Q: I was wondering what people are thinking about Oliver Askew’s performance so far this year? I didn’t really expect him to be ahead of Pato on a consistent basis given O’Ward’s greater experience and proven speed, but figured he’d been be more or less in the same ballpark. He has such a strong U.S. open-wheel pedigree that his lack of competitiveness is really surprising. Curious to hear your perspective on how he can change his approach to get farther up the grid.
RM: I imagine they think he’s a rookie who has had some really good runs and also made some mistakes, but I’d expect that Arrow McLaren SP is happy with his performance. You can’t compare him to Pato, who’s got so much more experience in all kinds of cars, and isn’t really a rookie.
Q: After an endless summer of cancelled and postponed races, I finally got to see Saturday’s race in person at WWTR! And it wasn’t until the race was over that I realized I watched the entire race and never thought once about the aeroscreen. Am I in the minority?
RM: I think as long as the racing is compelling you never notice whether the car has three wings, six tires or an aeroscreen and I haven’t heard much moaning about the looks lately.
Q: A discussion about the aeroscreen. I am 100% in support of it, but by my count from official and social media, it has already saved four drivers’ lives and countless injuries to others. Can we all just dial down the hyperbole a bit? No doubt it will help save lives and drivers from injuries, but history tells us that it is very rare that a driver was harmed with the previous cockpit design. Stands to reason that the aeroscreen is just that much more protective and I’m glad it is in IndyCar, but let’s not blow this out of proportion NASCAR-style. And your interview with A.J. was exceptional. I wish you had gone on for another hour. I really do envy you, with the time you get to spend with these heroes of Indy.
RM: Fair enough on the aeroscreen. I don’t know that it’s really saved anyone’s life, but it probably prevented Rinus Veekay from injury at Iowa, and I think the tires more than the aeroscreen really kept Spencer Pigot from being hurt after his sudden stop at Indy. P.T. gets a little ahead of himself sometimes and I think he’s pronounced that it’s saved lives when we’re not really sure.
Q: I’m just reading last week’s Mailbag and just read the letter about banning Sato. Holy crap, how do you put up with the ignorance that is shown in a letter like that without going off in your reply? I thought your rebuttal was great and more restrained than I would have been, while also highlighting the stupidity (especially the final IRL comment). I image you get a lot of emails like that, and if you lambasted everyone of them you’d get nothing else done. So kudos for putting up with such stupidity like that over the years, and I love that you actually included it in the Mailbag for us to make fun of. The public are dumb. I blame NASCAR.
Jeff Barker, Boise, ID
RM: The Mailbag is for you guys and there are a lot of intelligent questions or suggestions, but every now and then I get something like last week when there is no record or history of anything that reader said being true about Takuma. He and Bourdais got into a shoving match at Toronto last year, but that’s about the extent of his heinous history.
Q: Now that Takuma Sato has won the Indy 500 in 2017 and 2020, has Honda shown any interest in putting Motegi back on the IndyCar calendar? I would think with Sato’s built-in popularity and being the winner of the Long Beach GP and two Indianapolis 500s, they would have no issues filling seats this time around. Hell, I’d be fine with a race around Suzuka. It’s still a Honda-owned track.
Dan, KC, MO
RM: The oval at Twin Ring Motegi was damaged in the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami. It was repaired enough that Takuma could run his Indy-winning car at Honda “Thanks Day” at the end of 2017 (following his first 500 win). But not sure if the track was restored to race-ready condition, or if it was just enough for Takuma’s demonstration laps that weekend. The road course might be an option. The other issue would be sponsorship. Putting on an international event is much more expensive for promoter than a North American race, as international promoters are usually responsible for all shipping costs for the cars and equipment, and at least some of the airfares; in addition to the sanction fee to IndyCar, advertising, marketing, staffing, etc. Maybe if Honda of Japan got behind it there’s a possibility since Sato is the rock star of his country.
Q: I noticed at Gateway that Dixon still seemed in disbelief Sato beat him at Indy. He. Just. Got. Beat. Fair and square. Sato was going to make it on fuel despite Scott’s jabs to the contrary. It really wasn’t a huge upset – it doesn’t count to be the strongest between Lap 1-180 or even 199, but for sure Scott looked very, very strong. When was the last time a second-place 500 finisher was so dumbfounded at finishing there?
Eric Z, Lancaster, NY
RM: Probably Marco in 2006 when he appeared to have victory in hand taking the white flag, only to be overtaken by Sam Hornish. I think Dixie was in a little bit of shock since he’d dominated the race and Sato seemingly came out of nowhere, although he’d been a steady top five all day.
Q: I haven’t heard anything about driver cooling issues during the 500. Was the weather a non-issue, or have the changes mostly fixed it? Also, I feel obligated to say I support ending the race under yellow.
Tobey Taylor, Houston, TX
RM: Well it was plenty hot at Indy and St. Louis and I never heard any complaints from the drivers, so maybe things are improving.