Q: How would you rate the IndyCar drivers performances at the Rolex 24? Obviously, Rossi finished third and did not put a wheel wrong in atrocious conditions, but my vote goes to the Indy Lights driver Aaron Telitz with Vasser’s team. Had never driven a sports car before and the fact he was able to bring it home in a monsoon (in one piece) impressed me. What are your thoughts?
Jonathan and Cleide Morris, Ventura, CA
RM: I think you are spot-on, and Aaron has shown plenty of speed in Indy Lights, just wish he had a sponsor to move up to IndyCar.
Q: I’m not a gambling man, but has there ever been on-site track betting (like horse races) for IndyCar? If not, it seems like an easy way for the track and IndyCar to make money. At the very least couldn’t the proceeds go towards boosting the race earnings for the drivers?
Kyle in Germany
RM: Not yet, but the gambling laws for sports have changed and it’s now legal in Indiana so maybe by 2020 we’ll have some kind of legislation. But I imagine it will be some kind of phone app and not live betting windows at IMS.
Q: Happy to see you back at it. I know this is crazy talk, but I think this would work. Bring back a point-paying dirt race to IndyCar using sprint cars. My thoughts are, there would be plenty of car owners more than happy to do a one off deal with IndyCar owners. Let’s say $50,000 for a week. A drop in the bucket to an IndyCar team, but a real shot in the arm for the owners of dirt cars. Hold it at Eldora and give plenty of practice time. It would help both series exposure to new fans. I bet most drivers would have a blast and it would make us old guys smile, too.
RM: Ed Carpenter is the only owner you could sell that to, but between logistics, contracts and schedules, it wouldn’t have a chance. As cool as it would be, we’re never going back to the future.
Q: Glad to see you are back to being your normal cantankerous self. I wanted to thank you, Marshall and all of the RACER staff for keeping us going during the down season here in North America. Soon the racing season will be back upon us. I especially wanted to thank Marshall for some of the trips down memory lane like the Oral History of Fast Masters and the Jaguar XJ220s. I was living in Indiana and taking summer classes in West Lafayette that summer when I stumbled across the first showing of this event. I remember clearly thinking, what moron agreed to letting these guys race million dollar cars and I’m glad they did because this was going to be awesome! And it was. You can take old racers off the track, but you can’t get the track out of their blood. They want to win, and if they aren’t footing the repair bill, even better! I’m looking forward to the upcoming open-wheel season and am contemplating at least two races: Elkhart Lake and Iowa (now that it’s on Saturday under the lights like it should be). I may try to talk my father-in-law into going to Indy since he has never been. Isn’t Indy one of those pilgrimages that should be undertaken at least once in your life?
John Balestrier, Greenfield, WI
RM: Marshall is our MVP and the hardest working guy I know, so it’s to his credit you get treated to all those cool features, videos and podcasts. I enjoyed the FastMasters because I’d forgotten some of the beatin’ and bangin’ from those legends at IRP. You should definitely take your pop to Indy and get him up high in one of the corners if possible.
Q: Over the Christmas break, my wife and I visited several antique/resale shops in SE Michigan. I came across a 1972 Mark Donohue Sunoco McLaren Indy 500 whiskey decanter, which I would have bought had it been a diecast, and a book titled, “The Men and Machines of Indy Car Racing: CART 1987-88”, which I purchased. I’ve enjoyed reading through the book, which contains a number of stats and nice photos. However, based on my limited knowledge of racing during that period, I’m left with some questions that I’m certain you can answer.
The book mentions the PPG Pace Car Team, which was separate from the pace car/safety car, and has several photos of the ladies that drove these “high-tech, high performance vehicles.” Was the purpose of the team to simply promote women in motorsports, or was it more than that? Also, I was surprised to see that Al Unser Jr. failed to score points in six races, yet he finished third in points. Conversely, Arie Luyendyk and Geoff Brabham scored points in all but four races yet ended up in seventh and eighth place, respectively. Was the points distributed much differently then as compared to now? Lastly, a few observations on things that stuck out in the book that I certainly welcome your input on. First is the fact that Adrian Newey worked in CART before F1, and that his cars won two championships and two Indianapolis 500s! Impressive!
Second, Al Unser won his fourth Indianapolis 500 but only ran five races that season. Lastly, seeing the photo of Mario Andretti in his sunglasses, and the photo of Sir Jackie Stewart sitting with Roger Penske on the pit wall reminded me of how both of these men, Andretti & Stewart, just ooze coolness from every part of their being, and that I wish I could have been old enough to see both of them racing in their prime. It’s great to have you back and sharing your stories and experiences with us, and taking the time to answer our questions. Thanks, Robin!
James Jackson, Livonia, MI
RM: The late Jim Chapman started the all-female pace car team and there were a couple serious racers (Desire Wilson and Kathy Rude), but I think he did it to get PPG more publicity as well as give those ladies an opportunity to stay involved. Indy paid 1,000 points to win back then, so that’s why Big Al was so far up in the standings. Mario and Newey made a great combination, and it was obvious way back then that Adrian was a special talent. Unser’s fourth win was memorable because he had no ride to start the month and the March he drove into Victory Lane was a show car when May began. JYS and Mario were two of the best ever – on and off the track – and people still flock to them like they do A.J.