Q: With the introduction of the (heinous) aeroscreen, could a silver lining develop of having top drivers from NASCAR, F1, Europe etc. who may have never considered racing in IndyCar, now exploring the possibility of running the 500 or other events? Someone like Mike Conway immediately comes to mind, who would probably have several more road and street course wins had he stayed in IndyCar if not for his fear of ovals. Also, what’s the latest on Foyt’s replacement for Leist?
Andrew Steward, Salt Lake City, Utah
RM: That’s a great question, but I’m not even sure the aero screen offsets the reluctance of driving on an oval at 200 mph for a lot of those guys. It might get Jimmie Johnson a pass to run a short oval or road course, and Max Verstappen seems like a logical candidate for Indy some day. I asked Max Chilton about running all the ovals now, but I think he’ll probably just stick with Indianapolis. Talked to A.J. and Larry Foyt last week, no driver decision yet.
Q: Reading this week’s Mailbag really cracked me from some of the comments regarding the aesthetics of the new aeroscreen and some claim they may stop watching because the car is “fugly.” I’m wondering if these folks are football fans, too. Have you noticed some of the hideous uniforms college and NFL teams roll out, many going against their traditional colors (Seahawks wearing lime green last Thursday, Ohio State in all black – or a very, very dark gray, the NFL color rush theme in general, Oregon about every week, etc)?
Ratings and attendance suggest that people aren’t walking away from football when their teams wear such ugly jerseys. It’s the action/performance on the field that keeps fans watching. I get it, the aeroscreen looks a bit awkward especially from the front. The benefits far outweigh the aesthetics though, and it shouldn’t keep anyone away from watching, especially if the series remains competitive as it is. If some of these fans claim to go back to the ‘60s, what do they think of many of the cars from the ‘70s and early ‘80s? Other than the Yellow Submarine, not many are memorable to me. Granted, I was a kid back then. In fact, take a look at Bobby Unser’s 1981 winner, with the boxy, squared nose and… gasp… yellow windscreen. Can anyone honestly tell me that is a thing of beauty compared to today’s car with the aeroscreen? From the front they look similar, and if anything I’d prefer the car of today because of the overall sleeker design.
Now my question: The aeroscreen seems to work with rain, but how would it handle accumulation of bug guts/grease/grime/oil/rubber/etc sticking to the aeroscreen in the middle of a stint? Some of that stuff will splatter and stick instead of dispersing like water, which would impact visibility at some point. I’d assume they’d have to pit early to remove a tear-off if visibility got bad enough?
Ron S., Chicago, IL
RM: There are tear-offs, and I don’t know if they will be driver-activated or only be accessible for a crewman to pull on a pit stop but I’m sure IndyCar is having all these tests to work things out. As for the new look, racing people are reluctant to change and the hated the rear-engine cars in the mid-60s, but eventually they were embraced. It will be the same thing in 2020. We’ll get use to it and if the racing continues to be good, we won’t care.
Q: As soon as I read the report on the new power unit rules, I could hear heads exploding all across America. Now that the season is over and some time has gone by, people seemed to have calmed down a bit. I think it’s time to reiterate a few key points. As far as manufacturers are concerned, hybrids and electrics are the future of automobiling. People need to realize that, whether they like it or not. They also need to accept that the “good ol’ days” of V12s, V10s, heck, even V8s (with a few exceptions.) are gone. They’re technological dead ends, with no reasonable link to the modern world. They’re not coming back. Need more proof? Do you think it’s just a coincidence that the fastest production car Porsche (one of the rumored new OEMs) makes is a hybrid? I think not.
If we’re going to get more manufacturers involved, they’re going to need to see something they can get value for their engineering dollar from. If we expect them to dump engineering cash into this (or any) racing series, they’re going to want to work with technology they can mine data and engineering advancements from, and eventually transfer that technology to their production line. Where do people think all of the overhead camshafts and turbos seen on modern production street cars came from? The racetrack! If race tracks are indeed the factory’s playground, they need to play with their new toys, not the old ones. Else, as far as they’re concerned, they’re just wasting their money.
David N Gawboy, Rosemount, Mn
RM: IndyCar knew it had to play the hybrid game to entice another manufacturer, but the misconception was that it was going to electric engines that made no noise. In reality, it’s a small assist for self-starters and something else I can’t recall because I don’t care.
Q: I read your TV audience article with interest and amazement. Some of those cities were very baffling for sure. Some not so much. I think West Palm Beach can be somewhat explained. Its only about 60 miles from Sebring, and when I lived there lots of IndyCar fans are also sports car fans and also IndyCar does a bunch of testing at Sebring. Just my take. Good article, though.
Doug Ferguson, Debary, Florida
RM: Thanks Doug, I’ve heard from a lot of Indiana snowbirds that migrate to West Palm who are die-hard IndyCar fans so your logic is probably spot-on.