Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s 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: Does it get any better than watching this Meyer Shank Racing team just put their head down and win? They look like they have a lot of fun doing it as well.
MARSHALL PRUETT: No, Rick, It does not! Shank is every one of us, living the dream we’ve had for as long as we’ve loved racing. Along with Bryan Herta, Shank’s the realest team owner you’ll meet; a total next-door neighbor type who can’t wait for the weekends to open up the grill and barbeque for friends and family in the backyard and crack open a few (OK, a lot) of his favorite beer and celebrate life.
No disrespect to the other team owners to trek around the globe in their private jets and eat at five-star restaurants for breakfast, but I’m more at home with a blue-collar type like Shank who just wants to crank his Van Halen records up to 11 and play air guitar until he passes out.
Q: Hello! First time sending in a Mailbag question. Kind of exciting. With the Super Bowl airing on NBC this year (can’t be sure whether the NBC connection will necessarily matter), do we know if IndyCar will have a commercial spot for either the series, the 500, or the season opening race in St. Pete?
Bryant in Indianapolis
MARSHALL PRUETT: Thanks for joining 20-plus years of Mailbag contributors, Bryant! I asked IndyCar, but didn’t get a reply before we went to press.
Q: Thanks for taking my question in the Mailbag and thanks for pointing me to last week’s Mailbag. I did see that post, but wasn’t clear on one detail (and am still not clear on it) — specifically, the ads. I should have stated my question more clearly.
Peacock offers a “Plus” tier that they advertise to be “ad-free” with a little asterisk next to it. Has NBC or IndyCar said whether or not race streams with the “Plus” (or even “Premium” for the matter) subscription will in fact be ad-free?
Q: I haven’t written the Mailbag since Robin passed. Loved him. My kind of guy. Classy dresser, and lover of the finest in State Fair cuisine.
I’ll make my question quick. What can we do to convince NBC/Peacock to cover the Indianapolis 500 like they are doing with the Daytona 24 Hour? I have attended 44 Indy 500 races, but unfortunately am not able to travel to Indianapolis to attend these days. I hate missing huge chunks of the race due to commercials. I understand business and commerce, but would gladly pay twice the Peacock price for non-stop coverage.
Jim from Phoenix
MP: I asked NBC, and here’s the reply: “As it relates to practices, qualifying, and Indy Lights, yes, what you saw on the Rolex with the ambient sights and sounds is what you’ll have for IndyCar. As it relates to race coverage, those will be simulcasts of the races airing on TV and will still have ads.”
Q: I consider myself a serious IndyCar enthusiast and quite familiar with its history back to the very start of this fantastic sport. I’m no Donald Davidson, but I know enough. At least, I thought I did. A while back I ran into a documentary (streaming) on PBS titled For Gold and Glory. It chronicles the formation of an Indy-type racing league and the premier race for black drivers who were prohibited from participating in the open-wheel series for white drivers. Much focus is placed upon Mr. Charlie Wiggins, who built and raced his own creations.
I had no idea – not being a baseball fan, even I have heard of the Negro Leagues. But being a hard-core Indy, and racing fan in general, I had never heard of this league, nor any of the captivating history of this race. I encourage all Indy 500/open-wheel fans to find and watch this fascinating documentary of a time long gone. These men were true racers, and it makes me sad to think of what might have been. Had Charlie Wiggins been given the same opportunities and had access to the same resources, IndyCar history might laud his name along with the likes of Offenhauser, Bignotti, Meyer, Foyt and similar luminaries.
Bill P., Wautoma, WI
MP: The book it’s based on by Todd Gould is well worth buying, and if you haven’t seen it, the great Pat Sullivan penned an excellent book on Joie Ray which is both readily available and inexpensive. I bought a few last year as gifts for friends.
Q: I’m sure I am not the only one who is delighted that Robert Wickens kicked off his return to racing with a third in the TCR category in the first race of the 2022 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. Do you have any read on whether or not his ultimate goal is to return to IndyCar in a modified car with the same kind of hand controls as he has for his car in this series at some point, or has he ruled that out?
I know that IndyCar is introducing its new hybrid engines for 2023, and have heard 2024 at earliest for a new chassis. While the DW12 has produced some high-quality racing, it’s not exactly the sexiest of cars to look at – especially with the 2015 kits. I’m glad it looks like a late ’90s vehicle now. Do you know anything about the design and what it might look like yet, or is it too far down the road for that? While the ship has long sailed, I think IndyCar made a mistake by making Dallara the exclusive chassis back in 2012. I wish they had approved the Lola, Swift and others except for the DeltaWing for more variety, but understand one chassis cuts a lot of costs for teams.
MP: Robert’s told me on numerous occasions that he’d be racing in IndyCar right now if someone was willing to come forward with a budget to develop the custom hand controls he’d need to fit in a smaller DW12 cockpit. I’ve also asked IndyCar president Jay Frye about whether the series would allow Robby to race with hand controls, and he said he was open to the topic, but would obviously want to see the system and what extricating himself in the event of an accident would look like.
I hear what you’re saying on Dallara, and having worked on a million Swifts in the junior formulas and a Lola in CART, I wish they all received a green light to build cars — including the DeltaWing. But, the market always weeds out the less successful, and I have no doubt that within a year or two, it would have been a single-make series, with the only exception being if one of the less favored models showed an advantage on a certain type of track. Although my heart cries for the CART-era variety, my head knows Dallara was the right choice at the time.