Robin Miller's Mailbag for Aug. 13 presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for Aug. 13 presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for Aug. 13 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: That was a nice piece on Jack Hawksworth and the faith his small team of backers has in his talent. I’m sure it will pay dividends for BHA. It is nice to hear some of the human element behind the stories of how these men and women made it to the tracks to entertain us, be it in sprinters or Indy cars, and I’m sure Jack will pick up some more fans. You hear how TK slept in garages and was helped by Rubens Barrichello’s family, and how other fathers sacrificed for their sons’ dreams of being a professional racecar driver, from Paul Tracy’s dad draining the savings account to pay $100k for PT’s one-off Coyne drive, to Ric Moore (who perhaps made the ultimate sacrifice). I wonder what talent we are missing in F1, IndyCar, and elsewhere as pay drivers fill up more of the field as this sponsorship-driven sport comes to grips with the fact that no-one between the age of 7 and 35 watches TV anymore.

I was happy for Dale Coyne and know that guys like Carlos Huertas and the previous endless stream of ride-buyers have paid the bills and kept the team going, paying for JWil’s ride, but I want to see the best drivers, not the wealthiest or prettiest ones. I think Huertas’ win was down to lucky strategy in unpredictable conditions. If I’m proven wrong and he rises to the top, I’ll be the first to admit it, but otherwise, I’d like to see the speedy Jack Hawksworth back. To have that, costs need to be kept in check and the series has to raise enough profile for sponsors to find it relevant, I’m not sure how costly fly-away races will do that.
Trevor Bohay, Kamloops, BC Canada

RM: I think Jack’s father had some concerns that it might come off as a pity story but, in fact, the readers have taken it just as it should be: the story of belief, sacrifice and performance. There are ride buyers in all forms of motorsport but I have to say that IndyCar’s field no longer has any wank jobs.  

Q: My thoughts are Kevin Ward Jr. may have been mad at Tony Stewart but I also think he was doing some grandstanding. You know how the crowd goes wild when drivers do that and he was playing it up. I also think Tony Stewart was standing his ground. He gunned the engine as he passed by and I think he tried to scare Ward. A combination of these things resulted in a horrible result. Tony Stewart has a past of both on- and off-track incidents and this HAS TO be taken into account when looking at the past weekend’s events. Hopefully we will get enforced rules in all forms of motorsports that puts an end to the practice of on-track confrontations.
Mark (Niagara Falls, NY)

RM: In today’s commentary, I wonder aloud if it hadn’t been a big star like Tony, would young Ward have reacted the same way? But I’m still not convinced Stewart even knew he was being blamed for anything when he came around Turn 2 under caution.

Q: I am really concerned about the so-called “sports experts” across the TV media talking about the recent on-track incident. First, it is obvious they are typical “stick and ball” types who have not even figured out the difference between sprinters and NASCAR. Their uninformed and quite frankly, prejudiced, reporting will bring a string of demands for “something” to be done from an indignant public that has no clue about racing in general. EVERY sanctioning body needs to get in front of this ASAP and send our DAILY pressers about how common sense tells you to STAY IN THE CAR until the yellow comes out and the other racers and under the control of track safety folks. This whole rush to judgment by the media shows the “blood in the water” mentality of these so called “news reporters” – a pox on all their houses!
John Boltik

RM: Anytime someone dies in racing, it draws mainstream media coverage and, obviously, the circumstances of this one made it open season. We’re always miffed when somebody with little or no knowledge of our sport delivers a sermon or editorial but that’s part of our landscape and it won’t change. I’ll have trouble believing NASCAR would make drivers stay in their cars because it’s good for business when a driver throws something or gives the finger during a yellow flag.

Q: This morning both New York papers have front-page articles that Tony Stewart is a hot head and being investigated for Saturday’s tragedy when the local police have said there are no criminal charges. How can anyone believe that Tony Stewart would intentionally hit a person? I have lost respect for all (news) these days when everyone editorializes their opinions with no facts instead of just reporting the news. This goes for politics, wars, plane crashes and now auto races. If the driver was in the car and died, would it be any different? Twitter accounts said Tony gunned the engine to kick up dirt: did anyone think he gunned the engine to try and avoid hitting Ward? Did anyone think that it’s a dirt track at night and the driver in front was blocking his view? I hope this doesn’t get blown out of proportion. Bottom line – the driver should never have approached the racing line.
I will start my own rumor Tony Stewart & AJ Allmendinger are joining A.J. Foyt’s IndyCar team with Takuma Sato next year and leaving those taxi cabs behind.
Tony, New York

RM: The case is still under investigation but no sane person believes Stewart hit young Ward on purpose. Marshall Pruett has written a spot-on commentary for RACER.com about your beef and I think you’ll agree with his take.


Q: Over the past years, I’ve heard it so many times: “Dixon’s a genius at saving fuel. All those laps with Toyota really paid off.” And I always wondered, with all the telemetry and with engineers moving around, why aren’t the techniques common knowledge? Well, Marshall Pruett’s “Deconstructing Dixie” chapter of his Mid-Ohio Rewind finally laid it all out. It clearly takes a lot of smarts and loads of skill to pull it off.

But is this what we want IndyCar to be? With the severely restricted test schedules, how are younger drivers supposed to learn how to do this? And why should they? Can you imagine someone on the radio telling Super Tex that he needs to back off and coast through corners to get better fuel mileage? There have been a ton of innovations and changes over the past five years: push to pass, double file restarts, standing starts, doubleheaders. So how about a race with unlimited fuel? You could still use the “Dixon strategy” of stretching the stints and stopping less. But you could also go full rich if you felt that extra stops and fresh tires were the fastest way to the flag.
Lee Robie

RM: Unlimited fuel doesn’t prevent fuel mileage races in IndyCar or NASCAR. It’s all about alternate strategy and getting lucky – or not being unlucky – with the caution periods. Dixon got timely yellows but he still wasn’t going to beat Newgarden until that final pit stop snafu. But I understand fans don’t want to hear about saving fuel all the time and you raise a good point for the young drivers – reduced testing certainly limits their ability to master what Dixie does. Regarding your last comment, at their current length, races will sometimes mean extra stops and fresh tires are the fastest way to the flag. That’s why I favor running 125-mile or 150-mile heats – make them sprint shows. A.J. would not have tolerated spotters talking in his ear as he went into a corner but saving fuel wouldn’t be high on his list either.

Q: First time writer, longtime reader. I’ve been an IndyCar fan for years and have been to 33 Indy 500s. I am writing to discuss my displeasure with the Labor Day race this year at Fontana. I’ve attended every race at Fontana and last year took 11 friends with me, most of whom had not been to an IndyCar race. After the race they were ecstatic and they were all in for this year’s race…until I told them the race was being moved to Labor Day weekend now not one of them is going to attend. I also am unable to attend because of the date but I did buy four tickets to support the series, but they will go unused. Labor Day weekend, coupled with the fact that it will be blistering hot, like it was two years ago, makes this race unattendable. I will be interested to see if attendance is up for the holiday weekend. I can’t imagine it will be.
Mike Oates, Los Angeles

RM: Way back in the early ’70s when Ontario Motor Speedway hosted the California 500 on Labor Day it was a hit the first two years because of its novelty. But attendance began to plummet because everyone left town on Labor Day weekend and the race was moved to March. OMS finally got shut down in 1981 but racing on Labor Day in LA is a BAD IDEA and the folks at Fontana aren’t happy with that date, trust me. And it sounds like you were responsible for making some new fans so it’s a shame they won’t be back, as well as yourself. There will be a lot of empty seats.

Q: In the last Mailbag, someone made a very relevant comment about starting local races earlier so the fans can get home at a decent hour. Makes sense. Certainly I think a 3:30-4:00 local start time is too late unless maybe it’s a street race. Most tracks are quite a distance from anywhere and one must factor in the travel time. However, in a documentary I was watching on Bernie E., he said that in the 1980s he gave away the TV rights so he could build an audience. Once he established that, he started charging exorbitant rates for the rights, but by then the ratings were through the roof (only Olympics and World Cup draw more viewers). An interesting point Bernie made though, was that the next thing he did was have all races (except Australia, Japan, Brazil, Canada, U.S.) start at he same time (I believe it’s 2 p.m. Central European time – I know it’s 8 a.m. ET). He said that brought in a bigger audience by having all the races begin at the same time. I can remember when some races started at 7 a.m., others at 7:30 a.m. and others at 8 a.m. Eastern time. Now they’re all at 8 am. I wonder if this would help IndyCar in increasing its ratings?
David Young

RM: Well, NBCSN’s package this season is 3-6 p.m. so 14 races start somewhere between 3:30 and 3:50 ET, so people know the routine. And our ratings are up so maybe that helps. I can only go by what I observe or am told and a lot of Indy fans didn’t go to Mid-Ohio because of the late start and they’re not going to Milwaukee for the same reason. It’s a delicate balance – TV and the paying customers.

Q: It seems like every week in the Mailbag I read comments from “fans” whining about the start times of the races. “I’ve been to this race every year but I’m not going back because I’m tired Monday morning” is a terrible excuse. Most of these people probably only go to one race per year, surely they can deal with being tired for one day out of 365 if they’re actually fans. I got home from Texas at 4 a.m. and made it to work just fine. Get out and have some fun, you can sleep later. That’s what Red Bull is for.
Dustin, KS

RM: Well Dustin, it likely depends on the drive, a person’s age, what time he or she has to be at work on Monday and whether they have family with them. I understand why some people in Chicago don’t go to Milwaukee anymore – Sunday night traffic in the summer is hell. But it’s good to have fans with your attitude and spunk. 


Q: I read your column today about the races that used to be held at Cicero, Ill. (CART) and Joliet (IRL). As someone who has been to both races, they ran into problems with both management at Cicero, along with the weather. The first year of the Cicero race, the grandstand was FULL. The next couple of years, there was a problem with weather (like what happened in Iowa this year). And a lot of people that would normally be walk-up traffic decided to stay away because they didn’t want to deal with the rain and ultimate humidity. Plus, that track butted up against a neighborhood and a lot of people complained about the noise from the cars.

Joliet could still be put back on the schedule, but when they first started selling tickets to the races there, they were being sold as if you wanted tickets to, let’s say, the NASCAR race(s), you had to buy tickets to all of the races (including the IRL/IndyCar). I don’t know if that’s still going on, but it ensured that all of the races were a sellout (including IndyCar). Another problem with the race in Joliet was the lack of promotion in newspapers, television and radio. I’d like to see IndyCar haulers parading through the streets of Joliet (like NASCAR did) and people standing along the parade route passing out four-color flyers advertising the race and series. Who knows? We might see the grandstand filled again like they used to be prior to the split. They’re just some thoughts. What do you think?
John Trapp

RM: The initial Cicero race was packed because Target promoted the hell out of it for eight or nine months – on the side of buses, billboards, newspapers, radio and television. And parking was a problem but the real rub was the track sucked for racing – it was a paperclip. Then Ganassi and the Bidwell brothers had a falling out and it was gone. As for Joliet, as you stated, it was a buy-’em-all ticket package and the crowds were good those first couple years. But when IRL became a standalone event, attendance plummeted. And the Nationwide races I’ve seen up there the past couple years were barren. But an IndyCar team tested there a couple weeks ago so maybe IndyCar tries it again.

Q: So what’s up with Texas Motor Speedway? On next year’s schedule, Eddie Gossage says it will be back in its traditional date following Indy, but Marshall Pruett’s 2015 schedule story made it sound like TMS is off the schedule (if you can’t tell, I’m frowning at this point). Am I buying tickets to the Houston street race instead? I would really like to see Austin added and I’d really hate to see another oval gone.
John Marley

RM: Let’s just say the schedule is a work in progress. The way I understand it, Texas and Toronto want the same date and it’s the only date that works for both. I’d be surprised if Houston returned but I believe Mike Lanigan and Shell are working on another track.

Q: With Brasilia/Autodromo Nelson Piquet in the mix for the 2015 schedule is there any hope IndyCar will consider using the “roval?” I really enjoyed the CART races there in the 1990s. Maybe a two-race weekend with one road course and one roval? I’d think they would have great fan turnout for both.
Rich G., Columbia, SC

RM: The roval was in Rio de Janeiro from 1996-2000 so no chance of a double-header with Brasilia unless it was back-to-back weekends and I’m not sure if that track still exists. I’ll ask TK.

Q: I agree that watching at home on the flat screen is often better than buying a ticket. No traffic, no traveling, DVR replays, cheap beer, etc. So let’s turn this to our advantage. At poorly attended races, make it TV only. No fans on site would surely cut costs and increase safety. The cars could be unleashed to go as fast as possible! Considering the low attendance at most races, it is possible the added excitement would draw a large enough TV audience to attract sponsors and make up for lost revenue at the gate.
John Masden

RM: Interesting concept except tracks must have a revenue source and, short of leasing the track, IndyCar isn’t going to make up for the lost admissions and concessions and title sponsors. But it could certainly help TV ratings if no fans were permitted in the tracks.


 

Q: With all of the discussion regarding the 2015 IndyCar schedule on RACER.com lately, I began to wonder about something. As I understand it, the Master Settlement Agreement prohibits tobacco sponsorship of motorsports in America. But, would the Master Settlement Agreement still apply outside of America? If it doesn’t, here’s an idea: schedule an IndyCar race in a country with no restrictions on tobacco advertising, i.e. Bahrain, Malaysia, etc. If IndyCar did this, we could just plaster cars, banners, billboards, firesuits, and everything of the sort with names like Marlboro, Player’s, KOOL, etc. They could even name the race the “Marlboro IndyCar Malaysian Grand Prix.” This would give the teams and the series a financial shot in the arm that both so desperately need. Aside from the moral and ethical considerations associated with tobacco sponsorships, wouldn’t this work from a business/financial/legal standpoint?   
Jay Matheny

RM: I don’t know what the limitations are but Canada was also affected and I don’t believe you can advertise tobacco in some of the countries where F1 runs so I’d say it’s a long shot, at best. Obviously, if you found a place that allowed it and all those tobacco companies were interested, it could be a small windfall for select teams. But Player’s and Marlboro have moved on.

Q: There’s a hidden issue here. I’m not sure I even want to say this, because I believe the issue exists and I’d like it to remain hidden. What do sponsors really get for their return on investment in motorsports? If the National Guard’s return on investment is 0% (although I question that conclusion as the marketing may have generated recruits who didn’t sign up at a race), what are other companies getting? Companies are investing seven figures into this. If the National Guard can’t get a single recruit, what can a retail chain hope to get from sponsorship? The racing industry would either collapse wholesale or require a major rethink if sponsorship dried up, but there’s definitely something worth thinking about here as the National Guard pulls out.
Ryan Terpstra

RM: I can’t answer that because it’s different things to different companies. Target has been with Chip Ganassi for 25 years so the way it uses clients to sponsor certain branding at certain races must be effective. The Guard used IndyCar to reward and entertain soldiers with a trip to the races and that seemed to be popular. But if nobody signed up on recruiting trips to tracks then maybe it was doomed anyway. Did people run out and buy Scott towels after AJ Allmendinger won last week’s race at Watkins Glen? Does anybody buy Snapple because it’s Marco Andretti’s sponsor? ABC Supply lost its leader a couple years ago and the man who decided to go IndyCar racing but the company stayed with A.J. Foyt, so it must be getting some return on its investment.  

Q: We all know how lame ESPN is for not recognizing the IndyCar series. Most of the races and coverage is on NBCSN. The Dan Patrick show is a very popular show that airs every morning on NBCSN. Last week he had Jeff Gordon on, this week Dale Jr.  Why the heck doesn’t NBCSN encourage some cross promotion and have IndyCar drivers on the DP show? Featuring an all-American boy and Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay seems like a no brainer to me.

BTW, I’m attending the Fontana race. Any suggestions as where to sit?  I know you once said in the corners, but I don’t remember what track that was. I suppose since it will be pretty empty I can try out multiple locations.
Seth, Gilbert Arizona

RM: Good question and good suggestion. Patrick tends to favor the big names so I wouldn’t imagine much of the IndyCar lineup gets his attention. But RHR would be a natural, especially going into the season finale at Fontana. Sit anywhere up high and it’s a great view. And I imagine you’ll have plenty of room to spread out and move up – regardless of where your ticket is located.

Q: WTAM, Cleveland’s biggest radio station runs “traffic and weather together on the tens” during morning and afternoon rush hours. At 7:10, I happened to have the radio on while driving to work and heard “This traffic report is brought to you by the Verizon IndyCar Series…”  The traffic reporter did his thing, then read the promo including, “Tune in to NBC Sports Network to watch the ABC Supply 250 from Milwaukee on Sunday, August 17.” Kudos to Verizon!
Bill Carsey, North Olmsted, Ohio

RM: Good news Bill, thanks for sharing.


Q: It appeared on TV that again there was a very poor fan turnout for the IMSA TUDOR Championship sports car race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and qualifying. It did not seem there were more than 500 people in the stands watching, if that many. The IMS has to charge the series for use of the facility. That would not be a small token fee even if they are using it to draw a bigger crowd to the NASCAR race, a very misplaced bit of logic. My question is, why spend advertising money when no one sees your name? How can this series survive regarding income revenue from sponsors when no one sees the event? Except for the start, there was some good racing in the Indy event.
Thomas Grimes, Waco, TX

RM: I heard a few thousand, counting yellow shirts and beer salesmen but that race isn’t coming back in 2015 so you probably have your answer. The series survives because it’s owned by Jim France. I just don’t know how anybody can afford to race in it because the purses are minimal.

Q: You mentioned in your last Mailbag that Sage Karam could go full-time sports car racing and potentially run some IndyCar in 2015. Can you elaborate on who might be leaving or retiring? Also, with Conor Daly having the potential of a A.J. or Carpenter seat, where does that put JR Hildebrand? I thought he was next in line for the Fuzzy’s car.
Paul Hirsch, Erie, Pa.

RM: I think I said Sage is under contract to Ganassi, so he might have to run sports cars full-time in 2015 with an appearance at the Indy 500 until one of those four seats opens up in 2016. I imagine Ed would consider either J.R. or Conor if Mike Conway does go to Europe to race sports cars.

Q: I’m curious why Alex Gurney is not being considered for some of the one-off TUDOR Championship rides that occasionally become available?
Mike Smith, Colorado Springs, CO.

RM: I believe Alex has quit race driving and is now working at AAR with his dad and brother Justin. It’s a pity he never got to run an Indy car. At least at Indianapolis. Ditto for Jon Fogarty.

Q: The new Indy Lights car: can you say “Really Cool Formula Atlantic?”
Tim Shaughnessy, Knoxville, TN

RM: It looks like a mid-’90s Atlantic car, which is great, and it’s got 500hp which is also very cool. Its maiden test was good, I hear, and already it’s quicker than the old Lights car.

Q: Robin, I miss the days of seeing you on SpeedTV! I live near Cleveland and have been taking my son to Mid-Ohio the last few years. Really wish Cleveland would come back on the schedule. I briefly talked to you at Mid-Ohio last year about this. Unfortunately, as we were driving down to Mid-Ohio on Saturday, I had a medical emergency and had to drive to the nearest hospital. Really felt bad for my son who now had to miss the experience. 

I truly feel that compared to F1 and NASCAR, IndyCar provides the best racing in the world. We are looking forward to next year when the new aero kits can be seen along with the new Indy Lights car. I really like the look of it, it sounds great and is finally a proper machine for the feeder series. It would be great for other teams such as Penske and Ganassi to field an Indy Lights entry. Kudos to Schmidt and Andretti, though Andretti just recently reported he is still looking for funding to purchase new Indy Lights cars. Do you have any news on that front or any outside teams coming in? Lastly, have you personally seen any renderings for either the Chevy or Honda aero kit? See you next year at Mid-Ohio!
John B., Chardon, Ohio

RM: Foyt and Rahal have talked about buying Lights cars and 8Star’s sports car team announced Monday it would pursue Lights in 2015. Nobody has seen the aero kits yet, not until after the season finale and likely not until October.


Q: Well, John Barnes, I hope you are happy that you took the Guard to court. You just helped kill sponsorship from the Guard for all auto racing series. You should get the big boot-up-the-butt award. Thanks John.

On another topic, every news outlet is still referring to IndyCar as the Indy Racing League or IRL. This is not good at all for marketing of the IndyCar brand as the IRL or Indy Racing League names were supposedly put to death. The IndyCar brand will take a hit and not grow as confusion will still be in place.
Jeff Laughlin, Eagle, Idaho

RM: Some people close to the situation feel like Barnes’ lawsuit triggered the media interest and led to the USA Today expose. And it was obvious his intent was that if he couldn’t keep The Guard he sure didn’t want anybody else to have it.

I always shudder when I still see IRL written because it drags up The Split and more bad memories than good.   

Q: OK, so now Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has no big primary sponsor (again) and they seem to have a history of not being very effective at getting sponsorship, IMO. So obviously the talk of a second car is over, BUT, will RLLR wither away and leave IndyCar again like they have before when they had a lack of Sponsorship? Will IndyCar be down another team next year, or do Bobby/David/Mike have something up their collective sleeve to support the team? Did Panther’s lawsuit have anything to do with the NG decision?
Victor Martino, San Jose

RM: Graham Rahal found the last sponsor, so he’s got some prowess in that department, and you would think David Letterman could lean on somebody or make a phone call. But it’s a tough environment so nothing is guaranteed. A lot of people believe Panther’s lawsuit called unwelcomed attention to The Guard’s racing sponsorships and the subsequent story in USA Today.

Q: Once again a rainy qualifying session with IndyCar’s current rules was an absolute mess, at Mid-Ohio. Derrick Walker and Beaux Barfield have been doing a great job all year long, but the absolutely moronic qualifying rules that have been written aren’t making anyone happy. If you’re going to red flag qualifying at least STOP THE DAMN CLOCK!

I’m happy to hear all of the improvement IndyCar has made this year (to Lights, the races, etc.), but this is the one thing that really needs addressing regarding the racing. That said, being less intrusive in the department of driver penalties has been a very welcome change and Race Control should be applauded for that?

Finally, reading about the new calendar, it seems to me that someone should be calling up the Gold Coast mayor’s office, because Dubai followed by Brazil means IndyCar will be travelling right over Australia…Surfer’s Paradise was such a great race back in the olden days and if IndyCar is going to be anywhere near the Outback, they should be doing everything possible to make a return, especially with a pair of top level Aussie drivers in the series and a Kiwi.  Make it happen, Mark Miles!!!??
David Zipf, Newark, DE

RM: I agree. IndyCar is the MAIN EVENT so treat it accordingly. I know you can’t control weather but one lap was ridiculous. Give everyone 10 minutes at least. Yeah, yeah it’s a time-certain schedule with all those other classes but that rule needs to be reworked. As for Surfer’s, downtown has changed so not sure what that would mean to the old track but a race Down Under (New Zealand or Australia) would be a hit – especially with Dixon, Power and Briscoe.  

Q: Enjoyed your piece on Josef Newgarden and it is great to see the “little teams” succeed. There is a quote on a calendar in our office from Michael Jordan, “I’ve failed over and over and over in my life and that is why I succeed.” I think it fits SFHR. 

This might be a pipe dream but hope SFHR finds funding to become a 2-car team, Josef stays, and IndyCar overall becomes stronger. Last Sunday our family went to the Indiana State Fair. One of my two boys said, “It would be cool to see the NASCAR Trucks run here.” I told them about all of the races the Fairgrounds had over the years including USAC Stock Cars. Track would need a lot of work (fencing and an infield care center for starters) but it would be a better show than the current Brickyard races.
James A. DaPuzzo III

RM: It would be great to see Sarah score a big sponsor for Josef and expand to two cars because the kid has never had a teammate (other than at Indy with Bryan Clauson in 2012 and Alex Tagliani this year) and it would accelerate his development. I watched the AMA flat track bikes at the Fairgrounds last Friday night and they still put on a helluva show. The old Century 100 USAC stock car race was a good show but, of course, the Hoosier Hundred was the treasure. But the track is sand nowadays, not dirt, so pretty much follow-the-leader in dirt cars.

Q: After watching Mid-Ohio and what happened to Josef in the pits, I have to ask what is probably a dumb question for a longtime race fan. Why is running over the air hose such a big deal and stiff penalty?
Tim Adams

RM: It’s not a dumb question, it’s always been a dumb rule. Don’t ruin a guy’s race because he nips or runs over a hose in a tight pit box while screaming out of his stall. Fine him. That’s all it needs.


Q: I just wanted to say that I was very impressed by James Hinchcliffe and Andretti Autosport at Mid-Ohio. They went out of their way to make us feel special, just because we donated some money to Racing For Cancer and then tried to talk a driver into growing a mustache in exchange for it. All involved were very professional, and are reassuring evidence of a series that has a bright future ahead of it.

Also, I have to say that I’ve watched enough races sitting in Madness that I’ve developed a intuitive sense of which passes work at the end of the back straight, and which ones end badly, and both the outside pass by Bourdais on Hinchcliffe (when Hinchcliffe had cold tires) and the attempted outside pass by Hinchcliffe on Bourdais seemed right on the edge of “this is all going to end badly,” and yet both drivers were able to keep their cars on the track and not hit each other. I think they both found the right balance of aggressiveness and acceptance of the limitations of their cars, and I was glad that neither threw away a podium finish while battling for second place. While you would somewhat expect that from Bourdais, it is nice to see the maturity Hinchcliffe demonstrated in the race. Here’s hoping this is the start of good results for him.
Guy, Cincinnati, Ohio

RM: Hinch is great with the fans and media but don’t let that pleasant personality fool you – he’s a tough little racer when that visor goes down. That was excellent racing between he and Seabass, just like Kimball and Power, Kimball and Montoya, and Pagenaud and Briscoe. Who says you can’t race at Mid-Ohio?

Q: Has there been any news regarding Simona de Silvestro’s Formula 1 testing and attempt to secure a ride with Sauber next season? One of the highlights during my first visit to Mid-Ohio was getting the chance to meet her & I miss seeing her on the IndyCar grid this season. I genuinely hope she has a successful run in F1 but given Sauber’s results this season and the likelihood that Esteban Gutiérrez and Adrian Sutil will keep their seats with the team (at least as far as I can guess), it almost seems like she may be waiting until 2016 for a chance on the grid. Hopefully I’m wrong though.

Do you ever see her rejoining IndyCar someday like Mario Andretti did after his F1 career? Like I said, I hope she has a successful run in F1 but it would be nice to see her back in IndyCar again.
Craig Tomastik, Galena, OH

RM: Marshall Pruett keeps up with her and I believe she’s got another test coming up. But the key is whether Bernie wants her because he can make it happen – instantly. I imagine she could try and come back here if things don’t work out in F1.

Q: I don’t know how to start this off any other way besides saying I attended the race at Mid-Ohio and I had an absolute blast. I haven’t had that much fun watching any other racing series, period. The whole atmosphere is unique in itself. The paddock pass makes it even better, especially being a complete gearhead. Just being able to walk so close to ALL the cars and team’s trailers was icing on the cake. I was amazed to see how some of the “lower budget” teams have to work; there were two guys on Sunday tearing apart the Aston Martin that wrecked Saturday, working on it in the grass…which sadly also crushed my hopes that I could be a paid race mechanic.

I have no idea, so I have to ask, do all IndyCar teams have paid mechanics? What about Indy Lights teams? Pro Mazda or USF2000? Is a pit crew member on any of those teams in any of those series a full-time career? I’m currently an ASE-certified (what credit that holds in the motorsports world, I don’t know) service technician with a “grassroots” racing background. I used to race go-karts in the Ohio Valley Karting Association and WKA as a kid, and now I autocross and attend track days. I found out first-hand you need to do more than win races and championships to move up the ladder as a driver in the racing world, as I watched names like Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti move up from karts to other open-wheel series. I am in good shape physically, young (21), and am quick and efficient as a mechanic. I am completely happy having a hobby I love, but who wouldn’t want a career they love as well?

Which brings me to another question: How does one get into “professional” motorsports (specifically road racing like IndyCar, Indy Lights, or any of the sports car series like Pirelli or Continental) as a race mechanic or pit crew member? What credentials did the race mechanics or crew members have when they started out? Do most start out unpaid? If so, I can’t fathom how they could stick around without making any money.

Finally, do you know where someone can buy used racecars like USF2000 or Pro Mazda cars and how much they go for? I am strongly considering a return to competitive karting via shifter karts, but would love to own an actual open-wheel race car, even if it’s just to do HPDs. Does anyone out there race open-wheel cars for fun?
Tyler Curry

RM: Oh yeah, IndyCar teams pay their mechanics (some quite well) but they’re all concerned about being laid off for six months because of the insane gap in the IndyCar schedule. Some teams have “free help” or stooges that get a pit pass and a shirt and work for the thrill of being involved. That’s what I did (ran a pit board, vent man, go-fer) when I was 18-19-20-21 and I think you could go to a race or come to Indianapolis this fall or winter and take along a little résumé and pass it out to all the teams. Don’t get discouraged, keeping knocking on doors and bugging people – let them know you’ve got some mechanical chops and you are willing to relocate and do whatever to get your foot in the door. As for old cars for sale, I would look in the back of RACER magazine and SportsCar magazine – official publication of the SCCA – or check out RACER’s online classifieds here.

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