Q: It is well known you are a fan and supporter of Conor Daly. Can I ask what you see in him? He seems personable enough, is American and has a decent, but far from stellar, record in feeder series. But many could boast similar credentials. His record over spotty (except for a year at Foyt ) appearances in middling IndyCars is similarly unspectacular, particularly against other, younger drivers who have burst on the scene recently. What makes you single Daly out for your hopes and praise?
Anthony Jenkins, Ontario, Canada
RM: When he ran Indy Lights for SPM, Sam Schmidt rated him higher than Josef Newgarden, and Conor also won GP3 races and turned in enough fine runs as a rookie for Dale Coyne in 2016 (second at Detroit, led 22 laps at Mid-Ohio and ran strong at Road America before a mechanical problem) to earn a ride with A.J. Foyt in 2017. Despite the best season for that team in recent history, CD was cut loose ,so he’s spent the past two years as a super-sub. And what makes me think he belongs is watching him jump into unfamiliar cars with Carlin and SPM and instantly be competitive. When he had his only good ride last May with Andretti, he ran in the top five until the last pit stop. He’s got technical skills and savvy at speed ,and I think he’s going to help turn ECR’s road racing program around in 2020. If he ever gets two or three years with the same team and engineer, you will know why I’m sold on him.
Q: Really glad to see Conor get the rest of the 20 ride and running a third car for the 500. Would be neat if he could run the non-Indy oval races for Carlin, assuming Chilton will not run those, so he can run a full season. I am guessing since he is basically full-time with ECR that Ed would not allow that. It is a much different set of circumstances than last year when he ran for a few different teams. He is so good at Iowa and Gateway, and I am sure that would translate over to Richmond. Holding out hope he gets a shot at those shorter ovals somehow.
Don Weidig, Canton, OH
RM: I don’t see him wanting to jump around anymore. I think he wants to give ECR a breakthrough on road and street circuits and a good run at Indy. Then, if things are progressing, maybe he gets to a third car at Iowa or Gateway.
Q: First off let me say that I have not read a rulebook since I retired from umpiring, but I did take it upon myself to read Rule 12, championship and points. I did not see anything specifically stated for ‘rookie’. I will assume that the first-year driver that scores the most points is the Rookie of the Year. If this is true, R.P. needs to look into the whole point system. There is just no way Felix Rosenqvist was the rookie of the year. He is a good driver, and will be better every year, and maybe if he had pulled out the win over Dixon then he had a shot. But with zero wins and one pole, it just can’t be! Maybe he had some lead laps thrown in there.
Colton Herta will always be the 2019 Rookie of the Year to me, and millions of others. He racked up two wins and three poles. Heck, 22 veterans did not even do that! How is it possible he did not win the ROY? I understand that points add up, but someone will have to look into the whole point system then. I don’t want some lucky driver to pull it out at the last minute (with) double points. I want the best driver from the whole year to win. Please tell me what I am missing – but be gentle!
Patrick, New Braunfels, Texas
RM: Felix had a good year (two podiums, four other top fives, 71 laps led and eighth in the points) and used his consistency to edge Colton, who had a spectacular season, for ROY. But I don’t think little Hertamania would want to trade his two victories for the ROY. To your point, a win for a rookie might merit more points if IndyCar were to change the system, but I don’t think it’s worth a remake. And they’re both going to win races in 2020. But you are spot-on about double points – totally unnecessary.
Q: You are known to be a “tells it like is” guy. So what are Roger Penske’s flaws? I have read much praise for Mr. Penske over the years and only magnified with the recent purchase of IMS, however not a word of criticism. Are folks involved in racing fearful of saying anything critical of Mr. Penske due to his wealth and power? Do not misunderstand this question; I have admiration for how Mr. Penske has and does run his businesses and racing teams. But no man is without flaws, and I am curious as to what are his shortcomings?
RM: Now that’s a damn good, and tough, question, because The Captain is the smartest, most competitive and well-organized person I’ve ever met in the 50 years I’ve covered IndyCar and 70 years I’ve been alive. Danny Sullivan’s great line, “when the music stops Roger always has a seat” is a compliment to his attention to detail and progressive thinking.
The only possible flaw I can recall is that when he was funding CART (along with Pat Patrick) he brought in his lawyer (John Frasco) to run things and the conflict of interest raised its head a couple times over rules, but nothing sinister ever emerged. He protested once about another competitor’s car being legal, but that win was upheld by a special panel. A few people questioned whether he could continue to own his IndyCar team and the series but still be fair, and that’s so far away from being a concern because he’s too polished and professional. As Bobby Rahal said shortly after Penske’s takeover was announced: “Any concerns I had about the future of IndyCar or the Indianapolis 500 were eliminated instantly when I heard Roger was taking over.”