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: JR Hildebrand was on the competitor list last year for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, but had to withdraw. He is entered again this year, with a DW12 listed as his car. Is he going to really run an IndyCar at the Peak? Is IndyCar involved in this effort at all? Is this a serious shot at a fast time, or an exhibition to promote IndyCar?
MP: Here’s what Mr. Hildebrand told us:
“Yes, it’s definitely a serious commitment. No, IndyCar as the series is concerned is not involved. It’s not a PR activity on their behalf, although they have allowed us to pursue it. Otherwise, all of the IndyCar suppliers are involved in it, and basically, the trouble we had last year and we’re way ahead of this year is, IndyCar as a sanctioning body and their supplier agreements are about using the car to go IndyCar racing. Pikes Peak is outside of that, but we have a dedicated chassis for it, and there’s a shout-out to Dallara for their help in pursuing this in a way that doesn’t get in the way of other teams hunting down what they need to race in IndyCar. We’re taking this very seriously. We’re not just trying to go for a cruise up the mountain.”
Q: While overall I enjoyed the 24 Hours of Full Course Caution – I mean Daytona – next time I complain about the length of an IndyCar caution, I have instructed my best friend to hit me in the head with a tack-hammer.
I decided to try Peacock Premium so I could watch the whole thing without chasing it on different channels. I figured it’d be a good dry run to work out any technological issues on my end. I really enjoyed the commercial-free experience. The commentators stopped talking whenever the regular broadcast cut to commercial, but you still got the ambient audio of the track/cars, and the cameras still followed the cars around, too. If that’s what we have in store for us for IndyCar races on Peacock, that alone is worth $5/month to me.
Dylan Burgett, Villa Park, IL
MP: The folks at NBC Sports intend to do the same thing on Peacock that you enjoyed from the Rolex 24 but, and this is the key thing, only during practices, qualifying sessions, and during the Indy Lights races. Those productions are 100 percent for Peacock. When it comes to live streaming the IndyCar races on Peacock, those will be the full NBC/USA Channel TV broadcasts that are copied to play on Peacock.
That means whatever’s on the TV is being sent down the line for the stream, and that includes commercials and whatever else they choose to air. If it’s a side-by-side commercial, or if they cut from the action to show you a personality feature, or if it’s a regular block of full-size commercials, Peacock’s streamed IndyCar races will be an exact mirror of what’s on the big screen.
Q: I watched the Daytona 24 coverage on NBC and Peacock. It was good coverage overall, but gave little attention to GTD. Other than showing the leading Porsche and the No. 19 car which kept going off, little was mentioned of the other finishers. RACER also had separate articles on all the classes but GTD on Monday. I am sure that these teams hope that by running up front, they will get some airtime for their sponsors. It was a good race overall with good battles up till the finish. FYI, Spectrum is offering one year of free Peacock to its subscribers.
MP: One of the constant challenges at the Rolex 24 is to have all classes covered to a similar degree. I’m not saying it’s a challenge because it’s hard to do so. It isn’t. But you aren’t going to have an equal amount of compelling content to show. LMP3, for example, was barely a race, since the winner had a lap over the P3 field for most of the event. But you’re right on GTD; it definitely deserved more coverage. All the auto manufacturers contribute to the annual TV coverage budget, so I wonder if having both GTD Pro and GTD for the first time made it easier to showcase GTD Pro more often and give the manufacturers there a feeling that they were getting what they paid for.
Q: I just received an email from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway saying they are getting ready to send out this year’s tickets. In the email, they are asking $150 for the bronze badge (now $135). Do you know if Roger is planning to raise ticket prices for next year’s race?
MP: I’m sure I could ask, and I’d expect to get an answer that didn’t answer much since we’re talking about a race that’s 15 months away. But I would fear for the Speedway if they started doing price increases every year, because all I’ve ever heard from fans is that once it starts feeling like they’re being bled dry to drive up bigger profits, it’s game over.
Q: As we get ready for the new IndyCar season, could you review how the points are determined throughout each race as well as the championship? It seems a bit difficult to follow. Of course points are awarded for podiums, but I’m also aware they are awarded for other things such as leading laps and pole positions. Can you share some of that with us so that we can follow the season a little better?
MP: Every driver who starts a race earns points. 50 to win, 40 for second, 35 for third, 32 for fourth, and then it’s a reduction by two points per position until you reach 10th-place (20 points). From 11th to 25th, it’s a reduction by a single point, so 11th is worth 19 and 25th delivers five points. From 25th on down, it’s all the same minimum of five points.
And outside of the position-based awarding of points, the series also offers single bonus points for earning the pole and leading a lap, and two points for leading the most laps. A perfect weekend for the race winner who got pole, led a lap and the most laps is 54 points.
The one outlier is the Indy 500, which pays double points and also awards qualifying points. We’ve seen instances where a driver who was having a decent but unremarkable season coming into Indy go on and win the 500 and vault themselves into title contention as a result of those double points. At the same time, a streaking driver who also wins Indy could make it really hard to be overtaken in the standings if they avoid calamities after May.