Q: Why is it still called “Pole Day” at Indy? The fastest driver of the day really does not win the pole for the race, unless he/she wins the following day during the Fast Nine. They need to bring back Pole Day and have second through ninth race for the balance of the first three rows.
Jay Vandroff, Sarasota, FL
RM: Well, technically it is Pole Day on Sunday because the winner of that Fast Nine is on the pole, but I get what you’re saying because a few years ago the fastest speed of the month was posted on Saturday’s prelims and nobody topped it on Sunday. So the fast qualifier on Sunday’s Fast Nine did start first, but did not post the fastest speed of the month under the clock.
Q: I’ve heard it takes $5 million to run the IndyCar Series for the year if a team already has all the equipment necessary. Of that $5 mil, what cut does the owner take?
Dave O’Brien, Greenwood, IN
RM: It takes between $5-8 million depending on your sponsor status, but it’s impossible to tell what kind of a percentage (if any) unless you know the total. If a sponsor gives a team $10 million and it only takes $7 million to operate then it’s easy to see the rake. But if an owner only gets $5 million and spends it all, then he may have to rely on Leaders Circle for his cut (and that’s less than a million currently). And if a driver finds $7 million and gives $6 to a car owner, then he makes his salary right off the top. Every situation is different.
Q: Michael Andretti seems to be on the best ambassadors for IndyCar. He seems to make things happen for drivers better than anyone else. He has a great eye for talent, and he sees opportunities. He knows what fans want, and he knows how to run a great team. He has really grown into his role as a team owner and leader. Do you see him one day becoming the next Roger Penske? He already has the name, he has the pedigree in the sport, and he clearly knows how to attract the right people/sponsors. He is great at making some of the best deals come through.
While he may not have the money that Penske has from all of his businesses and involvement in other series, could you see Michael one day taking over the role of owner for IndyCar and possibly the Speedway? I think he would be a great steward for the next phase when it’s time.
RM: Well Michael muscled into R.P. territory over the past 15 years (especially at Indianapolis, where his team has won three of the last six races) and is part of the Big 3 along with Ganassi. And he’s kept American drivers on the track like RHR, Rossi and now little Herta, so he is creating his own legacy after being one of the best drivers of his era. Not sure he wants to be in charge of everything, but I also was surprised he wanted to own a team so you never know.
Q: Saw a photo of Will Power at the COTA test and noticed an “Indy 500 Winner” logo embroidered on the right sleeve of his fire suit! Are all of the winners wearing this? This is the first time I’ve ever seen this and I think it’s a Penske Perfect idea!
Dave Sutton, Indy
RM: No, I’m told it’s an optional patch provided by IndyCar, and obviously Willy P. is very proud to wear it.
Q: If you had to guess, who do you think R.P. would pick as his all-time favorite driver in IndyCar, and has he ever stated it? Would it be Donohue? Mears? Helio? I would say PT, but we all know it’s not April Fool’s Day yet.
Brandon Stevens, California
RM: I don’t think he’s ever chosen one publicly, but it would likely be Mark and Rick because they were all about the team 24/7. Tom Sneva and P.T. would probably be his least favorite.
Q: Everyone is talking about Scott McLaughlin’s IndyCar tests. What happens with Will Power? Is Penske expanding to the Australian S5000 open-wheel series? A Power/McLaughlin Penske team will be a boost to the series. It could also reopen the door to IndyCar returning Down Under. Doesn’t Andretti have his hand in an Australian Supercar team? I’m surprised Chip Ganassi doesn’t have an eyeball looking at it.
RM: I have no idea, but I imagine McLaughlin has a much better shot at driving over here for R.P. in IndyCar than being part of a new endeavor Down Under. Michael has a stake in a Supercar team that Rossi and Hinch ran for at Bathurst [ED: Walkinshaw Andretti United] but I don’t think Ganassi has any interest.
Q: Considering I’m probably the only person who will email you that actually watches Supercars, I’m wondering what the opinion in the paddock and in the fan base about Scott McLaughlin coming over? After watching him for several years and knowing some people who worked with him doing some sim racing stuff, I feel the average IndyCar fan is in for a bit of a shock when he gets out there in a race.
I’m not going tell you he will win the Indy 500 or the Indy GP in his first race, but y’all are gonna have your hands full with him because I genuinely think he’s one of the top 10 drivers in the world, pound for pound. Plus, I think the old gearheads will like him because he has that mentality of wanting to race absolutely everything he can race.
RM: I haven’t talked to any of the drivers but they were obviously impressed with his COTA performance, and getting up to speed that quick says a lot. I read where he’s been released from his ride Down Under [ED: His current Supercars contract ends this year] and he’s made it clear he wants to pursue IndyCar, so we may be seeing a lot of him – even in 2020.