Q: If there was ever going to be a movie about your relationship and history with A.J. Foyt, who would play you, who would play A.J., and what kind of movie would it be? Feel free to consult others if you feel a more neutral opinion is best.
C.W., Chicago, IL
RM: I get along well with Super Tex and he’s one of my favorite people, so I guess it would be a comedy (rated R of course) with John Goodman as A.J. and Steve Buscemi as the scrawny ^@%$# who got bitch slapped back in 1981.
Q: I met you once at WGI. I believe it was the weekend that Justin Wilson won. I remember asking you why you were such a lightning rod! Anyway, always interested in your thoughts and comments, but you do seem to be less of a lightning rod these days. Is that by design or just circumstances, as we are post-split and there is less to get riled up about? Also, bummed that you didn’t play a prominent part during the 500 broadcast!
Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA
RM: I think The Split took a lot of the fight out of me, especially when I defended CART and bashed TG for messing up May and then all the CART boys defected (except Newman/Haas and Forsythe) to the IRL, so then I felt pretty stupid and used. After TG put everything back together in 2008 I concentrated more on the racing than the politics, and all that hate kinda dissipated. Today I really like Jay Frye and his style and the racing is good, so other than the purses there’s not much to complain about.
Q: About IndyCar taking a win away, maybe you can help me out. I remember a race where Helio was leading near the end when there was a full course caution. TGBB had some convoluted rule in place that I can’t quite remember, something like you couldn’t protect the inside line on a restart. At the restart Helio protected the line, as he should have, and was given a penalty that cost him the race. I do remember IndyCar officials having to restrain him afterwards as he wanted to go after Barnhart. Do you remember that race and the circumstances?
Dave, Vineland, NJ
RM: Yes it was Edmonton in 2010, and he was black-flagged for “altering his line” and wound up being penalized back to 10th, so he was understandably pissed off. As I recall Helio was leading the race and simply protecting his line, and I think that silly rule went away.
Q: Hey Robin, please convince me that Parnelli belongs in the conversation with A.J., Mario and Gurney. Been following racing since 1964 and I remember Parnelli as a former 500 winner who nearly won in ’67, won once in NASCAR, won on Pikes Peak, and had one amazing Trans Am season. I think of him as a part-timer. My Mt. Rushmore would include Mark Donohue who won in everything: Trans Am, NASCAR, Indy, sports cars, and died in an F1 car.
Kevin, Boerne, TX
RM: With a little luck Rufus could have won Indy in 1961-62-64-67, and he was as good in a midget and sprinter as anyone that ever sat in one. He was a great road racer as well (Colin Chapman offered him a ride with Lotus), and won in sports cars besides putting Trans Am on the map. Then he conquered Baja. Donohue was damn good, but no Parnelli Jones. When we put out our Mount Rushmore shirts a couple years ago A.J. told me I had the right four guys, so that’s all the convincing you need.
Q: I’m an IndyCar fan from the CART and Champ Car days, getting seriously into the sport in the late ’90s. Been to several Portland GPs; the last one in 2007 and then last year’s race. I really noticed a vast improvement in fan-friendly ‘goodies’ around the track. Not sure who was behind this facility upgrade, but Green/Savoree seems to take a big-time approach to IndyCar at Portland that the previous promoters and Champ Car did not. My wife and I already have tickets for this year’s race.
I used to be one of the denizens of CrapWagondotcom (totally dedicated to Champ Car and solidly against the IRL), and although the Tony George hate was very palpable there, even over the top, you could catch some good conversations about each race if you looked. Are there, to your knowledge, any websites around these days where good discussions about today’s IndyCar racing and tech take place?
So, here’s my question related to current and past IndyCar tech: The four-lap qualifying speed record at Indy is a bit over 236 mph, in 1996, by Arie Luyendyk. This year, the fastest four-lap quali was just under 230 mph. Can you describe the difference making factors between then and now? Was it horsepower, aero, tires, or some combination of these three (and of course Luyendyk’s driving)? If I recall correctly, the car spec for that year was basically the previous year’s CART spec. After that, the speeds went down considerably under the IRL specs. Finally, aside from the other tech stuff that I’m asking about, was Luyendyk piloting a Reynard or a Lola from that era? Thanks for your love of IndyCar! I’m there too!
Tom Finlay, NW Oregon
RM: Heard a lot of compliments from the Portland fans after last year, so that bodes well for another good turnout. I think Kevin and Kim understood that returning to a track after more than a decade away would be challenging,so they needed to go the extra mile and obviously did. I don’t keep up with IndyCar websites but sometimes we get decent discussions on RACER.com under a story. Arie had more power and more downforce in 1996 in his Reynard/Ford-Cosworth.