Q: In the hopes of not sounding like the president of Santino’s fan club, c’mon, someone pick that kid up already! Felix is a great driver but man, could you imagine seeing Santino paired up with Pato and watching those two young hard chargers competing for the top spot? They would amazing to watch. I haven’t rallied as hard for a driver who deserves a spot since the days of P.T.
Being a couple years younger than Tracy, I identified and rooted for him as the young underdog with something to prove. NBC made the right choice in keeping in the booth. Hopefully since you’ve been away from the in-person action you’re not losing your whispers in the paddock and your contacts are keeping up with you. Any rumors about keeping that kid in the game? Is Rahal able to put something together? Or how about the big boys… AMSP, Ganassi, etc? There’s gotta be something after another solid showing in the 500.
Ken P., Naperville, IL
RM: I think Santino’s father had a two-year plan to back his son, let him get established and then get hired but it didn’t happen – owners still expect money and it doesn’t appear he’s got much, but glad to see he’s running again this weekend at Detroit for RLL.
Q: When Team Penske went back to the 500 for a one-off, the government at the time limited cigarette sponsorship to one or the other series and Penske ended up going IRL. Do you think that was pivotal in the open-wheel war, or was the conclusion inevitable anyway?
RM: The Captain was coming back, hell or high water, especially after Montoya won for Chip, and Indy gave Marlboro its best bang for the buck anyway.
Q: Does the Borg-Warner Trophy contain all 105 winners of the 500? Are any of the older winners faces removed to make room for the latest winners, or is another part added to the trophy? And do all of the winning cars go into the Speedway Museum?
Rich Shiroky, Toms River, NJ
RM: From Steve Shunck, who handles the publicity for Borg-Warner: “Every winning Indy 500 driver from 1911 to 2020 is on the Borg-Warner Trophy; none have been removed. Winners from 1911 to 1986 are on the original trophy and winners from 1987 to 2020 are on the large sterling silver base added under the original trophy, along with Tony Hulman, who is the only “gold” face on the trophy. There are enough spaces to accommodate and keep adding new winner’s images until 2034. Sculptor William Behrends will soon begin work on Helio’s 2021 winning image and it will be unveiled by the end of the year.”
Q: I see that John Oreovicz has written a book on The Split and you did the forward to the book. I was curious to know if I should buy it? I also came across an old episode of Wind Tunnel with you and Ed Hinton, and my goodness, you two were priceless. I loved when Ed said he has tried to defend you but you won’t defend yourself, and he was going to let you plead guilty and he executed. How is Ed doing? I would love to hear his thoughts on Penske buying IMS.
RM: If you want to learn the insides and outs of what nearly killed open-wheel racing, I would buy it – and I did. Haven’t talked to Eddie in a long time but he was always one of my favorite writers.
Q: Japanese media has a tendency to blame the team when Takuma is struggling and to praise only Takuma, not the team, when he’s doing well. And it’s the case again after the 500 this year. I’m badly disgusted with their attitudes, to say the least. They said “Takuma was forced to go for the ‘passive’ strategy.” However, I think even if Takuma pitted as same as the majority of guys like Santino did, he’d have finished around where Santino finished – sixth or worse. I do believe if you have a chance to win the 500, you should go for it, so I’m really in favor of what the RLL guys did. If anything, if Takuma pitted as much as the other guys and finished sixth or whatever, I’d have wondered, “Why they did such an inactive strategy?”
What do you think of Takuma’s (and Felix of AMSP’s) strategy? Is it passive, or worth trying? It’s all hindsight though.
Last but not least, I appreciate taking a photo with me during the 500 in 2018. I’ve been cheering you from the Far East.
Mitsuki Matsuura, Kanagawa, Japan
RM: Without talking to anyone on his team it’s purely a guess, but when you have three cars sometimes it’s smart to go with three strategies, and it’s all been working well for Sato at RLL over the past couple years. I never think of Takuma as “passive” so I’d want to ask him directly.
Q: This 500 certainly bodes well for the next TV contract, I would say. I really thought NBC hit a home run. P.T. and Jimmie Johnson were spot-on with their analysis, Mike Tirico was his usual good self, even Danica was good and Jack Collinsworth was sold on his experience in Indianapolis, the Night Before the 500 and on race day. The pre-race felt like 1968 or 1969 when I was watching the TV coverage. It felt vibrant and electric. NBC would be fools not to extend.
My prediction is, NBC stays on board for another three to five years, nine to 10 races on the network and the others on the Peacock streaming service. Then the series takes off with these young guns we saw racing for position on race day, and more corporate sponsors come to IndyCar and a new host of fans for future generations. I am 64 and cannot wait to take my 9-year-old son to his first 500 in 2022. We already have tickets.
Greg L., Westminster, MD
RM: One good rating in five years doesn’t guarantee anything, but as long as IMS doesn’t get greedy and ask for more money, I think NBC stays on. IndyCar better hope it does, because CBS or FOX would pale in comparison to the exposure NBC has given them.