Q: I have tried to research this, but couldn’t find the answer. Were points awarded for this year’s Indy 500 qualifying results other than to the pole winner? If so, what was the point distribution, and if not, how many points did pole winner Pagenaud earn?
Don Hinkle, Indianapolis, IN
RM: Mercifully, Jay Frye got rid of all those ridiculous points for qualifying (42 for the pole) and now it only rewards the Fast 9 so Simon earned nine points (it pays 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1).
Q: Is there any evidence in your opinion that Michael Andretti is a “bigger name” than A.J. Foyt as far as driving is concerned? Was Foyt capable of turning right on a race course? Does Foyt have any credentials that would place him in consideration as one of the GOATs, and does Michael Andretti’s driving accomplishments also place him in that league?
Al from CA
RM: No. It’s A.J., Mario, Parnelli and Dan Gurney as far as Mount Rushmore for American racers in my opinion. A.J. was a good road racer, teaming with Gurney to win Le Mans in 1967, and was always quick in USAC and sports car road races. His GOAT credentials? How about 67 IndyCar wins, seven IndyCar driving titles, winning the Daytona 500, being a badass in midgets and sprints, and taming Langhorne? Michael was a helluva IndyCar driver, probably one of the top 10 of alltime, but Super Tex was one of the most versatile – ever.
Q: I will be attending my first IndyCar race this year in Portland. I’m 71 and my first race hero was Bill Vukovich. Who in your opinion is the best all-around IndyCar driver now? I’m a fan of Rossi since he is from my neck of the woods. Would you talk about the physical strain of back-to-back road courses after Indy? How do the little guys do it? Veach, as an example. I think Simon was gassed.
Mike Conley, Sacramento
RM: Dixon, followed closely by Rossi, Newgarden, RHR, Power, Seb, Pagenaud, Rahal and being hotly pursued in the not-too-distant future by Herta and O’Ward and maybe Ferrucci. Detroit is a physical track, but I saw more drivers suffering last Saturday night after 150 laps of green at Texas. And they’re all in great shape.
Q: Enjoyed the Mario biography on NBC leading up to the 500. Are there any plans to continue doing those types of programs for the other drivers of that era? A.J., JR, Gordy, the Unsers… If not, I think you need to pitch it to your bosses, especially since we can’t get you to write a book. A Robin Miller hour-long individual interview with these guys would be awesome. Certainly NBC could work in a lot of archival footage. It would be a great filler in the event of rain storms or red flags.
Napalm Nick, Locust Grove, VA
RM: I like your idea so let’s see if I can sell it. I know we’ve already got a 90-minute special on A.J. and I touring the IMS museum, and he talks about every car he raced. You will love that.
Q: Hope the F1 farce in Montreal never happens in IndyCar! How’s this Harding Steinbrenner Racing line-up for 2020? Vettel, Alonso & Herta!
RM: I don’t think IndyCar would ever be stupid enough to take away a victory for the leader fighting for control while he slides across the grass – it’s called racing. But Scott Goodyear did come across the finish line first in 1995 at Indy without getting the win after being black-flagged for passing the pace car. Great lineup, but where are you going to get $30 million to pay the first two’s salaries?
Q: Congrats on getting the lifetime achievement award at Indy. You love your job(s) and it shows! Question about the two-seater: does it have wing adjustments? Has Mario ever taken you for a ride?
RM: Thanks, I’ve always had the greatest job you could want. The two-seater is an IndyCar so it’s got most of the adjustments offered to a current car. I was lucky enough to ride with Mario around Laguna Seca in 1999 when it was an elongated Reynard/Honda with lots of HP. Montoya was sitting on the pit wall and kept saying: “He’s going to scare the ^%$# out of you” and I kept saying, ‘No, I did that at Winchester and Salem when I was racing in USAC, this is one of the greatest drivers of all-time and it will be a blast.’ Of course it was, and I think we went quicker than a CART driver who was relieved of his license the next day. I just wish all the mechanics and engineers could have taken a lap there with Mario to experience the accelerating, braking and what the car feels like at speed.