Q: Last week, a question was asked about the odd racing line at Indy. I’ve wondered that before as well, but was surprised by T.K.’s answer. Part of me always thought it had a lot to do with just protecting the inside line, but I remember reading some things maybe two or three years ago that shed more light on that racing line. Part of what I remember reading (ironically from T.K., I think) was that driving too close to the wall at those speeds can have a negative impact on the aerodynamics of the car. So, they move left to get away from that. I also remember reading that a lot of it is because the cars are designed to turn left. So, if a driver straightens the car out suddenly coming out of Turn 4, that goes against what the car wants to do, and therefore scrubs speed. What gives? Did I imagine those explanations? Was T.K. just being funny with his response?
Mike Brockmeier, Glen Carbon, IL
RM: A former chief mechanic offered this take:
With due respect to T.K., the reason they move from right to left on the straight is that the stagger drives the car there. If you fight the stagger to make the car go straight then it will create mechanical drag. The big question on that topic is whether letting the car drift to the left and then turning to the right in order to get into Turn 1 produces less drag than fighting the stagger down the straight.
The really interesting question is why some drivers stay far right up to the drain in T1 and then turn in, while some take an early apex, is because a lot of the “loose group” – J.R., Tom Sneva, Rick Mears, etc – come from sprint cars and like to back the car into the corner by making the straight longer, then lifting to loosen the load to make it turn in, so they are not waiting on the understeer to lessen so they can then chase the throttle. Whereas the “push group” – Al Unser etc – like to keep the car under steady load all the time. It was interesting to me that these two disparate approaches produce similar lap times.
Q: I am a big fan of yours and kick myself for just now finding your Mailbag on RACER. I will now become a regular reader for sure. I have been an open-wheel racing fan since Mario Andretti went quickest on the back straight at Mosport to get the area named in his honor. Being Canadian, I saw my first F1 race at Mosport in 1969, and thought F1 to be the best racing right through the CART days when IndyCar took over. In spite of the IRL/CART period, IndyCar has now easily become the best series in the world.
I do have questions, although you have likely answered them in the past – sorry for that. Is there a technical reason why IndyCar doesn’t use power steering? Every road car and nearly all race cars use it. Is there a reason the season is limited to 17 races? I know about the NFL head-to-head, so hold races on Saturday, as is sometimes the case already. The Roval is more like a combined oval/street circuit – a Stroval – which is far better suited to IndyCar than NASCAR, so hold a separate IndyCar event there. Why not? Finally, will spec shocks ever be required in the series?
RM: Tradition, packaging and cost are the reasons for no power steering. Only 17 races (at 15 venues) is because that’s currently all the demand there is for an IndyCar race. Twenty would be the optimum number, but finding five more that can make money or break even is the challenge. The Roval needs to go away from any IndyCar conversation. Spec shocks were voted down a few years ago. Thanks for your support.
Q: I attended the last few IndyCar races at Richmond. Back then I purchased tickets in the newly-constructed tower that offers stadium-style seats and the best view of the track. Yesterday I called to purchase seats for next summer’s race and was told that those seats will not be available for purchase, basically because of attendance concerns. I fully understand not opening some of the less-desirable grandstands, but I certainly never heard of a baseball team not offering the seats behind home plate or a football game where no one can sit at the 50-yard line. I decided not to buy tickets to the race. Instead of the nine-hour round trip drive and hotel rooms, I plan on going to Pocono to see my first Cup race (never thought I’d say that). Then I’ll watch the IndyCar race that night from the comfort of my sofa. Love your work, Robin. I’m counting the days to St. Pete.
Jared, Reading, PA
RM: From track president Dennis Bickmeier:
We are not opening the Upper tower in Turn 1. We are opening the Mezzanine section of the Turn 1 tower. That section offers the same stadium-style seats, elevator and escalator service to that area, restrooms and concessions for that level only. We would need to sell out the Mezz before considering opening the upper.
Q: I read a letter a few weeks ago about a reader who was frustrated that the Rapid Response movie wasn’t shown in any theaters in New York City. I’m unaware of it showing anywhere near me, nor I have I had a chance to see Born Racer about Scott Dixon, either. So, here’s an idea. If the movies aren’t coming to us, how about IndyCar bringing the movies to us? At any track where the opportunity is there, how about showing them at the tracks on a Friday or Saturday evening after the on-track activities are done for the day? They could set up a screen in front of a popular viewing area and show both films as a value-added addition to the live racing experience. If the sun sets too late in the summer to project it on a screen, use the tracks’ own Jumbotrons to show them earlier while it’s still lighter out. The movies would get some exposure in front of their target market, and it would be fun for the fans to have a racing themed “movies in the park” experience during their race weekends.
Jeff Barak, Minneapolis, MN
RM: Good suggestion Jeff, I’ll send your request to the IndyCar marketing department.
Q: Most of the questions you get seem like they are from wannabes. My comment, great job NBC crew on and off screen. Though I am tempted to mute when Leigh goes on and on about points, I know he has no control over that. I am an oval fan first, but that Corkscrew at Seca is fun to watch.
RM: When we’re on the network, it’s a larger audience and we can’t assume they follow IndyCar religiously so it’s imperative to explain things that die-hards know, and the point race was our big story at Laguna so Leigh had to tee it up constantly while we kept the cameras on the contenders.