Q: Scratching my head over Dale Earnhardt’s induction into The Hall of Fame. Wouldn’t you think if you are going to include NASCAR drivers you’d put the five-time Brickyard winner in first? I’m afraid this Hall of Fame will end up having the same amount of credibility as The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, as in, not much.
John Fulton, Akron, Ohio
RM: Jeff Gordon was inducted last year but didn’t even show – he sent a video. The fact any NASCAR or F1 driver is in the IMS HOF is insulting to me because they’ve got their own museums, and the Indianapolis 500 is what made IMS – not stock cars or a few F1 races. I get that IMS wants to sell tables to Dale Junior for the banquet, but that was the strategy for Gordon but it didn’t work. NASCAR has a HOF in Charlotte so Foyt, Gurney, Parnelli and Andretti should be legit candidates – just like Gordon or Earnhardt, had they won the Indy 500 or any IndyCar races.
Q: After reading the recent news on the Indy prize money, I had an idea: IMS should create a Fan Prize. My proposal would be that an award be created and funded by donations made by folks who buy Indy 500 tickets beginning with the 2021 race. For example, on the renewal paperwork I receive each year, an optional line could be included where I could voluntarily contribute to such a fund and be added to the contributions of like-minded folks. Those ordering for the first time via online or by phone could be offered the same. I’ve been re-upping the same 15 tickets since the 1970s and would gleefully contribute.
In addition, corporate ticket buyers could do this as part of their support and PR. If 300,00 attendees give one dollar… What might be raised is obviously unknown, but I think it’s worth a shot. As to who gets the prize? Last place finisher? The first alternate to support a “long-shot” program? Regardless of who receives the award, fans can claim that they took an extra step to keep IndyCar moving forward. While I’d propose this be named the Tim Coffeen Award, I’m not totally sold on that, but you can ask him.
RM: I like your idea, and maybe it’s divided among the Last Row starters or given to the biggest mover of the race, or the first alternate. Adding it to the ticket renewal also sounds doable, so I sent your suggestion to The Captain. Feeno is pretty bashful, but I think he’d approve.
Q: Doesn’t the driver get 40 percent of the purse? At least, I remember it being that way until Arie in 1997, that was how Fred Treadway got him to drive. BTW, this is Mike Mehl, Leo’s son. I actually ran the Chili Bowl in 2019, then had a stroke in March, missing my first Indy 500 in 39 years, and have been recovering for the last year. Will be back to Indy in May.
RM: Most drivers used to get 40 percent of their check, and some got 50 if they won or finished in the Top 5. But who knows nowadays? Many of the full-timers have seven-figure retainers, so the prize money is inconsequential to them. And since a third of the field only earned $200,000, it’s hard to say what an owner might give in terms of percentage. But if a driver brings a sponsor then he usually gets a cut right off the top, and that’s how he’s paid. Glad you’re feeling better, please tell your dad hello.
Q: This year looks like it’s shaping up to be a really talented and deep starting lineup for the 500. At this point, what is the car count shaping up to be? Are there any big announcements left in the rumor mill? The Indy GP looks like it’s going to have one of its biggest car counts ever, from what I’m seeing. I heard that Alonso is going to maybe be running a handful of other IndyCar races if everything works out right. Do you see this as something that will really happen? I really hope it does, because as excited as I am for the 500, I really would love to see how he stacks up on a road or street race. Can’t wait for the season to start!
Rick from PA
RM: We’re still waiting on the second car for Carlin, while Ricardo Juncos and David Byrd are expected to make announcements. Steve Trout or Will Mariotti could be in play, and I hope A.J. puts Bourdais in a car as well. I do think Alonso is going to run the Indy GP and a couple other IndyCar races after May.
Q: “Before, during and after, that race is just magic.” That was Alonso’s quote about Indy. How come more F1 current drivers don’t voice the Indy 500 as a bucket list item that they want to pursue?
RM: Well, there’s always a conflict with Monaco and not sure how many want any part of an oval at 220 mph. Be nice to see Max and Lewis come over, but probably not as long as they’re F1 full-timers.