Q: I just saw the test that was conducted using the new Halo (don’t call it an Aeroscreen). I know there’s a call out there to mitigate as much of the risk as possible, but if you eliminate all of the risk, then no one will watch. There are still others who want to enclose the cockpits and wheels and eliminate ovals. OK, so you want a sports car. But, we all know no one has ever been seriously injured or killed in a sports car, right? If this is truly the future of IndyCar, then sadly, after 50+ years, you can officially count me out. I’ll still go to the Indy 500 for the race day spectacle only, but no more silver badges, Carb Day or road trips to other races (which we do about four-five times a year).
Scott C., Bargersville, IN
RM: Nobody wants to hear it, but danger has always been racing’s greatest hook. That’s why our heroes of the ’60s are still revered today, and cheating death in those lethal times were part of their legacies. IndyCar was aware of this and was careful to make sure the car didn’t lose its open-wheel identity with whatever safety measures were taken. I was pleasantly surprised by how the car looked, and obviously you don’t want to make it so tame that anyone can drive an IndyCar. But I don’t think it’s going to take away from the luster of running wheel-to-wheel at 200 mph and/or good, hard racing that thrills the paying customers. And sports cars killed Bruce McLaren, Michele Alboreto and Jerry Titus, to name just a few.
Q: I think you are starting to drink the Kool-Aid. In last week’s Mailbag someone asked if blocking rules have changed, bringing up Marco’s holding the line versus Simon’s weaving in Indy 500s. You said Simon was not blocking, just trying to break the draft. Why does someone try and break the draft? To prevent someone from passing them. Pretty much the definition of blocking.
I know it’s all about the aerodynamics, blah blah blah. Erratic driving to prevent someone from passing is blocking. I suppose Verstappen didn’t do anything wrong when he drove Leclerc off the road in Austria. Couldn’t make the pass stick the lap before when he left room, so next time around, just push the competitor into the weeds. That isn’t racing, that’s pushing a competitor into the weeds. Both go down as winners so I guess that’s all that matters, right?
Mark, San Diego
RM: I gotta disagree, Mark. You are allowed to make one move and then not counter if your opponent makes a move in response, and Pagenaud did the same thing every lap – come out high and dive to the inside, but he didn’t swerve or go up and block Rossi (and that’s why they were able to trade the lead in the closing laps). That’s just become part of how to defend yourself at IMS, and I don’t consider it blocking like an F1 car cutting across the field at the start or just about anytime someone tries to pass. I hate blocking because that’s not racing and takes no talent, but it’s become a way of life in NASCAR. Thankfully, it hasn’t in IndyCar.
Q: First, it is nice to finally read a Mailbag with less bitching. All the negativity had gotten me to the point of skipping the Mailbag for the most part. Second, do you think that the introduction of the IndyCar Aeroscreen in 2020 will help encourage the return to mile-and-a-half ovals? I for one really miss the great racing at Chicagoland Speedway and the other superspeedways. Third, for me the current aero kits for the superspeedways are too simple. They have not only lost the “cool factor” of an F1 set of wings, but the simplicity seems to have negatively affected the racing at Indy by not dirtying up the air enough. Any thoughts on a new aero package for speedways that could improve the racing and add more variety?
Ed, Hickory Hills, IL
RM: Returning to Chicago, Kentucky or Kansas would be more about them wanting an IndyCar race than the current aero package, because the racing was plenty good enough at Texas. It wasn’t a photo finish or an IRL pack race, but there was plenty of passing and a competitive race. Indy had a fantastic finish and people bitched about the first 100 laps because nobody tried to pass, and that’s because everyone is saving fuel so I don’t think any aero tweak is going to change that strategy. It’s never going to be 200 laps of non-stop drafting and sling-shotting and it never has, but Pagenaud and Rossi certainly made it worthwhile in my book.
Q: Why you think IndyCar is such a hard sell to engine manufacturers? IndyCar seems to be the only motorsport that is on an upswing, but manufacturers still turn their noses up at them. These companies are in all forms of motorsport but avoid IndyCar like it’s poison. Is there anything that Frye and company are doing/can do to make the series more desirable to the manufacturers?
D., Medford, OR
RM: Not sure why, but the V6 engine is relevant and turbocharged engines are IndyCar’s calling card, so all I can say is that Jay Frye is constantly talking to potential manufacturers (he got a surprise call from one last week) but it’s a major investment and so far nobody has pulled the trigger.
Q: IndyCar has said they are increasing engine displacement from 2.2 liters to 2.4 liters in 2021. This is increasing HP from 700 to 900, and I know you’re a fan of more HP. My question, is this change for better racing, or to add other manufacturers to the mix? Also, what ever happened to Cosworth returning?
RM: Rick Mears has advocated more power and less downforce for a long time, and we’ve had that combo this season and the racing has been good, so I don’t see why it would negatively affect the racing. I think Indy cars should always have the most power and if that attracts a new manufacturer, great, I don’t believe that’s the impetus. Cosworth is still in the wings in case a new manufacturer comes in and is looking for a badge, but Cosworth isn’t going to compete on its own.