Q: Besides the Indianapolis 500, when will we see women racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and IndyCar?
Chris Fiegler, Latham, NY
RM: Well, right now Hailie Deegan is on the fast track to NASCAR. Ford signed her to run ARCA in 2020 and the 18-year-old Californian will also be competing in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge for Mustangs. Natalie Decker is also well-regarded on the pavement, and Maria Cofer is making a name for herself on the dirt in sprint cars. So maybe one or all three make it some day?
Q: I have also asked myself why Haas is involved in F1. I have also wondered why is Tony Stewart not involved in IndyCar team ownership/co-ownership? Also, what’s your personal opinion on removing the infield portion of the golf course and putting in more parking? Could it, should it?
Stephen Thompson, Indy
RM: I think Stew has plenty on his plate, but he’ll field a car at Indy some day. I hope they leave the golf course alone.
Q: You have written multiple times that Fontana might succeed if it was a night race in October. Your reasoning for this is high temperatures at the previous race at Fontana. Has IndyCar or Fontana entertained the idea of starting the season there? The temperatures would be nice, and it could help IndyCar with its goal of starting the season earlier. I think IndyCar would be smart to start earlier and on an oval. Hell, I watch the first few NASCAR races before IndyCar starts because I am itching to see any type of racing.
RM: Fontana hosts NASCAR every year in March and doesn’t want two races in that timeframe. IndyCar tried returning to Phoenix 2016-2018 and that was a bust, so there really is nowhere to go early on an oval.
Q: I get my fix for my “racer” disease with your column, it is the best. Just wish it was more often. And of course of your NBC/SN coverage and grid walks are awesome. Most others don’t have a clue. I raced Formula Fords and a 5000 car (ex D. Ongais) chasing my dream of the 500, but soon realized a fireman’s paycheck would not continue to fund such an endeavor and wisely retired. I returned to my high school roots when some old buddies got me back into drag racing. A long story short, I then became involved in Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars for about 13 years.
John Andretti? Your answer last week that he won in IndyCar, NASCAR & USAC needs an addendum. He also raced a Top Fuel dragster for retired baseball all-star Jack Clark (Taco Bell car) and won some rounds – specifically at the 1993 Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. He ran his career-best speed (299 mph) that day, and eliminated Top Fuel champion Joe Amato in the first round. In the quarter-finals, he beat Tommy Johnson Jr. (Mopar Express Lube car), of which I was a crewman for Tommy and witnessed it on the starting line. You would have thought John was a seasoned veteran to the sport. Be it driving, interviews or interaction with other teams/crews, he was a pro. John lost the following round to veteran driver and broadcaster Mike Dunn. John, we are pulling for you buddy! Always willing to help out a co-‘ol timer and Ball State dropout in the event you weren’t aware. IndyCar, let’s roll 2020!
Bill Allen, San Clemente, CA
RM: Thanks for that info on John. I’d forgotten about his very successful NHRA debut that got him all the way to the semis. And thanks for reading the Mailbag.
Q: Though I would love to see it come to fruition, I think an IndyCar-NASCAR double-header is a lose-lose for NASCAR. If an oval is chosen as our double-header destination, even with NASCAR’s attendance down overall at circuits, it still is presumably better for them then it is for IndyCar, so the only real boost to a full house would be to our open-wheel buds if, say, Texas is chosen since NASCAR already draws there, as an example.
If we go to a road course, save for possibly Watkins Glen, the significant speed difference would leave people with the sense of how slow those lumbering stock cars are compared to them rockets in IndyCar, thus hurting the perception of NASCAR’s racing. Without a doubt, a combined weekend would create buzz for you in the media and of course us racing fans, but in the end NASCAR may not get as much out of it as IndyCar will, which is why they would be a loser if it ever did happen. Thoughts?
Pat Jenkins, Columbus, OH
RM: The idea of a double-header is to pick a track that might be struggling for both series and see if combining them would boost attendance. A Saturday night/Sunday afternoon on an oval would seem to be the preferred program, and since NBC likes the idea then it needs to be something in July after FOX is done with NASCAR. A place like Richmond might be ideal. But with both series needing to improve attendance at ovals, why not give it a try?
Q: I’ve been going to IndyCar races for a few decades. I’ve seen them at five different tracks. I would like to see IndyCar upgrade its on-track fan experience in a couple of ways. Getting into some tracks has required hours of sitting in traffic. Last year my son and I sat at dinner on Saturday night trying to figure out how early we needed to start to Road America to beat the rush. An app with more local flavoring like this would help. That app could also update fans on weather delays, too. On the topic of traffic, for years I avoided Indy due to its reputation for traffic. I’ve had great experiences there on sponsor buses. Could IndyCar work with the hotels to get more fans in and out on buses to improve traffic?
Finally, how about a buyer’s guide for tickets and races? When choosing which race to go to last year, it would have been great to know that the lines for driver autographs such as Newgarden and Herta were one person at Road America compared to Indy, where it is hundreds. Describing what is available and different at each race would help people choose different experiences.
John, Tewksbury, NJ
RM: Good suggestion John, but this information already exists with many tracks. Here’s what I got from Steve Bidlack, who handles the public relations for Savoree-Green at St. Pete, Toronto, Mid-Ohio and Portland:
“Most all the tracks have a fan guide on their respective websites which address these common questions. For instance, we have this page under FESTIVAL with all the fan information for St. Pete.” And here’s a response from David Hart of Texas Motor Speedway: “A good chunk of the information can be found on our website and the Texas Motor Speedway phone app. With some additional planning/coordination, real-time updates on lines at autograph sessions, etc., could be pushed through our Twitter feed.” And John Ewert of Road America adds: “Excellent thoughts from this fan. I think a simple event fact sheet sent to purchasers and shared online and via social is the best bet. Something folks can refer to, go back to and print out if necessary, instead of having a app crash all the time. I think a little effort on behalf of the series, tracks and sponsors could make this easy. With very little expense. Thanks.” And WWTR’s John Bisci says: “Great idea, I’m on it.”