Q: Is there more to the story that you can share regarding Paul Tracy’s reduced appearances on NBC? The Indy Star article seemed to confirm it was a choice by NBC rather than by P.T. The “less is more” motto seems too vague. On the subject of TV, perhaps you’ve seen the announcement by CBS Sports, which has chosen its SRX on-air talent, which includes Allen Bestwick, Matt Yocum, Dario Franchitti, and Danica Patrick among others. With NBC in the final year of its current IndyCar contract, could CBS be in consideration for 2022 and beyond? Perhaps it could supplement, if not replace, NBC, like the NASCAR contract? It certainly has a credible team of broadcasters now on staff, but of course interest or intent is a totally separate question.
IndySteve, Brownsburg, IN
RM: Please read my response in the question above yours. I’ve heard FOX and CBS might be sniffing around IndyCar for 2022, but I can’t imagine either expending the energy, exposure or marketing that NBC has provided the past few years. Is NBC tired of spending all that money for such sorry ratings? Possibly, but it’s become the motorsports channel, and I think as long as IndyCar doesn’t ask for more money, they’ll stay partners. There are nine races on NBC network this season. Just think about how many FOX or CBS would offer.
Q: Most people agree that IndyCar needs to increase its promotional efforts and raise its profile with the public. One thing that NBC could do to help that is have IndyCar drivers as guests on the Tonight Show. On a Thursday night show before a race weekend, have the winner of the previous race and two other drivers on the show. Some appearances could be in studio, and others might be from a team’s race shop or the upcoming race’s track. Who knows, maybe the public will start to enjoy the driver’s appearance on the show as much as they did when Paul Newman would appear the week of the Long Beach Grand Prix and race Jay Leno in a go-kart.
Michael Aldea, Hawthorne, NJ
RM: Well, Jimmy Fallon came to IMS a few years ago and did a couple features and seemed to enjoy himself, but it’s all about ratings on late night and IndyCar just doesn’t have any household names right now except Jimmie Johnson. If you could get David Letterman to race Fallon in a go-kart to help promote an NBC network race or get J.J. halfway through the season to discuss his career change, it might sell.
Q: If the Music City Grand Prix is a success this year, and with the reopening of the Nashville Superspeedway, what about having a doubleheader next year? Say, race at the speedway on Friday night, and the street course Sunday afternoon with one ticket getting you into both events. This would get a much-needed oval back on the schedule. Would anyone go for this, or am I out to lunch here?
Jim, Ontario, Canada
RM: A street race is three days, lots of support races, music, parties and one focus — the Sunday race. Nobody wants to share the spotlight with an oval 30 miles away. And you need two different cars for a street course and an oval, so it’s just way too much to ask. Plus, here we go again — why would you think Nashville Speedway wants IndyCar back or vice versa?
Q: Bright ideas? The Hawaiian Grand Prix. Just priceless, and made me laugh out loud. Looking back at some of the CART antics still has me shaking my head. Glad I got to witness some of it firsthand. Hope you’re keeping up the fight. Be well — we need your insight, humor and occasional bitchin’. It’s time to go racing, and hope to see you at the track somewhere along the way.
Mark S. Graham, Naperville, IL
RM: I should say, with the prompting of a longtime, respected IndyCar engineer, that I stand corrected on what I said about aero kits:
“Tino Belli and Bill Pappas have done an excellent job of generating usable and benign aero packages for a car that needs to perform in a variety of guises. It’s easy to point out the shortcomings of the various schemes of the past, but credit also needs to be given to Bill and Tino for coming up with such a versatile and user-friendly grouping of packages, that fit a single platform over road/street, oval and SSW tracks, for the teams. So, in this instance, I’d score one for the sanctioning body.”
Q: I have been a big fan of Alexander Rossi since his Indy 500 win. I sense he is on a mission this year, and he has said as such. I have not heard much from Andretti Autosport from preseason testing; it seems the other teams (RLL, Penske, SPM) are getting much of the press. I appreciate Rossi’s attitude and laser focus, and I think he’s due for a championship. Have you heard much from his testing this year, and does he remind you of any drivers from the ’70s/’80s that have his same attitude and drive?
Josh Meier, Louisville, KY
RM: Well, he qualified second fastest at Barber but couldn’t maintain the race pace, and of course, he will be fighting for the title to the last race. He’s got a little Mark Donohue in him with his focus, a little Michael Andretti with his ballsy passes and a little Lloyd Ruby with his dry sense of humor.
Q: I always appreciate your insight into IndyCar. I am curious, with a higher car count, if IndyCar has any plans to increase the number of teams that get Leaders Circle money at the end of the season? In my opinion, one of the great things about IndyCar is that smaller, less-funded teams can compete with the big teams. We saw last season what happened when Marco lost the Leaders Circle money, and I think that it could kill smaller teams if they lose out. I am optimistic to see car counts up, but I hope that it doesn’t just push out smaller teams.
Bryan Leonard, Greenfield, IN
RM: They didn’t lose any teams, but I suppose there could be a move to include 24 drivers instead of 22 someday. Mike Shank paid his dues, ran part-time and now he’s part of the full-timers club, but I don’t know that it’s kept anyone away from IndyCar. Hell, the car count this season is amazing considering the pandemic and pathetic purses.
Q: I am ecstatic that Santino Ferrucci is getting another shot at Indy. When he first came over to Coyne’s team I was annoyed, thinking Dale Coyne was returning to his rent-to-anyone-who-can-pay ways from the days of old. But wow, that kid showed some real talent. He appeared to leave behind the snooty antics he displayed overseas, grew up in a hurry and became a true class act. He provided thrills for us viewers, and even tickled P.T.’s fancy. I watched the Xfinity races he ran, and there was only one mention of him that I could remember. That was a waste of an opportunity on NASCAR’s part to pitch a crossover driver who has mad skills. A fledgling start-up team yielding mid-pack results is a rather impressive feat, in my opinion.
So, now he’s back… kinda. RLL must see something in him. IndyCar could benefit from him returning full-time. He needs to be in IndyCar and in a competitive ride. He has the talent, growing fanbase and seems like he has the respect of the paddock to be successful in IndyCar. My question: if Santino performs well at Indy and puts a smile on Rahal’s face, what are the odds of him getting another ride? A serious ride? I thought I heard Ganassi was scouting him, but Palou must bring more funding to the table.
Ken Pulliam, Naperville, IL
RM: I’m afraid Santino will simply get lost in that stock car vortex that seems to suck the life out of IndyCar drivers. He’s an open-wheel racer and a damn good one, and I’m sure RLL would run him full-time with enough sponsorship. That’s the conundrum of IndyCar racing — no matter how good you are, it usually seems like money is a necessity to keep going.
Q: With James Davison committing to NASCAR for the rest of 2021, do you think he’s done with driving IndyCar? If a quality ride were available, do you see him attempting the Indy 500 in the future?
RM: I have no idea, but if a David Byrd put a deal together for him to run Indy I’m sure he would.