Q: Do you think IndyCar will ever return to using methanol? I enjoy your Mailbag each week.
RM: Well, Speedway E85 fuel is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, so not really sure there is any reason to change. Thanks for reading.
Q: I have a Pat Patrick story to share. My son, Patrick, was a fan of Patrick Racing because of the name link. He got to meet Mr. Patrick at Homestead in 1999 – Patrick was 10 years old. It was after the race had been run, Mr. Patrick came out of the hospitality tent to meet Patrick and was very gracious and generous with his time and after about 20 minutes sent Patrick into the tent to sit down with Adrian Fernandez, who was also very gracious with a young kid.
While Patrick was with Adrian, Mr. Patrick told me about some of his experiences from his time in the Air Force. At the end of this visit, Mr. Patrick had my son added to his hospitality tent guest list for future races. In 2001 we attended the Michigan 500 and the “Patricks” were reunited. As we got ready to leave, my son went to Mr. Patrick to thank him. As they chatted Mr. Patrick, from his chair, put his arm around my son’s shoulders, occasionally patting him on the back, introduced him to everyone at the table, then when Patrick was ready to leave, Mr. Patrick pulled him and gave him a big hug. It was like watching a kid with his grandfather.
Tragically, we lost Patrick in 2012, but I will never forget those two days and the genuine affection Mr. Patrick showed my son. Does that sound like the man you knew? My sincerest condolences to the Patrick family, particularly Steve, who was also generous with his time in Michigan. Mr. Patrick, from one Air Force veteran to another, Godspeed. May you rest in peace. Thanks for the memories.
Mick, Trinity, NC
RM: Pat could be a charmer and your story is how fans are made. My best memories are calling him up for quotes or information or scoops. I asked him once, “Pat, could you please tell me the truth for once?” And he said: “Robin I always tell you the truth.” We both laughed about that for a few weeks.
Q: Tom Bigelow was a mild cool-headed racer, except if you got him mad. Tom was a tough, tough race driver. Any plans to do a tough guy article on him?
Dick Morganti, Reading, PA
RM: Yes sir, Biggie is on my list. He was good on dirt and pavement (especially the high banks) and made the most out of his IndyCar opportunities, which were never top shelf.
Q: Have you ever raced in a cold race in your racing career? If so where was that race?
Chris Fiegler, Latham, NY
RM: Eldora in spring or fall, Ascot Park on Turkey Night and the Cannonball Run (New York to LA) in November.
Q: Just purchased my reserved seats for the SRX series race at Indianapolis Raceway Park. I am very excited to see what Ray Evernham and Smoke have come up with. I really like the drivers announced so far – Helio, TK, Willy T!
My question for you is, how do you think these technical drivers will do against the door-slammer/fender-banger stock car drivers on the half-mile short tracks? Do you think this racing series will live up to the hype? I like how it gives semi-retired drivers a chance. Plus it gives us the possibility of having Helio vs J. Gordon-type crossovers. Love what Levi Jones is doing with USAC; would love for some of his guys to get a shot at the 500.
Andy, St. Mary’s, Ohio
RM: If the cars are all fairly close then maybe a good chassis man has a little edge, but Steve Kinser won an IROC race, Al Unser Jr. was hell on wheels in IROC, Uncle Bobby took the FastMasters series, and I have no idea whether it was setup or talent or just a better car.
Q: Loved your piece on racing in the ’70s. An interesting item from the USAC stock car series in 1979: Foyt won the title that year driving Camaro battling a young Rusty Wallace. The 200-mile race at the state fair in August at Milwaukee was rained out, and USAC rescheduled it for Saturday, August 18. Foyt won the rescheduled race and then went to the Springfield Illinois mile for the 100-mile stock car race on the dirt the next day and won with the same car. Some real old-school racing. Were you there? Those were A.J.’s last wins in a stock car and on the dirt. Looking forward to your piece on the ’60s. [ED: That one was published earlier this week]
RM: I wasn’t, but I do remember interviewing Rusty that season and he was jazzed to be neck-and-neck with Anthony Joseph, and some of those mile dirt races in stockers were the best (like the State Fair Century here in Indianapolis). Watching Foyt, Parnelli, Herk, McCluskey, the Unsers, Norm Nelson and Don White was always a treat.
Q: In honor of Chili Bowl Week, whom was the tallest driver you can remember that raced Midgets on a regular basis?
Todd J. Burnworth, Fort Wayne, IN
RM: Jon Backlund comes to mind. I think he was about 6’3”.
Q: After dinner and drinks at the wonderful St. Elmo’s on New Year’s Eve, my wife and I needed coffee for the long drive from Indy to New Orleans the next morning. We stopped at the Starbucks drive-thru at 15th and Capitol. The tall, handsome (albeit masked) young man who served us was a dead ringer for Graham Rahal, even with just his eyes visible. I asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you look just like Graham Rahal?” As I might have deduced, my question was met with a puzzled, “Who?” “You know, the IndyCar driver.”
The lad was intrigued enough that he was willing to Google a photo of his alleged doppelganger. “What’s his name?” “Graham. Rahal. R-A-H-A-L.” “Gra-ham Ra-hal.” Oh, OK. I can kind of see that,” he said, obviously smiling under his COVID covering.
The kid was probably in his early 20s. He had no clue who Graham Rahal was, and I think he came this close to asking what IndyCar was. I might have driven off in tears, had that happened. I won’t even ask, because I know the answer: there is probably no way to lure this kid into the sport. Sadly, all this took place maybe 10 minutes from the Speedway, as the crow flies.
Bruce Buchert, Metairie, LA (by way of Anderson, IN)
RM: Well this is a sad way to end The Mailbag, but a friendly reminder that IndyCar is a niche sport with a small fan base that needs more exposure but, other than NBC, how does that happen?