Q: Trying to get clarification on Bronze Badges for the 500. IMS website states “access to garages, pits and other operational areas will be reduced and enforced.” My question is, will I still be able to enter the garage area with my bronze badge on practice and qualifying days?
Dale, Chesterfield, VA
RM: That means the number badges sold was restricted, but if you have one you will have access to Gasoline Alley and the pits.
Q: Do team owners have to pay a fee to field a car in the Indianapolis 500?
Chris Fiegler, Latham, NY
RM: Leaders Circle members don’t, but non-LC owners pay $20,000.
Q: Good couple of races in Iowa a couple weeks back. Nice to see the aeroscreen do its job not just once, but twice. I’m all for safety, and while I preferred the F1 halo, I’m warming to IndyCar’s screen. Just one thing though. How can the aeroscreen look so badass from the side while looking like a washing machine coming down the track from head-on, even in the same camera shot?
Bill Phypers, Brewster, NY
RM: I don’t know, but that’s exactly what we all said the first time we saw the artist renderings. Pretty cool from the side, but not so much head-on.
Q: I need to take you back to Road America and ask about scoring. Hunter-Reay gets knocked out before Turn 1 and Rahal gets it after Turn 2, yet Rahal is listed as last and Ryan is scored second-to-last. How the heck does that work? Love what you do and how you do it, thanks!
Blanch, Carol Stream, IL
RM: Neither completed a lap, so they’re scored by where they qualified.
Q: Considering the pandemic audience, the Iowa rating is disconcerting. But at least it did better than soccer, from what I read. I don’t see how those numbers draw in sponsors. Perhaps changing the series name is needed, something like The Indy 500 Tour. Hardcore fans will still call it IndyCar, but a “new” audience is required for sustained success at this point, and the 500 is well recognized even by casual sports fans. It seems to me this would benefit current and future sponsors more.
Also, the 500 is scheduled to run on the five-year anniversary of Justin Wilson’s death. Is there a story on NBC planned covering that, and leading to the aeroscreen development? Even if NBC simply reruns your tribute, it will be well received as a way to remember Justin (and Dan Wheldon).
Pat in Virginia
RM: Some of the TV numbers have been disconcerting considering the lack of other sports, but I’m not sure anything can make a big difference. The racing is great, but obviously that’s not enough. I imagine NBC is planning a feature around the aeroscreen and why it was necessary.
Q: I met Ralph Liguori at a golf tournament in Tampa 20 years ago and saw him race at East Bay Raceway with the Outlaws in the ’80s. He was a nice, cordial guy. Thanks for remembering these long-forgotten racing drivers. Once you’re gone, there will no one else to do this. So hang in there, we’re the same age. On a different subject, was Ed Carpenter ever in line for running IMS, being the stepson of Tony George? Do they get along?
RM: I imagine there could have been a place at IMS for Ed after he retired if he wanted to sell his team, but he and Tony are very close. TG is part-owner of ECR. As for Lagooch, he was a damn good racer with some crummy luck at Indy, but no finer person.
Q: Can’t believe it’s been 30 years since Rich Vogler passed away. How about a Rapid Rich story to wrap up the Mailbag?
Jeff B., Joliet, Il.
RM: A USAC midget show at Whitewater Speedway in 1981 and I’m starting on the outside of Row 1 and Vogie lines up fifth. On the first lap in Turn 3, he drills me and knocks me into the guardrail and tears off the right-front corner. After the race, which I think he won, we’re at the pay window and he comes over and starts apologizing: “It wasn’t my fault, Engelhart shoved me into you.” I said something like “Rich, it’s the first lap and you and I both know you’re going to pass me pretty quick, but you didn’t have to take me out.” I had just written a pretty glowing column about him in The Indianapolis Star so he felt more remorse than usual, and offered me $100 to help fix my car. I declined and he slapped me on the back and said: “No hard feelings, just hard racing” and he was gone. I always liked Rich and I never saw anyone with more aggression, and he truly could be a ‘Mad Dog’ but he was one of the best.
Q: Having recently read the Autocourse season review books from the 1990s, I noticed there was a driver named David Empringham in Formula Atlantics/Indy Lights that was very successful, yet he didn’t seem to make it to Champ Car. What happened to him?
Nathan from Victoria, Australia
RM: Yeah, I think I said a few weeks ago that Lee Bentham and Empringham were two of the brightest Canadian stars that never got a chance in CART. David went into driver instruction and sports cars while Lee has been spotting for Ed Carpenter forever.