Q: I don’t understand why James Hinchcliffe doesn’t have a full-time ride? I think he easily a top-10 racer. I think the public and media like him a lot. Are the potential sponsors blind? Or am I the idiot?
RM: Hinch was left by the side of the road for 2020 when Arrow McLaren SP broke his contract, so finding Genesys was a godsend that allowed him to salvage Indy. And I think he’ll end up with Andretti or Ganassi for 2021 – maybe splitting a ride with Jimmie Johnson? But he certainly deserves to be a full-timer if that’s what he desires.
Q: I would like to commend Hinch for his observations and professional interactions with drivers, team representatives, owners and, his broadcast colleagues. He’s extremely knowledgeable, has the ability to quickly and accurately comment about on-track incidents, and is always upbeat and courteous. I loved a recent comment he made about Rossi taking over ‘my car’ – the one James had driven in the 500. I hope he can find a permanent ride, but if not, please pass this on to NBC for the purpose of securing his long-term role behind the mic.
Don Finch, Chandler, AZ
RM: Thanks Don. Don’t worry about The Mayor. He’s not ready to be a television full-timer yet, but I think NBC has long-range plans for him. I predicted he’d be a TV star back in our SPEED days together, and for once, I got a pick right. And his interviews with the drivers are the best because he’s still one of them.
Q: I am pleased to see signs of past champions developing with Colton Herta. Been a fan since he karted and no, he doesn’t have deep pockets – just three wins. So the question is, will he even get tougher, as champions do not hesitate to take whatever opening appears on track, no matter how slim? Good to see Colton become aggressive as this is a sport to win, not participate in. So do you see Colton become one tough competitor and truly worthy of the Hertamania 2.0 title?
RM: I think he’s becoming more aggressive, and he’s already a tough competitor. Somewhere between his dad and Paul Tracy would be a nice landing spot.
Q: I really appreciate your Mailbag, the patience you show fans and allowing folks to voice their opinions. One regular complaint was that there are not enough Americans in IndyCar. In the second show at Mid-Ohio, the top four finishers were Americans. When was last time this occurred? Second question. A.J. Allmendinger – think he ever regrets leaving IndyCar for NASCAR? The money was better, but what he could have accomplished in open-wheel racing? Stay well.
RM: In 2019 at Texas it was Newgarden, Rossi, Rahal and Ferrucci (thank you Russ Thompson), and I don’t know if A.J. regrets it but he should because he was going to be a star in open-wheel.
Q: Jimmie Johnson coming to IndyCar will bring a few more of the NASCAR eyes to IndyCar. The more eyes (and sponsors) the better, obviously.
Along with Scott McLaughlin coming from Aussie Supercars, I do see the appeal of IndyCar starting to filter out to other racing series. It’s always the first thing the F1 snobs bring up when a driver loses his seat. So if I was Roger Penske, I’d try to lure Checo Perez and Nico Hulkenberg to IndyCar. I’m sure there’s two team owners who’d sign them up and dump one of their poorly performing drivers. F1 guys come with sponsors, and money. Lots of glorious money. It would bring international attention, and international money. I know Perez is sponsored by Telmex and they give him a lot of money – I’m sure Nico has his own sponsors also. Alonso opened the door to making IndyCar “cool” again with the Europeans, and I would love to watch some former F1 drivers who are still near their prime go out and try to beat Dixon, Power, etc. So, what do you think? Can you please put in a word with Roger to recruit these guys?
Mike in Tampa
RM: I think The Captain is a little too busy with his daily business and keeping IndyCar breathing to be a recruiter, but Zak Brown seems to have interest in Perez. Now you can’t assume he or Hulkenberg are interested in oval-track racing, that’s usually the deal breaker, even though Marcus Ericsson has adapted nicely. My question is, how many tickets would Nico Hulkenberg sell in IndyCar? If Mexico City got a race with Pato and Perez, that would be big. You get Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen and that’s a different ballgame, but they’re not coming over here.
Q: Seems it’s a done deal with Jimmie Johnson getting a street/road course ride with Ganassi next year, and though I would rather that seat go to a young gun upstart rather than a 44-year-old, I do see a scenario where T.K. gets the oval ride with Ganassi to so he can properly do the “retirement tour” in front of fans. I get it that J.J. can bring sponsors to the table, and maybe if T.K.’s longtime sponsor 7-Eleven steps up this will come together very soon. Your thoughts?
RM: I don’t know that it’s a done deal (that’s not how the press release read) with Johnson, but I’ve been hearing Hinch is a candidate to split that ride, so that could work. I think T.K. has three or four loyal sponsors that want to give him a proper sendoff, so the key is finding the best possible ride for Indianapolis and he’s working on it.
Q: In your August 26 Mailbag your almost-throwaway line about Jeff Gordon — “nobody in CART would give him the time of day” — caused many pages of discussions on various IndyCar boards – the roadies in the Parade Brigade claiming Gordon didn’t have the talent to make it in CART anyway, and the Roundy Pounders claiming that Gordon got screwed. Do you think Jeff will ever speak publicly about what happened in the pits in Cleveland? Do you think anyone who is in the know will ever speak publicly about what happened in the pits in Cleveland?
RM: I don’t think it’s any secret that his stepfather, John Bickford, took Jeff to Cleveland to try and meet some car owners and got the cold shoulder. But if any of those experts don’t think he had the talent, they know nothing about driving a race car.