Q: More of a comment than a question, but this past Labor Day Weekend, I spent the Sunday where I have for the past 46 years – at the Oswego Speedway International Classic 200 for supermodifieds. Davey Hamilton made his annual trip and ran well in a super fielded by the top team at the track. For not running there but once a year, he adapts and races quick. But it got me thinking of what great talent there is in the big block supermodified class around the country. Unfortunately, without road course experience, they are not moving up in open-wheel racing anymore, and are resigned to staying where they are. Most are OK with that, but I bet there are a few that wish they had a pathway to IndyCar. Just wish we could see our local stars go big-time like in years past.
Jeff, Westfield, IN
RM: Bentley Warren is the Oswego regular who made it the furthest (started two Indy 500s), although Gordon Johncock also raced there as he was coming up, and I thought Doug Hevron was going to be a star when he made it to IMS but it didn’t pan out. Joe Gosek took advantage of The Split and got to run Indy and that was cool, but I think you are right – most of the Oswego winners and champs are happy running modifieds at that iconic track, and if somebody gave them a couple million I’m sure they’d like to try Indianapolis.
Q: I didn’t really appreciate that a quarter-mile dirt track, grandstands, and a paddock area could easily fit inside one turn of the Speedway. I forget how enormous the Speedway is. I liked what I saw on the NBCSN broadcast and wish we could have had more time. Do you think this will become an annual event, and if so, would it be scheduled the same time in September? I am already wondering if I should bypass Laguna Seca and attend the next BC39. I do believe Bryan would have been so pleased with the turnout of fans and the variety and quality of the drivers. I am going to keep an eye out for Zeb Wise and his racing endeavors. What a future this young man has ahead of him.
RM: The track is permanent, and I think the plan is to run once a year at the same time (can’t do May because IMS says it needs the parking space), and I don’t think the track would be good for Indiana Sprint Week. But it’s a perfect midget track.
Q: Perhaps you have answered this in previous articles, but I saw a photo of the walls being constructed of poured concrete for the third turn dirt track at Indy. Does this mean it is a permanent fixture? If so, how will it be utilized during the month of May?
Kirk Whitacre, Ft. Myers Beach, FL
RM: Oh yeah, it’s permanent and the fence and wall assembly are as good if not better than any short track in the country. No plan to use it in May.
Q: I have been a fan of IndyCar since 1986 when my dad took me to watch Rahal win. I was only 10, so the whole experience had a big impact on me. I try to go to the Speedway as much as possible now, and it is always special. I first saw you on WindTunnel and was impressed with your honesty about The Spilt. It was such a breath of fresh air. Since then I have read every Mailbag and listened to all the podcasts that you are a part of. The stories that you have and been a part of are unbelievable! I just wanted to thank you for the work you have done throughout your career, and the knowledge you bring to IndyCar today.
Your perspective has only made my obsession with IndyCar and the history stronger. I hope to shake your hand someday and have you answer some questions about Indy in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s. But I do have a question about the relationship between Uncle Bobby and Mario. I understand they were very close before the ‘81 500, and the friendship has never recovered. What really happened in 1981, and do you understand the perspectives of both men? And what role did USAC play in it?
RM: Glad you became an IndyCar fan but no thanks necessary, I’ve had the best job for 50 years at the Indy Star, ESPN, SPEED, and now RACER and NBC. As for Mario and Bobby, obviously there were hard feelings after one took the checkered flag and the next morning the other one was posing with the Borg-Warner Trophy. And the appeal and subsequent reversal didn’t help things, but I can tell you that they’re still friends. They call each other on birthdays or when something significant happens in their life, and a few years ago they spent an hour at our annual Indy winners dinner reliving their good old days. They’ll always be pals.
Q: I read your Mailbag every week and just want to say thank you for what you do for IndyCar. I can’t help but notice the constant barrage of complaints about the racing! I was born in 1971 into a house on Trudy Drive just outside the front stretch of the Terre Haute Action track, and I have been an open-wheel fan ever since that day. I’ve been to 20 Indy 500s as well as countless other IndyCar races. When I was young I would listen to the broadcast in awe when my heroes would go out and dominate the field.
As the years have gone by, we have celebrated amazing victories and mourned tragic loses almost as if we are part of the family. This Memorial Day will be my 18th wedding anniversary, 16 of which we have spent at the track. My 11-year-old will be attending his seventh-straight, and my 9-year-old will be at her sixth. They will both tell you they’ve never seen a race they didn’t like. If people truly want to help the sport grow, we have some simple advice. Get off your butts, quit complaining and go check out a race. You won’t be disappointed!
Aaron in Bowling Green, Ky.
RM: Thanks for introducing the younger generation to IndyCar and supporting the races. Say hello some day in the pits, and we’ll try and get your kids a couple racing hats.