Q: I am a Newman-Haas freak and Penske has always been the “evil empire.” That being said, I do believe that The Captain is pure class! Now, my prediction is that Scott McLaughlin will be fantastic! He will be their number one – sorry, Newgarden. I think Rick Mears knows this. This driver will be the next Scott Dixon, or even better! You heard it here first! Your thoughts?
Dan, Lima, Ohio
RM: I think his debut was pretty damn impressive, especially in qualifying, and all I know about him is that Steve Horne told me he was a helluva racer and would make an impact in IndyCar. And Penske ain’t running four cars because he’s ‘hoping’ this kid will be good.
Q: What’s IndyCar’s policy on restarting or towing relatively undamaged cars on-track during a yellow? Do the safety vehicles even carry starters? It was very frustrating to watch Marco plead to get back in the race when so much was on the line.
Steve, Dubuque, IA
RM: “Thank you for your question, Steve. All of the AMR Safety Team Chevrolet Silverados carry starters that enable the Safety Team to restart cars if procedurally possible. However, there is never a guarantee that a disabled car will be restarted or even returned to the paddock, as the priority is always to return the race to a green condition as quickly as possible while minimizing safety asset deployment and also to ensure our equipment remains located properly to service potential future incidents. Cars with flat tires are not restarted, as allowing them to continue around the circuit will likely cause the tire to shred, cause bodywork damage and cause further cleanup that will present a safety concern to cars still running. This was the case with the No. 98, No. 3, No. 27, and the No. 18. By contrast, the No. 7 and the No. 21 were restarted after their incidents and continued, as those cars were able to safely resume without posing a further impact to returning the race to green.” Kyle Novak, IndyCar Race Director.
Q: Where do the funds for the Leaders Circle program come from? I get the sense that some believe it comes out of the owner’s pocket and they think Penske should just open his wallet and fund more teams. It seems to me the program would be funded by IndyCar revenues.
RM: IndyCar funds the Leaders Circle and that’s why the purse money is so pathetic, because the money had to come from somewhere. I think we’re all hoping R.P. can find more sponsorship or get NTT to ante up.
Q: How does James Hinchcliffe not get a penalty for carelessly pulling out and hitting Jack Harvey? He cost me the title of the IndyCar Fantasy League I’m in. What is race control thinking in not penalizing him? Hinch spinning out under caution and taking Jack Harvey out might be why he struggles to find a ride.
Bob Rundgren, Villa Park, IL
RM: He did get penalized — a drive-through for avoidable contact. And it doesn’t help ease the sting of losing your fantasy league, but Hinch was more gutted for taking out Harvey than having his race go to ^%$$.
Q: A fitting finish to the season with Newgarden and Dixon each doing what they had to do. It will be interesting when the smoke settles on silly season and we see who’s in and out. In the winner’s circle interview, Josef pretty much validated Pato O’Ward. What’s the length of his contract with Arrow McLaren SP, because I see him ending up at Penske when Pagenaud exits? Your thoughts?
RM: I imagine Herta and O’Ward are both on The Captain’s radar when Pagenaud and Power come to the end of their contracts, and I have no idea how long Pato’s contract is for.
Q: I just read the AP article with Askew. What is the problem with what he said? That he raced with a concussion and was afraid to get out of the car? None of that reflects badly on the team in my opinion. It’s too bad, but does Felix bring any money to the team? I know you said you don’t have any insight into the inner workings of Arrow McLaren SP, but it seems like more of a desire to get Felix into the team. It’s unfortunate for Oliver, and you wonder if this will be it for him in Indy cars.
Jim Doyle, Hoboken, NJ
RM: I don’t think Felix brings any sponsorship and I don’t think Arrow McLaren SP needs it. Hoping somebody gives Askew another chance because he’s good.
Q: I had a thought while watching Lewis Hamilton take his 97th pole last Saturday. He has this amazing ability to pull out another tenth or two in qualifying when it is really needed. I’ve seen him do it so many times. Although the qualifying format was different, Ayrton Senna could also do it. In IndyCar, Will Power can do something similar, and going back a ways, so could Bobby Unser. It is almost like saying, “Whatever you see me do, you probably haven’t seen the best that I can do.” Does anyone else come to mind with this ability in IndyCar, CART, the IRL, USAC or AAA, even going back to the ’40s or ’50s?
Also, for Team Penske, since it is leaving IMSA with two cars and adding Scott McLaughlin to its IndyCar line-up, does it have excess personnel that might lead it to look for an opportunity in another series?
Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA
RM: Mario for sure, Don Branson (on the dirt), Dario and Montoya seemed to have that ability, as did Zanardi and obviously Mears since he won six poles at Indy. I think four cars in IndyCar and three in NASCAR will keep Team Penske plenty busy.
Q: Why does IndyCar use the name of Vincent Astor on the cup it gives to the season champion? I know it has been using that trophy since 2012, but what connection does Mr. Astor have to IndyCar?
Peter, Los Angeles, CA
RM: Thanks to former CART/Texas/IndyCar publicist Mike Zizzo, we have an answer: “Astor donated the cup to the race, which was an two-mile oval on a board track at the Sheepshead Bay (NY) Race Track. Couple of ties — Carl Fisher was part of the investor’s team that owned the track with Astor, and the race drew a great field including many who ran Indy, like De Palma and Rickenbacker.”