Q: We had an amazing race at Portland, and we have a lot of random (OK, not so random) extra cars showing up for the season finale. Is this 2018? Or is this 1991? I’m confused. I think some stories about the end-of-season one-off cars from days gone by, like Scott Sharp in 1993 (with one of the best liveries ever in a second Bettenhausen car), Cor Euser getting points in his only CART start in 1991, Didier Theys driving for Foyt and then Ganassi (in an amazing Kinko’s livery) are in order, because this seriously feels like we’re in some kind of time machine, and IndyCar gets a chance down the alternate timeline where the Split never happened.
C.W., Chicago, IL
RM: We’re going to have Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta making their IndyCar debuts , and depending how other things play out we might have 26 or 27 cars at Sonoma.
Q: I would pay serious pay-per-view money if they could put Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy into current IndyCars (or something close to them – Indy Lights?) and have at it for some purse provided by whomever puts such a deal together. Bell has current experience in various disciplines. He could have won the Indy 500 had he not been taken out in a pit accident that was not his fault. And he is fast in sports cars. Tracy, when on, lived on another planet. I was there in Phoenix when he had two laps on the entire field. He was so fast that Penske hired (and fired) him twice. Would those two characteristics even out? Only one way to find out.
Chad R. Larson
RM: I’d help you promote it Chad, but in the interest of safety, good taste and keeping NBC’s booth healthy, I’d opt for sedans because there will be some chrome horns and rooting and gouging. But I guess if we could get a couple old IndyCars and have P.T. drive for The Captain it would be a wonderful storyline – until they brought it in on the hook.
Q: Been an open-wheel fan for more years than I care to mention and have seen the highs and lows. All I can say is that IndyCar is working and I hope it stays the course so another engine (or two) enters the party. Wickens, get well. Finally, NBC needs to rubberstamp the “Chrome Horn Award” for each race, and obviously I think Tracy needs to handle that one. Enjoy your comments and Mailbag, and Marshall’s stuff. RACER, keep up the good work.
Dan Vukobrat, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
RM: Thanks Dan, I would support the PT Chrome Horn Award for the season and find a sponsor to make it more newsworthy. Jay Frye is working on a third engine, but no takers yet.
Q: I have followed your stories and reporting since at least the early ’80s, and over that time there have been some very controversial (bordering on inflammatory, perhaps?) articles that you have written – mostly critiques of drivers, but often races, sponsors, safety etc. Sometimes I’ve agreed with what you’ve said, other times it has angered me to the point of swearing you off, and yet, there is usually a lot of truth to what you have to say – and damned if I don’t always come back to it. I also know that a lot of people who you have tagged in your crosshairs still to this day won’t forgive you about things you said. But it wasn’t until I listened to the Dinner With Racers podcast with you last winter that I really understood where you were coming from, and that really made me view your stories in a different light. So it makes me wonder, are there any stories that you have reported over the years that, if you go back now and re-examine, you might take back what you said or change your mind on how you presented it?
Brad Haskin, Seattle, WA
RM: Oh, I think anyone who writes for 50 years (God I’m old) has looked back and thought about how you could have said something different or maybe more tactfully, but obviously, that wasn’t always my strong suit (smile). When I wrote that A.J. was a cheater after he smacked me in 1981, I should have simply sued him instead of writing a column, but instead, he sued me and won (and he always reminds me he kicked my ass, and Sports Illustrated’s in court), and The Indianapolis Star had to apologize for my story.
And even though I was proved to be right about The Split and what it did to the Indianapolis 500 (while all the local media shills said everything was the same), maybe I shouldn’t have been so tough on Tony George in print, on the radio and on TV for so long. I do think he cared about Indy, and his heart may have been in the right place, but he listened to all the wrong people. And I got on Roger Penske pretty hard once without giving him a chance to defend himself, so that was definitely some bad journalism. But, all in all, to quote Super Tex, not too many regrets because I think people who know me know that my passion has always been the Indy 500 and open-wheel racing, and I’ve written thousands of positive stories about both because I care and I want it to succeed. Yet race fans want to be told the truth and I think I’ve done that as well – damn the torpedos, people’s feelings and the consequences of losing jobs.
Q: This summer I reread Brock Yates’ fantastic book Against Death and Time. It got me thinking that perhaps a sequel could be written about 1973, and who better to write about auto racing in 1973 than you! What do you think?
Marc, Orange County, CA
RM: Terry Reed wrote a good book “The Race and Ritual of the Indianapolis 500” and has updated it, and 1973 is covered. That was a tough month for me because it’s the first time I ever lost a close friend when Art Pollard was killed. USAC made safety changes after the race so it certainly had its place in history, just not sure I’d want to revisit it with a book. Maybe a long story for RACER.