Q: Thank you for keeping us entertained and up to speed during the long off-season. I have purchased the NBC Sports Gold package for IndyCar and Supercross since they were first offered. With Supercross set to start in 10 days, I just got notice that indeed, the NBC Sports Gold package is no longer offered, but is moving to Peacock Premium. Pure speculation on my part, but I’d guess IndyCar will go the same way. If so, it appears to be a good deal at $5 per month. Obviously don’t know if the same level of coverage will be offered yet.
RM: Again, I’m not sure what’s going to happen and when I get the word I will gladly pass it on to you loyal fans, but I imagine Peacock is the logical landing spot.
Q: For the love of all that was once great from the golden era of the Indy 500, please tell me that you’re reminding The Captain every week that he needs to bring back the apron at IMS. ASAP.
RM: I’d say he’s got a few more important fish to fry right now but I mentioned it once and I imagine if he deems it a good idea he’ll act on it.
Q: Hope you are doing OK! Happy 2021 for us all. I would like to know your opinion on push-to-pass and different types of tire compounds. I tend to think both make racing a little too artificial; drivers would be much more pressed to overtake in old fashion way (use draft, brake late) and compromise speed with tire durability over a stint. You think IndyCar someday is going to change the rulebook for one of them (or both)?
Daniel Borges Martins, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
RM: I’d say as good as the racing has been in the past few years there is no reason to change anything, and the tires go off and some guys can hang on longer and it obviously promotes passing.
Q: If you were going to write a movie on one race car driver who would it be? Based on name recognition alone, A.J. or Mario might be at the top of the list, but in my opinion they lack the drama off the track that will sell tickets. As I learn more about the life of John Paul Jr., maybe he’s the one? Maybe a better way to ask the question is, who is the driver that has led the most interesting life one and off the track? I will limit it to drivers that have competed in Indy, NASCAR and Formula 1.
Andrew O’Neal, Ann Arbor, MI
RM: Hurtubise or Zanardi would be naturals for a movie of their life, but Mario might be the most compelling because of where he came from and how quickly he rose to the top.
Q: One of the few good things to come out of the pandemic, for me, is the discovery of your Mailbag. I look forward to reading it on a Wednesday afternoon, which is when it lands in the UK. I enjoy the insights in to the history of this type of racing which isn’t usually available in such depth over here.
I have just finished reading the late Andrew Ferguson’s excellent book Team Lotus – the Indianapolis Years. Ferguson is very even-handed and understands why the roadster drivers/entrants/builders did not take kindly to Europeans bringing different cars and drivers to the Speedway, potentially walking off with the prizes which had always been shared between the American racing fraternity. In fact, I get the impression Ferguson admired the American scene, although the month of May might have been a bit too long. He even compliments the swiftness with which A.J. Foyt paid his bills. Ironically, the one person who does not come out of the book particularly well is Colin Chapman, for his dealings with people both within and outside Team Lotus. What were people’s opinion of Chapman at the time?
Mark Jones, Chester, UK
RM: I defer to E.P. “Chalkie” Fullalove, the wing commander and fabricator, who came to Indianapolis with Lotus in 1967, and he recalls Chapman being, “Like Ron Dennis and Frank Williams, all the same — they were nice when they wanted something. But you must admit he was a great innovator and did whatever was necessary to keep Lotus on the racetrack.”
Q: My question regards Janet Guthrie’s last race at Indy in 1979. As best I can tell, she finished next-to-last last in a Lola/Cosworth. I recently watched the ’79 Indy 500 on YouTube, and when interviewed on TV after falling out early with apparent engine failure, she is clearly livid — to the point of being essentially non-responsive and almost incoherent in the interview. Is there any interesting backstory here that you can share? Where the chassis was obtained, who engineered the effort, etc.?
Her book, which is otherwise very detailed and an interesting read, completely omits May 1979. As best I can tell she again had Texaco sponsorship, on a Lola-Cosworth this time, and qualified mid-pack. Wondering if she felt she was sandbagged by whomever supplied engines and/or prepared the car? From the TV broadcast, I gather she had a teammate that day whose engine also only lasted a handful of laps.
Mike Newby, Marietta, GA
RM: She had one of the best engineers in Huey Absalom, who won Indy the year before with Al Unser, plus F1 vets Alan McCall and Kerry Adams, but no teammate to my recollection. I imagine she was pissed her engine only lasted three laps because that was clearly her best equipment, crew and chance at Indianapolis.
Q: I’ve been following IndyCar racing for 50+ years and was sad to learn that Donald Davidson retired at the year’s end. He is such an icon, and I wonder if IMS has any plans to honor his contributions to the Indy 500 over the last six decades? My wife arranged to have him call me on my birthday last year and that 15-minute conversation was the highlight of my 2020. I hope you are well, and wish you a healthy 2021.
RM: I’m sure Roger Penske, Mark Miles and Doug Boles will do something to honor Donald’s contributions in May, but nothing official has been announced yet.