Q: After noticing Chris Windom giving Lights a try at the Freedom 100, I have followed him closer this year. He has won everything on dirt, he is well-spoken, American, good looking, has a hot girlfriend. Everything IndyCar needs. Please explain to me why the skill set it takes to win with high horsepower open-wheel dirt cars does not translate to IndyCar? USAC, World Of Outlaws have been getting great crowds at some of the bigger shows. IndyCar needs some of these fans to tune in.
RM: Chris is a helluva racer and a great guy, and David Byrd put that Lights deal together and very much wants to take him to the Indy 500 in the spirit of Bryan Clauson. But there is a major difference between running dirt at 125mph and an IndyCar at 225mph, and learning those nuances takes time and testing. And money. As great as BC was, he told me the last time he ran Indy in 2016 it was just starting to feel a little more comfortable, and that was his third May.
Q: I am an IndyCar fan from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Last week, rumors started to spread in my country that IndyCar would be interested in racing on the streets of Rio de Janeiro in 2020. Is there any truth to this? The gossips started after the largest newspaper in the country, O Globo, reported that IndyCar is seeking a return to Brazil. Grande Prêmio, the largest racing website in Brazil, wrote about the topic this weekend: “Rio de Janeiro is working to end the hiatus of IndyCar races in Brazil. The journalist Ancelmo Gois, from ‘O Globo,’ reported that Riotur, the department of Tourism of Rio, is negotiating with the American series for a race in 2020. According to the journalist, the initial proposal is to hold a street race – convenient for a city that has had no race tracks since the Jacarepaguá (Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway) ended its activities in 2012. The front stretch would be in the Sambadrome, postal card of Rio, copying the solution adopted when São Paulo hosted IndyCar.” Is there any truth to these rumors or are they just nonsense?
Caio Sampaio, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
RM: From IndyCar’s Stephen Starks: “Currently, we are not engaged in active discussions about an INDYCAR return (to Brazil); however we are excited to know there may be interest and we are always looking to make first-class INDYCAR races happen in great cities like Rio.”
Q: I wanted to know your thoughts on IndyCar potentially going to Mexico in 2019, especially if Pato O’Ward makes the move to IndyCar, and this rumored Rio de Janeiro race as reported first by Grand Premio for 2020. What are he chances both happen?
RM: I asked Pato recently if he was a big enough name to carry an IndyCar race in Mexico City, and he smiled and said: “I’m no Adrian Fernandez” so probably not yet. But maybe in a couple years, and if Carlos Slim gets behind him, yes, it could happen.
Q: How do people inside and outside of the IndyCar community view the series? From my experience, many people think Indy is Formula 1, when I talk about IndyCar I always have to explain how it is different to Formula 1. But, just about everyone I talk IndyCar with views the sport as a much more affluent and classy series to NASCAR. What would you say is the current image of the sport, and what has it been through out the many decades of top level American open-wheel racing? What do people in IndyCar see, what do non fans see, what do drivers outside of Indy see, and what do most fans of the sport see? What did people think when Mario or AJ raced in NASCAR? Or when Mario was in F1? Has there always been confusion between Indy and F1?
Personally, I love the diversity. The affluent and prestigious vibes of Long Beach and St. Pete, and then the down to earth feel of an Iowa race. I think IndyCar, NASCAR, and Formula 1 are all great and can thrive, even in today’s motorsport economy, because they all have such a different personality and image from one another. I have my own views on the big three racing series, but what do you and others see specifically of Indy now and from past decades?
RM: Hard to answer for so many groups, but I think the NASCAR drivers have a great respect for IndyCar, and maybe some of their fans are starting to pay attention since NBC and NBCSN carries both series and our ratings are always better when we follow a NASCAR race or practice or qualifying session. Not sure anyone in F1 (besides Fernando) regards IndyCar as competition, but I would assume guys like Max Verstappen might be intrigued with the speeds. Is there crossover between F1 and I IndyCar fans? People considered Mario the most versatile driver of all time after his F1 titles. In USAC’s heydays in the ‘60s and ‘70s, IndyCar was clearly on top of everything before NASCAR swept in and claimed the market in the mid-90s. The real problem with IndyCar today is that it’s the best racing and most diverse series in the world that nobody knows about.