Q: Why doesn’t IMS write into the entry form that IMS has physical control of the winning car for one year and then it’s returned to the team? I know NASCAR has something similar written in, and they have the winning car placed in the Daytona museum. Let the winning team use it for their sponsor events. I’m thinking IndyCar should transport the 500 winner to every race and have it on display with the Borg-Warner Trophy (gotta keep Steve Shunck busy) and the Indy 500-winning driver doing an autograph session at each race. How about photo ops for fans and celebs with the car? Keep it in the IMS Museum when not needed on the road, and take it and the winning driver to the Goodwood Festival of Speed and drive the car up the hill. That would be a tradition that would make international news. We gotta think outside the box and make changes to bring IndyCar back to where it deserves to be – on top!
RM: Not real sure displaying the Indy winner is going to do that much for IndyCar’s profile, but it would always be nice to have it in the IMS Museum over the winter.
Q: Recently NBCSN has been replaying old races, and with nothing else on TV of course I’m watching. I re-watched 2015 Fontana and 2016 Texas, both of which were incredible races. The 2015 Fontana was pack racing the whole way, with tons of lead changes, and was really terrific because it’s certainly something we don’t see much anymore. As the race came to a close Will Power crashed, and Ryan Briscoe somehow avoided serious injuries after going airborne and upside down in a crash with Hunter-Reay.
After the race, Power and TK both complained about the dangers of pack racing and questioned why the series goes to tracks like Fontana. I understand their complaints entirely, especially after seeing the replay from Briscoe’s car where avoiding a head injury was pure luck. With that being said, do you see the aerosceen allowing the series to consider more ovals and faster racing? Now that the drivers’ heads are protected, it seems like the greatest safety concern for ovals has been addressed. Keep up the great work!
Ben, Crystal Lake, IL
RM: I think ovals are more about whether there is a viable place for them on the schedule than running faster or being safer. Pack racing is insanity and hard to watch sometimes, but obviously makes for some amazing action. Indy seems to have the right amount of separation, and it’s still a helluva show.
Q: A thousand thank-yous for all you do for the sport. As work from home is becoming the norm, I have started going back to old races in the background while I am working (YouTube is great for this).
I just finished the 1995 CART season, and it was a great trip down memory lane. It was great racing, great tracks. I firmly believe that current IndyCar also offers the same: great racing, great tracks. But that attendance in 1995… I am absolutely astounded by how many people they packed into the stands. It seemed like every single race was at capacity. I understand The Split had ramifications with regards to loyalty, but what were some of the other factors that lead to the decline in fan attendance/interest?
RM: Well, let’s take Milwaukee as an example. It was the bastion of Indy cars forever, and always followed the week after Indianapolis. But even though the crowds were still good for CART in 1996-1999, they began to fall off because those drivers and teams didn’t compete at Indy. Then the IRL started going, so we had two series with different dates and people got tired of the politics. But the attendance in 1993-94 with Nigel Mansell was unsurpassed.
Q: My work from home life has sent me spiraling down several YouTube rabbit holes. Yesterday I found myself watching a quick 10-minute piece on the one and only IndyCar race ever run at Daytona in 1959. Qualifying speeds were 30mph faster than the pole at Indy that year. I can’t imagine a modern-day IndyCar running the banks there, much less the tanks from back then. Talk about ballsy! Couple of questions. One, do you think we will ever see IndyCar at Daytona (I would assume on the road course), and two, if they ran the oval, what type of speeds do you think would be reached? I’d think Gil de Ferran’s California mark would be in jeopardy.
Desmond, Oak Lawn, IL
RM: IndyCar tested at Daytona’s road course a few years ago, but I don’t think anyone ever seriously considered staging a race. I think it would be very difficult to draw a crowd. As for speeds at Daytona, I imagine with the right tire they could be 15mph quicker than IMS, but there’s absolutely no need to try. It proves nothing.
Q: Could you share some experiences you had with these fine folks lost on 4/25/1978: Ray Marquette, Frank Del Roy, Shim Malone, Judy Phillips, Stan Worley, Ross Teeguarden, Don Peabody, Dr. Bruce White, and pilot, Don Mellendore.
Dave Parker, Cincinnati, Ohio
RM: Well, Ray was responsible for getting me a job at The Indianapolis Star in 1968, Peabody was going to be the best supervisor USAC ever had, Frankie was a fixture in technical officiating, Bruce an up-and-coming medical man, Stan was everyone’s pal and Shim had progressed from flagman to USAC midget supervisor. Didn’t know the rest of those folks, but Dr. White asked me prior to the race at Trenton if I wanted to ride home on that charter because there was an empty seat. Luckily I was taking my pal Bobby Grim into New York City that night, so they asked three other people before Judy accepted their offer.
Q: Since you have been covering auto racing for a very long time, did you ever race yourself? If so, what series did you drive in?
Chris Fiegler, Latham, NY
RM: Yep, lucky enough to run USAC midgets from 1975-82 — starting in Merle Bettenhausen’s old Turner and winding up in Gary Stanton’s first midget. Had one great day at Terre Haute, lots of mediocre ones and a few mindless brain fades, but best times of my life.