Q: This is now the third week this same question will be referenced, but I see a big difference in Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean. As someone who watches all motorsports, Romain is not anywhere near as respected as JJ. JJ is a seven-time champion and Romain has not won a Grand Prix in his F1 career.
To me, it’s very simple: Who sells tickets and merchandise out of those two guys?
Also, Jimmie running the 500 is a much bigger talking point than Romain doing it. Just my opinion based on what I’ve picked up on.
My actual question for this week is, “What do we as fans of USAC and IndyCar have to do to bridge the gap again?” The Chili Bowl car BC ran was such a good move by IndyCar, and Doug Boles and IMS creating the dirt tracks in T3 was such a hit. Definitely missed that event big time this year. I want nothing more than to see Tyler Courtney, Justin Grant, Chris Windom, or Brady Bacon (and more) get a shot at a Indy 500 campaign. We saw BC transition well, and I firmly believe any of those guys would be able to do the same thing.
RM: Nothing the fans can do unless they want to spend $1 million and buy one of those USAC guys a ride for May. And it’s not a gap; it’s a huge divide separating talents, philosophies and awareness.
Q: I didn’t expect my email about the 1973 California 500 to make it into the Mailbag, but it’s cool that it did. Thanks for the answer; however I’m still confused.
You stated that Revson, Grant and Johncock didn’t have to run the qualifying races, yet Johncock did run in the first race. Also, why did they do this? It sounds like something I’ve heard of at dirt track races of which I know very little.
Lastly, Jerry Grant is someone we don’t hear very much about. He may not have won any Indy car races but it seems like he did have some success. He qualified well many times, had a good run at the Indy 500 one year until he got disqualified, and had some success in sports cars running with Dan Gurney. What can you tell me about him?
RM: Gordy needed the money and the qualifying races were added to try and give attendance a bump.
Grant was better in sports cars than Indy cars but still plenty capable and Gurney thought highly of him, so that’s all you need to know.
Q: I have followed you for a long, long, long time – since my days as a carrier for the Star/News. You often refer to yourself as “grumpy.” I don’t really see you as “grumpy”; more just “matter of fact.” Why do you think you are grumpy?
Last mailbag, someone asked why NASCAR TV ratings are better than IndyCar. You immediately referred to the “Split.” It is my contention that 1994 was the beginning of the shift in popularity for one reason: It was the first year for the Brickyard. The wall that separated IndyCar sponsors from NASCAR sponsors was breached, and at the time, supposedly, Cup teams were cheaper to run so the money followed.
While the split certainly did not help, open wheel had more TV coverage than EVER! What say you?
RM: I say it probably didn’t help IndyCar that NASCAR was allowed to share the promised land, but in 1995 the CART crowds, ratings and sponsors were still neck-and-neck with NASCAR. In 1996, you could have shot a cannon on practice and qualifying days at IMS and that was the beginning of the TV ratings free fall that only peaked once in 2005 with Danica.
I’m only grouchy when someone refers to NASCAR drivers as the best in the world after they all crash on a straightaway.
Q: As a big F1 and IndyCar fan, I’ve recently read a story that I wanted to see if you knew had any truth to or not. I can’t remember exactly where I read this but I read that Enzo Ferrari reached out to Mario to come fill in for Berger in the Monaco Grand Prix in 1989.
Now first of all, Enzo died in 1988 so this is where I’m confused. Was it someone else at Ferrari, possibly, that reached out? I know that in 1982 Mario returned to Monza to fill in and sat on pole and finished third. But in 1989, Mario was 49 and well past his prime. Not to mention Monaco was not a track he ever really had success even in his Lotus days when he had the best equipment.
I’m wondering if there’s any truth to this story and if you could shed any light on it?
Rick Scotia, NY
RM: Never heard of it before your letter and nobody I know with any racing history knowledge has either, so I’d say it’s somebody’s poor memory.
Mario’s F1 swansong came in 1982 at Las Vegas in a Ferrari where he finished seventh subbing for Didier Pironi.
Q: Thanks for the dissertation on veterans that raced in the Indy 500 in last week’s Mailbag. In the baseball world, Ted Williams was another shining example. As the son of a proud WWII Pacific vet, I got my love of the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar from my late dad. I always honor him every November 11th, and remember him each Memorial Day at 16th and Georgetown. I miss him a lot.
We will never see the likes of them again. As warriors, as racers, or as men, they are truly the Greatest Generation. For years I subscribed to National Speed Sport News, and when it arrived each week, the first order of business was Chris Economaki’s Editor’s Notebook. It was required reading. Chris and NSSN are both gone now but The Mailbag is, in my opinion, a worthy successor in the world of motorsports and I eagerly await it each Wednesday.
Thanks for keeping us informed with your pithy commentary.
Jim Mulcare, Westbury, NY
RM: Thanks for your note Jim. The Mailbag is RACER.com’s most popular stopover each week. Thanks to Honda for sponsoring it and to you fans for religiously reading it.
(You didn’t ask a question but I ran your e-mail because occasional pandering is allowed.)