Q: With the news that the IMS road course is going to run three races this year after the cancellation of Portland and Laguna Seca, I’m going to repeat a point that I and a couple readers brought up a couple weeks ago. When we suggested that they change up the track layout, you clearly weren’t a fan and said, “Why would you mess with what is a pretty racy layout? Is it going to make the racing better? I highly doubt it.”
Well, I would argue that it could make racing better. These guys are going to have so many laps logged around this track by the time of the green flag for race three that I don’t think there will be anything new happening. It’s like how the F1 races at Barcelona are awful because the teams log so many laps there before the season and therefore can’t really make any setup mistakes, and the drivers know it like the back of their hand. The IMS road course is a solid track with solid overtaking opportunities, but three races on the same track seems a little extreme. Change it up and give the drivers a challenge on a track they’ve never driven before. It’s IndyCar on a road course, so it’ll be a good show either way, but in a season of doubleheaders and repeating tracks, this would be a little bit of spice.
RM: Why would IMS spent the money to re-route or change what has three passing opportunities to take a chance the new layout might be as good? It wouldn’t, especially this year when it’s spending money hand-over-fist on improvements for fans and is taking a big hit on the Indy 500. Trust me, R.P. doesn’t relish three races on the IMS road course, but this is all about survival and quotas in 2020.
Q: IndyCar’s performance at Road America recently has changed my bias against road courses. What a weekend – very close racing by and large, and not just the usual veterans up front! Palou, Herta, Pato, of course Rosenqvist and others were very impressive. Even Marco qualified higher than last! Speaking of which, I was at Canada Corner on Sunday, and Marco didn’t seem to be attacking the corner during practice like the others were; seemed rather cautious. Not sure if he was real tight or what, but it was surprising to see how well he actually fared among the other drivers. Not too good at the end, unfortunately. I noticed in the racing program his team is listed as ‘Andretti Herta w/Marco & Curb Agajanian.’ Is he part-owner of his car, or what does this mean?
RM: Yep, Marco is the car owner, or one of them, with help from Mike Curb, Cary Agajanian, Bryan Herta and his dad. I have no idea how it’s divided up. But the Road America doubleheader was about as good as road racing gets.
Q: Do you think that IndyCar would be looking into changing up the layout so we don’t have the same race three times in one year? I think this would be a great idea because they definitely have different options. Just like they could use three-quarters of the oval and then a little twisty bit. This would be a nightmare for the teams trying to to set up the cars, and I’d love it. Also the oval, I’m pretty sure, could be run backwards, because I don’t think there are any walls that would really need much changed. Could you ask Roger if this is in the cards at all?
Rick from PA
RM: I can tell you it’s not in the cards for 2020, but I’ll let IMS president Doug Boles explain the obstacles:
“We have discussed changing the layout. But, two main factors at the moment. (1) The track will be in normal IndyCar road course configuration because that is what the GT Challenge cars and classes are running – remember, this was their weekend to begin with, and teams have been preparing for that layout, and (2) there will be less IndyCar practice time that weekend and the fact the teams know the track well gives them comfort level that they do not need additional practice. And there are expenses – especially going the opposite direction. Going opposite direction requires barriers in different places, and especially at Turn 7 in normal direction (the south end of Hulman), you would have to move the west side wall and fence over halfway into the transporter lot (how we do it for motorcycles), and would drastically impact our ability to house transports and teams for upwards of 80 cars on that weekend.”
Q: What did you think of the weekend schedule at Road America? Couldn’t they have had a practice Friday? Saturday’s race ended after 6 p.m. The track announcer said it takes six hours to prep the same car. With the next practice at 8 a.m., Sunday it puts a lot of pressure on the crews. Thoughts?
Comment: Upon entering the track a lady says to me: “You must have the oldest shirt here.” The shirt is an old tribute shirt to four-time Indy winner Al Unser. I say to her, “Those were the good old days.” She says “This is their good old days,” pointing to her three grandsons. Isn’t this what we’re all in it for, to pass the thrill of racing on to future generations? We may not all have family to share the thrill of racing, but we all play a role in promoting racing and passing it on.
Bob Hunt, Lodi, WI
RM: I thought two days was fine and, judging by the letters, so did most of the people attending. They loved racing instead of practice and it gave them more bang for their buck. Sure it was tough on the crews, but three days instead of two might have been even tougher.
Q: Excited that Ohio/PA race fans will get a doubleheader at Mid-Ohio, and kudos to IndyCar and everybody involved for doing the best they can to get some races in considering the pandemic. As it shapes up right now, if we drive to Indy for qualifying weekend, we could have three weekends in a row of IndyCar!
Do you know if the qualifying procedure will be the same as Road America’s, and do you know the thought process behind it? Why can’t they just qualify in the morning and race in the afternoon? If IndyCar is worried about the teams and mechanics, make both races an impound race! I think this setup hurts teams that may have an issue. Why penalize them both days? And please tell me this will also be the case for Gateway. It’s hokey and needs to go, along with double-points at the Indy 500 and season finale.
Thanks for all you do for open-wheel racing. We’ll be wearing our masks and socially distancing on the hillside across from the start line at Mid-Ohio, and wherever they move us at the Speedway.
Scott St. Clair, Erie, PA
RM: They did it to save wear and tear on the mechanics and I think it worked, because one session each day and put the cars away rewards the teams that got it right in practice. Not sure what the procedure is going to be for Gateway, but oval qualifying at Iowa produced two different pole winners and a first-timer, so I also liked that. I know the fans who went and wrote in loved two races instead of all that practice and qualifying.