Q: First, I just want to say you were quite coy on your answer (in fact, there was no direct opinion from you except for Sam Schmidt being a savvy businessman) from my question last week regarding Munoz subbing for Wickens, and these pay-to-drive guys coming in, and whether it is truthfully a product of helping the teams keep the doors open or allowing these owners live the life that they want. There isn’t one ounce of me that doesn’t think these owners aren’t making money. Are they making the same money from the CART days? No. However, they aren’t hurting by any means. And again, shame on SPM for disrespecting Wickens and his crews wonderful season by taking in a pay guy that is middle of the pack, at best.
However, kudos to Michael Andretti for trying to get Allmendinger in for the car after Justin died, and when that didn’t work he went and got Servia. This was out of direct respect for Justin and his career, and not a paycheck. Wickens didn’t pass, thank goodness, but the concept is the same. This segues into Hinch’s column, which was great! Lay it out there, tell us what’s really going on and bring this *&%^ to light. I didn’t agree with his take on using the dreaded word “Union” however. Union now has a negative connotation because of the rhetoric being passed around this country by our fearless leader in DC. That being said, good on Hinch for getting this out there and try to help the guys that make nothing, have no insurance and are just trying with everything in their being to live the life that they love. Hinch is a good guy and deserves a lot of credit for standing up.
After this article it is amazing to me and should be to others that these owners don’t at least provide the most basic necessities: life insurance and medical insurance. Another cost saving move by the teams? Definitely. These should be required. Period. I am a diehard IndyCar/CART guy and have been since my first race in Portland in 1994. However, maybe now with age I am finally stepping back and seeing the “men behind the current.” You have always jumped on the owners and how their dictating things throughout the years have ruined a lot of good things, and it was all self-serving. IndyCar is currently riding a good wave, which is great, but maybe now is the time to enact change for the drivers and especially those that have nothing but their desire and their helmet. Change starts by standing up, and Hinch stood up.
Josh R., Salem, OR
RM: Let’s get this up front so there’s no confusion: without owners there would be no IndyCar. Are they all making money? I imagine some are and some are breaking even, but I can’t say which is which, and neither can you. Can they be greedy and self-serving? Of course. The Leader’s Circle cut the drivers and mechanics right out of the equation, and pay for those two groups is lower than it’s been in a long time. That’s why Hinch’s thoughts were so timely and spot-on, but until there is some kind of organization, the owners will continue to take advantage and good mechanics will continue to leave for sports cars or get out of racing. And some drivers will continue to run without insurance, a paycheck or any kind of retirement fund. But as to my opinion on Sam selling Wickens’ ride to the highest bidder? It didn’t surprise me or infuriate me, because Munoz is a good racer (check his Indy record) who found some money, and good for him. And we don’t know how expensive 2018 was for SPM, and I don’t think Wickens felt any disrespect because a former full-timer took over his ride.
Q: Just read the piece on Ferrucci nabbing the full time seat at Coyne for 2019. Just curious as far as his rookie status is concerned. Since he ran four races in 2018 will he be eligible for Rookie of the Year honors, or is he considered a verteran in 2019?
Ryan Ward, San Jose, CA
RM: As long as it’s under five races, a driver is still considered a rookie.
Q: Looking forward to the 2019 IndyCar season. What is the status of the return of the LED position lights on the race cars? I found them very helpful, especially for the Indy 500. I sit right across from the pit exit, so the pit timing display was cool!
Jim Bryan, Fenton, MO
RM: IndyCar is working with new vendors, and hopeful things can be worked out for 2019.
Q: I’ve been watching IndyCar since 1992, and I can’t remember as deep a field in terms of quality drivers as 2018 had. What’s your opinion?
RM: Certainly a quality group from top to bottom the past several years, but in 1993 we had three world champions (Mansell, Mario and Fittipaldi, plus two-time F1 king Nelson Piquet also ran Indy that year) and four Indy 500 winners (Big Al, Little Al, Sullivan and Luyendyk) running full-time with a few wankers scattered in there. But the mid-60s there was a melting pot of heroes from USAC (Foyt, Andretti, Parnelli, Gurney, Rutherford, Johncock, both Unsers, Ruby, McCluskey, Leonard, Ward), F1 (Clark, Stewart, Hill, Rindt, Hulme) and NASCAR (Yarborough, Yarbrough) at Indy, and the late ’50 and early ‘60s had midget and sprint car champions saturating the starting lineup for the USAC Championship Trail. So, yes, the 2018 lineup only had one or two weak sisters and lots of young and old talent spread throughout. But it’s not better than some of those ‘60s lineups.
Q: I’ve travelled well over 7,000 kilometers driving to three IndyCar races this year and have enjoyed every minute of it. While I couldn’t find anyone to come along on the long haul trips, I did take some friends to Portland. They were blown away by everything they experienced – the cars, the speed – they bought t-shirts and are now IndyCar converts. We will be back at PIR next year, but we all agreed we want to see the Indy 500. So in 2019, three crazy Canucks are going on the ultimate guys’ road trip. We’re driving from Vancouver to Indy, with a few tourist stops on the way, in what will be a ridiculous 10-day, 8,000 km round trip. So my question is hopefully a simple one: where should we sit? I called the Speedway and we can’t buy anything yet, they said at the moment we can only put in a request with three options. We don’t want to have the ticket office make the choice; this is a “bucket list trip,” so based on what will be available when general admission sales start, what can you suggest?
David, Maple Ridge, BC
RM: I suggest you let me get your tickets from a ticket broker that owes me a favor. I want to get you guys as high as I can in one of the corners, because that’s where you can see all the best action and there are big screens to keep you informed on pit stops, cautions, etc. You are the kind of fans that IndyCar cherishes.