Q: Instead of calling it my two cents, we’ll call it my $10. I listened to the test day and someone posed a question to Kevin Lee about the odds and underdogs this May. It just so happened my in-laws were in Vegas and when they said Ed Jones was 100-1. It was too much to pass up. Jones is driving for ECR. When it comes to IMS, the one team I expect to have their ducks in a row is ECR. Pigot was a road and street course driver in 2017 and was quietly impressive at the 500 in 2018. Whoever made the odds in Vegas screwed up on that one. Oh, and this year Scuedria Corsa is there with ECR. Servia was the only driver besides Rossi doing any passing last year. It’s only $10, but it’ll be exciting to follow the speeds over the next two weeks.
RM: Vegas gets zero action on IndyCar except for the 500, and the people who make the odds are usually clueless (Kenny Brack was 40-1 in 1999) because there’s not much overage or information available to them. I made the odds for the Barbary Coast and Coast casinos for several years, but they had a $500 maximum and never got much action. We’ll see how the gambling app works in 2020, because I think it will be popular in May.
Q: One tradition I think well worth re-establishing at the 500: drinking the milk, but not pouring it all over one’s head and driver’s suit. I can only imagine what it begins to smell like an hour or two after the race. A way to guarantee it would be consumed and not thrown would be if the winner (like Louis Meyer who started the practice) chooses buttermilk instead of some weak 1% or 2% variety. Meyer knew: on a hot day, there is nothing as thirst quenching as cold buttermilk. Scoff if you like, but before I have anything else after a hot lawn mow, I reach for a big glass of buttermilk. Might be a tip worth passing along to Mr. Alonso!
Steve C., Ithaca, NY
RM: I agree 1000 percent. Drink the milk, don’t pour it and quit kissing the bricks. That was a NASCAR thing, and I want the next Indy 500 winner to do something different.
Q: With the recent controversial outcome of last weekend’s Kentucky Derby (and bringing back memories of the 1981 Indy 500), what hypothetical winner or race event (excluding tragedy – knock on wood) do you believe would garner the most national media post-race attention from this year’s 500? Also, how much could Indiana’s (and other states) sports wagering industry boost IndyCar’s multi-platform viewership and attendance? I am looking forward to being able to have a little “investment” in the outcome of a race while viewing on TV or sitting in the stands.
Brad, LaPorte, IN
RM: A victory by Marco on Mario’s 50th anniversary would likely carry the most weight nationally and internationally, along with a fourth win by Helio.
Q: Fifteen pages of what people think makes a good race? Who cares? The Mailbag was a bore.
RM: That was my bad. I wanted to include everyone that wrote in, but it was probably way too long. I enjoyed reading several of the comments and giving the readers a chance to participate, but next time I’ll be more selective.
Q: What makes a great race for me is simple. Back in the CART days, if Michael Andretti won it was a great race. I didn’t care if it was by two laps or by the nose of the car. Today’s IndyCar is simple as well. If Andretti Autosport wins, its a great race. I really think TV coverage has a lot to do with making a great race. This season we haven’t seen many on-track passes for the lead, but NBC has done a great job showing all the action back in the pack. I’ve seen plenty of race action behind the leader to make each race seem really good. Even Long Beach – which unless you’re an Andretti Autosport fan, was a snoozer – was pretty damn good because NBC did a great job showing everything going on behind Rossi. Good TV coverage and my driver/team winning is what makes a great race.
Chris, Ft Lauderdale, FL
RM: I think that was the mentality of the ’60s with A.J., Parnelli and Mario – as long as they won, nobody cared by how much. TV coverage can certainly help, and last Saturday our camera angles and following all the great racing helped make things very entertaining.
Q: I’m late to the party as I prepare for my 20th year of kissing the bricks in a couple weeks. To me, there are two things that make a great race: 1) Memorable Moments. 2) Being There. Being there cannot be understated. As fans, we rarely talk about races. We talk about moments. Rossi’s dominance at Long Beach this year will soon be forgotten by the TV audience, but it will stick with me forever because I was there to see it. It was an epic beat down in an era with arguably the highest caliber field of drivers and equipment parity ever.
I can’t tell you much about the first 499 miles of the 2011 Indy 500, but I vividly remember standing to cheer rookie Hildebrand on to the checkers, the shock of seeing him hit the wall in front of us in 4, collective excitement watching Wheldon round that corner and drag race JR’s broken car down the straight. I also vividly remember shaking Dan’s hand the Friday night before that race, reassuring him “No more bridesmaid. It’s your year,” and the genuine gratitude as he took a moment to look me in the eye and put his hand on my shoulder and thank me. Little did I know how much “year” would mean. The tribute white sunglasses we all got in 2012 are on the shelf in my office above my laptop as I type this.
In 2005, you had to be in the crowd to feel the electricity when Danica took the lead. It was as close to the storming of the field and tearing down of goalposts I’ve ever experienced at a car race. Or the first time the B2 Stealth flew over, casting a great shadow on the grandstands like Independence Day. I can still hear the eerie sound it made after going by just above us. The sensory overload standing on the grid last year thanks to a magnanimous friend who’s personally backed a couple of our favorite Indy underdogs. Or the way I nearly welled up every time Jim Nabors sang Back Home Again. Or the pride you feel, hand on heart during the national anthem – and even the collective amusement when Steven Tyler put his signature on it.
And Tom Carnegie. If you didn’t hear him on a trackside speaker, you’ve never really heard him: “Rrrobbbyyy Gordonnn!” Most of that is pre-race nuisance on TV. Being there, it’s part of the emotional build-up. Great races have great moments. That’s what we live for. And they’re even more indelible when you’re there. To fans everywhere: get off the couch and get to a race. It’s an investment with infinite Rocking Chair Equity.
Aron Meyer, Tucson, AZ
RM: Agreed. Most people can tell you if they watched Johncock and Mears live in ’82 or Little Al and Emmo in 1989 or RHR and Helio in 2014, because being here just heightens your awareness and leaves you with a memory or a story you always want to repeat.