Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for Marshall Pruett or any of RACER’s other writers can be sent to email@example.com. Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for style or clarity.
Q: IndyCar has to bring back Chicagoland.
MARSHALL PRUETT: I mean, you’re not wrong, Jan. And let’s not stop there.
Also, bring back the Apron, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Gene Simmons, Fontana, Ontario, Ken Hamilton and the Eagle Aviation Chevy, Brazil, Cosworth DFXs, Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, Cedric The Entertainer, the Hanford Device, Jason Priestley, the Hut 100, the Freedom 100, Baltimore, Willow Springs, David Hasselhoff, Qingdao, Trenton, Mexico, mechanical pop-off valves, Nazareth, bias-ply tires, and the Panoz DP01.
Q: We see every kind of electronic online gaming at the college sports level, but never motorsports. Why?
On another related subject in motorsports engineering… not all engineering schools with mechanical engineering degree programs can afford the $1m Indy Lights Autonomous Challenge car and have a chance to compete. But why not an F4 car, and give many more colleges and a real competitive chance for more young men and women to use their skills as a team to learn engineering, computer technology, and so many other skills that racing can provide? More schools, more competition, more coverage on TV and more money in more states, and eventually a national competition. That would be the better approach, maybe?
MP: I like to think I can answer many things about motor racing, Jim, but answering why Esports and motorsports has not taken off at the university level seems like something where I’d need to take a few months off work, travel throughout the country, perform hundreds of campus interviews, and then publish a book on my findings to properly answer a question that you, nor I, can provide at the moment. I do, however, appreciate your faith in the Mailbag.
On the second question, which I can answer without a leave of absence, IndyCar and IMS have no affiliation with the F4 series or its car maker. But Dallara, and its Dallara USA base, which is less than a mile away from the IndyCar/IMS offices, is definitely a known partner to trust with autonomous Lights cars lapping the big oval. And for what it’s worth, the Lights car wasn’t the crazy-expensive part; it was all of the autonomous tech. Going to an F4 car would reduce the cost, but not enough to double or triple the field size.
Q: I don’t know the best way of getting this suggestion to IndyCar’s ears, but I hope this is it.
When IndyCar and NBC announced the whole season starting in 2022 would be live streamed on Peacock, one of the perks that was specifically mentioned was that fans at the track could see the TV feed on mobile devices. While this is great, it causes fans to have to switch constantly between the Peacock app and the IndyCar app for timing and scoring. Something that would make for the best solution is to allow fans to enter their Peacock account into the IndyCar app and view the Peacock feed over the live timing and scoring, which would make it a true one-stop shop for fans.
I don’t know if four months is enough lead time to implement this, but I wanted to get the idea out there.
Victor, New Haven, CT
MP: Interesting idea, Victor, and as you figured, this isn’t happening now. But what I do hope will happen is for IndyCar and NBC to make damn sure the graphics package for all future races takes a step out of the 2000s and follows F1’s approach by turning the screen into a powerful timing and scoring resource so that you and all the other fans have no need to frequently switch back and forth between the Peacock app and IndyCar app to know what the hell is happening.
Q: One thing I think would be cool, considering the importance that the crew plays in the overall performance of the racing car in any given race, would be to have the crew members’ names listed on the car like they used to do back in the day.
Who can I see about that?
Doug Garrison, Senoia, GA
MP: That is a delightful throwback suggestion that deserves serious consideration by the series. If they can require all manner of logos and graphics to be placed on every car in the same places, why not add a box in a visible area where all the men and women who make the cars function are listed by name?
Q: Very sorry about Robin Miller. I really enjoyed his work both on television and in print. He is and will be missed.
Is there a chance that you could talk to the powers that be about the IndyCar website? It’s terribly outdated in style and content. It looks like a first-year web design student takes care of it. I do, however, really enjoy the RACER website. Usually very up to date and informative.
Barry, Fort Wayne, IN
MP: Thanks for the kind note about RACER, Barry, and for the thoughts about our man Miller. Just as Coke doesn’t send over notes to Pepsi on how to improve its formula, I’m not sure we’re the right ones to urge other websites to improve their product.
(And at this rate, we also might need to start a separate ‘Can you talk to __________ for me?’ Mailbag, or just ask someone to develop an IndyCar Tinder app to connect passionate answer- or change-seeking fans with the right problem solver at the series.)
Q: If Roger Penske is able to procure a third engine manufacturer (such as Ferrari, Porsche, Toyota, or Kia), who determines what teams or drivers receive these new, untested race engines?
What’s the process to spread these new engines around for 33-plus Indianapolis 500 entries and the full-timers in the IndyCar Series?
Roger Hancock, Gilbert, AZ
MP: Totally free market here, Roger, so if a team is at the end of its contract with Chevy or Honda and wants to go with MFG X, it’s between them and the new manufacturer to do a deal, assuming the manufacturer wants to do business with that team. Other than setting a cap on the annual lease prices, today’s IndyCar does not get overly involved in the business side, unless it’s the Indy 500 and a few underdogs ask for help with finalizing deals.
When a third manufacturer joins on, trust me, there will be no lack of testing. Just as we saw in 2012 when teams got their new Chevy, Honda, or Lotus powerplants, pre-season testing will reveal plenty about who’s got the goods and who’s headed back to the drawing board. (I also don’t expect to see another Lotus-like situation again in my lifetime.)
Although there’s no word as to when a third will sign on, I can guarantee you that two excellent organizations like Chevy Racing and Honda Performance Development have already game-planned which teams they’ll fight to keep and which teams they’ll encourage to look elsewhere for an engine partner.
That’s the fun (and occasionally dramatic) part of this process. Right now, the field is always something close to a 50-50 split. Add in a third manufacturer, and the two who’ve been here forever can cut bait with some of the lower achievers without fear of repercussion from the series. At the same time, a third manufacturer will certainly need to sweeten the pot if it wants to take one of the big IndyCar teams away from Chevy or Honda. Otherwise, it might only have second- and third-tier teams to rock with, and that would be a giant waste of time and money.