Q: After reviewing RACER’s recent story about Larry Foyt’s plans, does this mean that Kanaan has given up on his starting streak? Are there options with other teams to keep his streak alive?
Bill in CA
RM: Tony knew his streak was likely going to end at St. Pete, but because of the pandemic now it’s going to be the IMS road course. He always knew he was running only ovals for A.J. in 2020 and I think he’s planning to return to IMS in 2021, but there are no options to run road courses this season to my knowledge.
Q: I know you’ve always been a vocal critic of ABC’s coverage of the Indy 500. But what was their absolute worst year of covering the race? In 1992 they missed the closest finish ever. In 2005 you said in an interview the coverage was so bad you wanted Paul Page back. Also… and this is probably asking you to pick from some dirt… what year had the best broadcasting team in your opinion? Also, give some comments about the play-by-play from Jim Lampley, Paul Page, and Todd Harris. Dave Despain said that Harris would almost hyperventilate when Danica when around the track.
Ron, Portland, OR
RM: The year Rusty Wallace kept calling it the Daytona 500 was certainly a low point, and Todd, bless his heart, got thrown into the deep end with no life jacket. After being involved with NBC for 10 years, I was probably too hard on Page because television can be tougher than I imagined, but it wasn’t his fault that ABC showed Dina Mears instead of Rick trying to dive under Gordy on the last lap in 1982. I always liked Jim McKay and Jackie Stewart, and thought Bob Jenkins and Tom Sneva were a good pairing as well. I think our NBC trio has good chemistry, and Leigh is really good at staying on top of the race while P.T. and T. Bell know what they’re talking about and have no qualms about giving an opinion.
Q: Was wondering if you noticed the very subtle dig that Mike Joy made while showing the upcoming NASCAR schedule during the Sunday Darlington broadcast? While showing the schedule and noting the Memorial Day race in Charlotte, he noted “…and we will be racing Memorial Day,” implying that neither Indy nor F1 will be running on their traditional day, but NASCAR will be. And 6.8 million watched a very dull Darlington race on Sunday.
Do you think that R.P. and the IndyCar hierarchy are kicking themselves for not getting their act together quicker and getting a race on? Now that NASCAR is back up and running, and the MMA is active, more and more sports are making plans. MLB should be up and going in some capacity within the next weeks as will the NHL. IndyCar is losing its chance to be seen by more than the traditional IndyCar fans, don’t you think?
RM: No Doug, I think Roger Penske got IndyCar back on track as soon as humanly possible. What was he supposed to do? His first six races were scrubbed or postponed because of the pandemic, and now Richmond and Toronto have joined that group. Did you want him to run at The Speedrome? Look at all the obstacles and different rules for different states and the fact that IndyCar tracks depend on fans to make their bottom line. Believe me, it took some creative bookkeeping to get Eddie Gossage to run Texas with no fans because IndyCar has no TV revenue. NASCAR has the advantage of owning most of its tracks plus getting a big TV retainer, so that’s why it was able to reload the quickest. I understand that people want their favorite sports back ASAP, but R.P. has spent the past few weeks juggling the schedule, adding doubleheaders and trying to come up with 12-14 races in the face of a moving target.
Q: Recently, we were pouring concrete on the west side of Indy, near the track. I commented to my nephew that it was way too quiet for the month of May. After the concrete was in the ground, I was finishing things up with the truck driver and I said the same thing to him, that it was too quiet for May. He told me I didn’t know the half of it. He started telling us about how he was normally the team manager for John Force, and that John had laid off 85 guys until their planned return in August. We were blown away that this guy was now driving a concrete truck while he waited for the racing world to start back up.
That night, I looked at the invoice for the concrete and saw his name. I Googled him, and sure enough, there he was on the Force website. Have you heard any similar stories to this about how some of the guys on teams are surviving? I was kind of surprised by it all.
RM: The only stories I’ve heard is that some teams have asked their mechanics to take a cut in pay, but I haven’t heard any massive layoffs like Force’s group.
Q: With three doubleheaders now in play and IndyCar limiting the number of personnel allowed at the track per car, how much of an effect will this have on teams that might have to flip a car from Race 1 to Race 2 due to irreparable damage? I would suspect that the multi-car teams would continue as they have in the past and combine resources to make that happen in the event of a major accident, but how will this limit the single-car teams? I guess the first question would be, how long does it take a team in the past to change cars at the former capacity, and now what would be the critical path and project time frame with less personnel?
Jamie Doellinger, Wrightsville, PA
RM: I think just about everyone has a backup car, and the only thing that makes it a bit of a fire drill is that there’s no [new] engine allowed. I think last May somebody made the swap in under three hours.