Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for Marshall Pruett or any of RACER’s other writers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t guarantee that every letter will be printed, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for style or clarity.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The response to the news that we were reviving a version of the weekly Mailbag made famous by our much-missed friend and colleague Robin Miller was enormous — and so was the volume of questions that we received for this inaugural edition. We’ve saved all of the questions that we didn’t manage to get to this time around, and will answer as many of them as we can next week.
Q: Best first question for Mailbag post-Robin Miller era! What if they start the race at one track, and finish it at the other track? Think they could get enough folks at both tracks on consecutive days to justify the effort? And it could be a hellava pit stop! Stop car, crew loads it on flatbed tow truck, tow trucks race to pit exit, then follow each other to other track, where they line up till pit entrance opens, rush to pit, unload car, fire it off, off they go for finish! I suppose the fuel rig and tires should be transported with car! Maybe it will bring fans to Milwaukee and Cleveland! Call it the Robin Miller 1000, including the tow truck travel!
MARSHALL PRUETT: Make that the Pain In The Ass 1000, Johnnie. Which, now that I think about it, would be the perfect thing to piss off Miller. The idea of settling into one track, doing half the race, and then moving the party to an entirely different track far away sounds like a wonderful idea for an iRacing event, because I can’t think of any promoter that would sign up to earn half the money.
Now, what I would love to see is for IndyCar to strike a deal with Road Atlanta, settle in for a good, long two-hour race on that crazy-fast road course, throw the checkered flag, and have drivers motor across the two-lane Highway 53 and roll into the little 0.375-mile bullring Lanier Speedway oval adjacent to Road Atlanta.
We’d call it the Robin Miller Powered by Pepsi 250. No setup changes, just a switch from road course to oval tires, and fire the field off — in reverse finishing order from Road Atlanta — for 250 laps. I mean, if we’re going to go crazy, let’s at least keep it within walking distance…
Q: When will the LED panels on IndyCars return?
MP: In the spirit of silliness that it was asked, I’m proud to report the new Dallara IndyCar chassis, due in 2024 or so, will be made entirely from LED panels. The whole car will be like one big Lite Brite.
Q: It has been obvious for a while that the engineering team and mechanics at Meyer Shank were getting the job done, as were the full-time and part-time drivers. But the race strategy during the events has varied from mundane to bizarre.
What has Mr. Shank got planned for this off-season to upgrade the positions on the pit wall timing stand to make this team a race winner instead of a race mystery? They seemingly have the cars. Now they have proven winners in both cars with a wealth of knowledge to share (especially with Pagenaud). So now what? Can you — or Mike — shed some light on this?
P.S. I really, really am rooting for Mike to succeed!
Royal M. Richardson
MP: Royal, all I can say is watch your tone with Mike Shank:
“It’s always easy to be the rock star after the race. Across both of our IMSA and IndyCar programs there have been tough calls this year that did not work out. BTW if we are not running great on any given day, we will ALWAYS go for a risky strategy. P18 really does nothing for anyone. There are considerations that the fans will never know about happening in the background in both series. We’re constantly rethinking our strategy as the race goes on and the unexpected happens.
“Oh, and one more thing: This team that does mystery strategies won the Indy 500, Rolex 24 overall, Petit Le Mans overall, Watkins Glen 6 Hour, and two IMSA championships, but who’s counting?” – Mike Shank
Q: Aside from the ECR test, are there any potential suitors for Ryan Hunter-Reay’s talents?
MP: I know Juncos Hollinger Racing has some interest in RHR if a second car comes together and the budget is found to pair Callum Ilott with a veteran during his rookie season, and there was at least one strong voice within the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team that wanted him in the third car that ultimately went to Christian Lundgaard. I’ve also heard the Foyt team could be open to RHR being in the No. 14, but like the JHR situation, it’s all about getting that $6-8 million budget secured before a driver like RHR — or any driver — would be signed.
The big questions to solve here for ECR and RHR is whether the Air Force will return, and whether a new deal with the Air Force is tied to Conor Daly driving the car. Once we get those items answered, we’ll know whether one of the popular American drivers will be sharing the No. 20 Chevy with Ed. If the Air Force doesn’t return, the stampede will be on to find a budgeted driver to fill the road and street course void.
Q: I welcome The Mailbag with open arms! What are the chances of Santino finding a ride?
MP: Right now, Ferrucci’s chances appear to be slim. RLL co-owner Mike Lanigan was a big fan and wanted him to take the third seat, but with Renault/Alpine rumored to be sending $3-$3.5 million along with Lundgaard, that’s a lot of money to turn down. It’s the team owner’s dream to have a guy like Lundgaard who is extremely fast and brings a happy sponsor who wants to support the team with real money.
Makes it tough for someone like Santino, who was once rumored to have about $2 million to bring, but going into 2022, and provided he can still get his hands on that kind of money, it’s not enough to step into one of the open seats that need anywhere from half to a full budget. Outside of RLL, it’s hard to see where he might land in IndyCar with a regular drive. But someone smart will sign him up for the Indy 500.