Q: If you’re right that IndyCar and IMS didn’t mention the White House visit because of anti-Trump sentiment shows you just how stupid they are. My guess is there are a lot more IndyCar fans who are Trump supporters than haters. And all of them are proud Americans.
RM: That’s all I can assume, but thankfully we never discuss politics in The Mailbag because there should be a bounty on most politicians.
Q: Has Roger or Team Penske ever competed at Pikes Peak? Either on USAC trail or even a one-off? Would be surprised that he never wanted to claim overall title and record with his own cars or drivers, especially in the unlimited class which is everything that Roger wants in rule book. Safety, then whatever your heart desires. Dream scenario would be Tim Cindric calling up Porsche to use the 919 EVO run by Team Penske with Simon Pagenaud behind the wheel. Side note, maybe with the aeroshield on IndyCar we can add Pikes Peak back on the schedule. Would be intense seeing Rossi and Newgarden up the mountain in modern IndyCars.
Kevin, Long Beach, CA
RM: Nope, that’s something The Captain never tried, but I’d love to see Will Power try it because he grew up on the dirt. Wait, Pikes Peak is all paved now, so forget it. That was its allure in Uncle Bobby’s heyday.
Q: As anyone who has followed motorsports for a while can tell, it is clearly a different landscape than it was compared to even 10 years ago. More series have, or are strongly considering adopting, hybrid powertrains. As a retired mechanical engineer, the technical side of motorsports has always been an important part of my enjoyment. It complements the competition and the personalities. However, so far I draw the line at full electric race cars: Formula E and the Jaguar I-PACE eTrophy Series. To me, motorsports has always had a deeply visceral quality, and so far I’m not able to let go of that. So, the questions are: there are rumblings about hybrid power trains being a part of future rules packages. Do you think this is likely to happen, and if so, when? Is there any thought given to full electric race cars, albeit further into the future?
Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA
RM: Over to Marshall Pruett: “Hi Don–I’ve been fairly consistent in saying IndyCar needs to add — not replace, but add — an electrified power system to its internal combustion engine formula for many years. I’ve written it in passing a number of times, and started on a more formal proclamation a few months ago that i need to finish and file here on RACER.com that spells out the reason for the need, and it’s a simple one: It’s what most auto manufacturers want and need to get involved in brand-new road racing racing programs.
“I believe, although it’s unconfirmed, that IndyCar knows it must include hybrid powerplants – the same basic twin-turbo V6 engines with a battery-based electric boost added in – if it wants to have more than Chevy and Honda involved. I would be surprised if the 2021 engine regulations to not have electrification in mind, and from a practical standpoint, the new Dallara IndyCar chassis in 2022 would be the first chance to design the space and cooling needs for a hybrid powerplant to happen. As for the day we would see all-electric Indy cars, we’d have to watch the automotive market. If and when the majority of vehicles sold are electric, I’d expect racing, as it’s always done, to mirror the road.”
Q: I was wondering what you could tell us about IndyCar’s plans for using hybrid power plants in the future? The rumors seem to say that Porsche cooled on the series because they didn’t like the stance the series was taking on hybrid technology. It seems NASCAR is moving forward with hybrid tech and it would really be a shame if we got beat to the punch. Companies like Porsche and Ford are pouring huge amounts of money into the new technology’s research and development. Isn’t that the draw for OEMs, to be able to show off their innovation?
It’s long been my opinion that IndyCar won’t be whole without Ford, because Chevy guys hate Ford and Ford guys hate Chevy, and I don’t see Ford making a move without hybrid tech in the plans. Fans want speed, safety, rivalry, and cutting-edge technology that can be used under their own hood. Hybrid and all electrics is where the technology is taking us. Hopefully IndyCar doesn’t shoot itself in the foot again.
RM: Not sure IndyCar shot itself in the foot with Ford; it was more a matter of Edsel Ford not liking open-wheel racing the way I read it. The day Indy becomes an electric race is the day they better get out the padlocks.
Q: I’m no financial brain, but I can’t make sense of the benefit of sponsoring IndyCars and teams. At Detroit, for instance, there aren’t a plethora of grandstands and even those few didn’t look full. I can’t imagine the television viewership numbers would be huge either — two races on a summer afternoon when casual viewers would have a lot of outdoor options. How do sponsors, or teams soliciting sponsors, justify the costs of completely new paint jobs and a full team’s worth of branded overalls and team gear, signs etc. when so few are likely to see them, especially with the smaller teams?
Anthony Jenkins, Canada
RM: To be honest I thought it was the best crowd Detroit’s ever had, but to answer your question: many of IndyCar’s sponsors are looking for B-to-B relationships and entertaining clients at races, so while TV ratings are important, thankfully they’re not always the determining factor.