Q: With the Silly Season still in full swing, where does James Hinchcliffe fit in to it? I read in your article that the team was none to happy about his cover and story in ESPN Magazine – [angry] enough that they were willing to give his seat at Laguna Seca to Oliver Askew. The questions are (1) Is it Schmidt or Arrow or both that is angry about the spread, because in the foreground of the pictures are the team’s cars. Did they or the team’s marketing department not have some involvement in the setup of the shoot? (2) If the team was willing to punish The Mayor by pulling him out of the final race, does that not make him want to look elsewhere, or perhaps was it a ploy to get him looking? Or (3) Is it already a known fact (within the team) that James isn’t coming back anyways and the ESPN cover is really just a “cover”, or lack thereof, for the team to try other talent for what is effectively a vacant seat? Just wondering about my hometown hero is all …
KW, Toronto, Canada
RM: All I know is that the team president and PR rep left because of it and Arrow was blurred out in the photos. I’m not even sure Hinch knew they offered his ride to Askew, but I do know that story wasn’t just made up. I’ve said all along that James knows he’s a lame duck at that team and they really don’t seem to want him anymore, so if Honda can help him get another ride, I think he’ll take it. If not, he’s still got a contract at SPAM. And with Honda awaiting compensation for letting Arrow SPM out of its contract, don’t bet against Hinch being “allowed” to get out of his. On top of that, he’s got a nice personal service deal with Honda of Canada and is also the face on Honda’s commercials in the U.S. I would think he wants to keep both if possible.
Q: Do you think Daly’s Laguna event (not being super competitive) is what killed the SPAM deal? Can you elaborate on why SPAM was so upset with Hinch for getting IndyCar some press in the Body Issue of ESPN?
Andy Brumbaugh, Columbia, SC
RM: Not at all. I just think Zak Brown and Gil de Ferran want a bigger name. Supposedly, Arrow wasn’t informed until after the shoot and was furious. But that seems so petty doesn’t it? I mean, it was free publicity in a national magazine.
Q: We’ve been talking on the IndyCar subreddit Discord server (it’s basically just an IndyCar chat room) and we were spit-balling about who might fill in the Penske seat for 2021 if Pagenaud leaves for McLaren and Herta can’t be released until 2022. My idea was Graham Rahal. He does one retirement year in the best ride of his life at Penske, and then drops out to raise the kids with Courtney and does Indy-only with his dad for a while, and then Herta jumps in the seat in 2022. Obviously it’s just my uninformed fan mind making stuff up, but I think it kinda makes sense. Is this possible at all?
RM: I’ve been predicting Simon to McLaren because of his connection with Gil de Ferran but it’s just a guess, and not too many people voluntarily leave Team Penske. But if a lot more money is offered a 37-year-old driver wouldn’t have to think long and hard about it. I don’t see R.P. hiring Graham – that would have had to happen a few years ago.
Q: Why is AA running five cars with two guys that are doing horribly and one guy who is in his twilight? Man, focusing in on Rossi and Herta could pay huge dividends! It could be like a Ganassi 1-2 punch! Plus, I love Santino Ferrucci, he could be the third driver. Michael needs to get rid of drivers who can’t produce.
Michael may owe RHR for not going to Penske when he was offered, but for how long does he owe him for that? I’m not even going to mention the No. 98 and No. 26 not being competitive. They don’t exist. Marco can start working for the team, and Zach can move on. Michael currently has two fantastic and exciting drivers that can match up well with Penske! I would even rather have Conor Daly than those two. At least he’s exciting to watch!
Dan from Lima, Ohio
RM: First off, RHR is still plenty competitive and DHL is a loyal sponsor. It takes a lot of money to run one IndyCar, so maybe Michael pools it all to make ends meet. Zack seemed to be trying to hard in his sophomore season, but showed speed on several occasions and his sponsor (Gainbridge) is the best at AA. Marco ain’t going anywhere until he makes the decision, and he’s not ready. I’m glad Andretti runs five cars because it’s five Americans that might not have rides had he not given them the opportunity.
Q: Great information on the silly season of potential driver movement between teams and new drivers coming into the series. But for every action there is a reaction. Who of the series regulars has seen their last race in IndyCar, and who may be relegated to a one-off at Indy next year?
Dale, Chesterfield, VA
RM: I guess Tony Kanaan could be a one-off if he doesn’t return with A.J., but as far as their last race I don’t know of any candidates at the moment. I don’t believe Helio has been told if he’s running next May, so I suppose he could be on your list of not running again.