Q: Re: Laguna Seca and no place to pass. I respectfully refer you to this past weekend’s IMSA event there. I have spent an aggregate of nearly three months of my life (three or four days at a time ) at this track, and I just saw passes made where they had not been made before. I’m not talking about passes on cars of different classes, but passes for position in Turns 2-3-5-8 and 11. Granted, the passer had to be really committed, but the result was most exciting. The eternal optimist in me hopes for at least a fraction of this kind of action from IndyCar when they get there. Oh yeah, and the calamari is fantastic.
RM: I hope I’m 1,000 percent wrong and Laguna turns into a combination of Road America and Watkins Glen, but I sat through four races where there were zero passes up front and one race where the winner never passed a car on the track, so I remain skeptical.
Q: There has been a lot of talk that the IndyCar race at Laguna Seca next year will be the equivalent of a sleep aid, because there will be little to no passing. At the IMSA race, there was some great on-track passing. I realize that open-wheel racing is a different animal, but prototypes do share some similarities (aero dependent, carbon brakes, tire compounds, etc.). Drivers noted that tire wear was significant due to the abrasive nature of the circuit. This made for some good battles out of the hairpin. Will the racing be the Monterey-area equivalent of the Chili Bowl? No, but it is way too early to write it off. On a safety note, IndyCar and Laguna should carefully study the Super Trofeo accident from Saturday. Cannot repeat the tragic events of 1999.
Jonathan and Cleide Morris, Ventura, CA
RM: Again, I hope things have changed since Champ Car was last there (I’m told nothing has in terms of the track), but these universal aero kits have made for some great road and street course racing, so hopefully Laguna will benefit as well. The young lady who crashed a couple weeks ago hit the throttle instead of the brake, so I don’t know what anybody can do in that situation. It’s protected about as much as possible, but obviously it’s a fast part of the track.
Q: I cannot agree more with Earl Zwickey’s letter to you about slowing the cars down. I love Jim Hall and Chaparral, but wings have got to be the worst thing that has happened to auto racing. So I was super interested in what Gordon Kimball was going to say, but didn’t see any suggestions. A friend of mine who races says they need to get rid of paddle shifters to make the show better. I wrote to you a while back about stock blocks and the reply from IndyCar was weight distribution. Engineering is more important than good racing with manufacturer involvement? I know I sound like a “get off my lawn” guy, but gosh darn those cars from the ‘60s were beautiful! No wings, no tunnels, no paddle shifters, no push to pass, and do whatever it takes to get Ford, Ferrari, Mercedes, Dodge, Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, etc in there!
Greg Williams, Apache Junction, AZ
RM: Gordon has plenty of good ideas, I just didn’t share them because I wanted to use his premise that the show would not suffer and likely be better if cars were going 175 through the corner instead of 225 mph. And it gives the drivers a fighting chance to react. Not sure paddle shifters have any effect on the racing, I just wish drivers still had to shift and heel toe because that was part of their craft.
Q: I was wondering your thoughts on the possibility of a return of an oval-only type of IndyCar series? The USF2000 car and Pro Mazda car has shown that quality cars can be built for a lot less money than what Dallara is charging, and with the implementation of the Ilmor engine in ARCA (also Chevy’s engine builder I believe?) we know that a reliable “crate” system can be built cheaper then most think. I think you have a lot of open-wheel guys on the market that would love an opportunity at a less expensive IndyCar-type series. Obviously you get into the cost versus safety equation, but interested to hear your thoughts.
RM: Can’t see it, too hard to get people to attend ovals and another series isn’t going to magically change that reality. If any driver has IndyCar aspirations, he or she has to learn to road race, so I just don’t know that another one would be any better than Davey Hamilton’s or the one in Michigan that Bryan Gerster runs.
Q: Could the rumors about Liberty wanting to buy IndyCar/IMS, etc. be true? I absolutely hope so, the Hulman family is not progressing the series – they don’t have the $$power or the people in place for round-the-world promotion. Yes, I said ‘round the world, not just the U.S. Wouldn’t it be nice if IndyCar raced in Europe and South America at tracks that used to just host F1? That takes vision and guts – Liberty has both. By the way Penske, why don’t you buy IndyCar and promote it like you do your businesses? IndyCar is stuck with the Hulman family in control. The best racing on the planet (yes, better than NASCAB and way better than F1), but nobody sees it on NBCSN!
RM: First of all, the Hulman/George family does not run IndyCar racing, and The Captain spent his own money and time getting CART started in 1979, so he’s got bigger fish to fry. Randy Bernard was approached by one of the Liberty principals in 2010 about whether IndyCar was for sale, but after one meeting he never heard from them again. And I’m not convinced Liberty is all that smart, and we’ll see if they’re still solvent and standing in a couple years.