Q: What’s with the outrage over Takuma Sato – who some ‘fans’ are ranting about on social media – drinking 2% milk in Victory Lane (and yes, I’m aware, though apparently some fans are not, that every driver is asked their preference on the milk should they win). Have they forgotten Emerson Fittipaldi drinking OJ (he owned the company, right?) and refusing the milk after his Indy win? So what’s the big deal over Sato’s milk choice? At least he didn’t pick chocolate milk to drink.
Just Jake, LA refugee
RM: I had not heard anything about it until your letter, but that would confirm my theory that some race fans will bitch about anything.
Q: Thanks to the links provided on RACER.com, I spent Sunday morning watching live coverage of the Pikes Peak hill climb while waiting for the IndyCar race to start. I know that the Unser family made their mark on the hill before carving their name into IndyCar history. What other IndyCar drivers came from Pikes Peak, or did any IndyCar legends go to Pikes Peak after making their name at Indy?
John in Arkansas
RM: Mario, Al Unser Jr. and Rick and Roger Mears all won the open-wheel class, and Parnelli captured the stock car division once.
Q: I was wondering if anyone has asked Roger about what the plans are for Mary George’s old house on the grounds? Any chance he turns it into an Airbnb?
Chad Bozell, Noblesville, IN
RM: Not sure what’s going to happen to the “Mouse House” but there are some stories inside those walls.
Q: Going back to the Indy 500, with Marco Andretti nailing the pole position. I knew Marco could not win that race from the start, and he didn’t prove me wrong. Marco went right into fade mode, and then he was hardly spoken of the rest of the race. He drives too timidly and without hunger, and has for many seasons. The Andretti name will usually keep him a sponsor every year, but not through his performance.
He seems to be distracted by his high society lifestyle, and it’s translating to me that he is no serious threat to anyone on the track on race day. He has a high drive for fame and wealth, but no drive for trophies. You know him better than I do. Is it Marco, the team assigned to him, or what is it that is making him start and finish in the back almost every race?
Chad, Bourbon, IN
RM: I don’t think he cares about fame, and I do think he’s got some mental demons that work against his talent. I wish they could have run the race the day after he won the pole, because his confidence was at an all-time high, but by race day, after the struggles on Carb Day, he just didn’t have it. If Mario and Michael can’t figure it out, nobody can.
Q: I have read that Jimmie Johnson doesn’t have much interest in driving ovals for IndyCar (due to safety concerns, though the new aeroscreen may change his thinking). Ed Carpenter doesn’t want to drive the road and street courses, so perhaps that’s a match made in heaven? Your thoughts? I love reading your Mailbag!
RM: Oh I think he’s got interest, but his wife is the one who said no ovals. And ECR could be a possibility with the Chevy connection, depending on how many cars Ed fields in 2021.
Q: The sale of Williams F1 and talk about F1 returning to the Brickyard has sparked some memories. What’s the story behind Longhorn Racing? If memory serves me correctly, the Longhorn Team purchased drawings for the Williams FW07 and built an Indy car from them. I’ve also heard that Patrick Head actually attended test sessions with the team. So what’s the story?
RM: Bobby Hillin wanted his own chassis, so in 1980 he hired Patrick Head to design it but Al Unser struggled with it until the second year, when he finished second in Mexico City and third at Michigan and scored a second at Road America in 1982. Pretty sure that adventure is what broke Hillin and shut the doors.
Q: I was just contemplating all the IndyCar team owners – almost all of them used to be drivers. And if there was anyone who has seen them all drive and rank them, it would be you. You’ve been around the block a few times; how would you rank these guys in their prime?
RM: Michael Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Chip Ganassi, Sam Schmidt, Mike Shank and Dale Coyne. Didn’t see R.P. race, but he was damn good and in line for the Indy ride that went to Mario when The Captain turned them down.
Q: A correction to your answer about the same car winning the 500. Definitely the George Salih laydown with Sam Hanks in ’57 and Jimmy Bryan in ’58, but how about Wilbur Shaw’s Maserati in ’39 and ’40 and Mauri Rose in the Blue Crown in ’47 and ’48?
Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA
RM: Thanks to IndyCar historian and writer Rick Shaffer, here are the most successful cars in IMS history:
“Billy Arnold’s car – a front-wheel-drive Summers-Miller – in 1930 and 1931 led more laps in two races than any car – 353 – but it only won one race. He won the 1930 race by more than seven minutes – the fourth-biggest victory margin in 500 history. Arnold won the 1930 pole in it and would have won the 1931 pole had he not flunked post-qualifying tech for unhooking his brakes! Then he qualified on the second day faster than he had the first day and needed only seven laps to go from18th to first. He led until a rear axle broke on Lap 162, resulting in an accident that ended with an errant wheel flying across Georgetown Road and striking and killing an 11-year-old boy.
“In 1932, apparently in the same car, he took the lead on Lap 2 and led 57 straight laps before a backmarker chopped him big time in Turn 3 and he crashed heavily for the second straight year while comfortably in the lead. From 1930 to 1932, he completed 419 laps (more than 1,000 miles) and led 410 laps. That’s 97.9 percent of the time he was on the track in those races, he was leading!
Wilbur Shaw’s Maserati came close to winning three in a row – that broken wheel with the chalk warning washed off was all that kept him from winning 1941. The Blue Crowns did win three in a row – same design but with two drivers and two cars. Bill Vukovich’s Fuel Injection Special should have been 3-0 from 1952-54. The Belond Exhaust lay-down car won back to back in 1957 and 1958 with Hanks and Bryan. And Unser’s Lola had some major tweaks from 1970 to 1971 but was the same design.”
Q: It isn’t often when one of us in the unwashed masses of racefandom gets to correct the master, but your answer to the question about cars that won multiple 500s needs a slight tweak. Bill Vukovich ran the same car, a Kurtis KK500a I believe, in 1952-53-54 with wins in the last two attempts. In 1955, he drove for Lindsey Hopkins in a newer Kurtis KK500c methinks, (don’t quote me on the models) in which he ultimately perished while leading. He certainly could have won four in a row, and for my money may have been the most dominant driver to ever turn a wheel there. Thanks for the top billing in the Mailbag last week. My existence is now validated.
Jim Mulcare, Westbury, NY
RM: Thanks for the correction, Jim. I cannot believe I put 1953-55 when I had just finished reading Bob Gates’s wonderful book on Vuky and knew he had a new car for 1955, owned by Lindsey Hopkins.