Q: Let me start off by saying I’m very happy about all the recent sponsorship announcements in IndyCar the last few weeks. It shows the series is as strong as it’s been in years. If I can find one negative, it is that every single sponsor announced is already involved in the sport. NTT, Arrow, Rev Group, Firestone, Acura (Honda). Even Gainbridge is part of Group 1001. Again it’s great that these companies see enough value in IndyCar to increase their involvement. But is it too much to want to see new blood come into the sport? Or do TV ratings have to keep rising before we see outside interest?
Dennis Czosek, Streamwood, IL
RM: I look at it like NTT of Japan branching out globally and using IndyCar, while Arrow and Honda upped their investment and all that’s impressive in this day and age when sponsors are bailing in NASCAR. Better TV ratings might attract some new blood, but let’s give NBC a couple years to improve them.
Q: You mentioned in an interview a few years ago that IndyCar needed some younger fans. When you personally have attended races and observed the spectators, what are the demographics? Is IndyCar getting younger fans and attracting a new generation of fans?
Steve, Washington, DC
RM: With no stats or photos to back me up, I’d say the younger crowd goes to street and road courses and the older fans go to ovals. But I do see a few more 20-30-somethings than in the past at all races.
Q: After watching two recent Indy car movies – Born Racer and one of my all-time favorites, Driven – do you remember who was the driving force behind Driven and how they worked with the teams? It seems only two teams, Chip Ganassi and Pac West were featured in the film, and the Penske cars are pretty much hidden.
P.S. I really think Driven sucks as a movie with the exception of the first couple of minutes.
RM: I believe it was driven by Sly Stallone, but can’t really recall. I know the week it was released it was No.1 at the box office and everyone got excited until they realized no other movies had been released that week. After we all saw it we couldn’t stop laughing because it was the worst racing movie of all time – even worse than Red Line 5000. A lot of teams got some cameo appearances, but the movie needed an anchor team to shoot lots of the cutaways and close-ups and action, so Bruce McCaw and PacWest stepped up. BTW, we renamed the move DRIVEL.
Q: Love reading your Mailbag each week. I recently saw that former F1 world champion Jensen Button is an ambassador for Honda and races for its factory effort in the Japanese Super GT series. Is there any chance Button drives an IndyCar in the near future? It seems like it’s a no-brainer given Honda’s involvement in the IndyCar series and he’s a current open-wheel racer.
RM: Hmmm, let’s see. Jenson is a multi-millionaire with a gorgeous wife and no broken bones, so I’d say the odds on him driving an IndyCar are zero. Unless it was at Brands Hatch or Silverstone, which isn’t going to happen.
Q: Recently I had the opportunity to go back and watch several of the 500s from the late 80s through the early 90s, and it has become apparent to me after the reconfiguration in 1993 just how limited drivers are in the racing lanes they have available to them. With the emphasis having been placed for years on the driver’s inability to follow other cars when placed in turbulent air, has the Speedway considered extending the bottom of the track surface back to the width of the old apron and then shortening the radius of the pit entrance and exit roads inside the four turns? With the older style of racing, drivers had more than a full car-width of extra room to find an ideal line to suit both their cars’ handling characteristics, and to overtake other cars. They could move almost their entire aerodynamic profile out of the front car’s wake, instead of about three feet above or below like we have today. I know this may not be the most cost-effective solution, but I would love to see how the racing of the modern cars would be influenced by this change.
Brandon Ryan, Louisville, KY
RM: Not to my knowledge but they should, because the apron was a great place to pass (ask Vuky, Mario or Rube) or escape a violent push. There was talk a few years ago about bringing back the apron for NASCAR, but nothing ever happened. Think about this: IMS was built more than 100 years ago for narrow cars going 90mph and the dimensions haven’t changed, yet cars are traveling 225mph through the corners on this narrow surface. The Apron is a no-brainer.