Q: After sitting just past Turn 1 at the Harvest GP and watching a bunch of guys overshoot the turn and use the escape road (A.J.’s drivers three times each), I wonder, during course familiarization do drivers actually drive through the escape? It was rather narrow and had a fairly tight turn at entry. If I were a driver I would have hated to experience it for the first time during a race! Thanks for beating the IndyCar drum!
David Teller, Greenville, OH
RM: I think they all drove around in a pace car or walked the track the first time they saw it, and it happens so frequently in practice that everyone is tuned it.
Q: How time-consuming is it for a team to change a car’s livery from one sponsor to another? Alexander Rossi’s car, for example, on Friday was NAPA-liveried, and Saturday it was AutoNation. I assume cars are no longer painted in sponsors’ colors, and most likely are wrapped?
RM: Mike Hull of Ganassi Racing kindly handles this topic: “When done in the building, removal and clean takes two to three hours. Wrap time itself is 16 to 20-man hours for entire bodywork plus spare front and rear wings. We have two technicians assigned in the building who print and then install. An additional set of wings is three hours. When doing at the racetrack overnight, it’s more hands on deck
“Our group did it for the 10 car at Gateway from the first race to the second. The NTT car became the Monster Energy car overnight, while the mechanics simultaneously race-prepared the race car. We worked in advance to have a common color on the lower chassis and some of the wings, which helped reduce time. We also pre-wrapped the spare sidepods, plus one set of spare wings, which reduced the trackside effort. To put it into perspective, when we were painting, the preparation work, paint, paint-on the livery, and clear coat was about 40 man hours. In addition, hard to believe, but paint process adds almost 14 pounds, with undercoat, paint, painted decals and clear coat. When it needed repaint, the surface for chassis and all other parts had to be totally stripped past the undercoat for weight reduction.
“Additionally, a wrapped car is half that total weight number. In the ‘old days,’ lots of teams painted over the paint! Think how heavy the car became. With how far that wraps have come, plus the revised partner placement in the short back-to-back weeks, or doubleheader overnights, wraps makes much more competitive and practical sense.”
Q: Recently read a lovely reminiscence about Dan Gurney, which mentioned Roger Penske in passing. Got me thinking: There really hasn’t been a lot written about Gurney’s and Penske’s relationship. Were they BFFs? Respectful competitors? We know all about Penske (and Pat Patrick) funding Gurney’s White Paper vision that became CART. Penske also ran an Eagle at Indy and bought Gurney’s former F1 shop in England. But they overlapped as drivers and owners for about 60 years, so there have to be more stories to tell. And I would guess you know a lot of them. What’s your take?
RM: I don’t know who RP’s BFFs are, but he and Gurney had a deep respect for each other as drivers, constructors and thinkers. The Captain obviously believed in the White Paper, and always had his eye on AAR since it created so many great cars. They had some good battles in sports cars, but other than one time at IRP, I never got to see any of them.
Q: I still think you average about one letter per week about the CART/IRL split. Do you get sick and tired about talking about The Split? The most common term you use every time you respond is it caused “irreparable damage” to the sport. I would hope any major sport or racing organization thinking about breaking away would learn that almost nothing good came from The Split.
Ron, Portland, OR
RM: Probably average two a week, but sometimes it’s new fans that weren’t following IndyCar back in the mid ’90s so it’s more of a history lesson. The aftermath of The Split speaks for itself in terms of attendance, TV ratings, sponsorships but IndyCar has made a nice comeback in the past few years.
Q: In the Mailbag and your recent article on RACER, you have written a lot about the fate of ovals in the context of IndyCar. Do you have a sense of the health of short tracks and their prospects for survival after the pandemic shutdowns? By “short tracks,” I don’t mean Iowa – more like Gas City, Williams Grove, Ventura, etc.
RM: I subscribe to Flo Racing so I’ve been watching USAC midgets and sprints all summer, and the car counts and attendance look quite healthy. I think short-track racing around the country may be in decent shape, but without knowing anything about the weekly shows it’s hard to gauge.
Q: I hope you are doing well and were able to attend or watch the Harvest GP races. In both races, the racing was close, passing was frequent, and there were no yellows. What more could one want? The coverage provided by the NBC announcers was the best, despite being without you and Hinch. But the camera shots were amazing and plentiful. NBC had cameras everywhere, and those people deserve so much credit for capturing all the action. And the producers who patch it all together flawlessly for us to watch are magicians. Big thanks to the best in the business: NBC. I haven’t been to the Speedway in five or six years, but it has never looked better on TV. It looks like a new clean and shiny object instead of a worn-out relic. Mr. Penske has obviously done much, and I am so glad he was able to purchase IMS. I can’t wait to see another Indy 500 from the stands.
Tom in Manistee
RM: Thanks Tom. Credit to producer Terry Lingner and director Roger Vincent – the two best in the business and they captured all the action.