Q: Watching pit stops at the Rolex 24, I was wondering why every racing series uses air-powered impact tools for tire changes? There are some very powerful battery-operated impact guns available. This would eliminate the risk of a penalty for running over the air hose, as well as avoiding a possible tripping hazard for the crew. The battery-powered guns are heavier, but I’m sure these guys can handle it. Thanks for keeping us fans engaged during the long off-season.
RM: Obviously this is out of my area, so I asked Mike Hull, the managing director of Ganassi Racing, to expound on the virtues of air guns:
“The torque of the current version of air guns combined with the high air pressure delivery is the biggest reason – a single nut takes lots of pressure based upon the tightness safety. The battery pack required to do the same, if available, might require four hands per wheel, or a group of NFL lineman to lift them. The air lines are tendered by people behind the wall, so that part is under control. Teams have spent lots of money to get us to this point with the air guns; starting again would be something very similar, that is not really, in this case, a front-burner priority. Racing people accept change quickly, so don’t want to sound old-school in this case, but it’s actually well-orchestrated.”
Q: Good to hear your recovery is going smoothly. Amidst the recent spate of good news on the sponsor front (with Arrow becoming a partner at SPM and NTT stepping up as title sponsor), I want to ask a question concerning schedule speculation. You’ve mentioned hopes that Richmond and Montreal could be in the cards in the next couple of years – good venues, both. However, you also mentioned that a couple of current venues could fall off after this year. Which tracks would you think are most likely not to see 2020? And what about Toronto? It’s a fantastic host city, but as you pointed out, the track has been decimated by construction at Exhibition Place. Does it hang on?
Garrett from Reno
RM: Despite all the great sprint-car fans in Pennsylvania, Pocono remains a challenge for the promoter, so I think it’s on the bubble. Iowa lost its longtime sponsor so who knows if it can sustain an IndyCar race (although going back to Saturday night should help attendance), and Toronto isn’t the draw it used to be but seems to be maintaining.
Q: I’ve been a UK-based IndyCar fan for the last nine years or so, and I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and head out to the U.S. to watch an IndyCar race, so heading to Barber (happens to be on a long weekend off work) in April. Any tips or advice on places to go and how to pace the weekend at the track? Already got GA and paddock pass sorted.
Jeff, United Kingdom
RM: Allow yourself at least four hours to tour the museum at the track, it’s world-class and just keeps getting better. Then eat dinner at Rusty’s Bar-B-Q in nearby Leeds, Ala. Then find me in the paddock so I can get you a proper IndyCar hat.
Q: I started out last week concerned that IndyCar would be announcing their third title sponsor since unification in what seems like a revolving door, and by the end of the week I had a totally different perspective! In the past week you’ve had no less than a half dozen companies already involved in IndyCar step up their investments. Arrow at SPM, Rev (a Penske sponsor) supporting Road America, Firestone doing the same at WTR Laguna Seca, and this week MSR announcing SiriusXM and AutoNation will be joining for 10 races this year. Of course the largest of all is NTT Data, a company that seems to be growing almost as fast as Arrow. To me this is a sign that international exposure of IndyCar is growing again! Hopefully we can open (or close) the season in Surfers in the near future and double up at Motegi (especially if they’ve fixed the oval) to split much of the cost between two promoters. What I do want to ask you about is the COTA test. I know you had someone else ask if it was open or closed about six weeks ago, and directed them to contact COTA. I’ve made multiple calls to the track that have gone unreturned, and I am wondering if you might have any further information on the test?
Oliver, Surrey, BC, Canada
RM: COTA will be open to the public on Feb. 12, with admission free for IndyCar Classic ticket holders and $20 for everyone else.
Q: As one of your many fans, I am happy you are doing well and still kicking. With reference to a few of the letters in the Mailbag recently about you perhaps writing a book, I too would enjoy that idea. However, after the passing of Mari Hulman George, I caught a brief story, on a news site while searching for an unrelated story. The article spoke of a more dramatic period in Mari’s personal life. It spoke of her marriage to Elmer George, the ensuing drama and his death. There was a note of sarcasm by the author, I felt, in that he remarked that in the end, Elmer’s son (Tony George) had gained some sort of payback towards his grandfather (Tony Hulman) because of an implied rocky relationship between Tony Hulman and his son-in-law Elmer. To my point, there has got to be a novel waiting to be written about the Speedway. If done correctly, it could be made in to a movie and bolster the fan base. Days of Thunder didn’t hurt NASCAR any…
I know, a simple idea from a simple mind. I am always looking for a story and or movie that at least equals the impression the movie “To Please a Lady” left on me as young man. I’m sure there are readers out here who have no idea what I’m referring to, but it was really what generated my interest in racing. Corny I guess, but if there is a novel in you, I wish you would write it.
RM: The Hulman/George family saga would be eye-opening on many levels, even to the non-race fan, but the only person who could truly write it that is still alive would be June Swango. She was the personal secretary of Mr. Hulman who turns 100 soon, and she knows everything but never considered discussing it with anyone because she was quite loyal. I called June 25 years ago about doing a story, and she politely told me no. I don’t know that the story you read was accurate, and I certainly don’t get the reference to payback but I was good friends with David Cassidy (Mr. Hulman’s trusted assistant) and he never mentioned any animosity between Tony and Elmer. Cass could have also written the definitive book, but would have taken cyanide before betraying any confidence of the Hulman/George family. But you have to feel empathy for the four kids who grew up in such a macabre environment. The Hulman/George book would be equal parts invigorating, tragic, successful and dysfunctional and it would be a helluva read. I know quite a bit, but not nearly enough. You mentioned Days of Thunder – did Driven not generate the same amount of interest? (kidding).