The RACER Mailbag, April 13

The RACER Mailbag, April 13

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, April 13


Q: We never seem to hear about Little Al Unser anymore. Can you give us an update? Has he completely divorced himself from IMS and IndyCar? Has Patricio O’Ward’s career been highly influenced by Adrian Fernandez or Michele Garza?

Tom Fitzgerald, CPA

MP: We don’t? He’s been in the news and on a lot of media outlets for the last six months with the publishing of his new autobiography, which is an excellent read (and like his Uncle Bobby’s autobiography, don’t judge it by the level of truthiness…). Adrian had some involvement with Pato but I’ve never heard him mention Michele Garza, nor do I know who that is. Josele Garza, possibly, the former IndyCar driver from Mexico?

Q: What is the deal with the scraggly starts? Does IndyCar want those starts? Long Beach was horrid, and not interesting at all.

DJ Odom, Anderson, IN

MP: “Scraggly starts” is my new favorite description for an untidy beginning to a motor race. I don’t know if IndyCar wants them, but the starter has the opportunity to wave off the starts and chose not to, so maybe that’s the answer.

Q: This weekend’s pole time at the Long Beach Grand Prix was a shocking 1m05.3095s that shattered the previous pole record by two seconds. And during the race in the final laps the leaders were doing laps in the 1m07s range, which was the previous pole speed. Where are these speed gains coming from? And is it possible to believe that when the hybrids arrive along with the new chassis (not holding my breath after listening to Jay Frye’s comments) that the pole speeds at Long Beach could reach sub-1min?

By the way, I was there at Long Beach and let me tell you there was more people, more excitement and it reminded me of the CART days when Alex Zanardi came from behind and passed Bryan Herta on the final laps and the fans went loud and crazy! When Romain passed Palou and was almost going to pass Newgarden the fans went wild!

Josue Cano, Oxnard, CA

MP: That was the question drivers were asking all weekend: Where’s the crazy new speed coming from? The best answers I could get involved a ton of rubber being put down from all the different series running at the event, plus a new sealant that was applied in some areas and quality tires from Firestone.

Each new horsepower that’s coming in 2024 is being almost match with one new pound of weight, so the concern — if you’re looking forward to insane lap speeds — is the added weight will cancel out the added power.

The “Drive To Survive” effect is still going for GRO, more than a year after his last F1 race. He’s IndyCar’s most popular driver, and I even watched McLaren CEO Zak Brown, who was at Long Beach to oversee the Arrow McLaren SP team and drive his vintage Jaguar IMSA GTP car, pose for an endless number of photos with fans who know him from watching DTS.

Honestly, it was a bit strange: At the front of the grid for the last GTP race was Patrick Long, 20-year Porsche factory driver, a Le Mans winner, champion, and one of the best to race sports cars, piloting a Porsche 962, and I counted two people who wanted to take a picture. I walked down to where Zak’s car was to turn on my GoPros in the Jag, and there was a legitimate crowd that formed around him, all to get a glimpse and maybe a picture with the now-famous F1 team principal from DTS. Between Pat and Zak, Long should have been mobbed by fans, but Lord, DTS has made stars out of its participants in ways that are hard to fully process.

Q: On TV, what Scott McLaughlin and Simon Pagenaud did looked pretty reckless — getting spun and then driving towards oncoming traffic. Will the series let that stuff go or will there be punishment? Maybe it looked worse on TV as well.


MP: I have no idea what Simon was thinking because there was no room to spin the car without climbing up onto the flower bed, and for Scott, I didn’t see anything there that a dozen other drivers in the various Long Beach races didn’t do before him.

McLaughlin was one of many during the Long Beach weekend who found themselves facing the wrong way. Motorsport Images

Q: Since every year there is a struggle to get 33 starters at Indy, why don’t they lower the starters to 24 or 27 and get Bump Day really interesting again? Saturday will be pole day like before, and Sunday is bump day. No Fast 9, no b.s. The traditions have all gone out the windows anyways with the one weekend of qualifying and Fast 9, etc. Who cares about the 33 if they are just going to get one car miles off the pace like in the past?

Alex Bassi, Templeton, CA

MARSHALL PRUETT: We had 35 entries last year, 33 the year before, 36 in 2019, 35 in 2018, and 33 in 2017. Racing has never been about giving up when things get tough, so I can’t see why we’d give up on keeping the field of 33 tradition at America’s defining motor race.

Q: I have a brilliant (dumb) idea. I remember back when a home team couldn’t sell out all the seats; the sport wouldn’t air on TV. Then local businesses, the TV station, the team, or the league would sometimes buy out the seats to ensure the broadcast.

So here it is: Indy can’t run till they field 33 cars. Maybe that would hustle along entries.

Shawn, MD

MP: You get a lifetime bronze garage badge for that idea, Shawn. This problem would be solved tomorrow if that policy was enacted.

Q: Have missed something? Is the Beth Paretta/Simona De Silvestro largely female Indy 500 entry now in jeopardy? These things are always down to money and I cannot see why the cachet of an all-woman entry wouldn’t be appealing to select sponsors, or how such an entry wouldn’t in some way be assisted and supported by the Penske organization. What gives?

A. Jenkins, Ontario, Canada

MP: They aren’t always down to money. RACER’s most recent Indy 500 entry list update story has plenty on the subject if you’re interested.

Q: We know that F1 requires tracks to be at an FIA Grade 1 to hold a race. Is there a minimum FIA rating that IndyCar uses for tracks to be at in order to host a race?

Michael in Brownsburg

MP: Here’s IndyCar’s answer: “INDYCAR has additional requirements ranging from safety needs on pit lane to runoff areas, etc., but the minimum rating is a FIA Grade 2.”

Q: Refresh my memory, please. Is any portion of the Vegas street circuit the same as that used by the Champ Car event from 2007?

Dave in Eagledale

MP: They are a little way apart – here’s a map.

MX-5 Cup | Watkins Glen – Round 8