Q: Will IndyCar ever recover from the IRL/CART split? After 16 years and the prime time major network ratings are still meager. It’s good racing. I don’t get it. Big egos can destroy anything.
RM: I doubt if we ever see the CART crowds of the ’90s, and we’ll never see the Indy 500 ratings of the 1960s-’70s-’80s, but IndyCar has become a niche sport. The road race and street race crowds are good, but ovals remain a tough sell and there seems to be about one million people that watch NBC races and about 400-600,000 that watch NBCSN on a regular basis. The racing is real good, but sadly, that’s not enough at the moment. If R.P. was 63 instead of 83 I’d say there was a chance to recapture a lot of that old pizazz, but give him a chance to make a difference because he will.
Q: Trying to catch up on a bit of history. Johnnie Parsons got second and a win in a Kurtis Offy. The following year, Mike Nazaruk took second in the same car. Any idea how long that particular car ran at Indy? Have any other individual cars, (other than the Blue Crown Specials or Maseratis), done as well?
RM: Some local knowledge from author/historian Rick Shaffer: “The car was actually the first one Frank Kurtis built for Indy for himself. He had built the front-drive Novis for Lew Welch. Kurtis ran the car in 1948 for the first time and Tommy Hinnershitz got ninth after starting 23rd. Then Parsons got second as a rookie and then won the rain-shortened 1950 race. Immediately after the race, Kurtis sold it to Jim Robbins, who did not run the car until 1951 with Nazaruk, who got second. Then in 1952, Parsons started 31st in it and finished 10th. People got to where they got new cars just about every year so it’s hard to top the Parsons Kurtis, the Blue Crowns or the Maserati.”
Q: I was thinking about the virtual racing IndyCar had before the real racing got started, and I think we missed an opportunity to answer the age-old question of how good would today’s IndyCar drivers have been at Indy in the cars of the past. With all of the vintage computer programs it should be easy. The format could be pick a year or two from each decade, cars from the 1940s, cars from the ’50s, cars from the ’60s including the turbines, cars from the ’70s…
The drivers and their engineer pick the car they want to run each race. The only setup changes that could be made would have to be what was available during that particular era. Maybe you could suggest to NBC that they could run it after the season ends this year. Since the season will be shorter, IndyCar could get four more weeks of good publicly. And we would get an entire winter’s worth of bench racing. What real IndyCar fan wouldn’t want to see T.K. in a Watson roadster or Dixie driving the Lotus Turbine, or how would Marco do in his grandfather’s winning 1969 car? Let’s make this happen.
Dave Lake, Ft. Wayne, IN
RM: You truly think someone steering a wheel on a computer can be compared to someone trying to hustle a roadster through Turn 1 on eight-inch tires? Dario got to drive Jim Clark’s Lotus at IMS and afterwards said he couldn’t believe anyone could run 150 mph in that car. Sorry, I get that some people are in love with virtual racing, but I’m not one of them, and certainly not the one to carry this banner to NBC.
Q: Robin, loyal reader here. Just want to raise a point about the “I should be able to do what I want and take my own risks” idea. That’s fine, except one of the things about this nasty bug is you can carry it and transmit it and not know it. That’s why it has been spread by some group events. Nobody likes the restrictions, but you don’t have the right to infect others, knowingly or unknowingly. Thanks for listening.
Jeff B, Bernardsville, NJ
RM: It’s a slippery slope, and there’s hardly a consensus on how to try and go back to normal living. I still see a lot of masks in grocery stores in Indy, but not many in restaurants, while the grandstands were packed at USAC midget week and I didn’t see many. The experts say you are protecting others by wearing a mask, so from that perspective it’s more about respecting other people, and the daily totals don’t give you a lot of confidence that this pandemic is close to being over. Like I said last week, if I’m 20-30-40, I’m a lot more secure than someone my age (70) but I also get that you can’t sit indoors the rest of your life. When Pancho, Kunzman and Merle are having lunch at Jim Bob’s in folding chairs they’re not wearing masks, but when you think about the injuries they survived and the fact we’re sitting outside, it doesn’t seem as risky as running the cushion at Eldora or Manzanita.
Q: About damn time you got a new picture for the Mailbag. You are like me, it is much better to have a rendering of my face than an actual photograph, but you don’t look much like the old picture. I think that was the one you used in the old Speed Channel site, and that was a long time ago. Keep up the good work and thanks for letting us keep bitching, because we don’t have many more things to spend time on.
Tom in Waco
RM: We can thank RACER editor Mark Glendenning [MG: along with artist Paul Laguette and editor-in-chief Laurence Foster – it takes an army] for putting that ugly, snaggle-toothed old man to rest and replacing it with something much less offensive to the eyes. Thanks for noticing, and I had 10 letters all agreeing with you.