Q: I love reading your retro and Tough Guy articles. One thing in the excellent Fiore/Zimmerman piece jumped out at me: “ran all day on one set of tires and finished eighth.” I’ve read that Foyt completed the race on one set of tires in ’64 and Mario was forced to run the entire ’69 race without changing the right rear. But how common was that, and when was the last time someone completed the race, let alone won it, without changing tires?
RM: I have no clue, but I imagine the mid ’70s would have been the latest for anyone not changing tires. Unless you only had one set, like my pal Jerry Sneva at Trenton. He spun, flat-spotted all four tires and was told that’s all they had when he came into the pits. He went back out and drove on those rocks until the right-front suspension broke. I think it was 1975 or ’76.
Q: What is the peak horsepower for the Chevy and Honda? What is the maximum variation from one Chevy engine to another Chevy engine? Also, same question for Honda engines.
William, Evansville, IN
RM: I’m told it’s around 550hp in practice/race boost at IMS, and knocking on the door of 700hp which the boost is turned up for Fast Friday and qualifying (also road and street courses). After nearly 10 years with the same engine, there’s little or no variation from one engine to the next. Both manufacturers expect these numbers to go up significantly with the new hybrid engine in 2023.
Q: I miss the call of “Gentlemen, start your engines….” The prose was not so elegant when Janet Guthrie qualified, but in other races, if all the qualified drivers are male, wouldn’t it be nice to give the more traditional command?
Marcus Erickson, Snohomish, WA
RM: If there are no female drivers in the race you could go back to Gentlemen, but it’s not gonna fly most Mays.
Q: Love reading the Mailbag and appreciate your insight and everything you do.
The month of May is certainly a special time to be an IndyCar fan, and since for me the glory days were the turn of the century when CART was in its heyday, I always find myself thinking about what it would have been like seeing Greg Moore at Indy. He was so fast and aggressive at almost everywhere that CART ran, and if I remember correctly he had just signed to race for The Captain for the 2000 season. It seemed like all the stars were aligning for him to become one of the all-time greats when we lost him.
I eventually became a big Dario fan and I know that he and Greg were great friends, and Dario had pretty good success at Indy. So my question is, do you believe he could of had the same success at Indy as Dario, or even Helio – since I believe that’s who Penske signed for 2000? Or was his aggressive style not suited to a place like the Speedway? Would love to hear your thoughts.
Ron, Dayton, OH
RM: Ponder this: Helio wasn’t close to being the oval-track driver that Greg was at that time, and there is no doubt he would have been a multi-Indy winner. Do yourself a favor and watch his pass on Zanardi at Brazil in 1999, or when he won Michigan on the last lap, or his wins at Milwaukee and Homestead – and that wasn’t even with the best engine.
Q: NBC couldn’t find a veteran IndyCar engineer for the TV coverage? I’m sure Mr. Letarte is a very nice man, but his ignorance of IndyCar technical issues gets tired fast. Paul Tracy gives far more valuable info about how the car works than Letarte does. Its kind of strange that Indy 500 coverage features a NASCAR champion driver and crew chief, just like over on the other channel’s NASCAR coverage. Next year they should just pair Tracy with a retired IndyCar engineer. NASCAR guys don’t move the dial at the Indy 500.
Steven Kent, Boston
RM: NBC has full-timers like Steve, Marty Snider, Kelly Stavast and Dave Burns, and while NASCAR is their primary beat, they have five months while FOX hosts Cup with not much to do so it was decided to use them on IndyCar. Kevin Lee and Dillon Welch resume more of an active role when NASCAR starts, but the trend in network racing is to only use a couple pit reporters except for a big event like Indianapolis. And I don’t know of any out-of-work IndyCar engineers that are TV ready.
Q: I hope you can answer a question that came to me as I watched the weekend’s events. Drivers often struggle hearing questions from pit lane reporters when there is activity on the track. Has NBC ever considered outfitting reporters with an extra headset to hand drivers for such interviews? Seems like it would end the wasted time of repeating unheard questions, and might even provide a better/closer microphone that improves sound quality for viewers, too. A quick disinfecting wipe between interviews could solve any hygiene concerns.
Brad Cloud, Missoula, MT
RM: I imagine if you were going to sit down for five minutes with a driver it might make sense, but for just asking a couple quick questions, can’t see it happening. Not a bad idea though.
Q: We all absolutely love the chemistry between the current NBCSN team and especially enjoy the banter between Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. But after several years of hearing it and taking it in each weekend, I have to ask a question I’m sure others have thought about. When was the last broadcast where Paul Tracy didn’t say something to the effect of, “Oh no, that might get him a penalty” and/or “Race control might have to take a look at that”? It has to have been a long, long time. If ever.
We all love PT, and we know over the years he’s probably had portions of the rule book thrown at him the rest of us didn’t even know existed. He’s our resident penalty expert because, well, he’s PT. That being said, every race broadcast, I wait for him to mention something about someone getting a penalty. It’s almost like “PT” is starting to mean “Penalty Time.” Am I wrong?
Matt Dernick, Tomball, TX
RM: Not sure where that came from, because PT is the original “let ’em race” guy and it goes against his very grain. Stirring up a little controversy is likely the end game.
Q: I think NBC really screwed up by broadcasting on the network at the time they did. All the first runs were done at that point and there wasn’t any drama to build up. I know it’s a matter of scheduling, but still, I think they missed the boat. I’m a native Hoosier (but living in Texas). Even though I don’t live in Indiana, I still was disappointed when Indiana chose to go to Eastern Time years ago. Why didn’t the Speedway adjust the hours so that practice/qualifications ended at 7:00 p.m. instead of 6:00 p.m.? There’s still the same amount of daylight at 7 p.m. on Eastern time as there would have been at 6 p.m. on (non-observed Central) time.
If it was extended to 7:00, we would truly have the same Happy Hour conditions as there were years ago. I know it’s been this way for a few years now, but why was it decided to end qualifications at 5:50 p.m. instead of 6:00 as it had been in years’ past? Was this network driven so they could wrap up before the top of the hour?
Bobby Whitmore, Flower Mound, TX
RM: When network leaves you a hole, you take it. Happy Hour hasn’t mattered in years, so why make the mechanics’ day even longer? Yes to your last question.