Q: Back in the 1960s, didn’t the drivers have to run certain races to be eligible to race the Indy 500?
RM: Drivers had to run some combination of Phoenix, Milwaukee and/or Trenton before they were allowed to take their Rookie Test at Indianapolis. That ended in the ’70s when Roger McCluskey introduced the Rookie Orientation Program at IMS.
Q: I did what every red-blooded American male should have done last Friday: ditch work early and go see “Ford vs. Ferrari.” Lloyd Ruby was supposed to be Ken Miles’ co-driver at Le Mans in 1966, but, from what I’ve read, he was injured in a plane crash and was replaced by Denny Hulme. Had Miles not lost the race to a technicality and Ruby not been injured, they would have won endurance racing’s triple crown. That would have been a monumental accomplishment for that time. You knew Lloyd. Did he ever express to you that the ’66 Le Mans was the one that got away? Maybe even more than the Indy 500?
Jonathan and Cleide Morris, Ventura, CA
RM: Never talked to Lloyd about Le Mans but Mario tells the best story: He, Roger McCluskey and ‘ol Rube were in Las Vegas prior to a test of the GT40 at Ford’s test track in Kingman, Ariz. Well, the boys stayed out most of the evening and were not in very good shape on the drive to Arizona the next morning. But before they got to the track, Ruby ordered the car to stop so he could get a chili cheese dog and a big soft drink. When they got to the track, our hero insisted he take the first stint, and Mario recalls with awe in his voice that “’ol Lloyd was at speed on his first lap by and Roger and I were still bleary-eyed.” The fact remains that Ruby was a helluva road racer and Le Mans would have been a nice feather in his cap had he not broken his back in that ’66 plane crash.
Q: Sir, I have been a fan of yours for quite some time. Why are most races on special TV broadcasts that you have pay for? IndyCar, I think, would get better audience results without all the limitations. All of these special networks just keep increasing the price and adding channels. They are nickel and diming everyone to death.
RM: Eight races were on “free” NBC network television last year, while the rest were on NBCSN here in the USA, and, yes, it takes a cable package to get NBCSN. Ditto for ESPN, home of F1 over here. But it’s the way of the world and paying for cable seems like part of the culture, although I understand the concerns of some of our Canadian fans for getting gouged. Yes, the ideal scenario for more eyeballs is every race on network television, but that’s simply not feasible anymore. Appreciate you being a fan.
Q: You might want to pass this on to your many readers: I have received a Black Friday e-mail from the St. Pete GP offering two weekend general admission tickets for just $60. Limited quantities available and a bargain.
Andrew Hodgson in the UK
RM: Good to know. Thanks for sharing Andrew.
Q: I watched the F1 series on Netflix. I was not a big fan of Formula 1, but the series really made an impact, and I find myself binge watching. IndyCar should do the same. It was well done and really gives a look at the drivers and teams — and, honestly, there needs to be more rivalries between teams.
Jay, Bradenton, FL
RM: I think Liberty Media credits Netflix with raising F1’s TV ratings this past season and I understand it was an excellent show. I’m sure IndyCar would be all for it if somebody like Amazon would want to film a documentary.
Q: I have been reading that the Haas F1 program is going through some changes and Gene Haas is having second thoughts on remaining in the series. I was wondering, given the amount of money it takes to even be a backmarker in F1, would it be an option for Haas to join IndyCar? He would still be represented in a premium series. Given Haas’ affiliation with Ferrari and Fiat, is it possible FCA-Peugeot may be interested in being an engine supplier?
Bob Peck, Raleigh, NC
RM: I think I answered this last week but not knowing Haas, I have no idea what winds his watch and just being part of the F1 grid might appeal to him more than being competitive in IndyCar. Haven’t heard Peugeot mentioned by IndyCar.
Q: Seems to me with the F1 teams getting a budget cap for performance in 2021 there still will be a temptation to get a competitive advantage by outspending the rival teams. Some teams are already front-loading cost on things like new wind tunnels. It seems logical to me that money could easily find its way to an IndyCar team to get around the cost cap. F1 and IndyCar are totally different, but I would think there are still things that could be learned. Is Zak Brown ahead of the curve or is this totally off base — or is it a subject no one will talk about for obvious reasons? Thanks for your time with the Mailbag. It’s great!
David Floyd, Signal Mountain, TN
RM: I imagine there are some basic things that could be shared, but the cars are so different, not sure how beneficial it could be. But maybe Zak will figure out a way to make a data exchange work?