The RACER Mailbag, February 2

The RACER Mailbag, February 2

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, February 2

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Q: Will Ryan Hunter-Reay be chosen to drive the ovals at A.J. Foyt Racing in the No. 11 that Tatiana Calderon does not want to run? He would be exactly what his young teammates need! Does he want the seat? Would he need to bring money? Is he on the short list at Foyt? There isn’t much time remaining before St. Petersburg.

Mark Zac, Long Beach, CA

MP: If RHR wants to drive that car, I’m sure he’ll be in it. The question is, after the team was highly uncompetitive at last year’s Indy 500 and failed to qualify with one of its cars, whether the 2014 Indy 500 winner would want to be in the team’s third car on the ovals. If there’s a strong engineering group attached to the No. 11 Chevy and he can be guaranteed it will be just as capable of succeeding as any other Chevy-powered car in the field, I bet he’d consider an offer.

Q: My Mailbag reading cup. Thanks for keeping it going, but I sure do miss him.

Matt from Lansing

MP: Thanks, Matt. I have a few of those saved in our cupboard. I have the same thought about Robin on a regular basis as well. Maybe one of these days the messages will evolve from “Thanks, but” to “Thanks, and.”

Q: Hey Marshall and Chris, I wanted to ask a follow-up question to Marshall’s response in the January 19 Mailbag about Formula 1 passing with race control, commentators, and fans via social media adjudicating each pass and it’s turned itself into an uncontrollable virus that is nauseating.

Do you think part of the issue is around these drivers relates to properly learning the race craft? I say that because it seems with these younger drivers in both IndyCar and F1 that they don’t how to make passes properly, set up for a pass/repass, or have respect for the veterans. It just seems like their mindset is, “I’m just going to shove it into a corner so deep that the corner is mine and I’m ahead; so what that I pushed you wide, the corner was mine and you have to ‘respect’ that.” Is there any way to fix it, or are we just stuck with this crappy driving?

Keep up the good work with the Mailbag.

Chris Damato

MP: I can’t say I agree with the premise you’ve offered, Chris. Every generation of new drivers I’ve seen since I started following the sport has become more aggressive than the last. I can say the same about all of the stick and ball sports I follow, as well. If the top cops in F1 or IndyCar want to police driving standards at a harsher level, they’re certainly empowered to do so. It did feel like F1 lost control of its series more often that was comfortable last year, but that can be fixed quite easily with clear expectations and penalties outlined in every drivers meeting. I don’t recall feeling IndyCar lost control of its series. Also, there’s no single and accepted way to pass. It’s constantly evolving, just like throwing, shooting, hitting, running, kicking, punching, or catching in every other sport.

CHRIS MEDLAND: I think we actually see some great racing from younger drivers and I admire their tenacity, but if you feel there’s an issue then I’d say in F1, it actually would stem from a desire to allow more robust racing like in IndyCar, because it was something the F1 paddock felt was over-regulated. But the problem for me is inconsistency. Some moves go unpunished and others are heavily penalized, when they were very similar moves. It’s true Max Verstappen appeared to get away with a lot, but then he would always keep doing what he was allowed to, and the blame if it was crossing the line shouldn’t be aimed at the driver but at the stewards.

The best example I have is Charles Leclerc in Austria in 2019 — he felt Verstappen went too far overtaking him late for the win, but the stewards explained why it was acceptable and in the next race at Silverstone the two had an epic battle pushing to those new limits. They’re talented enough to respond to the rules they’re given, so if it needs fixing it will come from what the rulemakers say they’re allowed to do.

Q: Maybe it is me, but if an American kid shines in IndyCar, F1 interest is muted or doubtful. But if a kid from say, Spain, does well, he gets a lot of attention and maybe a test/ride the American kid never gets. Is it training, sponsorship or something else? I am talking to you, Bernie.    

David Fahey

CM: I’d disagree with that one, David! I think if you look at Colton Herta’s near-move last year, there’s a recognition that young American drivers should get a shot in F1 too. It’s more about the doors that are open to them in terms of their teams. But really, we haven’t seen any IndyCar drivers make the crossover for a long time, regardless of nationality.

Sponsorship would certainly play a part, but for example Pato O’Ward is more heavily touted than Alex Palou because of his McLaren place, even though Palou took the title. Another issue is for American drivers it would be a big move away from home to chase an F1 seat, but some other European drivers have strong roots to return to that maybe lead to more opportunities and a stronger desire to return.

Logan Sargeant from Spain Florida puts the Williams through its paces in testing at Abu Dhabi last year. Take that, um… Bernie. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Q: Wondering at the lack of NASCAR drivers in this year’s Rolex 24. As I recall, last year there were several NASCAR drivers; this year there were none. What is the reason for this?


KELLY CRANDALL: I think there are few reasons. First, you need to consider the amount of time needed to commit to the Rolex 24 — this off-season is one of the busiest NASCAR teams and drivers have had because of the Next Gen car. There have been multiple test sessions, and teams are wearing out simulators and every other resource to prepare for a new car and new season. So that needs to be the priority for drivers.

Second, I imagine there are plenty of drivers from across the motorsports landscape who want to run the Rolex 24 and that means tough decisions for teams when it comes to giving themselves the best line-up to chase a victory. And that leads to the third thing in another way of tough decisions. I think teams need to weigh whether they want to put a NASCAR driver in the line-up when they are there to win and might have a better chance with a more experienced line-up. It’s not to say NASCAR drivers can’t help get the job done, but they aren’t going to be as experienced or perhaps as fast as those who run sports cars or other road racing-based series for a living.

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, February 5, 2014

Q: You have mentioned a desire to see Wayne Taylor Racing in IndyCar some day. Whatever happened to the possibility of Michael Shank starting a team? I recall that he did not want to accept a Lotus engine, and Chevy and Honda couldn’t commit. Still, that team is a class act, and it seems it should be courted and encouraged to join the IndyCar series. We need increased car count. Is this another case of IndyCar shooting itself in the foot (again)?

Bill P., WI

ROBIN MILLER: I suppose because he didn’t have all his ducks in a row at the start of 2012, Shank wasn’t able to secure an engine deal with Honda or GM. But he had a car and IndyCar should have made sure he at least had the opportunity to run Indianapolis. Shank is exactly what IndyCar needs — new owners with passion for open-wheel — but he certainly didn’t get much encouragement or help. Looking back, I think Randy Bernard wishes he’d have handled that situation better.