Q: As a big fan of open-wheel racing on ovals, I, too, am disappointed there aren’t more on the schedule, but I’m not surprised. Looking at the tracks that opened since the track-building boom of the ‘90s, oval tracks have not been wholly successful. Fontana and Texas have done pretty well, but look at some of the others: Homestead and Las Vegas have soldiered on with major layout changes. Pikes Peak and Disney World have disappeared, although I guess the track is still there in Colorado. Nashville and Gateway were pretty much closed for a time. Chicago Motor Speedway was a complete flop. Chicagoland appears to be on its way out. Kentucky has had major reconfiguration and lost its Cup date.
So it appears that building an oval is pretty risky, in retrospect. Could that be why Penske sold his tracks? Did he see that coming? Are we actually lucky to have three ovals as opposed to being cursed by just three?
Thanks for your great work through the years.
Randy Beegle, Fairmont, WV
RM: No, The Captain sold his tracks when NASCAR was booming and looks even smarter than he is for unloading them. I’d say we’ll be lucky to have two ovals in two years.
Q: With the Freedom 100 off the IMS schedule for May 2021, is that a race that could move to Lucas Oil Raceway? I would assume the cars could run on the track, but would the lack of soft walls be an issue? You would think the series would want to take advantage of all the race fans that week.
Jim Osborn, Fishers
RM: Lucas has soft walls but here’s what Road to Indy president Dan Andersen has to say: “We discussed this briefly but it was clear to my competition people that the track is inadequate for an IL15. The cars are too fast and the safety system is not up to the standards needed for that car. We enjoy Lucas Oil Raceway for our other two series as it is an appropriate venue for them, and we chose to create a doubleheader at St Louis for Indy Lights to maintain our oval count of two races.”
Q: Does IndyCar have a plan to reduce the marbles that build up on tracks and directly impact the racing? As a fans we all know how treacherous these rubber deposits are. I think that since the introduction of the soft compound tires for road and street courses, the marbling has gotten worse and leads to a single racing line, and then a race becomes a bit of a parade. I understand that having two different tire compounds adds competition to both the racing and the strategy, and that’s a good thing; it just seems that if there were a way to remove the deposits it would lead to better racing in the latter part of the race.
Is consideration routinely given to extending a yellow caution period to allow for this? While a competition caution might also be an answer, this would impact pit strategy and I’m not sure that the drivers and teams would be in favor. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Dan, Anaheim Hills, CA
RM: Let’s ask IndyCar race director Kyle Novak: “Hi Dan, thanks for the question. Track sweeping during the Race is not an IndyCar procedure on road/street courses with the primary reason being to reduce the amount of safety vehicles on course. Road/street courses present blind corners and tight confines, and IndyCar expects drivers to pack up behind the pace car as quickly and as safely as possible so that the AMR Safety Team can quickly respond to the incident. Every safety vehicle on course adds a new obstacle and distraction to drivers, and we seek to reduce those obstacles as much as possible.
“Additionally, the track sweeping equipment simply doesn’t have the ability to reduce the marbling in a short amount of time during the yellow period. It often takes 10-15 minutes of multiple laps with a clear track to have enough of an impact to make the exercise worthwhile. That would more than double the length of most yellow periods just to do a single pass. IndyCar’s priority is to maximize green flag racing so that race craft, strategy, and engineering are the primary factors of competition for our fans and competitors.”
Q: I just saw an article saying that Honda is pulling Mario from driving the two-seater. I believe it’s fake news, said something about liability with him being 81. I call bullcrap, the old dude still has it. Got any intel about it?
CJ Eisman, Terre Haute
RM: Honda didn’t fire him but it did end its sponsorship of the two-seater program on Monday. Mario still wants to drive and is looking for a new ride, and IndyCar intends to keep The Fastest Seat in Sports operating.