Q: Big fan since the days when you could subscribe to The Star for the month of May! Happy to see IndyCar returning to Laguna Seca, but a little leery of the facilities. I attended the Rennsport Reunion last weekend and loved hanging out at the Corkscrew. However, the facility itself is looking pretty outdated, almost like a club track. Parking was atrocious, the grandstands were a joke, and food services were limited. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful setting, but I wonder if it’s major league. Are there any upgrades planned for IndyCar’s return? For reference purposes, I’ve been to Indy for the past 40 years, and have attended various series’ races at Daytona, Talladega, Charlotte, Gateway, Bristol, Sonoma, and Road Atlanta.
Mike in St. Augustine
RM: Thanks for the note but rest easy, Laguna is planning a bunch of upgrades for 2019 and there’s plenty of time to get everything done to meet with IndyCar’s approval.
Q: Will Ed Jones have a ride next year with Carlin or SPM? Plus, could we see IndyCar race at Charlotte in 2020?
RM: Neither to my knowledge, because as RACER’s Chris Medland wrote last week, F1 regular Marcus Ericsson is in discussions with Trevor Carlin about 2019, and I know Sam is looking at a potential replacement for Robert Wickens, but it isn’t Jones. There are a lot more drivers than rides at the moment and Ed is likely scrambling. As for Charlotte’s Roval, it sounds like they want to keep it a once-a-year event just for the Cup boys and that makes sense, considering the good TV rating.
Q: Would you ever make a driver sacrifice a win or a podium for their teammate? I never would. (Probably why I’ll never own or run a race team.) While I completely respect the business side of the decision, it is also a sport. The damage to the team can never be undone. I think it’s a disservice to the fans of the drivers, team, and sport as a whole. Teams should have clear rules of engagement to race each other clean and to respect the position earned by each driver and their respective teams in each race, which everyone can trust. I would only ask a driver cede a position when the following car is demonstrably faster and the leading car is not following the rules of engagement or a battle would put them both at risk – as long as a podium or win was not in contention. The trust has been broken again at Mercedes. It was a disappointing day for all F1 fans.
Aron Meyer, Tucson, AZ
RM: My response would be it all depends on the circumstances. If the IndyCar champion earned $8 million like NASCAR pays, then hell yes I would politely “suggest” to my leading driver that he needs to let his teammate by to win the title and I would reward him for his loyalty. IndyCar only pays $1 million so obviously that’s a consideration, but I liked Michael Andretti’s response when I asked him last week: “I would not ask anyone to give up the win.” He then said he’d leave it up to the teammates. But it many ways it is a disservice to the fans as well the driver in front, so I hate team orders unless it’s a really special situation like I prefaced.
Q: Mildly amused by all the consternation over the TV coverage of Sonoma. The folks distressed must be too young to remember the Heidi Bowl and the resulting kerfuffle. It’s understandable that the gorilla in the room is always going to get the lion’s share of attention. It’s just good business.
Brad Powers, Tulsa
RM: I understand all the frustration, especially for people who DVR’d the race, but NBC didn’t spend all that money on NASCAR not to show the finish, and it was just unfortunate the IndyCar race had to be juggled for a few laps.
Q: So how about getting Zanardi and Herta up top of the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca for a RACER video interview now that IndyCar is going back there?
RM: That’s a wonderful idea, but we’d have to figure out how to get Alex back because he’s a busy boy these days.
Q: Where do we stand on getting a replacement sponsor and engine supplier for the Road to Indy? People keep talking about growth in Indy Lights and such, but that’s gonna be hard if there’s no money or engines.
Max Camposano, Bethlehem, PA
RM: Work in progress is the best way to answer your question. I know Jay Frye had a good meeting with one potential OEM last week and has another scheduled today so he’s optimistic. Title sponsor? No news yet, and it’s obviously getting late.
Q: Name five people that you would love to see write a book about their experiences in IndyCar racing. These people can be anybody: drivers, owners, mechanics, executives, or journalists.
Ron, Buffalo, NY
RM: Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell have great stories to tell, and I think both would be very truthful about their battles and WoO’s history. Gordon Kirby has written several good books and is working on the history of open-wheel racing so that will be a must-read, and Evi Gurney is finishing up the two-part autobiography of The Big Eagle and a career that has no parallel, so I can’t wait for that one. I think my pal Tim Coffeen could write an interesting book because he worked on shoestring IndyCar teams, hopped trains to work for Doug Wolfgang, stooged for Bubby Jones all over the country, spent 20 years with Newman/Haas and raced sprinters himself. And my limey brother E.P. Fullalove (aka Chalkie) started with Lotus at Indy, went to Brabham, got hired by McLaren, left England for Texas to help Super Tex on the Coyotes, and built the Atlanta cars with his buddy Rabbit before becoming became the “Wing Commander” while working with Jackie Howerton, and is still building parts today for vintage F1 cars from his shop in Old Windsor. He probably doesn’t remember a lot of the ‘70s and ‘80s, but he could tell some great stories.