Q: All right, Robin, let’s have it. From the last 30 years what are your favorite engines and chassis? What about your favorite E/C/T combination? And if The Beast is at the top of your list, please share your runner-up. That’d just be cheating…
Dan W., Ft. Worth, TX
RM: The last 30 isn’t anything to celebrate. How about the last 70? And nobody cares about tires. Let’s go with Herk’s Novi in 1963, Gurney’s 1967 and 1981 Eagles, Chapman’s Lotus-Fords in 1963-65, George Salih’s laydown roadsters in 1957-58, Old Calhoun in 1963 and those cool MG Liquid Suspension cars of Joe Huffaker in the mid-’60s. I loved the sound of the Offy, the 255 Ford, the turbo Cosworth and Roger Rager’s stock-block Chevy.
Q: I noticed in an answer a few weeks ago you mentioned that no networks are lining up to try poach the series and provide coverage. Am I missing something? The racing is good and there are plenty of potential winners each race. Could it be a lasting side effect from The Split all those years ago?
Nathan from Vic, Australia
RM: The Split certainly crippled open-wheel for a number of years, but the bottom line is that not many people are drawn to IndyCar like they were in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s and its TV numbers are pretty ordinary, despite the fact NBC has done a great job of promoting the series the past two years.
Q: About your statement from the June 24 Mailbag: “there seems to be about one million people that watch NBC races and about 400-600,000 that watch NBCSN on a regular basis.” When I do the math you state, I ask why is IndyCar not on over-the-air NBC every time? I don’t have cable so I wait until the next day to watch online. Not a huge deal, but I grew up with USAC/CART/IndyCar and toured MIS in kindergarten when it was being built. Still though, even as a life-long fan, it’s not enough to get me to buy cable or satellite or Sling or whatever to watch it on NBCSN.
Randall, Winters, CA
RM: Having eight races scheduled on NBC this season was above and beyond considering the ratings and the most ever on network, so it’s not going to get any better. But you cannot expect NBC to show IndyCar races in prime time when only one million tune in.
Q: I was one of the guys who criticized the appearance of the aeroscreen. Not the device, but the attaching paneling upon which graphics were affixed. I am all for the aeroscreen. If not for a few degrees of rotation, Scott Dixon would no longer be with us in his massive crash and roll into the guardrail at the 500. The aeroscreen would certainly have mitigated the ensuing contact. After seeing the cars in action, I think the cars look really cool. Not the head-on view necessarily, but from the side, where most of the exposure is, the things look like fighter jets. And, I am very glad we are racing and my predictions of no competition this year were wrong. Here’s hoping the 500 gets all the folks in to see this fabulous event. Can’t wait to see the Captain’s first year as the Captain of the 500.
RM: You didn’t ask a question, but you were contrite about the aeroscreen and racing in 2020, so thanks for confessing.
Q: What teams did Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt drive for when they won the Daytona 500?
Chris Fiegler, Latham, NY
RM: Mario drove for Holman-Moody in 1967, and Super Tex ran for the Wood Brothers in 1972.
Q: I’ve been reading ‘Let ‘Em All Go!’ by Chris Economaki (with Dave Argabright). A most entertaining book about Chris’ life in racing down through the ages. He shares many great anecdotes about his experiences covering both IndyCar and NASCAR. This got me to wondering if you had any interesting personal interactions with Chris?
Bob Kehoe, Eloy, AZ
RM: I gave him my stories from The Indianapolis Star for 25 years and it was always an honor to get a shout-out in his Editor’s Notebook, but we ended up not being friends after he told people I was on cocaine and that Roger Penske had paid $250,000 to cover my gambling debts. Not only have I never smoked, drank or done drugs, I certainly wouldn’t have asked The Captain for money. Yet Chris never bothered to call and ask me about them – he just told people. I confronted him at Phoenix, and we never spoke again. But that doesn’t diminish his impact on motorsports for six decades, and he was truly an icon.
Q: You raise the name of Jim Murray with one of your answers last week. Weren’t Sports Editor Bob Collins and Jim Murray very good friends back when both were in their prime? Got any stories to tell about the two of them gathering-together re IMS and May 500 events?
Tom Fitzgerald, CPA
RM: Murray was in Collins’ office at The Star one afternoon and I was the only person in the sports department – clipping the horse racing wires. I knew that was the famous LA Times columnist in there, and I was thrilled when Bob motioned me into his office because I figured it was introduction time. Instead, he handed me a $5 bill and told me to “go get some scotch” for he and JM.
Q: Why are there no beer sponsors in IndyCar?
RM: Good question, I have no idea. Budweiser was a staple in IndyCar for years, Tecate was with Adrian Fernandez forever, Rahal and Penske had Miller and Coors had cars as well.
Q: Eldora or Knoxville?
Chad R. Larson, Phoenix, AZ
RM: Eldora at night in the ’70s, and Knoxville just about anytime.
Q: Not wishing to beat the preventable dead horse. This stated, given your knowledge of the politics of racing in general, NASCAR in particular. Give us your take, please, on his (Larson) being reinstated by NASCAR and your time line.
Dave Travis, Ocala, FL
RM: Our NASCAR editor Kelly Crandall was kind enough to ask NASCAR if there had been any movement in Larson asking for reinstatement, and they told her no. So I imagine if Tony Stewart were to sign him, he could be back in 2021 – if he wants to be. He might be having too much fun in midgets and sprinters.
Q: Please make sure someone at RACER.com gets a pink slip. Who replaced your smiling photo with a craggy, grouchy-faced drawing? It looks like the artist attempted a drunken homage to Paul Cezanne. Did you green-light that change? You are a charming and likable person, and your photo should reflect that. So please put a smiley-face photo back on. If you want to get your missing tooth replaced, I’ve promised you several times I would do your dental implant treatment for free. If you turn that down, you can always Photoshop a tooth into the old picture and you’re good to go.
Marwood Stout, DDS, Camarillo, CA
RM: You are Preston Lerner’s pal (he’s one of the best writers in the country) and I appreciate your kind words and offer for a new tooth, but I am not a likeable person and I have a face for radio. I love that drawing and gave it the thumbs-up. And, truth be told, the Mailbag population likes the drawing a helluva lot better.