Q: Regarding the 9/5 Mailbag on blocking: I agree with the writer that there is too much blocking going on in all of open-wheel racing. Michael Schumacher was the one who legitimized this, and now it has become a standard tactic from the drop of the flag, and especially (sadly) by top drivers like Hamilton or Vettel who know that they can get away with it without penalty. This is one import from European racing that we can all do without, so I hope that the IndyCar stewards take a hard(er) line on this kind of behavior, as we now are seeing more drivers coming here from the European feeder series and F1.
Whether it is an oval or a road-course, we know that wheel-to-wheel contact can easily result in a car being launched with disastrous results. Defending your position is one thing, but putting another driver at risk is simply unacceptable. How much self-policing goes on within the IndyCar paddock? On many occasions, after watching one of the F1 guys pull a dumb stunt (just watch any start or restart with weaving, blocking and brake-checks), my feeling is that if they did that over here they’d probably be sporting a black-eye at the next race. Do the senior guys like Kanaan or Hunter-Reay provide some “counseling” to their younger competitors to address these tendencies?
Royal Richardson, Chester, N.H.
RM: I think IndyCar makes it clear you can make one move to defend but can’t react again or you will be penalized. And there isn’t the ridiculous cut-across-the-track blocking in IndyCar that we see every week in F1.
Q: What a great season this has been (except for Robert Wickens’ crash). There has been something for everyone. As I’m watching the season unfold, I’m sensing an uptick in viewership at the races. Road America, Gateway, Mid-Ohio, Long Beach and Indy have diehard fans and are becoming a cornerstone of the series. More cars are looking to enter the fray and compete. Add the success of Portland, and IndyCar is headed in the right direction.
This said, I’m growing to like the six-seven month season. My reasoning is, it seems that here in the USA, improving a sport product equates to “more”! The NFL has Monday night football doubleheaders, if that’s not enough we have Thursday Night football. Didn’t get enough on Sunday? Well there’s a Sunday night game for you. NASCAR: 34+ races of mile-and-a-half droning boredom. Nothing has been done to improve the product, there’s just more of it. Same goes for hockey, baseball and basketball. Don’t improve the game, create the wildcard and “everyone is in the playoffs”!
IndyCar, contrary to other sports, is actually improving its product. Broadcast production, new cars/aero kits, world-class drivers and racing where anyone can win on race day. Access to the drivers, pits and garages is awesome. Every race means something, and those races are developing their own personalities. I think anticipation of the upcoming season will build a desire for people to get to the track and watch the best racing on the planet. I’m sure sponsors want more exposure, but if IndyCar keeps improving the product, their sponsors will be very happy to be on the cars. Do you agree?
Chip, Earleville, MD
RM: I like your less-is-more theory to a point, but I do wish IndyCar would run through October and only be off the national radar for four months, because six is just too long. I do think Mark Miles is still pursuing an earlier start, albeit out of the country, but with NBC as a partner there’s an opportunity to stay relevant and not have people think Indy is the beginning (and end) of the season.
Q: I’m a renewed IndyCar fan in Texas, and am really looking forward to attending the COTA race next year. For a long time, I’ve wanted to see an oval race where the pits stay closed during cautions. All stops must be under green. It would obviously require a stop-and-go penalty if you must stop under yellow. Two reasons: First, the whole “line them up and open the pits” is too contrived; second, it eliminates the potential penalty of stopping and being caught out by the yellow, and it might reduce the fuel mileage races. What do you think?
RM: I’d much rather see the pits remain open at all times. Running of fuel shouldn’t be a penalty because the pits are closed, but right now there doesn’t seem to be any way to avoid fuel mileage races whether the pits remain open or closed. But at least if the pits are always open, a yellow can’t completely hose the leader and flip the field like it did at Portland.
Q: It seems like your Mailbag has been overrun with people writing that IndyCar needs to replace all catch fencing with Plexiglas. I am not an engineer, although I have always wanted to drive a train. I am a beer league hockey player. I would love to invite the Plexiglas folks to take in a hockey game and sit in the front row! I can fire a shot that gets a hockey puck up to a whopping 45 mph if I really get it right (NHL’ers fire them at over 100), and my shot has caused Plexiglas to shatter. I have also seen players propelled through it, with the Plexiglas shattering all over the fans sitting there. Not only do they have shards of the stuff all over them, they have a hockey player in their lap.
Now I’m sure that there are many different kinds and strengths of the stuff, but if it disintegrates under the force of 6 ounces of vulcanized rubber at 45 mph, how is it going to contain the 1580 lbs of an IndyCar going 200-plus? It would be have to be so thick that vision through it would be very distorted/impossible, and then people who have a whole new thing to howl about. Yes, safety needs to always be improved, but it is not something you can have knee-jerk a reaction to because then Newton’s third law will kick your butt: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Thank you for taking the time to address the issue and not joining in the calls for something that might be a solution in the future, but is not ready today.
RM: There were a myriad of issues (not to mention costs) with Plexiglas when Randy Bernard met with the Raytheon folks back in 2011, so it never really had much traction.