Q: Have you heard of any rumors about another Japanese driver joining the series? Naoki Yamamoto is a Honda driver and twice Super Formula champion. Jenson Button is quoted as saying he should be in F1. He should know, the two having won the Super GT championship together last year, so how about Indy next? I doubt Red Bull/ Toro Rosso would have him at 31 years old.
RM: I asked RACER’s F1 man, Chris Medland, about him, and here’s what he said: “Honda rate him very highly, and would love to put him in an F1 car at some stage as a bit of a demo, but he’s right that it seems like he’s too old to be shoehorned into the Red Bull program. I’m pretty sure Button and Yamamoto are teaming up again to defend their crown this year — he’s right that JB speaks very well of him, too — so I don’t know if IndyCar is realistic right now. Wouldn’t be the craziest call in the world for him to have a test though, his profile has definitely risen.”
Q: With Acura taking over Long Beach Grand Prix, would they bring back Pro/Celebrity race but with a twist? Instead of celebrities (thanks to social media no one cares as much) they should it make Gamers vs Pros. Ten winners of esports, Forza, iRacing, Gran Turismo etc. against 10 pros from all types of racing in 20 identical Civic Type Rs. Good way to get more younger demographics into motorsports.
Kevin, Long Beach, CA
RM: I haven’t heard of any return to the celebrity race, but I imagine Acura would consider it if the right people were involved. I sent your suggestion to a pal at Honda.
Q: How is Johnny Rutherford doing these days? I read that his lovely wife Betty passed away several months ago, and I have a good memory of the couple from the 1986 Pocono 500. Somehow I managed to sneak into the pits during qualifying, and JR qualified very well. When I was hanging around the Rutherfords I was struck with how much like any other couple they were in their banter. Betty was reading about a prominent Dallas Cowboys running back signing a new contract in USA Today, and she quipped that he better stop fumbling. JR was talking about his hobby, like guys do, although his hobby was flying WW II airplanes! The Rutherfords were great representatives of the sport we love, and I hope JR is doing as well as possible given his loss.
David Lind, Alexandria, Louisiana
RM: Last time I spoke to him he was obviously down, but Betty’s health had been failing for quite a while so it wasn’t one of those shockers. But it was tough on him going to see her twice a day in assisted living, and sometimes she recognized his voice. J.R. is an old-school warrior and he’ll bounce back, and we’ll see him in May where he belongs, talking with fans and seeing his old pals.
Q: Just wondering, when Chip Ganassi downsized his team from four cars to two before last season, what happens to the equipment from the two cars that were parked? (Cars, parts, transporters, etc.) Do they still have that equipment, or would it have been sold, perhaps to one of the new teams? If he kept them, would any work have been done to update them to the new aero kit so they are available for use, or are they just mothballed?
RM: Over to Mike Hull: “Most of the Dallara-related chassis related items can be used as we move forward due to component life cycle. We did sell some of the items. In terms of support equipment, trailers – with the IMSA team, some of the equipment went in that direction, but we did sell one trailer to another team. We retained quite a bit of the set up equipment, plus tooling specific to IndyCar in hopes that we can add another full-time entry in our system as we move forward. Nothing’s not being utilized in some way.”
Q: To the reader who inquired about the Detroit GP: The main grandstands on the front straights behind the pits are… the pits. You’re blocked from seeing anything until cars emerge from under the bridge, then they’re into Turn 1 and gone. Now, sitting in the No. 1 grandstand is pretty good, and No. 2 should have a great view of the run down into Turn 1. Looks like there’s a new reserved grandstand outside of Turn 3 that seems promising, should give a great view of the cars coming down the long straight and into the short chute to Turn 4. A new GA grandstand outside of Turn 7 looks fantastic. There used to be a GA grandstand in Turn 5 that was spectacular, especially watching the stadium trucks jumping the ramps between 4 & 5. If there’s standing room on the inside-track side of Turn 5, that’s a great viewing position. But the GA Turn 7 looks like the best seating in the house, and with the big screens all over the place you don’t miss any action.
RM: Great scouting report, thanks Curt.
Q: I just have to say, Mike K saying in last week’s Mailbag that his total cost was $181 for his whole package for NBC Gold is way off. Or he overpaid. Our Roku Primere was only $34.99 at Target (which includes the HDMI cable!), plus $49.99 for Gold. That’s it. Boom, $85. And we will use our Roku for much more. Now, if you want to add in the cost of my TV that I bought four years ago, my electricity bill for each month of IndyCar season, the cost of my race day beer/snacks, then you might as well say it costs me $200 per weekend to watch a race and argue I should just travel to each race. Come on people… IndyCar is quickly moving into the 21st century of the entertainment world, and any good business isn’t going to provide their product completely free of charge. If it is really that big of a deal and you just want to watch the race and qualifying, then head over to your local watering hole, rack up a $35 food and drink tab and call it even…
RM: Appreciate that information David, and I’m sorry Mike paid so much when it wasn’t necessary.
Q: The fan who wrote in last week and said he spent $181 on Roku got taken for a ride. All you need to stream if you do not own a smart TV (Samsung/LG) is a standard Roku Express device. The HDMI cable he says he had to buy comes with the product. Setup is quite simple, as you plug in the power cord and then the HDMI into the device and then into the TV. Setup of the device is less than 10 minutes. So, cost breakdown: NBC Sports Gold: $49.99 Roku device: $29.99. Total before shipping: $79.98 As you reference, it’s not that pricey, and the total cost is less than the Chili Bowl. From reading the description of NBC Gold, the coverage during the month of May alone is more than worth it. But this guy should probably pursue other avenues than Best Buy.
RM: Again, thanks for the breakdown and information.