Q: Is there any news about Vasser Sullivan in IndyCar this year? Will they partner with Juncos or Carlin? Will they just sit this one out? It would be nice to have the Sealmaster entry back on the grid with a worthy shoe for ’22.
MP: What we recently wrote on RACER.com is the latest to offer on the subject. When there’s something new to add, I’ll file it within minutes.
Q: Have a couple of questions about the upcoming season and teams, as well as the Indy 500 in May.
There are still questions around the status of Carlin Racing, and possible second car from Juncos, or possibly co-entry for Juncos/Carlin. Also, Vasser Sullivan — will it have a co-entry this year now that it has parted ways with Coyne? Also, what is the status of the rumor of Foyt adding a third car?
I think there are already 32 cars confirmed for the Indy 500. Have you heard the status of Top Gun Racing entry, or the Cusick Motorsports entry, or if Vasser Sullivan does not run the whole season, will it co-enter a car for the 500? Any other teams that you have heard ?
I know that it is early in the season, but would be nice to get a potential car count, and see how it changes before the start of the season and the 500. I was hoping for 26-27 full-time cars for the season, and 36-37 for the Indy 500.
Rod B, Fresno, CA
MP: Already covered some of this ground, so for the rest, I connected Carlin, Juncos, and Vasser Sullivan together at Long Beach, and know VS has spoken with the Foyts. Still too early to say what all will come from the conversations that are still ongoing.
I wrote a silly season piece a few days ago, and I’d imagine the next one will delve into some of the Indy 500 options in the works. I can tell you that I have a lot of calls coming in each week from drivers and going out to drivers and teams regarding the 500, engine availability, car availability, and who’s going where, not going where, which rumor is true or false, and who will win one of the few remaining seats with the size of their wire transfer.
Q: Anything new on the Carlin front? I know most people look at the team as nothing more than a field-filler, but when Conor Daly drives for them they are always moving forward. They just look like a totally different team when he is behind the wheel. I often wonder what the team could do if he was in the car for a full season?
MP: For entirely valid reasons I’ll soon mention, there’s a reason I’ve held off on reporting anything definitive to follow up the original story on Juncos and Carlin engaging with each other ahead of the 2022 season.
Q: The mention of the American IndyCar Series in last week’s Mailbag caught my eye. Combining an IndyCar with a NASCAR stock block seems like the most American way to go racing. Was it any good, or was it just a glorified club series? I know Bill Tempero put a lot of effort into it and it gave the likes of Johnny and Robby Unser and Buddy Lazier their first IndyCar racing experiences. Ken Petrie, Rick Sutherland and Kevin Whitesides also made their mark. I’ve got a set of 1991 AIS trading cards, and there’s some great shots on Dan Wildhirt’s website from 1993 when it was arguably at its peak. Some of those old Marches and Lolas look very well-prepared, some don’t.
There’s also some footage on the internet of the Moosehead Grand Prix in Halifax, Nova Scotia and a wild race on a very basic-looking street circuit in Mexico resembling the Paris race sequences in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. Didn’t USAC still allow big stock block V8s at Indy right up until The Split? Dan Gurney seemed to love that combination with his Eagles. Could you imagine an AIS warrior trying to sneak in? Was there even a notion that the Indy Racing League would bring it in under their control to be a feeder series?
Keep up the good work.
MP: The AIS was a semi-pro league which had, as you’d expect, a few good teams and drivers, and a whole bunch of Average Joes. In 1980s football parlance, the AIS was the USFL to CART’s NFL; technically, they were both American, and both IndyCar series, but that’s right about where the similarities ended.
And that’s not meant to be mean towards those who were involved in the AIS, but it was a low-buck and low-tech series that made it possible for a few young talents to break through to CART and the IRL while allowing a lot of decent drivers to sample some sufficiently cool machinery. I remember one AIS car would pop up at local SCCA club races — an old Longhorn chassis with a Chevy V8 wedged in there — and it was pretty cool. Made a lot of noise and went like hell in a straight line. Pretty useless in the corners, but still cool.
I don’t recall the IRL ever considering the AIS for anything; it wasn’t even a blip on the pro racing radar.