Q: I love to see drivers racing in multiple classes. NASCAR drivers sometimes race up three different series in one weekend. There is pretty much a race every weekend in NASCAR. In IndyCar, there’s less than half as many races. Why do IndyCar drivers race only the IndyCar Series? What do they do with all that downtime? Is it against the rules? If so, why?
RM: I think Kyle Busch is the only guy that still runs all three NASCAR series, and the Cup regulars have cut way back in Xfinity races because NASCAR is trying to build the next generation. Some IndyCar guys like Dixon, RHR, Seb, Rossi, Herta, Rahal and Pagenaud run the Rolex 24 and Road Atlanta, but it’s not against the rules, it’s just the way racing is today. Pretty much the good drivers stay in their own lane unless they get a good opportunity to run a sports car race that doesn’t conflict with IndyCar. What to they do for six months? Work out.
Q: I’ve always wondered – your bio says that you flunked out of Ball State after two quarters. Does that mean you left school after one semester? Yep, a lot of free time during quarantine.
RM: I was asked to leave after two quarters that produced two Fs, a D, a C and an incomplete. I then attended Danville Junior College for a semester and IUPUI for a semester before The Indianapolis Star hired me. Lucky? That’s putting it mildly. I missed a class at IUPUI because I was traveling with the Pacers. When I finally showed up it turned out to be geology instead of geography, and the teacher was kind enough to let me withdraw. But thanks to Scott Fulford, the crack mechanic on my Formula Ford, I actually got a 2.1 GPA because I copied all his answers on finals. Except for the time I stole one of those blue books and filled it out with a report and then snuck it into class and scored the only B of my career. I couldn’t even get an A by cheating.
Q: In response to Don Hoping’s 7/1 letter about getting fans to the race track, and Black fans specifically, is that you become a fan because your father, uncle or someone took you to a race as a child. If you don’t have that experience, it’s difficult to become a fan of something that you aren’t exposed to early in life. He obviously had that because someone took him to a race at nine years old. All forms of racing have seen a downturn in fan support in recent years, and a lot of has do with them chasing away the party crowd back in the ’90 and early 2000s. It was getting a little out of hand, yes, but as fans, if you didn’t want to be a part of it, you stayed out of those areas.
The thing is, I went to a lot of races with my father and uncles (we lived near IRP), and when I got older I was part of the party crowd, but when I had kids I took my kids to the races and we stayed away from the party crowd. Point is that that is part of the evolution of race fans. My kids are fans and repeated the same cycle. Vegas tried the family thing for a short time and figured out quick that that didn’t pay the bills, and it became “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
Indy is trying to manufacture the Snake Pit experience, but those people are only there for concerts and don’t care anything about racing, and without the concerts will never come back. Not sure you can ever get it back now. Thoughts? On your comment about NASCAR being better at diversity, one Black driver out of 40 isn’t exactly diverse. IndyCar has drivers from all over the world including Japan and Latin America, and is a lot more diverse than NASCAR. There just isn’t a Black driver. Willy T. unfortunately was never given a real chance in either series. Thanks for the reporting and information, and loved the stories you told on The Skinny.
RM: I agree, and I think that’s what I said last week – if you don’t grow up with racing and it’s not in your family’s routine, you’re not going to become a fan whether you’re black, white or orange. As for diversity, I was thinking about writing a column about all the diverse drivers in IndyCar, but NASCAR does have a program in place that made it possible for Bubba Wallace to get to Cup without bringing his checkbook.
Q: I congratulate Roger Penske, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar for the way they have handled the uncertainty surrounding this year’s 500. I’ve been attending the 500 since 1962 when I was 10 years old. I’ll be there again on race day. Will it be the same as if it were May? No, of course not. But the fact that the race will even happen is a tribute to everyone involved in pulling it off in a very uncertain and trying situation. But, for me, when the green flag waves, everything else will be forgotten and it will once again be race day in Indianapolis.
Peter, Gainesville, VA
RM: Well said Peter, thanks for your patronage.
Q: Received my letter/notification from IMS inquiring about my plans for August 23 and the 104th running of the greatest race on the planet. I am not going to be able to attend and believe me, I sincerely hate to miss what is the best day of my year. It is very generous of Mr. Penske and IMS to offer credit for my unused tickets, and I am very appreciative. However, if I could, I would tell them to keep my money as a token of my appreciation for their stewardship of the hallowed grouds, and to please charge me double next year as I am so thankful for all they are doing! Many thanks to the Hulman/George Family for the wonderful years leading up to now. and heaps of support for Penske Entertainment for the promise of the future.
Troy from Indiana
RM: A good way to end this week’s Mailbag: a gesture not often seen by any fan of any sport on top of a heartfelt thanks to IMS then and now.