Q: My questions never end up in the Mailbag, but here goes. Honda announced that it is leaving F1 to focus on “carbon neutral” engines. However, I read that Honda will be extending with IndyCar, and supplying the new hybrid engine platform. F1 already uses this, so not sure what Honda has to gain by supplying the same platform to IndyCar? My question is this, why is Honda staying in IndyCar if it completely contradicts its reason for leaving F1?
RM: Dan Layton of Honda Racing/Acura Motorsports answers: “The issue is one of resources and capacity. Formula 1 consumes far more resources from our parent company [Honda Motor Co., Inc.] than the North American-operated and funded IndyCar and IMSA programs. Honda has decided that our involvement – both financial and the personnel – currently in Formula 1 can be better utilized on future power train and passenger vehicle development. So it’s not a case of the direction either series is going – both are committed to hybrid power – rather, it’s a decision based on the best way for Honda to use the resources it has available going forward.”
Q: First, it was great to see you on NBC Sports Gold at the IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix. Now, here’s my question. In the last laps of Race 2, someone was on Will Power’s radio telling him when Colton was on P2P, and when he was out of P2P. I was under the impression that that information was no longer available to every team in the field. Am I wrong, or was Team Penske tapped into Team Andretti’s data? Nonetheless, Race 1 was the best road race in years and Race 2 was also very good. The IMS road course is a real winner.
RM: According to IndyCar, the teams all see it once a lap – every time they hit the start/finish line it’s updated, but it is not live during a lap. And a few years ago it was off-limits to everyone, which I like better. I hate that monitoring we heard last weekend when Colton was trying to overhaul Will.
Q: Wonder how long it will be until a top-tier IndyCar team attempts to snag Rinus Veekay?
RM: Or Pato O’Ward? Or Alex Palou? Or Santino Ferrucci? I would think Team Penske has its eye on Colton Herta, and Pato has helped make Arrow McLaren SP a contender so he might be comfortable staying. Ed Carpenter has given Rinus some good cars, so maybe he stays as well. Santino says he’s staying with Dale Coyne, but we know Andretti was sniffing around him, and Palou isn’t sure about 2021 but he wants to stay here.
Q: Does Conor Daly have a place in IndyCar? It is well-known you are a supporter, and I like the guy myself, but in the Harvest GP races Daly went virtually unnoticed except for being lapped and badly balking Colton Herta’s late charge for a win. With so much exciting young talent entering the field and immediately rising to the top (Herta, VeeKay, Palou, O’Ward ) what would be the appeal in signing a no-longer-young driver who has struggled in the lower midfield for years?
Bosco McNab, Toronto
RM: Well he’s only 28 years old so it’s not like he’s a relic, and CD has had some good drives the past two years, just not a lot of good luck. I’d like to see him with one team, full-time, and the same engineer before he’s judged, and as long as he’s got the Air Force he might get that chance with ECR.
Q: Is it possible for you to throw some light on the Askew interview that he did recently had that has upset his team so much? Apart from his unfortunate injuries, it would seem to have a large influence on him potentially not being retained for 2021. We know Arrow McLaren SP is very sensitive as a team after the reasoning behind letting Hinch go last year. Ironic that Hinch was let go but now the team wants experience by hiring Helio. While I know it won’t happen, can you imagine O’Ward, Helio and Sergio Perez! Tasty.
RM: The story by Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press was pretty straightforward in that Oliver said he hadn’t felt right since his crash in the Indy 500, but didn’t want to step out of the car since he was a hired hand that brought no money. After struggling at Gateway, he finally sought help from the same clinic that helped Dale Earnhardt Jr. and has been receiving help and advice ever since. But he didn’t say anything disparaging about the team in that story, although I hear they were upset with his agent’s comments. I’ve never seen anyone try to control the message like McLaren, so I’m sure they’re upset he talked to Jenna without jumping through all the PR hoops. It was rather curious, however, that his concussion wasn’t mentioned in the press release when he was replaced by Helio Castroneves. I hope the kid keeps his ride, he’s plenty talented and deserves it.
Q: Will Liberty Media investing money in Meyer Shank Racing allow for the team to be a two-car IndyCar team in 2021? If yes, who could be a second driver?
RM: I believe so, and I think Mike was already talking about that for 2021 before Liberty made the announcement. Too early to guess about a driver, let’s wait and see who might be available.
Q: Will Power’s dominant win got me thinking about the history of drivers who have won a race by starting on the pole and leading every lap. It is a rare occurrence today, for whatever reason. Going back to 1960 there have been 52 races won in this fashion. It happened 22 times in the 1960s, but only three times in the 1970s. It happened four times in the 1980s, and eight times in the 1990s. Between 2000 and amalgamation of CART and the IRL in 2008, it happened 11 times. Since the amalgamation, it has only happened four more times. The longest gap between wins like this was between round 6 at Belle Isle in 2012 and Will Power’s win on Saturday.
The most dominant wins were recorded by Mario Andretti with 11. His first was in 1966 at Milwaukee, and his last was at Elkhart Lake in 1987. The next-most dominant wins were by A.J. Foyt with six. A.J.’s first was 1963 and his last was in 1975. Michael Andretti had four, Dan Gurney, Al Unser and Paul Tracy had three, five drivers had two and 12 drivers hadone1. I believe that the competitiveness of the fields in IndyCar racing today is what makes it so much harder to accomplish these feats. I also believe that the large number of dominant wins in the 1960s can be put to the change from roadsters to rear-engine cars, along with the utter dominance year in and year out of Mario and A.J. What do you think?
Doug Mayer, Revelstoke, BC, Canada
RM: I think you bring up a great point. There are seldom any blowouts in IndyCar, and certainly no winners lapping the field like the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. That’s partly because all the cars and engines are the same, the teams are deep and the drivers are damn good. Roger Penske said it best: “The rules are right and nobody is two seconds faster than anyone.”