Q: Forgive me if this question has been asked and answered lately; I haven’t been able to keep up with Mailbag as much as I had in the past. Do you think Juan Pablo Montoya will ever race at Indy again? I get that he has a pretty good late career gig with Penske and has their sports car program rolling, but he was just so talented and always a favorite to win the 500. Any time you ever thought he had lost a step, the next race he dominated and was always exciting. How likely do you think we will see a swansong for him – or do you think we’ve already seen that? I think he deserves a final send-off for all of his fans out there.
Andy Strasser, St. Louis, MO
RM: No, sadly his Indy 500 days are over. I can assure you he still wants to run there and would still be a force, but The Captain has his contract and he’s not about to let JPM drive for someone else at IMS. And he just won Mid-Ohio two weeks ago, so he’s a long way from a farewell tour.
Q: Watching the build-up to the Spanish GP, heard O’Ward has signed with Red Bull. Not sure what this all means – it would be a bummer to lose him in IndyCar, but this kid is crazy fast. Any insight?
Paul, OC, CA
RM: I said a few weeks ago that Pato reminded me of Montoya, and obviously Helmut Marko sees this kid’s potential. I’m afraid we’re going to lose him to F1, but he can always come back to IndyCar if it doesn’t work out.
Q: I was skipping through the Spanish GP practice session for F1 Friday and the announcer David Croft was talking to the principal for Red Bull Racing about the new American IndyCar driver that was going to be with them. He named Patricio O’Ward and said he will be the first American driver since Scott Speed with an F1 team. The Red Bull principle basically said ‘yeah, it will be good to have an American back in the series, we need to keep America interested.’ Later Croft came back on and admitted Patricio was Mexican, but he said that is in North America! He said he needed to review his geography. Surprised me that the Red Bull representative didn’t correct him. I guess shows what they know about IndyCar racing.
RM: I heard that and laughed. Pato is a native Mexican living in Texas who is soon to be living in Europe.
Q: I watched a few hours of the Kentucky Derby coverage and the race. Man, that looked like a dirt track race with that slide job at the end. Too bad it didn’t hold up in stewards court. But, on a brighter note, I saw more ads and coverage about the Indy 500 than we ever did on ABC/ESPN. It is great to see NBC going nuts over IndyCar. I hope it brings in more fans and gets the needle moving in the right direction. Hope to see you in Indy. They don’t have any good breaded tenderloin sandwiches in OH like I grew up with in IN.
Eric, London, OH
RM: We had a million people watching last Saturday’s road race at IMS and that was the largest audience in five years, so I think all of NBC’s promotions are a big part of that rating.
Q: Coming from a NASA family and as a race fan, I was delighted to hear about my favorite astronaut Gus Grissom starting a race team with Gordo Cooper and Jim Rathmann in 1966. As I understand it, your buddy Art Pollard drove for them for most of that season. Any cool stories surrounding his time with the team?
RM: Grant King didn’t pay Art for May that year (they missed the show) so Pollard took all his tools as collateral. It went to court and Art won because he had Forrest Bowman as his attorney and a lock-tight case. Then he started driving for the astronauts in a Gerhardt/Offy (No. 76) sponsored by Pure Firebird. The highlight was his debut for them at Milwaukee where he finished fourth. Four years later, the hatchet had been buried and Art qualified a Kingfish sixth-fastest but broke early and finished 30th.
Q: For those who ask where to park, etc. at Indy, I’d like to offer a strategy that my buddies and I came up with years ago, and although it’s been a while since we attended the 500 I’m sure it’s still valid. There is a nice little neighborhood west of Turn 4 and it’s easy to find residents who will rent a spot in their yard to you for a very reasonable price. We’d arrive Saturday afternoon, cruise around and find a good place, set up camp and fix dinner. In the evening, stroll a block and a half to Georgetown Road and enjoy the nightlife, and return later for a good nights’ sleep.
Race day morning, get up, fix breakfast while listening to the excellent radio coverage, and prepare to hit the track. After the race, be in no hurry to get out in the traffic jam so relax a bit and sober up if needed. This place is closer to the track than the Coke lot, and it’s not an open field chock-full of crazies. The residents who accommodate race fans are nice folks who accept the presence of the race track along with the noise and fuss. Where I live, the nearest sprint car track (Winona Lake Fairgrounds) got shut down years ago because of noise complaints from neighbors…
RM: Thanks for the tips Dave, a lot of people always wonder where they should try and park close to the track.
Q: I just watched a commercial on RACER that Mario Andretti did with MagnaFlow. He was talking about the sound of engines being his songs and what wonderful memories. Then at the end he mentions stock, NASCAR and Formula 1, and doesn’t say IndyCar!!! I can’t tell you how disappointed I am. He’s a fantastic ambassador for IndyCar, I’ve even spoken to him in a couple races and he’s always wonderful, but I can’t understand why he didn’t take the opportunity to plug IndyCar into that commercial. Any insight?
Disappointed CAM in LA
RM: No insight but I wouldn’t be too concerned, he’s usually promoting IndyCar every day of the week.
Q: Not a question for Mailbag so much, but I have two tickets to the 500 and cannot go because of a damn wedding! I live in Texas and cannot find anyone around here to take them. I’ve posted them on the Indy ticket exchange and a couple other secondary sites, but am not confident I’ll be able to sell them in time to mail them. There are two seats: Paddock Box 21-25 | Row K, Seats 6 & 7. I paid $130 per seat, but would take less. Hell, I’d probably give them away for free to someone who really wanted to go to the race, but couldn’t otherwise. Would you know anyone who’d be interested?
RM: No but I imagine you will have some takers when they read this. If anyone is interested, say so in the comments and hopefully you and Mike can make arrangements.