Q: Could you shed some light on why the Freedom 100 is glaringly absent from the 2021 schedule? The car count for Freedom often doubled the season-long car count. Car count has been an issue for quite some time in Lights, and the absence of the big gun teams from the series continues to be a problem. What did CART do differently that motivated the top teams to have representation in Lights compared to now? Money will always be an issue, but having a feeder program where the last step has only eight cars running certainly diminishes the motivation to participate when teams at the top level often take drivers from other series like F2, F3 etc.
Troay Strong, Kansas City
RM: I can’t shed any light because I haven’t talked to R.P. in a couple of weeks, but I will ask him. As for the good old days of CART when there were 20-plus cars in Lights and Atlantics, there was simply a lot more money available back then and I’m not even sure the purses were much better. But today’s IndyCar owners only have to look at O’Ward, Herta, Veekay and Askew to see that Lights is still very much a good training ground.
Q: I was shocked to see the Freedom 100 left off of the Indy Lights schedule. Does anyone know whose decision it was and the reasoning behind it? This was its marquee event. It almost reminds me of when CART thought it could make a go of it without the Indy 500. It makes me wonder if Indy Lights will meet the same demise. I realize that’s two different situations, but the Freedom 100 is what set Indy Lights apart from the other two support series — it elevated it to a higher level. Now, to me, all of those series are the same, and I question whether we need all three.
RM: I imagine it was The Captain’s call, but as I said above, I haven’t talked to him about it yet. The rumor is that he didn’t feel Lights cars were safe at IMS speeds.
Q: I read the Green/Savoree Promotions puff piece on IndyCar.com and I had to laugh. Me and many other 2020 Portland GP ticket holders have not been notified yet about whether our tickets will be honored next year, and it’s been six weeks since the cancellation. It also seems that when customers reach out to them, they are not getting a response. My Indy 500 tickets got rolled over and my Richmond tickets were refunded without jumping through hoops. Do you think my tickets will be good for next year? Or should I plan on boycotting races promoted by GSP?
Jared, Reading, PA
RM: I sent your inquiry to Green/Savoree and their ticket department, so hopefully you’ll be finding out sooner than later.
Q: What is the story behind COTA not being included in next year’s IndyCar schedule?
RM: COTA went with NASCAR to try and make some money.
Q: I know this year’s circumstances has caused IndyCar to extend its season into late October to get every desired race in. What are the chances of IndyCar racing in October being a permanent thing? I’m sure it would require at least two more races to work, but is that a possibility being considered by RP and IndyCar?
James, Kansas City
RM: Nobody is looking that far ahead because it’s fruitless as long as COVID is alive and kicking, and like it did this year, I’m sure IndyCar will do everything necessary to get in 14-17 races in 2021.
Q: I’m a road course kind of guy who caught this racing bug in the mid to late ’60s as a kid, but I religiously went to the Iowa Speedway since it was less than an hour from my home in West Des Moines. Had great access to the drivers and saw many great shows. After buying a second home in Scottsdale I tried to make the races at PIR when here. Of course, now that we’ve moved full-time to AZ the IndyCars don’t go to PIR any more! I went with a couple friends the other night to a charity deal at PIR where we got five laps (of course not very fast but still fun) of the oval. I hadn’t been back since the remodel, but wow — I didn’t recognize the place! Very well done, and very nice. We need to get the Indy cars back down here! Any chance in hell of that happening?
RM: Very unlikely. The previous PIR boss tried to make it work for IndyCar, but sadly it’s lost its luster, identity and anything approaching a fan base. IndyCar needs to go to tracks that can draw decent crowds and have a shot at making a little money, but Phoenix isn’t one of them.
Q: I liked your article on ‘The Greatest’. You wisely didn’t pick one and thus avoided a firestorm. I, not being in your position, have no such qualms! I’ve been a fan of all types of racing for 60+ years. Four years ago I decided to analyze this question for open-wheel, and as Shelby used to say, ‘sportcar’ drivers in America and Europe. I looked at drivers who had won championships in both of these disciplines to determine an equivalency. I then applied three resulting formulas. I looked at only ‘major’ racing series and reviewed over 1,000 races dating back to 1902. I purposely didn’t review NASCAR because it is too specialized and Tony Stewart is the only driver to win a championship in stock cars and open-wheel. My overall results indicated this: No. 1 Michael Schumacher, No. 2 A.J. Foyt, No. 3 Lewis Hamilton. The best ever ‘sportcar’ driver in Europe was Olivier Gendebien and in America it was Peter Gregg. Of course everyone has their own opinion, but that’s how I saw it. Who is your Top 3?
RM: That column wasn’t about the greatest drivers, it was about the greatest seasons and it’s impossible to compare Fangio, Clark, Stewart, Schmacher and Hamilton, just like it is to compare Louis Meyer to Vuky or A.J. or Mears or Dixie. But I’m big on versatility, so I stand with A.J., Mario, Parnelli and Daniel Sexton Gurney. I made a sweatshirt with them on it and called it Mount Rushmore.