Q: Why didn’t the No. 55 Mazda get a penalty for running into the No. 4 Corvette and taking it out of the IMSA Petit Le Mans race? I thought that DPI cars were held to the “No Avoidable Contact” standard regarding passing cars in the slower classes. Can you shed a light on the decision making in this instance?
MP: The “no avoidable contact” thing isn’t really a thing these days, and as I understand it from a judging standpoint, the Corvette was more middle of the road than on the racing line, it’s believed the Mazda was expecting the Corvette to return to the racing line and not stay in the middle as it way trying to zoom by, and there was the incident that followed. If the Corvette wasn’t off the line, I’m guessing IMSA would have dinged the Mazda.
Q: We have seen eye-popping fines in F1, IndyCar and NASCAR. Who actually pays them, where do they go and who decides where they go?
MP: There’s nine potential answers here, and that’s more of a feature story than a Mailbag response, so I’ll take IndyCar. It depends on the situation, obviously. If a driver is fined, they might pay it or the team might pay it. If it’s a crew fine, like leaving your visor open during refueling, it’s usually the team that covers the bill. IndyCar sends the team an invoice for the fine to be paid directly to the series. The money goes into IndyCar’s bank account.
Q: Any updates on why the Christmas light display at the Brickyard isn’t happening anymore? We really enjoyed it.
MP: IMS president Doug Boles was kind enough to send along a thoughtful response:
“Thanks for passing along Jason’s question. We, too, enjoyed having people out at IMS for Lights at the Brickyard. It was a great way to engage families and fans in a special time of the year at a special place.
However, as we have gotten busier and busier with on-track activities (especially this year – we were flat-out Sept – end of Oct), our only time in a season to do any track maintenance or investments that cannot be done overnight is November/December. We cannot really plan on doing anything in the spring because we do not know when winter really will end, and any significant rainy period eliminates the ability to do much asphalt or concrete work. So … Lights has had to take a break.
Set up for LATBY needs to begin in earnest in mid-October in order to be ready by Thanksgiving, so that impacts it even more.
And, finally, asking our staff to work 45+ straight days until 10/11 pm at night (including Thanksgiving and Christmas) was also not fair to our team members who get little time off during the year.
Q: Thinking back to John from Ohio’s question in the Nov. 17 Mailbag around how Kirkwood will do at Foyt; without kicking the Foyt team when it is down (because even though he is in his 80s, you can’t run from A.J., Marshall), can you point to where some of the problems lie in engineering? Obviously a lack of budget, but is there a single place it could improve to show results?
I recall way back when PT got sidelined after Forsythe bailed when the Spilt was resolved, that Paul had agreed to drive for Foyt after a dismal one-off (Milwaukee ’09). Anyway, the car didn’t even have a functioning weight jacker. A.J. didn’t take Paul up on the offer to drive for the team because A.J. said they weren’t capable of giving him a car fit for his talent. But Taku won in Long Beach and was second in Brazil at the start of 2013 before the team dropped like a rock again. What was the key to that brief flash of brilliance the team showed in early 2013? It is painful to see an iconic owner have a struggling team. Are there any potential partnerships that could give the team a leg up in the engineering department? Do they have a shaker rig or a shock program?
MP: I’d put it down to the rather fluid state of things since ABC Supply left, as they’ve not had the luxury of going into the next season(s) with all of their sponsorship in place early, which is what allows significant spending on off-season engineering R&D projects. If you aren’t sure where your money’s coming from, or who’s driving for you, it’s hard to commit hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to a mystery.
The other area of hardship has been frequent engineering turnover. Technical director Mike Colliver – also one of the team’s strong race engineers – is stepping back, and as previously mentioned, Justin Taylor was one-and-done as the No. 14’s engineer after receiving a better offer from Ferrari. Of those who remain, there’s some engineering talent left at the team, but it’s hard to gain ground when you’re starting over every year or two, all while the Ganassis and Penskes and Andrettis aren’t.
Consistency and stability with high-caliber staff wins races and championships. Constantly changing players, coaching staff, and the playbook does not.
In light of the vacancies, the team needs to surround Kirkwood with some engineering badasses if they want to make the most of the opportunity. I went back and looked, and Kyle’s easily the biggest rookie talent they’ve had since Davy Jones in 1987 and Bryan Herta in 1994. That’s how big of a deal Kirkwood is for the Foyt team. But can they attract those engineering badasses to turn Kyle into a contender? Stay tuned.