Q: The IndyCar season has been pretty good considering this crazy year. What’s your thought on Team Penske not letting Newgarden get two positions at the end of Race 2? If he loses the title by 10 points or so, it will have been a huge mistake.
Craig, Paoli, IN
RM: I like the fact The Captain lets his guys race, and four points isn’t going to make any difference.
Q: I realize the surface at Mid-Ohio is not the best when it gets wet, but it seemed like guys were all over the place in what looked like not-awful conditions for qualifying Sunday morning. Think they were just overly aggressive, or do they need to come up with a little better tire for the wet? I’m sure they don’t want to incur the cost of tire warmers, but the session was hard to watch. Or maybe give them a few extra minutes to run slower for a couple laps, which would be untimed, to allow for the tires to come in a little. Glad it dried out for the race.
RM: First off, the helicopter couldn’t get in on time so qualifying started 30 minutes late, and that only left two hours before the race, so no thought of adding time. And it poured prior to qualifying, so even though the sun came out and the track was drying, it was still plenty treacherous. When “rainers” like Power and Harvey can’t make one lap, you know it’s tricky and that’s what made Ferrucci’s run so impressive. I don’t hear many complaints about Firestone’s rain tire since it got upgraded a few years ago.
Q: I noticed the events at Mid-Ohio were shortened to 75 laps which is 169 miles, but the title of the races still was the Honda 200. If they are going to run at a distance that is less than the advertised distance in this case, should they adjust the name of the event?
RM: Really? The race is touch-and-go until the last possible minute because of the pandemic and you’ve printed tickets, flyers and advertisements using the Honda 200 long before it was switched to a doubleheader. I doubt if the 6,000 fans noticed or cared, but they seemed happy they got to watch IndyCar racing.
Q: My husband and I have all-access passes as well as bleacher seats for St. Pete. Thought you might have an inside track on how it’s looking for fan attendance at season finale. Any word? We recently moved to Fernandina Beach, Florida so can drive down without much notice. When the season-opener was delayed, we were disappointed but saw the silver lining. Optimistically?
RM: I wasn’t at Mid-Ohio but I understand the word around the paddock was that St. Pete is going to happen – just no details yet and whether fans will be allowed. So I’d say as sketchy as things looked a month ago, there is reason for optimism. And NBC is planning on it, so I’d say it’s got the green light.
Q: In last week’s Mailbag and in your response to John Sims’ question, you made the comment that you are “really concerned about IndyCar and 2021.” Would you please elaborate? Do you know something you are not telling us?
RM: I’m simply concerned about sponsorships – keeping the ones that teams have today, or finding new ones since COVID-19 has wrecked so many businesses and forced the layoff of thousands of people. I just can’t imagine a company that has to lay off a third of its workforce after losing a hefty percentage of its business will be able to justify sponsoring a race car.
Q: Why doesn’t IMS run the Harvest GPs on a different road course configuration than the previous GP there? There are multiple configurations they could run, and that course is already incredibly boring. Why not change it up and challenge the drivers? Maybe even run a different configuration for both Harvest GPs! Why not? Obviously there is time and money involved, but why not create a new challenge and give the fans something a little different?
RM: I don’t understand you people. There are three places to pass on the current IMS road course setup (Turn 1, Turn 7 and Turn 12) so why would you think there is anything that would be better? After all the money The Captain has spent keeping IndyCar and IMS alive, you want him to spend more on something that won’t sell one extra ticket or make the show better? Let’s just leave it alone.
Q: I’d say that trying out the Iowa and Gateway doubleheader qualifying procedure also at a road course would be an great idea, and showcase even more how consistent drivers can be over two laps on a road course. Has there been any thought of using the similar two-lap qualifying procedure with the first lap setting the field for first race and second setting the field for second race also at road course doubleheaders?
RM: Gotta disagree. One of the coolest things about a street race or road course weekend in its normal atmosphere is qualifying – getting to the second session and then the Fast Six. Times change constantly and it’s always the last lap before we know who is on the pole. It’s good for TV and the paying customers.
Q: Thinking back to the difference in the two Gateway races (first was pretty competitive, second was follow the leader, as everyone had their settings dialed in). If this same situation came up again in the future (running on the same oval two days in a row), isn’t there something IndyCar could do between the first race and the second race to change the car settings and make the second race more competitive? For example, IndyCar could mandate adding ballast to one corner of the car. Just significant enough that teams would have to revise their suspension and handling settings. Or maybe there’s an aero adjustment that would throw the car settings off just a little bit. Do you think something like this would be helpful to ensure back-to-back competitive oval races in the future?
Brad from Powder Springs
RM: No, IndyCar thinks more mechanical grip and a better tire would be the easiest and best fixes unless you could bank the track more in Turns 3-4, and that would be expensive. Plus, next year will be back to a night race and that also helps.
Q: I just read that the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California is being reconfigured into a half-mile oval. Why? I ask that rhetorically and with deep selfishness. I attended almost every IndyCar race there because IndyCars are the best on a speedway. Now my spiritual home near my actual home is going to be gone! Ontario Motor Speedway – gone after 11 years. Now Fontana is gone without a last IndyCar race. I’m stunned even as I write this. Why not at least a mile oval so maybe – maybe – IndyCar could come back? Please convince me to look upon this change as a good thing. In the meantime I think I’ll go drink away my sadness!
RM: Fontana has been a stock car track for most of the past 20 years and NASCAR (which owns it) is simply looking for something different to draw more fans since the races aren’t exactly memorable. Auto Club president Dave Allen is a big open-wheel fan, but his job is to make money and IndyCar does not fit that template.