Q: I stumbled across an old program from 1990 hosted by Johnny Parsons Jr. called “IndyCar Racing” and you’re a guest contributor on a few episodes. Aside from topics of the day involving diffusers and the limited availability of competitive (Chevrolet) engines, most of the rest of your opinions from 30 years ago ring true still today. Concerns over the number of teams and cars that may appear beyond the Indy 500, and whether or not the series is satisfied with averaging 20 cars per event, entered by about 10 team owners. For as much as has transpired in the intervening years, it’s incredible that the series has settled into the same position of relative stability.
Steven Kilsdonk, Noblesville, IN
RM: I vaguely recall that show but considering the costs and pathetic purses, its amazing IndyCar has 22-26 cars at every race and had 36 at Indianapolis. That’s something nobody could have forseen a few years ago.
Q: Want to tell you a quick story about Friday at TMS. I took my two young daughters (3 and 5) to the track for practice and qualifying. As you know, they also have the autograph session that day, which my older daughter was very excited about because she wanted to meet Ryan Hunter-Reay. My younger daughter is a Jack Harvey fan, so no luck for her…
We went and stood in line for about an hour and a half or so, and got to the front to see Santino was first. He greeted me and the girls with a massive smile, and talked to us right away. My girls generally clammed up, but he asked them their names and all that stuff, and then he gave them high fives! All the guys were great, but Santino’s compassion and the fact that he took an interest in actually speaking to them directly, was beyond great. We got to RHR and I told him he’s the favorite of my daughter and he said, “Oh? Well what’s your name?” and signed a hero card straight to her. Holy cow! Made her day, and mine.
Scott Dixon was just as warm as you always say he is, and it was a wonderful, albeit very rushed by nature of the event. When we got out of the line and looked at our take, the girls freaked, they were so excited that all these drivers signed their helmet and gave them their pictures! My daughter is taking her RHR card to school for show and tell tomorrow. The funny thing to me is that Santino made such an impact on them that they asked about him the rest of the day. My wife and I went to the race, and on Sunday morning the girls were asking about Santino. He has a house of fans here, and we know all about what he’s been through. These guys are tremendous overall, especially the ones who stand out by their own nature, and caring for their fans.
Brandon, McKinney, TX
RM: Thanks for sharing Brandon, that’s how young fans are made and I doubt there is anymore of an accommodating group than IndyCar drivers. I know they probably get tired of autograph sessions, but I think they all understand how valuable they are and how necessary.
Q: Texas was a highly entertaining race and yet only 366,000 viewers. This is a crisis for all team owners and drivers looking to secure budget. Yes, it was just up on last year, but that really is not good enough. The product is fine, but the channel is wrong. NBC needs to protect its own investment here and put it on NBC full-time. More driver promotion (Joseph vs Rossi ) etc, etc. As a UK viewer we see the race during the ad breaks. There are so many ad breaks it is ridiculous — shooting themselves in the foot. I am seriously unimpressed by the TV professionals here. Quick shout-out though for Diffey, PT and Bell. Very good job guys, especially when it rains.
RM: NBC has eight races on network, more than ever before, but it’s not going to show a Saturday night race during prime time and IndyCar has never had the kind of promotion that NBC has provided, so don’t blame them. It’s just difficult to get people to watch right now, and I don’t know why because the racing is damn good.
Q: Near the end of the Texas race, during the yellow for Dixon/Herta, I believe Race Control pulled all of the lapped cars into the pit lane in order to let the top 10 or so cars line up behind each other for the final sprint to the finish. If I were Newgarden or Rossi, I would a little upset at that artificial finish. Similar to a National League baseball manager in deciding whether or not to pinch-hit for a pitcher, the decision on whether or not to pit at the end of a race is a strategic decision. Pitting may mean that you will have some backmarkers fill your slot in the restart order.
A race manager must weigh whether restarting further back in the order is worth the better tires or setup that would be provided at the pit stop. A leader of a race works to get around these slower cars in order to provide a buffer between him and his most direct competition. By removing the lapped cars, race control negated the effects of this strategic call, and in fact, favored the lead lap cars that did pit by giving them spots in the restart that they didn’t deserve. Sure, maybe it makes a more interesting finish, but at the cost of racing integrity. (Or did I misinterpret what happened there?)
RM: That’s always been the rule with 15 laps or less to go on an oval – the lapped cars are waved around because IndyCar wants to give the fans the best show possible with all the leaders right together. True, it’s not pure racing, but we’re fighting for every eyeball out there, so in the interest of entertainment it’s fine by me.