Q: In response to Tim B’s letter about F1 vs. IndyCar speeds in the 1970s, there was one brief head-to-head comparison at the time: the USAC race at Silverstone in 1978. F1 had the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1977, and the pole time was a 1m18.4s. F1 had a non-championship race at Silverstone in 1978, and the pole time was a 1m16.07s, in the then-dominant Lotus 79. The pole time for the USAC race was Danny Ongais’ 1m16.25s, so very close to the car that was dominating F1 at the time. That lap time would have put him second on the F1 grid, ahead of Lauda’s Brabham and Mario in the second Lotus. However, Ongais was two seconds faster than anybody else in the USAC field, so the rest of the USAC guys would have been around the F1 backmarkers in 1978.
RM: F1 sage and my pal Nigel Roebuck remembers Ongais’ speed just shook everyone up, and it’s pretty impressive when you consider that was the early stages of ground effect. Thanks for the history lesson, Max.
Q: I agree your book should be called Bitch, Bitch, Bitch. Our fellow racing TV geeks can’t see the forest for the trees. Without the internet they’d be left to ponder racing only in their minds. Yes, we all have opinions, must they be **** upon the rest of us? There are true enthusiasts (me) who enjoy the sport without beating minutia to death – leave that stuff out. Bitching about $50 for racing on TV. People are starving – wake up. It’s a sport, enjoy it. Sport is to take us away from day-to-day humdrum we call life. Pissing and moaning about paying to see racing (damn good racing) is stupid, dinner for two costs that much. I enjoy the Mailbag, not my whiny fellow enthusiasts. See you at Portland again this year.
RM: I understand people’s frustration in Canada, but bitching about $50 for NBC Gold is laughable. If you have NBCSN you still get qualifying and the races, Gold is primarily for practice and it’s produced just like our qualifying shows to try and give the IndyCar fan something extra. NBC has similar packages for golf, supercross, rugby and the Premier League, so I’m glad IndyCar is in the mix.
Q: You’re right. We are easily the whiniest lot in motor racing. That was great racing at COTA, but too many of us gripe about the regulations. A young kid writes a great story, but too many of us lament who didn’t win, and the reasons why, and who made the rules, and when, and why. And on and on it goes. We need some self-restraint. Facts are: Great race, surprising outcome, solid intrigue, young talent and hopefully some guaranteed sponsorship for a young team that could use it.
Narratives include: (1) Bright future for Herta (2) Early success for young Steinbrenner (3) Success a long time in the offing For Mike Harding, and (4) Redemption in the next act of Brian Barnhart’s career. We don’t have to focus so much on ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda.’ He wouldn’t, they couldn’t and the racing gods chose otherwise. If racing were fair the Andrettis would have four Indianapolis 500s, Lloyd Ruby would have at least one and Tony Hulman would have lived forever. But it isn’t fair. Maybe we need to presume that fate is smarter than we are. And then shut up and enjoy the ride!
Dan W., Ft. Worth, TX
RM: Good way to close out this week’s Mailbag. Bitching is inherent in racing, but I’m just perplexed by the people who were so upset that IndyCar allowed the drivers to use all the track at COTA. Jesus people, it made for a great race and isn’t that why we watch?