Q: I read Honda is dropping its sponsorship of the two-seater, so I have a better idea. I would think Honda or IndyCar or whoever would get more bang for the buck giving people rides in the pace car or some other suitable street car. I know it’s not an IndyCar but who wouldn’t like taking a hot lap around St Pete, Road America, Laguna Seca, etc. during some downtime at the track during a race weekend? Honestly, would you rather take a hot lap around the track in the pace car, or watch some celeb you’ll never meet drive by in the two-seater? Personally, I’d love to go for a hot lap at my beloved St Pete Grand Prix, even in just a street car. How many people actually got to ride in the two-seater during a race weekend anyway? A dozen? It’s a lot of overhead for a relatively small number of people.
Put a passenger in the right seat of the pace car, his or her two kids in the back seat and off you go. It doesn’t have to be Mario driving. Oriol, Zach, Carlos, any former IndyCar driver would be a thrill for most people. And it doesn’t have to be at 50 percent of race speed either. ‘Fast’ is fast enough. Give the kids pictures of themselves in the car (they can be emailed for free). Give them a hundred trading cards of IndyCars and drivers to take to school and give to their friends. Post the video online so they can show their friends and families they got to go for a ride on the race track.
RM: Gotta disagree, and all you have to do is talk to someone who rode with Mario in the Honda two-seater to understand the once-in-a-lifetime reactions. Trust me, a CEO from a company considering an IndyCar sponsorship is a lot more likely to sign on after having his breath taken away by Mario. It works. I saw the Texaco CEO nearly have a heart attack at Laguna Seca after two laps with Andretti. They put a cold compress on his head, helped him to his feet and then he went in and re-upped a contract for millions. Pace car rides are cool too, and they already happen at most races, but they’re nothing like hugging the ground at 170 mph with M-A-R-I-O.
Q: I hope all is well for you health-wise. Said health has kept you away from the track, which means you’ve been watching the races like most of us do, on television. Whenever you are asked about some aspect of the TV broadcast, you have answered with some form of “I didn’t see it because I was at the track.” So, what do you think? Did you see things in the broadcast that made you think “this is pretty good and that’s really bad,” or “I wish they’d do that and not this?” Do you see why certain questions are asked? Your thoughts please.
Tim Davis, Detroit, MI
RM: I’m always impressed that our booth guys stay on top of the races, and Townsend correcting P.T. every five laps can be entertaining. I hear a lot of complaints about the engine sounds drowning out our announcers, so I guess that’s the biggest obstacle. I’d like to see us do more fun things in pre-race and have a historical segment, but you can’t do much in 30 minutes and I appreciated my bosses letting me do essays this season because the fans seem to like the themes. There are always instances when you wish someone would have said something different, but it’s live television so I think the NBC team has good chemistry and solid reporting.
Q: In what way is Sarah Fisher involved with IndyCar now?
RM: She was occasionally driving the pace car, but I think between her go-kart tracks in Indy and Florida, Whiteland Raceway and her two kids, she’s pretty busy.
Q: Unfortunately due to my age, I spent my formative years in the ‘80s. So the only Gary Bettenhausen I really saw was the Indy part-timer. I am aware of his 1974 Syracuse crash and the effect it left on his left arm. Yet I am curious to know how Gary was able to drive Indy cars and shift while steering? From what the internet tells me, I see that Gary B raced in three road races in an Indianapolis Car in 1977 and 1984. In ‘77, he finished second at MoSport, ran 13th at Portland in ’84 and didn’t qualify at Road America. So my question is, how much of a struggle was it for Gary B to run those races and how did he pull that second place off? He had some unfortunate runs at Indy in the ‘80s, but in hindsight, do you think he could have been competitive running a full schedule in something a little better than the Leader Card equipment?
Ryan T from Nebraska
RM: He did it because he was most determined racer I’ve ever met, and he came from 32nd to third in a ^%$# box in 1980, so of course he could have won Indy in a good car. We always kidded him that if he hasn’t been so stubborn and not got fired by Penske, he’d be a five-time Indy winner and we would have never heard of Sneva or Mears. But let his son Todd tell you how he handled road racing with one arm: “I believe both of those cars shifted on the right side, and he was able to steer well enough with his left arm to shift. When he started road racing in Indy cars, he took the Skip Barber racing school and was the fastest of his class if I recall correctly.”
Q: CART declared bankruptcy after the 2003 season and the remains of the series went into bankruptcy court. The judge ruled against Tony George even though he had the higher bid. I believe the judge’s reasoning was this was to satisfy the contracts of the sponsors and vendors. Do you believe this was the correct decision? To me, all it did was delay the inevitable merger.
Alan, Indianapolis, IN
RM: It probably was at the time, because you had all these teams, cars and contracts and as I recall the judge’s logic was that they might be put out of business if Champ Car was bought by T.G. In hindsight, it prolonged open-wheel agony for five more years.