Q: What happened to the digital display panels on the cars Saturday night at Texas? All they displayed were the car numbers instead of position and pit times during the race. Why can’t IndyCar get these panels to work consistently?
Dave Rinehart, Austin, Texas
RM: It’s not IndyCar’s fault, but the company that makes them is obviously having issues and has for a couple years.
Q: Jay Howard and Max Chilton are respectable racers. Chilton led a ton of laps at Indy in 2017 so I don’t think fear is an issue, but he is stepping away from ovals. What is the temperature of the paddock on speeds, especially at Texas? What about a radical approach — has IndyCar ever thought about testing a car with non-ground effects floor, compliant suspension and only enough wing to balance the car? I’m thinking it is time to give a different approach a chance…at least for a try. Prayers for Shabral and Marshall.
Rich in SC
RM: I haven’t heard anyone complain about speeds at Texas. I mean it’s hold-your-breath watching it and plenty hairy at times in traffic for drivers and I think they’re all glad its only once a year. But I think everyone is fairly satisfied with the aero package and the current car. The Pruetts appreciate all the support.
Q: Not surprised by Chilton’s decision. I seem to recall in a prior Mailbag you mentioning he did not like running on ovals. He gave kudos to the new driver screen coming in 2020, so do you sense he is willing to run ovals next year, or is this more of a permanent decision? Also, can’t fail to notice how much he is out-paced by O’Ward every week.
RM: I think Max is fine with Indianapolis and could be back in 2020, but wasn’t wild about Texas or Pocono. Pato out-paces a lot of people.
Q: I’m trying to figure out what happened between this year and last year that would make Max Chilton step away from ovals. It’s his life and his choice, but he was showing such promise on ovals, especially at Indy. I’m glad for Conor and I hope he has some good results, because I think he deserves a full-time ride.
Jim Otte, Speedway, IN
RM: Some believe it was Wickens’ accident; I don’t know because I haven’t asked Max yet. But if you’re not comfortable or confident, then walking away is pretty damn smart. Conor’s performance at Texas was almost as impressive as his Indy run when you look at the circumstances.
Q: With Max Chilton stepping away from oval racing, presumably for safety reasons, my brother-in-law and I got into a discussion about the 2001 CART race at Texas that was cancelled. Has oval racing become too risky? Was that line crossed at TMS in 2001 with drivers reporting dizziness and disorientation due to speeds and g-forces? Or was something else going on? What are your recollections and interpretations of what went on that weekend at the Firestone Firehawk 600 at Texas Motor Speedway in 2001?
RM: Oval-track racing has always been risky, that’s part of the attraction, and a 235 mph a lap at Texas was insanity. My recollections were watching Mo Gugelmin crash in Turn 2 and wind up in Turn 4, and then Cristiano da Matta did almost the same thing. The g-forces were more jet pilot than race driver, and Dr. Steve Olvey stepped in and got the race cancelled. I know Eddie Gossage and TMS were understandably pissed, but CART actually got great PR for putting the drivers’ safety first.
Q: Robin, the last two years have been the best-looking cars since the mid-’90s, and they look like an IndyCar. They lost me after the unification and I was depressed with the way the DW12 looked. This windscreen/halo will ruin IndyCar again. It is plain ugly, and I can’t go back to F1 because they screwed up that formula forever. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. Racing will always be dangerous, but this is severe over-eaction. Don’t you think IndyCar is playing follow the FIA again? What a shame. This lifelong fan will no longer watch.
RM: I was worried this new safety enhancement would compromise how an IndyCar should look, but I was pleasantly surprised. Nobody is any more old-school than I am, but IndyCar had to address the head protection issue and it’s not going to have any bearing on the racing.
Q: You had a letter from a guy named John Love last week, listing race lap times and which engine was in the car…
“Only nine cars had a race lap over 225 mph, seven of them were Honda-powered. The six best race laps were all set by Hondas. The fastest lap of the race, and the only 226 lap, was set by a Honda. Rossi’s best lap was 225.759 mph. Pagenaud’s fastest race lap was 224.264, a difference of 1.495 mph in Rossi’s favor. Thirteen cars had faster race laps than Pagenaud. Power’s best was just 223.7 and Newgarden’s best was 223.4. Rossi had a 0.529s advantage or roughly 8-10 car lengths after passing Pagenaud with less than three laps to go, suggesting that Pagenaud gained through and off the corners to help set up the draft and final pass. If the Chevys had so much more power, why didn’t any of the top Chevy runners post faster race laps? I suspect that the full data picture will show Pagenaud was more consistent and had a better-handling car.”
My theory? Penske has been running nitrous for years. How do you explain the sudden burst (it was like he was shot out of a cannon, for God’s sake!) for Sam Hornish when he overhauled Marco? This was more of the same. I personally think it’s radio-controlled from the pits, and a self-contained unit inside the fuel cell. Undetectable. No wires. Remotely-operated. Transmitter in Turn 4, most likely. Something has to explain how they get from Turn 4 to the line so fast, more than drafting. Somebody check that walkie-talkie the spotter carries up in Turn 4?
Bill Bailey, Fresno
RM: I never comment on nitrous until I have a chance to speak with A.J. and he was out on his bulldozer Monday when I called him, so I really have no comment. But Marco backed way off on that last lap in 2006, and that’s what cost him the race. And a lot of people thought Sato’s Honda must have had nitrous in it those last 10 laps at Indy because he came out of nowhere. I love conspiracy theories, but yours is out there. I’ll check with Super Tex and report back next week.