Q: Watching the 1990 season online. Heard reference to rumors of Al Unser Jr. nearly going to F1 (not for the last time). Just how close was he to leaving CART? Love that time period.
RM: Let’s revisit a story from veteran writer Gordon Kirby:
“Al Jr. tested for a few days with Williams in Portugal in ’92 and had a seat fitting at Benetton before rejecting Benetton boss Tom Walkinshaw’s offer of less than half the money he was making in Indy cars. “I tested with Williams for a week in Portugal,” recalled Unser. “Frank was giving me the indication that he truly wanted me, but from the time I landed Patrick Head was just rude.” Unser was half a second quicker than Riccardo Patrese and Damon Hill and flew back to England to talk terms. “We went into Frank’s office and I said, ‘Let’s do a deal.’ And he said, ‘We were only interested in you. We never said anything about having you as a driver.’ Patrick was sitting there and he just instantly stood up and said, ‘Time to go.’ He walked me to the door and shut the door behind me. And that was it.”
Q: Just a reminder to all your readers that The Mario Exhibit at the IMS Museum will be open for the month of May and all summer celebrating his 50th Anniversary of his 1969 victory. Do you see any drivers of today that can be rivals and push open-wheel like Mario and Super Tex did in the ’60s and ’70s?
Steve Cooper, Lebanon, IN
RM: I think we were hoping Rossi and Wickens, but maybe Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward since they’re still teenagers and will be around for the next 20 years. But we don’t have the temperaments today we had with A.J. and Mario. Foyt was the king who ruled by intimidation, and Mario was the upstart that banged wheels, so there was an instant rivalry. Neither backed down or backed off the throttle.
Q: Years ago in Formula 1, journalists covering the series got together and selected winners for the ‘Prix Orange’ and the ‘Prix Lemon’, to be awarded to the driver and track organization that was the best and the least cooperative and friendly with the media. Taciturn, grumpy Jody Scheckter won the Lemon several years running, for example. Which drivers and tracks would win these awards in today’s IndyCar series?
A Jenkins, Ontario
RM: Not really many candidates today since everyone gets along pretty well. People might think Seabass but he’s just brutally honest, not unfriendly or anti-media. As a matter of fact he’s become downright entertaining since starting his videos on RACER with Marshall Pruett (The Hamburger and French Fry Show).
Q: Just by chance I looked at my TV schedule and noticed that the IndyCar race from COTA is being carried live by one of the SportsNet channels that I get in my regular SportsNet package. No need to pay for an extra channel. I’m on Videotron here in Quebec. Don’t know how this is in the rest of Canada or on other providers. Thought you might pass this on to your readers.
RM: Thanks David.
Q: Sorry to read you’ve been taking heat from north of the border regarding IndyCar’s broadcast rights dealings with Canadian TV and cable outlets. It’s unfortunate that better, less costly options don’t exist. But it’s clear that pay per view is on the rise everywhere, including the USA. Perhaps your Canadian Mailbaggers can harness their energy to encourage and promote IndyCar races in Quebec and Ontario. What’s needed to host IndyCar at the Montreal F1 circuit, Mosport, or St. Jovite? There might even be a Canadian Forces air base near a population center, or close to major highways that would be willing to host a race weekend, like a ‘Cleveland of the north’! Watching IndyCar on TV is great, but attending a race takes your senses to a whole other level, as you well know. I hope our Canadian neighbors can help get another race or two on the schedule.
RM: No worries, I can take a punch (or a slap from A.J.), and like I’ve said, I wish the Canadian fans could have their old system back or at least be able to get NBC Gold for $50. As far as Canadian races, I think Montreal could be back in play by 2021, and I loved St. Jovite when Champ Car went there, but Mosport is reportedly too dangerous for IndyCars. And I think Calgary still has a heartbeat.
Q: When you hear the phrase “paradigm shift” it is not necessarily going to be your day. It normally means that you’re going to make less money, pay more or get less of something than you were used to. IMHO, race broadcasts have never been so good. NBC (and before them FOX) have delivered better and better coverage of motorsports over the last few years. However (here’s the ouch) broadcasting is changing to more pay content in order to reach more specialized markets. Those of us who love motorsports seem to be a dwindling number. Somebody has to pay for the talent and technology that brings our sport to us in 1080P or 4K splendor. So, can we stop the whining? Canadians: Canadian broadcasting sucks on so many levels (relax, I’m a Canuck too). I resent that protectionism results in most Canadians being stuck with Bell or Rogers. Quit bitching about Miles, and go after your lame-ass cable providers. Not to mention your politicians.
Brian Bristo, London, Ontario
RM: Thanks for a different Canadian perspective Brian, and your observations.
Q: The way these IndyCars drift and slide around the track makes it apparent we should get Formula Drift paddock in more rounds with IndyCar.
Kevin, Long Beach, CA
RM: When Kevin Kalkhoven first brought them to Long Beach it was entertaining – for about five laps – and then I got bored. I’d much rather see Robby Gordon’s truck series and so would the fans, at least judging by the response when Matty Brab and the boys start bumping and jumping.
Q: With IndyCar looking to grow, what new tracks could be added? I live in Cleveland and on the last NBC Gold practice from COTA you talked about dream tracks. You mentioned Cleveland. Do you ever believe Cleveland will come back? I, regardless, would travel to Mid-Ohio. There are a lot of IndyCar fans in Cleveland, and sponsors. In Cleveland you have Lincoln Electric and Progressive. IndyCar needs to be at 20 races also to get new teams and sponsors.
RM: Like I said last week on NBC Gold, there was no better show for the fans than Burke Lakefront Airport, but unless some major company steps up to sponsor, it’s not going to happen, and nobody is pursuing it to my knowledge.
Q: Why are the IndyCar end-plate race numbers now so small?
RM: There is very little room, and that’s not a good excuse, but it’s a reality. And it’s difficult to see the numbers on TV or at the track, so it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.