Q: With rumors of McLaren-Andretti IndyCar effort eyeing Scott Dixon’s services, if that would come true, I’ll be fine with Dixion leaving Ganassi. It opens a competitive seat for guy like Sebastien Bourdais. He’s already part of Ganassi’s GTLM program. Do you think that would be Chip and Mike back-up plan if Scott leaves? Or who do you think they would go after?
Kevin, New Jersey
RM: I’m sure Seb would get serious consideration, but I also imagine that Felix Rosenqvist would be on their radar since he wowed them in testing a couple years ago at Mid-Ohio. But this McLaren thing looks to be pretty shaky at the moment.
Q: I’m a big McLaren fan since pretty much I can remember, so I was pretty excited to hear it is planning a return to IndyCar for the next year. I was equally disappointed today to read elsewhere that those plans now might be put on ice indefinitely. What is the word on this side of the pond: is McLaren to IndyCar for 2019 still on, or did it indeed abandon the idea in light of its ongoing F1 troubles?
Rad from Toronto
RM: Joe Saward, who wrote that story, also wrote that Liberty Media was going to buy IMS and IndyCar (wrong) so I’m not sure anyone knows what’s going to happen at this moment. But it’s always been Zak Brown’s baby and he’s still in charge, so I’m not so sure it’s dead in the water. And I saw a man with a McLaren shirt in Michael Andretti’s pit on Sunday at Iowa, so that tells me there is still a pulse.
Q: Last week I felt that McLaren was a sure deal, but with Eric Boullier’s departure, what does that mean for the IndyCar program? I believe Gil de Ferran is an ally and so is Zak Brown, but how do we know for sure that their departure isn’t next on the chopping block? With this news I almost feel like their priority is to fix the F1 team rather than to dedicate resources to IndyCar, but hope I’m wrong.
Carlos in Seattle
RM: Well, since Boullier evidently was against the IndyCar program, I would see his departure as a plus, along with Gil being hired. But who knows what’s going to happen at McLaren? My question is, where are they going to find the money to field a full-time IndyCar while trying to salvage McLaren’s reputation in F1 and bring on more investors?
Q: All this talk of Alonso to IndyCar for 2019, ain’tgoingtohappen.com Alonso, to the best of my knowledge, is contracted to Toyota for this year and next, and I think Zak Brown and Michael’s relationship is such that Alonso would not entertain a Chevy-powered team. My gut feeling is one more year at McLaren for Alonso and then IndyCar in 2020. It makes far more sense: can you see Toyota allowing FA to drive for Honda? Right!
RM: I can see Toyota allowing him to do whatever he wants because he’s Fernando Alonso and it’s a totally different series. So many drivers and teams run different engines in different series (Penske, Ganassi) if they are successful. We all want Fred to come to IndyCar, just not sure it would be in a Honda.
Q: I keep hearing you campaign to make Gateway the season finale. And while I understand your reasoning, I have to firmly disagree. First of all, why are we going to screw up a good thing? Obviously the fans liked the time and date. We need to stop moving dates around. And I hear you on the noon Sunday start time, everyone gets home before midnight. But for us in Milwaukee, driving to and home for Iowa or Gateway really isn’t on the cards. We are going to Gateway this year, and it’s 365 miles, or nearly five-and-a-half hours. The only thing that makes Gateway possible for us is that it’s a Saturday night race and we can grab a hotel. And I’m sure we aren’t the only fans who feel this way. We like the Saturday night races. No rush getting to the track, grab a hotel Saturday night, and take your time driving home Sunday. Oval races at night look better on TV, it’s more comfortable for the fans who don’t want to bake in the noon sun; and at least in our circumstance, make traveling to and from races more manageable.
Ovals are very different from the weekend-long camping and festival atmospheres like Road America or Mid Ohio, and they must be treated differently. Indy fans will travel to races, but Sunday races aren’t practical for many families. I also think it’s very short-sighted to see a new successful event like Gateway and try to change it and just assume the same crowd will show up for a Sunday noon race later in the season, when you’ll be competing against NFL football. Will Chicagoans choose IndyCar or the Bears? Wisconsinites choose the Packers or IndyCar? I think we know the answer, so let’s not handicap our only successful new oval. Leave Gateway alone, they clearly know what they are doing.
Patrick, Milwaukee, WI
RM: All good points you make, and the boys at Gateway are naturally concerned about leaving Saturday night for Sunday afternoon. But here’s my thinking. IndyCar’s season finale would be on an oval with lots of people in attendance and look like a big deal – not a glorified tire test. It would also be on NBC and possibly lead into Sunday Night Football. Even by accident it’s going to draw 10 times the viewership of Sonoma. And it’s got a chance to have some good racing and drama (what if JoNew’s bump-and-run last year had been the last race to decide the title?). I argued with a couple car owners who are adamant their sponsors need to be on the West Coast to be wined and dined. So I countered and said they’d rather have a nice dinner in San Francisco than some great exposure on national television? The season finale has to be a home run, not a dud like it’s been. And I told the Gateway boys if it didn’t work Sunday they could always go back to Saturday night in 2020. But I think it’s going to stay on Saturday night.