Q: Just read last week’s Mailbag. It never occurred to me that the faceless hoards of negativity would be critical of such a great man receiving the recognition that he has earned. I guess I’m young and naive at 63.
Brian Bristo, London, Canada
RM: It was a great honor for Roger Penske, but people wanted to turn it into a political event because Trump is so polarizing. That’s our world today, sadly.
Q: Did F1 run the same track as IndyCar at COTA? If they are, it is laughable as they are 13-14 sec faster per lap. If true, it is an embarrassment and really shows why IndyCar needs another 300-400 HP increase.
Chris from Winona
RM: Yep, same layout, but F1 cars have a lot more downforce as well so it’s not just horsepower. IndyCar hopes to be back to 900 HP soon and that’s plenty, because the racing puts F1 to shame in my mind.
Q: Anything else you care to add about IndyCar going to Australia? It sure would be interesting if IndyCar could figure out a way to create a new Tasman-like Series for IndyCars – a four-race winter schedule maybe. Hell, in the future maybe a race in Hawaii (I mentioned it a week before anyone else did)…
Jake, Pasadena, CA
RM: IndyCar is just trying to find the best venues for themselves and the promoter, and something like you suggest might be cool but it would cost millions and who would pay for it?
Q: Fans are forever calling for overseas races in places like Australia, Japan and Europe. For any race not in North America, my question is in the logistics; particularly who pays to move the race teams around? It seems to me that a small team like Dale Coyne Racing or Meyer Shank couldn’t possibly have the resources or finances available the ship their cars and all their equipment across the ocean for one race that pays what, $30k to win? Is the cost subsidized by IndyCar or the race promoter? That being said, I’d love to see Surfers Paradise return to the schedule.
Tom, Newark, NY
RM: When CART ran Australia, the teams had their airfare and hotels paid for and that’s one reason the race always lost so much money. But Queensland didn’t care because it was good for business.
Q: Got your foul weather gear handy? A serious storm cloud just appeared on the horizon, and if the storm comes our way it will be a bad one. I’m talking about stories in the motorsport press that American Honda is interested in doing NASCAR, and if they do it would mean the end of their IMSA and yep, you heard right, IndyCar programs. With the state of IndyCar reported to be on an upswing, if Honda were to leave, IndyCar would be turned upside down as two of the top teams would be without engines, not to mention the remaining Honda engine teams.
Who would or could fill the void? My gut tells me that GM would not step up and supply the entire grid, nor would that be in IndyCar’s best interest. What’s to say that GM also decides to end its involvement and move on? Now the lack of apparent progress in securing another OEM is an indication that IndyCar does not offer enough to entice another OEM, much less keep one of the two it currently has. Of course, all this may or may not happen, but the fact that it is bubbling up to the surface tells me that with the right rules package, Honda could take its presence from IndyCar to NASCAR. What have you heard that you can share with us, and what do you think of this possible development?
RM: I think if Honda were to leave then Chevrolet would be right behind them and IndyCar would be in a world of hurt. But I don’t think it’s going to happen, because it would cost Honda a fortune to go to NASCAR compared to what it spends today.
Q: I’ve seen this NASCAR rumor pop up and I’ve found it rather puzzling. To me while IndyCar and IMSA are indeed a much “smaller” pond, Honda really gets a decent ROI with the fans of both series. They’ve been well received and are now very much a part of Indy 500 and IndyCar folklore. I also think it’s a very bad market for it. Its rival Toyota has received reactions that are apathetic at best, and hatred at worse. There’s accusations of it being favored by the series at large and resentment towards it not being an American brand.
This is despite Toyota putting an insane amount of money towards driver development and filling in a sponsorship need. I think the only place I’ve seen Toyota get a friendly reaction in present day racing would be the short track scene. NASCAR is also not the NASCAR of the 90s or 2000s. They’ve had quite a few fan favorites retire in succession (Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart), attendance is down and we’ve seen sponsors leave in a way that would have made the IRL-CART wars seem mild. I do hope this is not a serious consideration.
RM: I think Honda, like any other manufacturer, always answers a question about NASCAR with the statement it’s always considering it’s options. That doesn’t mean it’s going to leave IndyCar or IMSA, it might mean that IndyCar or sports cars should never take us for granted because there are other series. I don’t take it as anything more.
Q: What’s going on with IndyCar’s new engine formula and state of the series if Honda is looking at quitting and moving to NASCAR? Just when we’re getting excited about possibly adding another manufacturer with the new engine formula, we’re looking at possibly losing one (of two)? Would Chevrolet be capable, or want to supply the entire field? How does this look for potential manufacturers? Obviously, a very bad situation if they leave. Never saw this coming.
Don in Minneapolis
RM: Nothing is coming, per se, it was just an interview with a Honda executive who said NASCAR is always an option. Now that Roger Penske owns IMS and IndyCar, I would think getting that third manufacturer is going to be a lot easier and it’s going to happen fast. And, no GM, would not want to field all the cars, it likes competition.
Q: I just had a shock when I read that Honda was considering moving to NASCAR in 2021! Where does this leave IndyCar? Was this on your radar and you never said anything about it? Bad enough if they can’t get a third engine manufacturer would Chevy stay as the sole engine provider for IndyCar? Sure didn’t see this one coming.
RM: Considering a move? I didn’t read that. I read that NASCAR is always an option if Honda left IndyCar and IMSA, where it likely spends a third of the money it would in NASCAR. To quote Aaron Rogers: R-E-L-A-X.
Q: Let’s start by saying I was raised in a NASCAR home. Being so close to ‘Dega, however, my father also took me to the runoffs at Road Atlanta growing up in the ’80s, so I love all racing. I live 30 minutes from Talladega and about the same to Barber Motorsports Park. The talk of a doubleheader between NASCAR and IndyCar would be awesome, as I want both to succeed and get the fans out to the tracks.
I believe NASCAR doesn’t need four superspeedway races and would love to see the spring race at Talladega go to Barber to do a double with IndyCar there. NASCAR needs a road race before June, and the crowds for IndyCar at Barber are always good, and I think the hillside seating would be great for NASCAR. What are your thoughts on this? I know it wouldn’t work next year, but I could see Bristol swapping dates to the end of the month so NASCAR could coordinate better for Barber.
Matt Russell, Odenville, AL
RM: Talladega appears to be one of the few tracks that still draws good crowds twice a year, so that might be a tough one to get past NASCAR. And the spring race wouldn’t be on NBC so that’s another obstacle, along with the fact there just isn’t enough room for all those transporters at Barber. I like your idea and I love that track, but I think IndyCar wants to have a doubleheader at an oval so it can run on Saturday night and then let NASCAR take center stage on Sunday.
Q: Back in the CART days all of the teams gathered at Homestead for “spring training” in February. I am sure you must have attended yourself. I believe they used both the road course and oval during the four days. Being open to the public, I was able to take a winter break and attend. It was a great way to promote the sport during the off-season and allowed diehard fans good access to the teams and drivers in a more relaxed atmosphere. So this raises some questions. Why isn’t Homestead used by IndyCar to start the season earlier after the Super Bowl? IMSA has the Roar at Daytona every year in early January. F1 has its version in Spain. So why doesn’t IndyCar resurrect its good idea?
RM: It was a good event because it was on the oval and drew the NASCAR writers from Daytona, but since Homestead is no longer part of the IndyCar schedule it’s fruitless to stage spring training there. COTA will likely get the call again next year, and I imagine Laguna Seca could also be in the frame again someday (Champ Car went there in 2007).
Q: I watched the Wood Brothers documentary on NBCSN a couple of weeks ago, and found it to be both entertaining and informative. Growing up, my father was a big fan of the Wood Brothers and David Pearson. However, I had no idea of their impact across motor sports. The documentary spent a few moments talking about their success serving as the pit crew for Jim Clark at the 1965 Indy 500 but there was no mention of A.J. Foyt racing for them, nor was there any mention of Dan Gurney.
Instead, they quickly showed a few seconds of A.J. boarding a plane in the early ’70s, and, at the end of the documentary, they included Dan’s photo in a small tribute to all of the drivers who had raced for them but were no longer with us. Having spent so much time in the auto racing world, I assume you may have crossed paths with the Wood Brothers somewhere along the way. Do you happen to have any stories or memories of your own to share regarding your interactions with them?
James Jackson, Livonia, MI
RM: Never met any of them, but I know A.J. and The Big Eagle were fond of that family and had success with them. They were just a little ahead of my time covering Indy when they helped Clark.