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: What are your thoughts on this engine for IndyCar?
MARSHALL PRUETT: I think it would have been an amazing solution when the old, low-buck and renegade American IndyCar Series was alive. It sure as heck wouldn’t work or fit in a modern Dallara DW12 or whatever the next chassis will be called. Beyond the issues with the size of the engine being too big for the small footprint the current V6 turbos fill, you have the OH-MY-LORD weight of 688 pounds to deal with.
Knowing how the DW12 is already too heavy and will be gaining more than 100 pounds with the new hybrid powerplant in 2023, this monstrous lump is 2.5 times the weight of the current 2.2-liter TTV6 motors and would shift the front/rear weight distribution to 1/99-percent.
Q: I am Frank Lehmann from Germany — a huge IndyCar fan. I have a question: Why don’t IndyCar use the GT3 engines? You would have a similar number of horsepower which are reliable and you have a damn lot of manufacturers…
MP: Same issue as mentioned above, with size and weight being the issue. We’re talking high-performance road car engines here. What makes an IndyCar perform at a high level is the lack of relative weight to prototypes and GT cars, so saddling an IndyCar with a brick of a GT3 motor would kill its ability to impress.
Q: What are some of the holiday traditions for race teams? Typically this is their off-season, so do they do anything special for the holidays?
Ryan in West Michigan
MP: It’s not uncommon for the owners of the bigger teams to host a dinner for everyone, and for the closer pit crews in the series, you’ll see some cool photos appear on Instagram of the crew chief from the No. X car having the rest of the men and women from the crew over for a feast and libations. You can get a feel for which crews are truly bonded and which ones are more distant based on whether they come together on the holidays.
My favorite memory in this area was from 1995 when I was invited for Thanksgiving by Michael and Jill Cannon. Our Genoa Racing Indy Lights team (former CART team and future IRL team, as well) was based in Novato, California, about 10 minutes away from Sonoma Raceway, and the Cannons had a little house not far from the shop. We always had a number of international crew members who didn’t have family to visit during the holidays, so Mike and Jill would invite someone like Pierre St. Gelais (from Quebec) or Lou Schollum (from New Zealand) to their home and make sure they weren’t sitting in their apartments alone and forgotten.
I’d lost my father about a month before Thanksgiving, who was the last of my family, and that day with the Cannons and Lou and whomever else was among the favorite holiday memories I have. The food was amazing, it was nice and warm, the smells were incredible, and I think we spent a good while playing Grand Prix I or II between drinks and inappropriate jokes. When we talk about sports teams being like families, I think back to that Thanksgiving with the Cannons as the prime example of how true it is.
Q: Before I get to my question, I’d like to correct some misinformation that appeared in recent Mailbag editions.
A few weeks ago someone complained about F1 only having two race winners. The reality is that for 2021 there were six; 2020, five; 2019, five; 2018, five; 2017, five; 2016, four; 2015, three; 2014, three;, 2013, five; 2012, eight; 2011, five.
There was also a complaint about no migration of racing technology from F1 to IndyCar. I guess they forgot about the Lotus development of ground effects.
As we know, the season-ending race at Abu Dhabi generated a massive amount of controversy. The only thing comparable here in the U.S. that I remember was the Unser/Andretti battle over who won the 1981 Indianapolis 500. Do any other events come to mind?
Don Hopings Cathedral City, CA
MP: Well it’s good to know the Mailbag has its own steward monitoring each week’s submissions and isn’t afraid to throw the black flag when necessary! Plenty of other migrations to add, with John Barnard’s semi-automatic Ferrari 649 gearbox from 1989 as a major innovation, albeit one that took a long time to be adopted here.
In 1981, it was indeed that year’s Indy 500. In the new millennium, it’s the 2002 Indy 500 where, nearly 20 years later, there are diehard fans who refuse to accept Helio Castroneves’ win as being legitimate and, as well, continue to hail Paul Tracy as the winner of the 2002 race. Time and distance has taken some of the sting away. More recently, it was the let’s-go-racing-in-the-rain decision by IndyCar in 2011 on the Loudon oval, which gifted the world Will Power’s double-bird meme.
If it’s possible to get three black eyes, that’s what IndyCar gave itself in 1981, 2002, and 2011.
Q: Hi Marshall. Thanks for giving such a detailed, long reply to my question on the F1 title decider– I really appreciate it and I want to apologize in case my question came across as negative about IndyCars (sorry, THE NTT INDYCAR SERIES!)
After sending my email straight after the F1 race on Sunday, when I said F1’s actions felt like “an IndyCar decision,”I later realized I should maybe have said “it felt like F1 trying to do what IndyCar would do.” I feel like they were trying to be entertaining – like IndyCar – but with the sole aim of getting any lap of racing in. But like you and Chris Medland, I think they made a complete mess of it, with too much indecision.
I’m a massive IndyCar fan and I think (or hope) you’re right, IndyCar would have anticipated that kind of scenario in advance and quickly made it a red. I also think that anyone put in Masi’s position, without Charlie Whiting’s hard-earned experience and respect, is likely to struggle.
Anyway, to end on a lighter note, I’ll ask a fun question which you can choose to ignore if you like:
HI MARSHALL, WHY DOES THE NTT INDYCAR SERIES INSIST WE HAVE TO SHOUT WHENEVER WE TALK ABOUT INDYCARS AND ITS TITLE SPONSOR?
Why can’t we just talk about it like normal people, and only shout the name of the title sponsor in the NTT Indycar Series?
I hope you and your loved ones have a great Christmas & festive season,
MP: THANKS, PAUL. Sorry, thanks, Paul. Yeah, it’s weird. So, NASCAR isn’t just an all-caps thing. It’s an acronym, stands for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. IMSA? International Motorsports Association. SCCA? Sports Car Club of America. What the heck does INDYCAR stand for, asks the person who works for RACER? What I want to know is what should INDYCAR stand for?
My suggestion: Indianapolis Needs Dixon, Yo, Cars Are Racing!
We await your submissions for the next Mailbag edition.