Q: While watching the Genesys 300 IndyCar race at Texas I noticed on an onboard shot of Pato O’Ward on Lap 117 where the hose connected to his helmet was flailing in the wind. This was not the first time that the air hose has been somewhere where it should not have been. (Hoses blowing above the cockpit pointed out a few times by Leigh, Townsend and Paul during qualifying) but this was the first time that I noticed one completely unattached from the helmet. First, as we all know it was hotter than h*** in Ft. Worth. How did Pato deal with this, as I never saw it addressed, how did it affect his performance, and will IndyCar deal with these issues?
Matt Payette, Westlake Village, CA
RM: Not sure, haven’t talked to him, but one driver I did speak with said that hose was useless and just collected dirt, so maybe Pato unhooked it.
Q: The Mailbag has been a true godsend during the racing shutdown. I’m glad you never went postal over all of the sim racing questions! In last week’s edition you mentioned that COTA will probably not be back on the schedule. Why is that? I would hate to see it go. I attended the inaugural IndyCar race and was looking forward to this year’s running. The track really suits IndyCars well and produces some good racing.
RM: I was told COTA has big financial troubles, and I’ve tried to call and email their people but never got so much as one response. But F1 is their bread and butter so IndyCar (which reportedly lost money in 2019) would seem to be very expendable.
Q: Not a question, but more of a heads-up. I think you, I and everybody else thought it was game over for the Nashville Superspeedway. Apparently not. They’re re-opening with a Cup race in 2021. Would be nice to see Indy return to middle Tennessee.
Rob, Spring Hill, TN
RM: I think if IndyCar ever returns to Nashville it will be in the form of a street race, and that was a hot topic not long ago but it seems to have cooled.
Q: I write this to express my sadness at Indy Lights getting rested for 2020. Even with small grids, I do enjoy the racing, and the talent outscores the field size. I was enjoying how Kyle Kirkwood managed to get up the ladder, and eager to watch his progress alongside rivals like Lindh and Frost, along with returnees Norman and Uruttia.
I can only wish good luck for them in 2020 while waiting for Indy Lights to get sorted for 2021, which led to my next question. Which element of the Indy Lights is so expensive? Also, why they are racing far less on ovals these days? I also think the Freedom 100, as fun as it’s been for two years, might be a bit better by using just a bit less downforce — the draft power looks scary sometimes.
RM: Texas doesn’t want nine cars on a track its size, but Iowa and Gateway have embraced Lights, along with IMS. Richmond wanted to start again with only Indy cars. The crash damage is always higher for ovals, and the promoter has to spend more money to have them. One of the things I failed to point out in a Lights question last week was that the champion always gets $1 million towards three IndyCar races (including the Indy 500) the next year and that makes it very appetizing to a lot of young drivers. It’s also closer to $1 million than $2 million to run the whole season according to Dan Andersen’s group, and the overall 2020 purse was set at $1,553,195. It’s still pricey, but a bargain compared to Europe and that’s why so many foreigners come over here.
Q: I was very disappointed to hear about the cancellation of the Indy Lights season. It’s understandable, but nonetheless disappointing. Where do you think the Road to Indy fits among Roger Penske’s priorities? I know he has many, and not everything can be an immediate priority, but I believe the Road to Indy is a key step to growing the sport. I don’t pretend to know how it stacks up with other issues.
Wally, Eden Prairie, MN
RM: I asked The Captain last week about the future of Lights and all he said was “stay tuned,” so I think he’s got a plan.
Q: I see the values in simulators for learning circuits and racing lines, but am confused about how a simulator can be used to test various adjustable car setups? Assume they have “variable inputs” into simulator such as tire pressure, gearing, wing angle, toe, camber, brake bias, air temp, etc. That would then be run thru the simulator computer to give outputs: speed, drag, tire scrub, degree of push or loose and lap times. But the software algorithms already exist in the computer, so it’s just kicking out what is already written in code for certain combinations of inputs. To me, changing inputs will just result in a predetermined output. So I’m guessing the driver isn’t needed to actually sit in the sim and run laps of these scenarios on the screen, just engineers inputting the variables and seeing the computer output of the result they are trying to optimize?
Also, so much of racing is seat of the pants feelings of when car is pushing or in a great four-wheel drift or on knife edge and ready to spin. How does a simulator with a fixed seat and no true motion give this tactical feedback? I’m new to viewing RACER.com – what a great site for IndyCar fans!!
Jim Cox, Rock Island, IL
RM: I have no concept of how sims operate except that when Tim Considine’s son brought his unit to Long Beach a decade ago it was advanced beyond belief. You could change anything and everything and Lewis Hamilton flew over to test it because he’d heard it was so good. Does it help drivers learn tracks? Of course. Does it make them better? I don’t know, but I like A.J.’s quote: “When I raced your butt was your simulator and when you crashed you didn’t hit some button to start over – you hit concrete.”