Q: Some people I work with complain about some recent long hours (10-12). During the race season, what does an average week entail for the average IndyCar crew member? How many hours worked, and average pay? Do they have paid medical insurance? 401K? Holiday pay? Time and a half for over 40 hours? Some people think that racing is all fun and glory.
Dave O’Brien, Greenwood, IN
RM: Race weekends are a bitch for mechanics. A minimum of 12-hour days and usually longer, and that also includes working the pit stops and then helping load and tear down hospitality. I don’t think there’s such a thing as overtime in racing season, but they do have insurance and some have 401Ks. Somewhere between $50,000-$75,000 would seem to be the pay range, but they no longer get percentages of wins or year-end point funds and that hurts. And some had to take pay cuts during the pandemic but I don’t think anyone was laid off, so that was impressive. It was fun in the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s because everybody quit working around 5 p.m. and either had a beer or went and played softball – or both. But when engineers took over, all that ended.
Q: In a recent Mailbag, reader Evert Wolfe asked about a Ferrari entered for the 1956 Indy 500 and wondered where it is now. I think I saw that car at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, PA in 2018. Thanks for the great work. I enjoy RACER and Vintage Motorsport magazines as well the coverage from your team on RACER.com.
Eric Dahlstrom, Huntingtown, MD
RM: Thanks for sharing Eric. It looks faster than it ran, doesn’t it?
Q: If the IndyCar Series scheduled races either on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday night rather than Saturday nights, do you think that the ratings would go up?
Chris Fiegler, Latham, NY
RM: No, because they would most likely be on NBCSN instead of NBC and the cable number is always lower.
Q: I wanted to get your opinion of Scott Pruett during his CART years. I became a big fan after he came back from his testing accident with Truesports, and the fact that he led the Detroit Grand Prix with a Judd engine. He did a lot of development work for Firestone tires, and with the Truesports 91C chassis, but I get the feeling his competitors were not very fond of him. Paul Tracy continues to use the derogatory term “Pruett fade” when alluding to blocking, and I know he had an incident with Montoya in stock cars. Back in the ’90s, I met both him and Richie Hearn at Fontana, and thought both were very nice guys that seemed to have some rough luck in open-wheel racing. Any thoughts or recollections?
Napalm Nick, Locust Grove, VA
RM: Always admired Scott because he used his savings to fund his IndyCar debut at Long Beach and made an impression that kick-started his career. His last-lap victory over Little Al at MIS in 1995 still ranks as one of the most exciting finishes ever, and getting back-to-back white flags in his win at Australia ranks as one of the funniest. He was a helluva sports car racer and just an all-around good shoe. P.T. just uses the “Pruett fade” as more of a term of endearment than ridicule – kinda like the Chrome Horn.
Q: I have really enjoyed RACER’s Retro series. Your article featuring Lee Kunzman took my breath away. Lee and I were both from Iowa, and we were in the same Army at about the same time. You added a lot of detail to my knowledge of Lee and Dr. Dunseth. Before a tour in Vietnam I was stationed in Ft. Monmouth NJ in 1968-69, and the USAC sprinters were at Reading, PA. Of course I had to get there, and to Langhorne on Sunday. I was seated next to a nice gentlemen who I thought must have some connection with the event, as he dashed down to the pits between action on the dirt track. After a while I asked him what that connection was. He quietly replied ” I own that No. 1 car.” That pleasant gentleman was Dr. Ward Dunseth! Thanks for featuring Lee Kunzman, who served his country and is not to be forgotten.
RM: My pleasure, glad you enjoyed it and thanks for sharing your memory of Zoom and Doc. Kunzman will always be my hero, and the dignity and courage in which he conducts his life is truly inspiring.
Q: I always enjoy Indy 500 history and was reviewing results when I came across some amazing stats on Ted Horn’s race finishes. He finished in the top five from 1936 thru 1941. The Speedway was closed from 1942 thru 1945 for WWII. He then picked up where he left off, and finished in the top five from 1946 through 1948. That is a stunning nine consecutive finishes in the top five, during an era of very dangerous racing and poor equipment reliability. The streak ended with Horn’s death at a race at DuQuoin on October 10, 1948. Can you contribute any additional facts or stories about Horn’s career? What a wheelman! Too bad he never tasted the milk at the Speedway.
Jerry, Reading, PA
RM: No, he was a little before my time, and when we talk about the best to never win Indy we always say Michael Andretti, Lloyd Ruby, Tony & Gary Bettenhausen, Eddie Sachs and Rex Mays. Horn doesn’t get much love. He should – what a record.