Q: I thought it was a good, compelling Indy 500. Certainly not a top 10 all-timer, but it kept my interest and had a deserving winner. I’m far more disappointed in the fans calling for a red flag with five to go. Apparently, we as race fans are so starved for close finishes that if the race doesn’t end five-wide with one car airborne and another on fire, tumbling over the yard of bricks, these knuckle-dragging fans get butt-hurt. “Gotta finish under green,” the Homer fans say. No. The race finishes at 500 miles with integrity – even under yellow. Late red flags are like taking away a late score in the Super Bowl to make the game more close and compelling. Not every race is going to be a great finish. These fans want to NASCAR-circus the Indy 500 too. I hated it in 2014 and last year. Everyone really has gotten dumber in 2020. Thoughts?
RM: You’re spot-on, because today it’s got to be some kind of video game finish when for years, nobody cared about how close it was at the checker or if one driver was on another planet. But I was encouraged by the number of people who felt like you and wanted to keep the Indy 500 accurate.
Q: Since 2002, my seats at Indy have been directly across from pit entrance. I have seen the attenuator destroyed and replaced more than once. In previous years it was made from styrofoam. When it was damaged, they would simply connect a cable to it lift it out of the ground with a machine, and drop an already-waiting spare in its place . Probably in less time than it takes to clear the track. This year’s attenuator appeared to be constructed from tires. Why the change? Is there still a spare ready to go, or does the existing attenuator have to be repaired?
Wayne, Stanhope, NJ
RM: We’ll let IMS president Doug Boles answer this one: “We are exploring what options we might have related to the attenuator. And, while Mark’s suggestion below is a possibility, it does also leave an end at the entry point no matter where the cars enter – it also puts the inside track wall (the wall between pit entry and the track) closer to the racing surface which presents its own set of unknown issues in the event of accidents on track. The good news, the attenuator did what I was supposed to do – especially given how hard the impact was, and the speed at which Spencer impacted the barrier.”
Q: Will you be at any of the upcoming races? Really missed you at the 500 because you know the history, the drivers, and the owners better than anyone. You should be a regular at every race – in the studio. I would like to compliment Paul Tracy. Love his commentary. Just the right amount of experience, opinion, and humor. Can you tell me what happened to Jon Beekhuis? Finally, given your history with Tony George, how do you feel about the Penske acquisition of IMS? Hoping to see more of you at the races!
RM: Well, thanks Cheryl, but other than going to the Speedway I’m grounded in 2020 while my bone marrow is on the Bear Rack (sorry, that’s an old Gasoline Alley line). Jon was always an asset in the pits and calling strategies but got bumped because NBC had full-timers that needed work. I wrote that T.G. selling IMS to R.P. was the smartest thing he’s ever done, and the best thing for IndyCar and IMS overall. It was Tony who made sure The Captain had first option, and I think we’re all very thankful.
Q: I don’t write very often, but after two years of NBC coverage of the 500, I’m dying to know why the network feels its necessary to bring in their people from NASCAR to co-host. I appreciate their all-in support of IndyCar, and Mike Tirico is fine as a host, but come on guys, give him a supporting cast
Last year, Dale Jr. prefaced every comment with “I don’t know much about IndyCar…” Then why is he there? Get him some background first. Danica doesn’t seem to have a clue. Even the few times they tried to toss her the ball it was met with dead silence. Rutledge doesn’t deserve comment except to say he was at his best outside the track. Tirico has proven his skills when he’s working with knowledgeable people and generally brings out their best, but he has to have something to work with. For two years, he has not. He should have someone with a thorough racing background who isn’t camera-shy. From your videos I think you and Marshall would be good, but you’re both tied up with bigger issues.
Rick Mears, Dario, maybe J.R. also come to mind, but they’re otherwise engaged. If NBC insists on using their NASCAR people, maybe Kyle Petty would be OK if he spent a couple of weeks before the race in Gasoline Alley, but they’d have to find him a sub. I’d be OK if they partnered T. Bell with Mike and just let P.T. and Diffey do commentary. That might link them together better if things were more interactive. In any case, it should be someone you’d like to spend a couple of hours with (ideally over a beverage) just talking about IndyCar racing. So far, we haven’t seen that. Which brings up my question: who would you most like to sit down with to talk about racing, who would also be good in front of a camera for five hours?
John from Madison
RM: I totally understood bringing in Earnhardt, because he’s one of the few people who can move the needle and he’s got a lot of “race fan” in him at Indy. Danica can only talk about her experiences so that limits her in terms of the new wave of drivers or what’s going on in the paddock, because she doesn’t spend much time around IndyCar. But, again, she’s a big name and NBC wanted to start out with a splash. Tirico is terrific and I wish I could sit with him for a couple segments, because I promise you I’d get him more engaged in the action. I love talking to A.J., Mario, Uncle Bobby, Rufus and J.R. about the good old days, but I think Hinch will be a great addition to the booth when he quits driving.