Q: I’ve bitched a lot about ride buyers, but here I go again. I was talking to a driver in Portland and he said that the asking price for the SPM ride was “astronomical.” My question for you is, why? Honestly, why wouldn’t SPM try and get the best driver possible out of respect for the job Wickens and his crew have done all season? Munoz is not the guy, and his history shows this. His 12th at Portland was because of all the weird &*%^ that happened. Now, if this was for the Indy 500 I would agree with the call, but it’s not, it’s for two road courses. I’m sure SPM will argue that it needed the money because of the loss of an entire race car. But is this really true? Does the ride buying need to happen to keep the doors open at these race teams, or is it to ensure the owners live the life that they want? What is your take? I think hiring a Munoz doesn’t show respect for Wickens and his crew.
Josh R., Salem, OR
RM: Sam is a savvy businessman and a racer, and Arrow is a great sponsor, but obviously he decided that selling that ride was best for the team. A lot of people figured he might just hire the best available driver as a thank you to the No.6 team, but… And it’s not that Munoz isn’t capable, he’s just much better on ovals.
Q: Reading the list of Robert Wickens’ injuries literally brought tears to my eyes. As a retired mechanical engineer and fan of IndyCars since the 60s, I’d like to offer a few observations and comments. IndyCars are too damn fast for the tracks on which they race. I was at Indy in 1972 and vividly remember watching Al Unser in the Johnny Lightning car make steering corrections in Turn 2 during a windy practice day. I believe in that era the average speed at Indy was in the 172 mph range, and it was every bit as exciting as today.
The added speed of today’s cars adds unnecessary danger without truly adding to fan experience. Passing seems always to be hampered by marbles. Most of this, I believe, is the consequence of soft tires. Even the hardest of today’s tires are really relatively soft and short-lived. Remember when Andretti won on just one set of tires at Indy? Why not make the tires hard as rocks? Cornering speeds would be reduced. Consequence would likely be much more need for braking into turns, making longer braking areas and many more overtaking opportunities.
Overtaking is also hampered by aero wash affecting following cars. How many times have we heard that drivers could not get close enough to make a pass? I know it will never happen, but I advocate getting rid of wings and tunnels. This would contribute to drastically reduced cornering speeds. The amount of energy of a car crashing at reduced cornering speeds would help driver safety. Frankly, the pre-wing Formula 5000 cars pretty much fit my prescription.
And on the subject of cost, why not go to a stock block? Costs could really be kept down by allowing a large displacement stock block with a relatively low rev limit. Again, I know this isn’t going to happen. But we as fans first need to accept that the show can be equally, or more, entertaining without going at today’s ridiculously high speeds. We’ve just had too many close calls. It’s time for us to be adults and accept that there really should be some serious changes
Earl Zwickey, Amarillo, TX
RM: I want the drivers to have a chance to save a car and that’s impossible at some of the cornering speeds today, and it could also make things safer. Gordon Kimball, who designed winning cars in IndyCar and F1, is worth listening to on this subject:
“The simplest way to make ovals safer is to slow the cars down, not add more downforce back. The show would likely be even better at 180 or 190 mph. The drivers would have a real chance to fight the car and the fans could see that battle. At 220 mph, impressive as that number is, because of aerodynamic fundamentals, the drivers have very few options. That is why there are so many impressive moves on restarts – they are going slower. The margin for control responses is bigger. The time to respond is greater. The aero effects are less. The energy to be absorbed is reduced by 25 percent. Slow them down, give the car control back to the drivers, put on a better, safer show.”
Q: With last year’s cars not exposing their rear tires to avoid a car vaulting into the air and outside fence, was Wickens’ accident due to the rear tire putting his car into the air? Had they used last year’s set-up, protecting the rear tires, could this accident possibly been avoided? Love the racing this year, but hated to see a great up-and-coming driver get seriously hurt.
RM: Open-wheel cars climbing wheels all react differently but usually get altitude (Scott Dixon’s 2017 fly-by at Indy had the wheel guards) and the laws of physics take over. Nobody can predict what can or might happen.