Q: I loved the podcast with Santino Ferrucci, it was great to finally hear his side of the story. I think most people agree that a lot of what happened was taken out of context, but he was also a 20-year-old who did some dumb stuff. I would be interested to see what Marshall Pruett thought of him following the interview. He seemed skeptical of Ferrucci throughout, and I would love to know what he thinks of everything that happened.
Max Camposano, Bethlehem, PA
RM: I think Marshall pressed him to get some honest answers and it worked, and he likes the kid, as do most people who have encountered him in the IndyCar paddock. I also think we were all impressed with how he ran at Portland, too.
Q: So you recently wrote that you are sitting on a story that is going to make every IndyCar fan very happy. So is that in reference to COTA in 2019, or is there something else on the horizon we can look forward to?
RM: Oh no, something much better, and it will surface in the next month.
Q: There is a lot of hype right about the possibility of McLaren coming to the IndyCar Series with Fernando Alonso, but I don’t understand what all the hype is about. It is good to have another car and driver in the series, but McLaren is a company that makes street and F1 cars. Its F1 team is a far cry from the powerhouse it formerly was, however the IndyCar is a Dallara powered by either a Chevrolet or a Honda engine, and support will most likely be provided by Andretti Autosport. So what does McLaren actually bring to the table beside some marketing advice and a bucket of orange paint?
RM: It brings a two-time world champion who is disillusioned with F1 and wants to be competitive again, and he embraced everything about IndyCar in 2017. Alonso would sell a lot of tickets, help TV ratings and generate more media coverage. And right now we’re still not sure if and when this is all going to shake out and Fred will becoming full-time, but we hope so. He’s testing an Andretti car today at Barber, but his deal may not be done until November. And it’s also possible he could be an Indy-only driver if everything can’t be settled with engines and teams.
Q: Just saw an article today that states Lucas Oil Raceway (IRP) is about to undergo a multi-million dollar renovation of its oval, drag strip, and road course. They mention new pavement, fences, and improved seating and lighting. Since IndyCar doesn’t seem to have ovals begging for races, could LOR be a possibility down the line? I would think there should be a built-in fan base, most of the teams wouldn’t have to travel far, and IndyCar usually puts on a good show at the short ovals. What say you?
Dennis Czosek, Streamwood, IL
RM: As somebody who raced a midget at IRP I just can’t imagine IndyCars having enough room, but maybe the facelift includes widening the track or increasing the banking. I loved the old Hoosier Grand Prix at IRP in the ’60s, so maybe IMS could just give its road race to the folks in Clermont.
Q: It would appear that the junior open-wheel series are in crisis. I’m hoping Dan Andersen and SCCA or relevant stakeholders are talking and looking to merge F3, F4, Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 into three max new series on budgets at least 35% lower than the present MRTI levels. Maybe it’s not possible, but grids of eight cars are not really the objective. Any news or rumors in Portland about this?
RM: I agree there are way too many open-wheel series, and some are still too expensive considering the return on investment. But I can’t imagine F3 or F4 wanting to merge, because it appears they have strong fields right now. There were only eight Lights and eight Pro Mazda cars last weekend at Portland, and to your point, it doesn’t give a pro feel despite some of the talented teams and drivers. I don’t know the answer to getting people on board unless the purses would get a nice increase, and that’s not likely.
Q: I read recently in Ad Age that NBC is working with IndyCar to find a series sponsor for the 2019 season and beyond. Is NBC looking for a cut of the deal, or did NBC purchase a stake in the series when it signed its exclusive TV deal?
I live in St. Louis and went to Gateway when IndyCar was in town. The crowd seemed like a good size and all, but I noticed the media blitz this year was less than last year. I know this is primarily from Bommarito (who does a great job locally of promoting), but the only TV ads for the race contained non-series regulars who were not in the race (Sage Karam and JR Hildebrand). I don’t know what kind of control IndyCar has to send drivers for promotional appearances/TV spots, but I would believe it would be advantageous of them to have the stars of the series (Rossi, Dixon, Power, Hinch, etc) hocking the race/series.
I don’t mean to disparage either Karam or Hildebrand, but you don’t see the NBA using the third man off the bench in ads trying to get people out to a large, once-a-year event that is important to the success of the league. Regardless, I just hope in 2019 IndyCar doesn’t become Monster Energy presents IndyCar. I think I have had enough of the Monster Energy Girls.
Rob Fornkahl, St. Louis
RM: NBC doesn’t own any of IndyCar, and I’m not privy to any of the specifics but it could be a matter of percentages or a cut or overall sponsorship, commercials or on-board cameras, etc. Whatever the arrangement, it’s good for IndyCar to have the clout of NBC helping, because IndyCar needs the help in marketing. Obviously. I know Gateway had Graham Rahal in town promoting for a few days, along with JoNew earlier, so between Bommarito, Gateway’s PR blitz and all those radio spots in the Midwest, the crowd was still damn good. Think it’s safe to say it won’t be Monster.