Q: With the Firestone extension, I was wondering what their financial deal is with IndyCar. Do they charge teams for tires? Do they pay IndyCar for the privilege? Just how is their deal structured? 2025 is a long time. Also, surely IMS will name Mario as Grand Marshal this year on the 50th anniversary of his only win? Finally, will you still be involved with NBC broadcasts this year?
Gary Thompson, Indianapolis
RM: Tires are $600 a set and everyone buys them. Firestone gives IndyCar a nice stipend that also includes marketing commitments, but I don’t know the exact number. Mario’s likeness is on the bronze badge and I would hope he drives the pace car. That’s cooler than being the grand marshal. Yes, NBC is keeping me and I’m fired up for 2019.
Q: We are attending St. Pete, Indy 500, Belle Isle, Mid-Ohio, and Road America this year. However I’m craving some short track racing under the lights! Should we go to Iowa because will it continue to be on the schedule? Or should we go to Gateway to show our support for what the Bommarito group and Curtis Francois have done for IndyCar and us fans? Bommarito has just renewed sponsorship for three years so I’m leaning towards Iowa, but since I’m taking three IndyCar newbies, I’m leaning towards the excitement that the Gateway atmosphere can provide. I’d hate to miss Iowa’s last race, so I’m in a pickle here!
Shawn from Miami/Detroit
RM: First off, thanks for being such a great fan and indoctrinating your friends. But I never said this was going to be Iowa’s last race. I commented that losing its longtime title sponsor (Iowa Corn) would make things tough and I hope they get a replacement, but that going back to Saturday night should help restore the crowd. I can’t make a pick – I like both places and the effort they put forth. Iowa is probably a better race, but Gateway offers so much action during the day and into the evening. Tough call.
Q: The Indy Grand Prix has now been run five times, and I’m curious to know if you think the event has been a success? It doesn’t look well attended and hasn’t really gathered more interest in the 500. You listed some tracks/races that could be on the bubble, but didn’t list the Indy Grand Prix. Is it safe for the time being?
Ron, Buffalo, NY
RM: Let’s put it this way, in terms of attendance it’s been a success compared to Pole Day after The Split. But the fact it’s carried on national television is one more weekend to promote the Indianapolis 500, so that alone is worth it for your sponsors. I think it’s safe as long as Mark Miles is in charge.
Q: At the doubleheader in Detroit, have they ever considered running the Sunday race the opposite direction? It would give the fans that go to both races a different perspective from the same seat. What logistical issues would there be – pit entry, fueling the car from the other side, etc.?
Rob S Bennett, Thornton, CO
RM: Good lord, no. Logistically? Every corner has curbs, walls, runoffs, etc that are purpose built for running one direction. And then there are those pesky pit stops.
Q: Was just reading about the F1 promoters grousing about Liberty Media and, among other things, trying to give away a sanction fee to Miami. Is it pie in the sky to think that the NTT IndyCar Series might step up in the next five years and take over a couple of F1 dates? I would think that for half the F1 sanction fee, an F1 promoter would still be paying enough to cover travel and a nice cash surplus to each team. Also, what about this idea – IndyCar makes four-five “house” cars available for current local racers who aren’t in F1, or F1 heroes who aren’t active anymore.
RM: I could see IndyCar going back to Montreal but not necessarily replacing F1, and maybe go to Mexico City some day with Pato O’Ward’s rising star. But F1 promoters like the prestige of F1 and I’m not too sure how many of them would even entertain the idea of an IndyCar race. Other than maybe Alonso in Spain.
Q: I’ve never thought much of A.J. Foyt’s team, and it continues its long, little-broken string of underperformance. What will happen to the team when the great man is no longer with us? I gather he has stepped back some from hands-on team management, but his name still draws and keeps sponsors and media attention. Without Foyt, would his team be able to continue?
Anthony Jenkins, Canada
RM: I guess A.J. and Richard Petty share the same fate in that their teams were much more successful when they were driving, but racing is their life and I’m glad they’re still involved. ABC Supply is very loyal to Super Tex but I think he wants Larry Foyt to keep things going, if and when he passes on. But he’s going to live to be 100. He’s too tough to die yet.
Q: Planning first trip to Road America. Any recommendations for best race fan bars in the area?
John Welch, Chandler, AZ
RM: Siebkens in downtown Elkhart Lake is everyone’s favorite. And you can probably even buy David Hobbs a beer.
Q: How many races will Derek Daly’s $25 million eventual court ruling buy Conor in a good IndyCar ride? Also, it would be a real shame if some Mexican company or billionaire doesn’t step up and sponsor Pato O’Ward. I was looking forward to seeing him full-time in an IndyCar this season. It’s a shame the Harding team jumped the gun before all the financing was in place and announced he and Colton Herta would be full-time on an expanded two-car team this season.
RM: We’re all hoping enough for a full season. Pato’s situation is that he’s a free agent, but not many good options out there for 2019.