Q: Robin, it’s great to see the large interest by all the teams for next year. Also, there appears to be great sponsor interest – RP and his team have done a great job. I’ll guess crow is on the menu, because of my prediction of 18-20 cars looks pretty embarrassing right now.
I love IndyCar, but am I alone? I tire of Penske and Ganassi winning all the time. Each week I would love to see smaller teams win. I’m for the little guy – eho doesn’t love an upset victory?
Mike, Cincinnati, Ohio
RM: With just a little more luck, Pato O’Ward and Santino Ferrucci could have won a race in 2020, and Jack Harvey was also knocking on the door. But let’s be honest, the big teams usually dominate: Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in F1; Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing (nine wins), Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs (seven), Chase Elliott and Hendrick Motorsport (five), and Team Penske (eight wins among three drivers) in NASCAR.
This year in the IndyCar series, Team Penske scored seven wins out of 14 races (Newgarden four, Power two and Pagenaud one) while Chip Ganassi’s team earned five (Dixon four and Felix one). True, RLL and Sato captured the biggest race of the season but Andretti managed only one win (Herta).
You can’t get much closer than the IndyCar fields but it’s tough to beat those six-second pit stops and experience.
Q: Robin, the Long Beach GP is the IndyCar flagship after the Indy 500. I’m seriously concerned it survives a second-year cancellation due to COVID, but I can’t see how it happens right now with no fans. Any word on its survival? Any chance Roger helps out in some way?
Best road racing event in the U.S. (and Bernie’s only admitted mistake – aside from multiple marriages) since 1975.
RM: We’re still six months away so I don’t see how anyone can make any predictions or plans just yet. But obviously Long Beach needs to happen and needs fan to survive. Not sure what The Captain can do short of dropping the sanction fee.
Q: It’s become one of the top Mailbag cliches to ask/whine about, ‘Why isn’t IndyCar going back to this circuit or that oval?’ My question to you is, logistics notwithstanding, what would be some of your dream tracks to see IndyCar race?
Andrew McNaughton, Chicago, IL
RM: I’d love to go back to Cleveland, Mont Tremblant and Richmond, and maybe try Road Atlanta and CTMP (Mosport) if they make the safety changes IndyCar would require.
Q: Thanks for the details in your article on IndyCar promoters helping save the season, the sport, and the livelihood of so many great people this year. As you pointed out, there was plenty of absolutely incredible racing this year.
In looking back over some teams and drivers that at times have seemingly inexplicable difficulties on road and street courses, I think of the many variables. I’d very much appreciate your giving us some Mailbag insight through the winter on teams and drivers and your input on various drivers that are given more say-so in car setup.
Xtrac provides the series with a killer transaxle. That leads me to thinking of the options available for diff-locker ramp angles and externally adjustable plate settings (drivers saying, “I want more bite!”); ratio choices for gears 2-6; damper settings; and perhaps even some driver input on aero changes.
Having been within a few feet of AJ, Parnelli, Penske, and Zanardi; talking with Mario, Gurney, Fangio, Kanaan, and others, I feel they share a common level of intensity and focus. Sitting with a collection of medal-winning Olympic downhill and slalom ski champions, I unsurprisingly saw that same intensity.
With our current levels of technology, do some drivers still become their own worst enemies with their well-intentioned requests?
RM: There are certainly drivers with more tech and chassis savvy than others, but not sure the tinkerers like Unser, Sneva, Gurney still exist.
Here’s Marshall Pruett’s take: “The best answer I can give is that nothing has changed in terms of time and ease. Whatever A.J. drove back in 19XX was the pinnacle of technology for that day; and while there might have been fewer things to fiddle with than on today’s cars, the complexity of the task to hit all of the right setup decisions was by no means a breeze.”
Q: In your opinion, who do you think was the best all-time technically/mechanically savvy driver? If different, who do you think in the current crop of drivers fits this description? Also, who do you think was the best, “seat of the pants” driver? If different, what current driver fits this bill?
D. Krueger, West Allis, WI
RM: A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser from the Glory Days, and Alex Zanardi, Bob Rahal, Dixie and Dario from the modern era.
I reckon Bourdais, JoNew, Willy P., Pagenaud, Rossi and little Herta are at the front of today’s class. Eddie Sachs, Al Unser, Lloyd Ruby and Montoya were the best seat-of-the-pants shoes and probably T.K. and Helio. Maybe Pato; he seems a lot like JPM.
Q: Do you have any info or heard any rumors of Indy cars coming back to Kentucky now that NASCAR is gone?
RM: Only in letters to the Mailbag, but I think IndyCar would certainly discuss a race with them.
Q: Last week you mentioned the “Brody Knob” on Gary Bettenhausen’s steering wheel. I seem to remember a champion midget driver having to use a knob on his steering wheel after receiving severe burns due to a crash. Do you remember the driver and was it the same type of knob? If I remember correctly he had a special glove with a hole that would fit over the knob.
Who was the “Brody Knob” named after?
Bill, Nashville, TN
RM: That would be Mel Kenyon, badly burned at Langhorne in 1965. He and brother Don concocted a leather glove with a hole that attached to the knob on the steering wheel on his midget. No idea where the name “Brody Knob” came from, but I’m guessing L.A. in the hot rod days.