Q: Just finished your ‘whining’ article. There was a tag on the Top Gun team with RC Enerson not racing until 2021 due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Arrow McLaren SP has iced its third car. Do you know of any other Indy-only or expanded team partnerships that have been shut down, and will there be 33 cars on the track when the green finally waves?
Troay Strong, Kansas City
RM: Arrow McLaren SP hasn’t iced its third car to my knowledge (see the answer above yours) and the last time I spoke with Jay Frye about the entry list he reckoned 34-36 looked likely. [ED: Arrow McLaren SP will run a third car at Indy for Alonso, but has shelved plans to field one for other guest drivers elsewhere in 2020]
Q: Any chance IndyCar does a rethink and tries to extend its season to capitalize on limited sports schedules? I can’t see any way college football happens this fall. I would think the network/prime time television opportunity would offset the lack of ticket buying crowd.
RM: I can’t imagine it. It’s tough enough to put on a profitable IndyCar race when the promoter has six months to work with, but nobody is going to throw something together at the last minute. And promoters don’t make any money off NBC (except IMS) so that’s not an incentive.
Q: To branch off from a debate started by Brian Breen’s question in the June 17th Mailbag concerning asterisks for Indy 500 winners during The Split – this is why I cannot relax and enjoy an Indy 500 until Helio Castroneves is safely out of contention. If old twinkle-toes gets to four wins and is celebrated alongside Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Mears, I am going to lose my mind. Forget the fact that he was in the process of being passed for the lead in 2002 when the yellow came out late and secured him that win. I think an even bigger and bolder asterisk should be placed next to the victories from 2000 until somewhere on or before CART folded; especially those first few years when it was only Ganassi, Penske and Team Green entering. That’s like the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers entering the College World Series. With all the sarcasm you can muster, “Great victory guys, you really beat the snot out of ’em.”
Will, San Diego, CA
RM: I don’t think Helio would get the same reverence as that trio, and he was actually passed by P.T. before the caution came on in 2002 only to have the protest thrown out. But he’s always been exceptionally good at IMS and damn near won it in 2014 and 2017, so he’s far from a fluke. But the competition wasn’t real deep in 2001 and 2002. And I imagine this will be his last hurrah in August.
Q: Our paths crossed years ago when I wrote to you about my continued disgust with the grass in the corners of the IMS speedway. My disgust grows with each year as I witness accidents caused by the grass. I had hoped with the new Penske regime he might see the light when even retired racer Danny Sullivan mentioned the same problems. As long as the grass remains in the corners, there will be nowhere to pass moving chicanes, like some drivers that will go unnamed, and also nowhere to pass through the corners! No-one did it like Mears and Andretti! The grass must go!
Keep the runoff lanes if you like, the grass, originally installed for the addition of the worst NASCAR race on the circuit! NASCAR duck boats have no place at the IMS. Each year I watch a near-accident or accidents caused by drivers having to put a tire in the grass to avoid getting squeezed in the corners and short chutes that leads to spinning and a hard impact to the wall or collecting other drivers, Sorry, T.K. It will take a death of a driver to get rid of them, which almost happened to Scott Dixon in 2017!
RM: Bring back the apron and take away the grass would be my suggestions, because grass does nothing but tip over speeding cars when they dig in. Let’s give R.P. a little time to improve the track, because he’s already made big changes inside it.
Q: Once we finally reach 2021, how about this: P.T. and Townsend in the booth (of course); let Helio and T.K. run loose everywhere else. Hit the infield, the stands, pits, who cares? But both duos can play any practice joke n the book. Works for me.
RM: It’s possible, but James Hinchcliffe is going to be a major player at NBC for a long time so not sure there is room for many more drivers. T.K. and Helio would be entertaining as hell, so maybe get them a monthly show?
Q: Do you have any information if McLaren’s latest issues with money and their legal action in the UK to use assets to obtain cash to keep operations going will impact the IndyCar effort? I would hate for O’Ward to have gone through all the issues he had last year to only end up in the same boat this year. Throw some COVID in there and the poor guy has to be wondering what he has to do to get a worry-free ride.
John Balestrieri, Milwaukee
RM: McLaren reportedly borrowed $150 million from the National Bank of Bahrain to stay solvent for 2020, so I imagine that includes the IndyCar project as well.