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 published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for style or clarity.
Q: Let’s pretend TGBB was the steward at Jeddah last weekend. How would have Robin reacted?
MARSHALL PRUETT: You delightful anarchist, Jamie… Extra points for you with the excellent callback of “The Great Brian Barnhart.” Seemed like Miller angrily wrote about “TGBB” at least once a week when Brian was in charge of the IRL/IndyCar or the boss in race control.
Robin wasn’t much for modern F1, and really couldn’t stand constant bitching and moaning by drivers or team leaders in any series. I suspect it would have left him cursing at the screen on Sunday and a post-race phone call at least 60 minutes in length to curse out Hamilton, Verstappen, Horner, Wolff and race director Michael Masi with ninja-like precision.
After that, he probably would have penned an opinion column that torched F1, praised IndyCar, but also noted how IndyCar lacks anything close to the passionate rivalries between F1 teams and drivers that has every F1 fan fully engaged. Miller, as we’ll always remember, was the practitioner of “Hate is good” when it comes to racing needing rivalries. The Saudi GP was a total ****show, but wow, what I wouldn’t give for IndyCar to generate 10 percent of that heat among its fans.
Q: Marshall, I was wondering if you could expand on your NHRA career? What team, who was crew chief and driver? I was flabbergasted when I read that you worked in the series. I read RACER daily, but having nitromethane flowing through my veins makes me a minority.
Bob the Nitro Fiend
MP: It was a brief thing in 2003 or 2004, with the factory Subaru ESX Motorsports team in the former NHRA Sports Compact Series. Through a friend I hired as a weekend tire changer with our TKM/Genoa Racing IRL team, I was connected to ESX, which was in dire need of team management and overall organization at the NHRA events. The driver was team owner Ali Afshar, and the crew chief was Australia’s Jamie Montesalvo.
Afshar was winning everything in one of the lower, production-based Sport Compact classes with a 2000hp WRX STi and had grown bored, so he got Subaru to fund the build of an all-wheel-drive STi Funny Car! I think it was in the 2500-3000hp range. It was an overly ambitious thing that didn’t work well, and caused a lot of stress on the relationship with the factory. I knew nothing about drag racing, but it was a blast to learn on the fly and attempt to bring some structure to the team. We’d do more together, building a World Challenge GT WRX STi on pennies that did a race or two and some 25-hour endurance races.
Funny story: I hadn’t seen Montesalvo in forever, had no reason to expect to see him again, and while at a bar at Surfers Paradise – a block or two away from the final corner – with Leigh Diffey and Mick Doohan (that blew my mind, BTW) during the 2012 or 2013 Gold Coast 600 Australian Supercars event, in walks Jamie! Had no clue he wasn’t with ESX in Los Angeles, much less back home in Australia, and yet, there he was, halfway around the world, and at the same random bar Diffey had chosen for some beers and yarns.
Q: Any truth to the rumor that F1 is going to two-seaters next year so that the team lawyers can ride along in the race? I have never heard so much bitching and whining from drivers as during this F1 season. Whether it’s track limits, blocking, tactics or yellow flag pace, Hamilton, Verstappen and company are an embarrassment. As more F2/F1 drivers find their way into IndyCar, what can be done to ensure that they leave their F1 mindset behind?
Bill Carsey, North Omsted, OH
MP: We started to see it last season, especially in qualifying when seemingly every team was firing messages into IndyCar race control to cry about blocking. I recently told IndyCar president Jay Frye I’d like to see the series’ open-door messaging policy in this area change. Maybe follow what the NFL, NBA, and MLB have done with giving teams one or two “challenges” per game.
In our case, give teams two SMS messages to race control per entry each weekend. Or model it off Chris Rock’s routine about curbing gun violence by charging $5000 per bullet. Swipe your credit card, approve the $5000 transaction to IndyCar, and then the SMS window opens up to send the message to race director Kyle Novak and co.
It’s a culture thing. If IndyCar chooses to allow teams and drivers to complain at every opportunity, it’s on them to change the behavior or accept it and deal with the miserable ramifications. I hope they’ve been watching the last handful of F1 races to see how much fun it isn’t.
Q: I am by no means a follower of NASCAR, but when I read that they are looking to have a race at the Nashville Fairgrounds, along with bringing back North Wilkesboro and Rockingham, it made me think of the Iowa Speedway.
Ever since NASCAR purchased this track, Iowans have been wishing for a Cup date. However, with NASCAR possibly adding these additional events, one must wonder if this is a nail in Iowa Speedway’s coffin? I don’t believe that facility can survive with just an IndyCar race and an ARCA race. Unless of course, The Captain saves it.
Pat Rizk, The Woodlands, TX
MP: I don’t know if I have a ton to offer here, but I do know NASCAR has been very strapped for cash since reacquiring ISC. With that in mind, I can’t imagine NASCAR can afford to keep Iowa Speedway sitting on its books as a yearly income drain, so if it isn’t going to send some of its money-making series there to turn a profit, I’d guess the track will be sold off once a buyer believes the terms are favorable. Penske Entertainment has an interesting lease deal where it runs all aspects of the upcoming IndyCar events there, but clearly, something more sustainable to keep the track safe and strong when IndyCar isn’t there is necessary.