Q: I normally wouldn’t dare to question your expertise in the realm of IndyCar, but in your answer to Craig Bailey you said that not many have turned down Roger Penske; none you can think of? No one in recent memory? Not even Captain America in 2012? Ryan Hunter-Reay definitely turned The Captain down. Granted, he had a good reason to repay Michael for the second chance he got, but he definitely falls into the category of people who have said no.
RM: I emailed R.P. on Sunday night to refresh my memory and he said, yes they approached Hunter-Reay but he opted to stay with Michael Andretti. And while he may be the only driver in that category, RHR’s loyalty paid off because he went on to win Indianapolis and keep DHL as a sponsor. As a side note, I wrote that story back in 2012 but couldn’t remember it, so there’s a penalty when you’re almost 70.
Q: I just came back from the IndyCar COTA race this past weekend. One thing that struck me was how little time the drivers really spend in the car. Three practices and qualifying. What does that total, maybe four hours before the race? My question is how do the drivers stay sharp? It is just simulators? While racing in other series may help, it’s obviously not the same vehicle (IndyCar compared to another series vehicle). Or does that transfer to time in the cockpit of an IndyCar?
Lawrence, Sanford, FL
RM: Good observation. In the old days a driver might get four hot laps at the Hoosier Hundred and then have to qualify, but that was also back in the day when Parnelli, A.J., Dan, Mario, J.R. and the Unsers ran every weekend in sports cars, stockers, midgets, sprints and anything with four wheels. I’m always amazed IndyCar drivers aren’t rustier after a six-month layoff, and that’s why Kyle Larson and Chris Bell are throwbacks and sharp as hell – they race every available chance. IndyCar drivers work out hard at PitFit and spend a lot of time on simulators, but there’s nothing like the real thing to stay on top of things.
Q: It seems like every ad break I see has one of those “Honda Dream Garage Spring Sales Event” commercials starring our own James Hinchcliffe. Honda is not only taking advantage of the most charismatic spokesperson they could ask for, but they’re promoting IndyCar and a whole bunch of other racing series with the touring cars and trophy trucks in the background. Chevrolet, on the other hand, also appears in just about every ad break, but they just use the god-awful “real people, not actors” commercials where some people who are very clearly actors ogle over a bland SUV in the middle of a giant green-screened room. They’ve got their own charismatic and attractive IndyCar driver in Josef Newgarden and an even bigger racing property with NASCAR, but neither of those are anywhere to be found in Chevy’s advertising. What gives?
RM: I guess it’s just how each chooses to market their product. Honda racing has always been visible on TV, in magazines and newspapers while Chevrolet opts not to use IndyCar as an advertising platform.
Q: I wanted to let your SoCal readers know that local Acura dealers are running a promotion now where if you come in for a test drive you get two tickets and two paddock passes for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Just pick what day you want to go either Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Pretty cool of Acura to do this, looks like they are stepping up big-time. See you there.
Steve Hunt, Chino Hills, CA
RM: Thanks for the info, Steve. Not surprising, Honda has been salivating to get Long Beach, and I expected them to blow it out and push Acura hard. Also a good way to try and make new fans.
Q: While I am not a huge fan of the halo in F1, I do not hate it either. Most importantly, I appreciate the added safety it affords the drivers. I have read that the halo will not work in IndyCar due to visibility issues with the center support on ovals. Is there a reason that Indycar could not have a road course and oval course halo? Standard version as in F1 for road and street courses, and an asymmetric oval variant with the center support offset to the right to open up the view for left hand turns.
RM: All I’m going to say is be patient, something is on the horizon and may be unveiled next month.
Q: Now that NBC has control of the IndyCar Series, is it possible to see the Indy 500 go back to the original 11:00 a.m. start time? I personally would love to see it!
Brian Lancaster, West Lafayette, IN
RM: Very unlikely. Noon is good for the West Coast, and traffic flow seems to like it also.