The RACER Mailbag, March 23

The RACER Mailbag, March 23

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, March 23

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Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to 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 length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.

Q: I’m returning to the 500 this year after a several-year absence. In the past there was a shuttle from the airport to the track on race day. I’ve been searching the internet trying to find information for this year’s race, and all I can find is, “Not Offered in 2021”; nothing about 2022.

Evan Weisfeldt, Cape Canaveral, FL

MARSHALL PRUETT: IMS was checking into this on your behalf, Evan, and in the meantime, I might suggest calling the IND airport and making a directly inquiry.

Q: Very nice piece on Vic Elford, one of my favorites when I first took an interest in the sport in the early 1970s. He always seemed to be a great competitor and graceful gentleman. A thoroughly likable character.

I know that through the 1970s it was normal for drivers to race in multiple series, but Elford was one of the few I remember who did rallying extensively. I know Kimi Raikkonen tried it for one year when he was in F1 purgatory, but were there other notable drivers of Elford’s generation who were top rally drivers?

Steven Meckna, Long Beach, CA

MP: Not that I can think of in terms of serious accomplishments like Vic, who won a European Rallying championship and remained active in rallying for three decades. It’s not the same thing, but I do think of a Parnelli Jones and his efforts in offroad racing at Baja in a similar vein; he raced everything within reach and like Vic, loved leaving the ovals and road courses behind for a proper romp on unstable terrain.

Q: I have noticed that the stock car guys seem to be struggling with the single lug nut. If I understand correctly, some of the issues come from the direction of turning the lug nut to loosen or tighten it (clockwise vs. counterclockwise) on opposite sides of the car. I don’t recall IndyCar guys having this issue, so do the lug nuts on IndyCars use the same system on opposite sides of the car as the Cup cars do? If IndyCars use this system, why don’t they seem to have a problem?

As an aside, back in the day, I remember that Chrysler vehicles used right-hand thread and left-hand thread lug nuts on opposite sides of their vehicles. This caused some issues with folks who did not realize why some lug nuts would not tighten.

Paul in AZ

MP: The wheel nuts tighten to the rear on an IndyCar so the rotational forces of the wheel act to maintain the torque that’s been applied. I know this to be true because after our Genoa Racing Indy Lights team finished the 1996 season and moved up to the Indy Racing League, we dissembled the Dallara IR97 we bought from A.J. Foyt Racing and reassembled it for our first test at Phoenix and mistakenly swapped the front stub axles. A few laps into the car’s shakedown run, our driver Greg Ray — the bravest of the brave — radioed in to say there was something weird going on with the front wheels. He pitted, we shook the front wheels, and noticed the slack between the wheels and nuts…we’d flipped them side to side and even at three-quarter speed, the forces started to spin each nut off the stub axles…

Lesson learned in maybe three laps, we got to work on fixing the matter and never made that error again. As for why Cup teams might be having issues, it’s a radical change for them. I don’t expect it to be an issue for long.

“Ah, crap. I think the lug nut rolled under the car.” Rusty Jarrett/Motorsport Images

Q: Could you explain what an FP1 is? I understand it stands for Free Practice 1, and is used in Formula 1. But what is it exactly, and why am I seeing it referenced in IndyCar?

Joe, Chicago

MP: Hi, Joe. It is used in F1. And sports cars. And all kinds of other series. So, not just F1. It denotes the unstructured nature of the session — aka “free” — compared to those with specific goals such as qualifying or pre-race warmup. And you’re seeing it referenced in IndyCar because… I choose to use it and you choose to read my reports?

Q: I’m confused about PJ1 and traction issues for IndyCar at Texas. Being darker in color, resulting in higher track temperatures, wouldn’t that give the tires more grip? I know in cold weather (think the Indy 500, 1992) the tires have less grip.

Where is the fine line between low and high track temperatures related to traction?

Bill, Cincy

MP: Lots of variables here with the time of day the race has been run, but in general, a mismatch in grip between the left side tires and the rights is never a good thing. Despite the track temperature difference, there’s also the difference in rubber that’s been put down on the bottom lane (a lot) and the amount on the second PJ1 lane (a little).

Q: Does Texas Motor Speedway put down the PJ1 every year, or was it just a one-time application? In other words, did they just make one mistake that can’t be undone or have they been continuing to undermine their IndyCar show year after year?


MP: Multiple years and willingly and knowingly undermining the IndyCar show year after year to appease NASCAR’s demand for it to be applied before its events at TMS.