The RACER Mailbag, January 12

The RACER Mailbag, January 12

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, January 12

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Q: I was looking through past race results on the official IndyCar website and noticed that the results only go back to 1996, only showing IRL results and neglecting to include any of the CART results. At this point, shouldn’t IndyCar officially embrace both sides of “split-era” IndyCar racing and highlight the results from both CART and the IRL? I know they upload classic CART races onto their YouTube channel, which is great, but it’s a little strange that they haven’t updated their official website to include this historical information, which is vital to the sport. 

Pedro from Miami

MP: Yes. Yes. And yes, Pedro, but this is nothing new, unfortunately. As I was told, when the IndyCar Series bought Champ Car, there was almost no effort to preserve and integrate CART/Champ Car’s history.

Want photos of the 1989 Mid-Ohio CART race won by Teo Fabi in the Porsche Motorsport March 89P — the only win for Porsche in IndyCar? Reach out to shooters from back in the day like Dan R. Boyd, or Cheryl Anderson, or Paul Webb and see if they can help you, because those assets, along with press releases and all the other items that CART/Champ Car kept, weren’t blended into the IRL/IndyCar Series’ archives. It was a problem long before Roger Penske bought everything off the Hulman family, and I’m not sure how or if it will ever get resolved.

Q: In what areas could IndyCar or Dallara reduce the costs of competing? I’ve been around long enough to understand that racing, at its highest levels, will never be inexpensive, but trimming expenses would certainly be prudent in light of the new diversity initiatives and the lingering problem of “IndyCar Veteran A” or “Road to Indy Star B” having silly levels of talent only to lose their ride because they couldn’t bring money. Certainly, increasing revenue through series sponsorships and TV contracts is also greatly needed.

Steve in Zionsville, IN

MP: Two things here to cover: The series, as a product, needs to increase in value before teams can ask sponsors for more money. The main value metric they use continues to be Nielsen rating figures, which measures how many people watch each race. The ratings have been good — good, rather than great — and while the audience size has grown each year in recent years, we’re still not talking about a giant number.

That’s where having 14 of IndyCar’s 17 races on big NBC should have an immediate effect on growing the series’ footprint by reaching more viewers, and with more viewers and better Nielsen numbers, teams can ask for more money in 2023 and beyond.

The second item is an interrelated dynamic of testing and personnel. There’s not much meat left on the DW12’s bones to carve for savings, and IndyCar has tried to trim budgets by drastically reducing track testing, but since teams are hyper competitive, they’ve circumvented the problem by hiring more engineers – the ones that aren’t cheap to hire – and investing heavily in the hardware and software to do offtrack testing. Plus the addition of a lot more vehicle dynamics testing systems with 7-post shaker rigs, etc.

So, as one would expect, when a racing series tells its teams, “Hey, you can no longer do this thing here.” Teams respond under their breath by saying, “OK, then we’ll do it over there.” One IndyCar team manager told me earlier this week that will all the investments in extra engineers and offtrack testing, they think it might actually be cheaper to go back to the old and freer on-track testing regulations.

Q: I was at the Molson Indy Montreal race in 2005. Local hotshoe Andrew Ranger, driving for Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, smacked one of the walls around the Gilles Villeneuve track pretty hard in practice and the low-dough team didn’t have the spares to repair it! Knowing Ranger’s fans in Quebec wouldn’t be able to see him on the grid for his home race, Mr. Kalkhoven, owner of the PKV team, bought what was needed to ensure the fabled No 27 car was in the race on Sunday! True gentleman and Champ Car savior! 

Yanie Porlier

MP: Kevin had two very strong sides that people saw. On the business side, he was known as someone you don’t take lightly or mess with. And then you had a guy who was relentlessly charitable. The Andrew Ranger story — and boy, I wish he had more/better opportunities beyond Champ Car — seems like it falls right in the middle, with Kevin wanting to make sure his series delivered for a homegrown star while also being committed to helping a kid who deserved it.

I hate the feeling I have that Kalkhoven didn’t receive all of the respect and praise he was due while he was alive.

Thanks to some help from Kevin Kalkhoven, some spare PKV bits found their way onto Andrew Ranger’s Mi-Jack Conquest car at Montreal so that he could race in front of a home crowd in 2005. Motorsport Images

Q: Robin would’ve snarled about this (below), but I don’t care. We in the iRacing community will miss him and I just wanted to pay my respects in the virtual world.  

Tony Obrohta

MP: Miller snarled about a lot of things; that was part of his charm. Buying him a few things for Christmas was an annual joy since I knew whatever I’d ordered was the equivalent of a gift grenade.

If the books shipped on Monday, the pin was pulled and I knew I was days away from a phone call that always went something like, “YOU ***DAMN ********ER, IF YOU EVER BUY ME ANOTHER GIFT, I’M GOING TO **** ON YOUR ****.” Followed by, “Thanks MP, but you really don’t need to buy an old man like me any gift. Take your wife out for a nice steak dinner instead.” Then I’d curse at him, tell him to deal with it, and that routine went on for years. So, the point being, he’d love it but tell you he hated it.

Thumbs-up on the rear wing end plate tribute,  but if you really want to pay tribute to Miller, let’s see an iRacing DW12 wearing the livery from one of the cars he worked on, like Jim Hurtubise’s Mallard.

Q: I’d like to know that is there any news on Spencer Pigot’s plan for the 2022 racing season (especially for the Rolex 24)? His social media seems to be silent since the end of last year, and he’s too a good racer to be left on the sidelines. 

Mitsuki Matsuura, Kanagawa, Japan

MP: I reached out to Spencer and here’s what he said: “Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find anything yet. I’ve contacted tons of [IMSA] teams but everyone was either full or needed funding. Still looking.”

Q: This could be a nice memory lane question for you, or a complete dud if I got the team wrong.

If I remember correctly, you worked for Hogan Racing in the late ’90s right? If so, did you ever have any interactions with a mechanic who worked there at the same time by the name of Andy Brass? As I understand, he was a fabricator, and also worked over the wall as one of the fuelers during the race weekends.

Reason I ask is that before his time at Hogan, he was a hell of a Monster Truck driver, driving the Bigfoot truck to many championships over the years (See link below).  Many (including me) consider him to be one of the best Monster Truck drivers to ever get behind the wheel. I was a massive fan of his back then, and was blown away to learn that his career took him to the CART paddock in the late ’90s. A fascinating “six degrees” type factoid that connects two of my favorite things; Indy cars and Monster Trucks. Just wondering if you knew him or had any interactions or fun stories in general from your time at Hogan. 


P.S. Here’s a link about Andy’s Bigfoot exploits.

Kevin from Houston   

MP: Great letter, and I was just an engineering assistant at Hogan, but did have fun getting my hands dirty when asked to pitch in when our motors went kerblammo. My memory is a bit fuzzy from back then, but my old pal Matt Swan, who started with Andy at Hogan in 1997, has a few tales to spin. Here are the ones that won’t get us in trouble:

“A more printable one was the story about when they went from show to show and Andy changed rod bearings in Bigfoot (inside the trailer) while his partner drove the hauler!

“He met Michael Waltrip (before Waltrip was a big name) and Michael asked Andy how much he made on his trading card sales. Andy was like, ‘What? You get royalties?’ Apparently Bigfoot founder Bob Chandler was a bit cheap. 

Andy was almost in the movie Roadhouse with Bigfoot. But then Chandler inserted himself in the movie for a cameo instead of Andy… He moved to Oregon to work for his father- in-law after Hogan shut down.”