The RACER Mailbag, April 27

The RACER Mailbag, April 27

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, April 27

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Q: Even if Paretta’s team isn’t contesting the Indy 500 in 2022, it would be nice to see Simona De Silvestro race the 500, maybe with another team. Maybe Simona (or Ed Carpenter) could find another sponsor for Simona for the 500. Perhaps Fuzzy’s Vodka might be interested in returning?

The Indy 500 needs enough participants to continue the bumping tradition, and with Ed’s team, Simona is likely to survive the bump.

Also, is the pit stop competition still planned for 2022?

Bill in CA

MP: If sponsors wanted to spend $1 million for Simona to race in the Indy 500, I’m sure they’d have written the checks. Yes, Carb Day will have the pit stop competition.

Q: Many, many years ago, during the time when many people raced what they brung at Indy car races, I remember car owners coming up into the packed grandstands at Milwaukee and looking for pit crew members. I think the pay was a T-shirt and maybe some beer after the race. My father did not think that was a good idea. Maybe the 33rd car at Indy could find a crew that way!

Mike in Phoenix

MP: You were raised by a smart man, Mike.

Q: I have noticed that Scott Dixon has his car set up at Indy so that his steering wheel is aimed to the right (one o’clock) on the straightaways so that he doesn’t turn it as much to the left in the corners. I take it he does this in order to have less speed scrubbed off in the corners. As he is consistently at the top of the speed chart, it seems it works. It doesn’t seem other drivers have their steering set up so aggressively. Why wouldn’t they try replicating Dixon’s setup?

Andrew H., Chicago

MP: Every driver has their preference. Dixie’s teammate Alex Palou has his preference, and he nearly won the Indy 500 on his second try. Helio has his, and he’s done OK at the Speedway. Same with Takuma Sato, etc. I wouldn’t attach Scott’s excellence at Indy with a specific steering wheel angle setting.

When you consider that Dixon likes the No.9 to handle like a sprint car, it’s probably not a surprise that other drivers have second thoughts about borrowing his setup for Indy. Jake Galstad/Lumen

Q: I can’t help but feel that Will Power, Colton Herta and IndyCar in general narrowly avoided catastrophe last Wednesday. We all know what happened at Lausitz 21 years ago and the mere notion of it occurring again scarcely bears thinking about. I know it “shouldn’t happen” and the cold weather, plus the sealant put down created unique conditions for the drivers to handle, but unexpected situations are exactly where the advances in safety are put to the test. Wheels work their way loose and people make mistakes on cold tires, in short the unexpected is always uncomfortably present. As is ever in motorsport.

But Power’s incident made me think: why isn’t there a wall separating the warm-up lane and the track? I understand at places like Texas, Fontana or Michigan, where the cars come out on the apron adjacent to the track, an inside wall would not be feasible, but at Indy the cars are a fair way from the track and the pit wall could be extended to follow the contours of the warm-up lane. I’m sure there is a valid reason for this and obviously hindsight is 20-20, but I thought of no better authority than yourself to put this question to!

Will Brown from Cambridge, UK (A city globally famous for being where Callum Ilott is from).

MP: Callum Ilott, then some school or something, I believe, in that order! I had a similar thought for a moment about whether an inner wall to separate the exit and entry lanes from the corners. Other than citing tradition of the corners being open, there’s no reason I can come up with the prevent it from happening, with the exception of frequency. It’s such a rare occurrence, so is it worth changing big section of the track in the off chance we have a Zanardi-like situation? I’m a numbers guy. There’s a ton of things we could change to ensure something doesn’t happen every 20 years. But is that worth the effort, or do we accept there are high risks that rarely become a reality?

Q: What is the identity of Indy Lights? It has been strange to see drivers like Matt Brahbam (2022) and Max Chilton (2015) racing Indy Lights. Do you think a consolidation of Road to Indy would save it? None of the feeder series have over 16 in the field. Would it be worth consolidating it by having one car with various restrictors, running multi-classed like Star Mazda/Atlantic series long ago, or IndyCar owning the cars and renting them out?

Paul Hirsch, Westlake, OH

MP: No, I do not think there’s a significant problem that warrants consolidating the RTI. Penske’s first crack at improving Indy Lights has gone well — not amazing, but well — and I expect it to continue to improve in 2023. We’re living in a time where the global and domestic economies are anything but solid and steady. Discretionary funds for sons and daughters to play race car are tight. I’m not worried about the RTI.

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