Q: I have some thoughts regarding Marshall Pruett’s article “Time for a rethink in how IndyCar, IMSA approach hybridization.”
As many of us fans are painfully aware, IndyCar has been using the same spec engine formula for nearly a decade now. In that decade, technology has dramatically changed. Unfortunately, the vision of IndyCar jumping in to use new technology has not. In many cases, the series has stagnated technologically. Cost is what always seems to be the issue. Then I ask: What was the point of IndyCar changing a key pillar of Jay Frye’s original 2016 “Five Year Plan” – the debut of a new 2021 internal combustion engine (ICE) formula (which got delayed to 2022 in early 2019); to the hastily-announced 2022 hybrid regs in the summer of 2019? Wasn’t that rapid departure supposed to be catering to what the manufacturers wanted? What about the cost?
Lastly, I ask Mr. Penske to help figure out what IndyCar wants. Does it forge ahead as a competitive racing series hamstrung to a budget? Or does the series dare to be bold and gradually bring back innovation? Since this is racing after all, there’s a cost no matter what.
Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY
RM: I guess my response is that we’re going to have 24 full-time competitors this season and as many as 26-27 at some races (excluding Indy), with Honda and Chevy seemingly happy and Roger Penske stalking a third manufacturer. The racing has been excellent for the past few years and the crowds (at least road and street courses) have been good, so maybe I’m naive but the current five-year plan seems to be working. Sure, it could change in a heartbeat if one of the manufacturers bolts, but that’s always the case. And leased engines and spec cars are easily the most affordable way to go IndyCar racing today, and I just don’t see ever going back to the good old days of run what ya brung because there isn’t the interest or the money. And IndyCar has continued to discuss the future direction with potential OEMs. Like I said in an earlier response, let’s give R.P. a chance to shape the future, and I’ll bet he figures out the best engine formula to keep IndyCar relevant – even if it means staying the course for a few more years.
Q: Do you know if R.P. has plans to replace the bleacher-style seating in the Indy paddock with individual stadium-style seating with armrests, as was done in the Penthouse seats? This would dramatically improve the fan experience for those of us in the paddock. Thanks for providing this forum for IndyCar fans.
Ken, Geneva, IL
RM: I don’t know any of his plans, but I’m told he’s going to unveil them next month and I’ll be there won’t be a lot of muddy parking lots anymore, the restrooms will get modernized and I think he’ll listen to your fans about seating.
Q: I’m daydreaming about the month of May, and thinking back to last year. Only one thing left me unsatisfied, and I thought you could pass a suggestion on to the powers that be. Why are the Fast 9 drivers only given a single run? Why not let them make multiple runs without pulling their times so they can keep bettering one another? That to me would add drama, which is the point of the Fast 9 to begin with.
The same is true for bumping. Give them a two-hour period and give them as many attempts as they can muster to keep bumping into the last row. The once out, all or nothing format just hung people out. It wasn’t dramatic, and without the McLaren/Fred story, it would have been a bust.
On a side note, a number of years ago I recommended that the Mailbag be put out on Wednesday instead of Friday so it would come out before the race weekends began (and I also like to read it during the week when I should be working). Should I take credit for all of RACER’s success? I mean, we all come for the Mailbag and stay for the rest. Seriously though, the best part of the week is Wednesday.
Gary, Westfield, IN
RM: Before I forward your letter to R.P., let me give you my two cents. A driver hangs his ass out to make the Fast 9 for no money and then does it again on Sunday for a pittance. If the Fast 9 paid $3 million among nine drivers then maybe give everyone a second attempt, but the risk vs. reward factor isn’t worth it as it stands today. And the same for making the show. A third of the field makes $200,000, so other than the “prestige” of qualifying, it’s a financial loser, and to keep pounding around until you pound the wall makes no sense. It’s fine the way it is, and there was plenty of drama for NBC last year. As for your call to move the Mailbag to Wednesdays, send me your address because I will buy you a subscription to RACER for your foresight. Yes, Wednesday is a much better day, so thank you again.