coke 600 was interesting only because Kurt had run so well earlier in the day at the “500.” I do have a question for you though. What are the teams that field Indy cars looking for in a driver? It wasn’t so long ago that RHR couldn’t get a ride. He obviously has ability, witnessed by his championship and his Indy 500 victory. He’s a handsome American with a beautiful wife. His kid wearing a copy of dad’s fire suit in Victory Lane was adorable. Sponsors must love this guy. Apart from being named Andretti, Foyt, or Unser, what more could a team want? If not for IZOD, he probably wouldn’t even be racing today. And don’t get me started on Kyle Larson not being in an Indy car.
John Masden

RM: Indy got a 3.9 and NASCAR (in prime time) a 4.1 so it’s encouraging since noon on Sunday of a holiday weekend isn’t the best time. Hunter-Reay always had talent but that’s not enough in this day and age (ask Buddy Rice, Oriol Servia, Conor Daly, Sage Karam, Alex Lloyd) so unless you get hired by one of the Big Three, you better have a sponsor in your pocket. You are correct, if not for IZOD and Michael Andretti, RHR might be a full-time sports car driver today.   

Q: During the pre-game coverage of the Hawks v Kings today (game 7), NBC Sports aired an F1 ad for the Canadian GP stating, “The world’s fastest drivers… the world’s fastest lap.” This slogan was again repeated by the NHL analysts in the form of a cross-network promotion. The fastest drivers moniker aside (which is relative), it was very puzzling to me that NBC Sports say a that an F1 lap of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has a higher speed (outright or average) than an Indy car at Texas Motor Speedway when the NBC Sports Group are airing both races less than 24 hours apart. As part of their 2015 NASCAR contract, did NBC Sports Group also hire NASCAR’s ad-men to make its 2014 ads?
Kyle

RM: I think it’s semantics. F1 cars and drivers are the fastest on road courses while Indy cars and drivers are the fastest on ovals and NHRA drag racers the fastest period.
 
Q: With Sage Karam finishing ninth in the Indy 500 after starting 31st, would you consider him one of the bigger surprise finishers of the past many years? Considering his experience level and age, I wouldn’t necessarily consider somebody like Montoya when he won Indy in 2000 or Helio in 2001 or even Kurt Busch this year. They seemed to have much more experience than Karam and not too many that finished higher come to my mind. Looks like he may have a future in IndyCar. Love the Mailbag;  see you in Milwaukee!
Dave von Falkenstein, Janesville, WI

RM: It was one of the finest performances by a pure rookie in a long time and Mark Weida and his gang did an excellent job with the Indy Lights champion. He should have a bright future in IndyCar but no guarantees Ganassi will do the right thing and bring him into the full-time fold.

Q: In terms of the racing, the Indy 500 isn’t slowly getting back to where it used to be – it surpassed that a while ago. I’ve been going to the 500 since 1980, and I remember many races that were not nearly as close, entertaining, or dramatic. Sure, there were many memorable wins throughout the years but not usually because of the quality or closeness of the competition. My frustration is that the media doesn’t recognize this and is stuck in the post-Split mindset. I understand the impact of the arrival of NASCAR and The Split, and I realize that traditions have been thrown aside, viewership and sponsorship is down, and attendance has suffered. But can you imagine what the reputation of the 500 would be if the past 10 years-worth of races had occurred in the ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s? So how does the narrative change?

Is the solution to market the hell out of the event and series? Can Verizon and IMS can pull that off? I don’t know if either want to spend the amount of money needed – probably not, given that purses haven’t changed much – but something has to change to reset the collective consciousness about this race. Maybe the 100th running is the catalyst. It’s disappointing that so many who think the 500 is not what it used to be haven’t been paying attention to what’s occurring on the track, because it’s better than ever. Can’t wait until next year! Why no co-rookie of the year? Sage got robbed.
John Leibengood

RM: You are spot on John, the racing has never been as close or as competitive (and of course it should be with spec cars) and the racing isn’t the problem. It’s getting Sports Illustrated, the Miami Herald, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press & Detroit News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Atlanta Constitution to return to IMS each May and make the Indy 500 the priority it used to be. Just getting IndyCar back on the media map should be Priority #1. Karam should have been co-rookie at the least and Marshall Pruett made a great case for him last week.

 

 


Q: My brother and I attended our first 500 this year and it couldn’t have been better. We sat on the main straight, right across from the pit entrance. Good seats, great race, and perfect weather. We never saw the infamous $9 tenderloins (we hit Squealers the day before) but had a not half bad burger for $6. The sensation of speed as the cars accelerated down the straight was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Apart from the noise (and these cars make some satisfying sounds) the speed itself was overpowering. I’m not sure it wouldn’t have been the same had they been driving turbines. I’d been to plenty of road races and short track ovals, but nothing prepared me for this. Too bad they can’t market that somehow.? I wish there had been some acknowledgement of the 50th anniversary of the deaths of Eddie Sachs and Dave McDonald.

One disappointment was that after Mari and Nabors butchered “Drivers, start your engines,” we couldn’t hear anything. Quite a letdown. It was great to see the STP turbines and the parade of legendary drivers. The Speedway did a great job of getting people into the parking lots. Too bad they weren’t there when we left! What a mess! I was also annoyed that the cops simply stood and watched the traffic jams. None of that really matters, though. It was a great day and all I’d hoped for.
Timothy Adams

RM: The Speedway used to honor deceased drivers in the program and I didn’t see this year’s but that would have been the appropriate place to remember Sachs and MacDonald. There was a little mix-up on the command but Jim was great on his swan song. Glad you had fun.?

Q: Just catching up from the annual trip west to Indy. Your pieces on Kurt Busch and the red flag decision were spot on! Before KB turned laps at Indy last year, I was neither a fan nor a hater. I developed an immediate appreciation for his effort in the first test. I was happy to see him announce his plan to run this year and watched his progression throughout the week, the crash and then throughout the weekend. He drove a great race. (Yes, young Sage Karam truly should have made it a tough decision for ROY). I was impressed with his respect for IMS, the event and his fellow competitors. After watching his victory banquet speech, I am a full-on Kurt Busch fan. No one could watch that speech and not see a real racer; someone who truly appreciated an opportunity to pursue a dream and someone who conducted himself from beginning to end with class. IndyCar should welcome Kurt back any time he wants to step into an open cockpit and I suspect he just might want to try it again.

Finally, couldn’t agree with you more about the decision to red flag the race. Beaux made the perfect call. As one of those 210,000+ plus fans in the stands, we saw 15 miles of THE most exciting and historic racing ever seen at the Speedway. My voice still hasn’t fully recovered!
Alan, Wilmington, DE

RM: I think you speak for a lot of fans and most of the IndyCar paddock: they were really won over with Kurt’s attitude, respectfulness and ability. He was good for the show and I hope he returns. Barfield put the fans first at Fontana in 2012 and again last month.  

Q: Prerace this year at the Indy 500, (along with the current museum exhibit), revived a very fond memory for me. My first view of the Speedway was Pole Day in 1968. As I was walking to my seat, Graham Hill was making his qualifying run in the turbine. It was great to see all three cars in running condition and on the track prior to the race with Parnelli, Mario and Vince Garantelli driving them. (ABOVE, Steve Shunck photo) My question: as the only surviving driver of that team, was Joe Leonard at the track this month? I’d be curious to hear his thoughts on seeing #60 prepped as it was for the ’68 race. Would have been great to see him drive on Sunday.
Frank Buczolich, Bloomington, IN

RM: No, Pelican Joe suffered a massive stroke two years ago and is pretty much confined to his rehab/nursing home but I speak to him every couple of months and he’s still got a tremendous spirit and sense of humor. A couple weeks ago I told him I was going to dinner with Uncle Bobby and Rutherford and asked whom he thought would pick up the check: ‘You will,’ he laughed. I sent him a Bobby Unser sweatshirt and the nifty turbine brochure that Steve Shunck, Brad Hoffman and the IMS museum produced last month and Joe was ecstatic to read it. A.J. nicknamed him Pelican (for swooping down and winning races) and calls Joe on his birthday every year. He was one of the true badasses on both two and four wheels.

Q: Hello from the Texas swampland we dearly call Houston. Seeing how Gene Haas is determined to go race the Euros and wants an American driver, let me nominate Kurt Busch. Why? He is already in the Haas stable; his performance up to and during the 500 convinced a whole lot of people, both in IndyCar and NASCAR, that he is a certified American badass in the mold of AJ, Mario, Stewart and Gurney. The first time some Euro pulls the full scale blocking F1 is so well known for, Mr Busch will channel his NASCAR and will introduce Mr. Euro to Mr. Armco. Ditto for the second and third times. Outside of Alonso, no need for a fourth time as the rest of the grid will be getting out of his way while crying to F1 and Bernie about the meanie American.
Stephen Archer

RM: Doubt if that would ever be considered but how about letting Kurt run on the Friday practice at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin? I know he’d be up for it.   

Q: Your series with Dan Gurney is SO COOL. The only thing wrong with it is that there needs to be much more of it! Can you please try and convince him that he needs to write his biography? He is an American treasure and his life, story and racing experiences need to be shared!
B.D.

RM: Thanks, but Evi Gurney is thrashing to finish Dan’s biography and it’s going to be lots of great stories and pictures. We have three hours of Dan talking about his Wall of Fame so it’s possible we could make it a DVD for Christmas.

 

 


Q: Now that Nashville Speedway is being sold, do you think IndyCar might approach the new owners for scheduling a race? It would be a good place for an Indy race (and on an oval), especially with Newgarden being more or less a local boy. Emailing with Paul Pfanner over the weekend to say what a great job Racer (and you) does in updating live race events and covering the sport in general and we talked about Adam Friedman doing more Gurney-like videos. He said all they need is a sponsor. Maybe Verizon could be induced to come on board for such a project?
JJest

RM: I imagine if Firestone wanted to help make a Nashville race happen, they could but not sure the new promoters could afford IndyCar. And the racing was never that good, even though it drew decent crowds. RACER.com covers IndyCar like nobody else, thanks to Marshall Pruett’s video, photo and writing skills, David Malsher’s passion and writing and Paul Pfanner’s commitment. The Gurney series, presented by Bell Helmets (see latest episode here) is getting good reviews and I know Adam wants to shoot Parnelli, A.J., Johncock, Mario, Rutherford and the Unsers if we can find sponsorship.

Q: The original Johnny Lightning cars were not made by Mattel but by a company called Topper Toys out of Elizabeth, N.J. It would be like saying Chrysler was a GM product. Topper Toys went under in a suspicious financial scandal a la John DeLorean style. The Johnny Lightning brand was revived years later by Tom Lowe out of Indiana. Among the cars released was a series of Indy 500 winners and their pace cars. This new JL was purchased by a Japanese co. TOMY/Tomica and seems to be being phased out. Another diecast company called Greenlight, again out of Indiana, has been making “500”-winning cars and pace cars in the Hot Wheel/Matchbox/ JL size (1/64 approx scale).

Here’s my plea to you Robin and our fellow OW fans. AJ has won Indy four times, but I can buy only the 1977 car. Al Unser Sr won four yet I can only buy three winners 1970, 1971 and 1978 but not the last one. Only one Rick Mears’ car is available. JL made Bobby Unser’s ’75 winner with Buick pace car. Missing the other two, etc. For the 100th running, can we get a movement to get all 100 winning cars offered (or 80-something of the winners not previously made?) Carousel 1 did big 1/18 scale winners at around $300 a pop, but I need small scale/less expensive copies so my 7 year-old autistic son can enjoy them for $10 or less (and Dad can afford a replacement if his son “loves” the car to death!). How about it, Indy fans/diecast lovers? Will Greenlight green flag this project?
Circle Track Dave

RM: Thanks for the correction. I think the best thing you can do Dave is to write Greenlight. It seems like a set of the four-time winners would sell and be your best suggestion. Good luck.

Q: Could you shed any light on what happened at Lucas Oil Raceway Park 10 days ago? My friends and I attended as is our tradition (naively this year) to find a grand total of 10 cars entered for the annual USAC “Night Before the 500.” The only “national” series regular was Tracy Hines, who blew the rest of the field away in a debacle that, at best, resembled an extended hot lap session. Six cars were running at the checkers.? Neither the track nor USAC made any announcement regarding the situation, other than to “thank the fans for coming out.” Hines made a cryptic remark in victory lane about the sanctioning body “changing the rules on him at the last minute,” and the runner-up driver said second place was the best he could do because his team “played by the rules.”? Nothing was posted on the USAC website, and press stories written after the event didn’t mention anything out of the ordinary. I’m assuming this was the last running, at least as a top-tier midget race. Is USAC on its way out? Is there another sanctioning body forming for national midget racing? Add last year’s Turkey Night fumble to Saturday night’s fiasco and I’m going to think twice before dropping a nickel on another USAC race.
JB Hogan, San Diego

RM: USAC still has the best dirt racing around but its pavement days are numbered. You think about the tradition of IRP, Salem, Winchester and all the heroes that came out of USAC’s paved racing and it’s sickening. All the talent went to Anderson for the Little 500 because it paid a great purse and it’s too bad USAC simply didn’t cancel the race with so little interest. I guess owners don’t want to have to own pavement and dirt cars but the problem is a lot deeper than that.  

Q: Ok, the good: Third time going to the 500, traveled from San Jose CA. Went to Prime 47, Charlie Brown’s, McGlivery’s, hung out downtown Friday night, made all kinds of new friends. Saturday morning at the Track….all great, PLUS THE RACE WAS AWESOME. And, I have to say it again, the people in the Indianapolis area are the NICEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD!  So nothing but great things to say about IndyCar, people and events at the track, etc.

The only BAD: The “Night before the 500.” Was this some joke race to waste my time on Pre-500 Saturday night? Is Indiana not the USAC midget capitol of the world? Eleven midgets (I counted twelve) to start the race, two don’t even make it to the grid, by half race distance only five cars are running! From the press build-up of the 69th running of this race, I was expecting at least a 30-car field. I see a bigger and better field of sprint and midgets (dirt) at my local Friday Night quarter-miler in Watsonville (a bigger crowd too)! So, where is all the USAC activity on Pre-500 night? Obviously not at the “Night before the 500.” Very disappointed and a complete waste of a Saturday night! The only highlight of the night (no, not the endless droning USF2000/ProMazda races) was meeting Larry Dixon (3 time NHRA Top Fuel champ), and I was the only one who knew who he was! Someone really needs to fix this race. As it stands, I won’t go back.
Victor Martino, San Jose, CA

RM: Glad 90 percent of your long haul was worthwhile and I apologize for USAC’s killing of a great tradition. The first time I towed my midget to Clermont for that race in 1976, there were 75 cars and the grandstands were packed. Whether it’s Kenyon, Wente, Tattersall, McGreevey, Kunzman, Bettenhausen, Vukovich, Carter, Gordon, Stewart, Kane, Hagen, Hines, Coons, Clauson, Larson or Bell – midgets at IRP/LORP have always been a fantastic show. You need to go to Anderson (Little 500) or a dirt track (Bloomington, Paragon or Putnamville) next year and I can’t imagine anybody going back to LORP for the midgets after being burned with this year’s fiasco.

 

  • 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.

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