The RACER Mailbag, April 27

The RACER Mailbag, April 27

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, April 27

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Q: After watching the three spins on pit lane exit at the Indy test and other cold weather/tire incidents over the years, why has the series never allowed tire warmers to be used? From my understanding, a set of tire warmers only runs $2000-$5000 so cost should not be a factor when safety is involved. What are your thoughts?

Tony, Atlanta

MP: The spins had nothing to do with tire temperature; we’d have seen 100 spins if that were the case. There’s lots of things that would make driving the cars easier that could be introduced. But I don’t hear basketball fans calling for changes to make shooting the ball easier for every player, or football fans wanting to make passing easier for all quarterbacks. Making driving the car easier for those who are less skilled at extracting maximum speed on cold tires seems like everything I wouldn’t want to see in IndyCar.

Q: So, I do realize this would never happen. And judging by the problems experienced by the not-at-all stock cars again last weekend, it’s probably a good thing this will never happen. But IndyCar used to race on dirt, so let’s do it again! But better!

How about a one-off, non-championship but big money purse race once a year. Build 20 tube-framed ’50s roadster-style cars with 300ish hp small block V8s up front, and have ’em battle it out for 25 lap qualifiers and a 50 lap feature. A tube frame car with a mildly-powered Chevy 350 or Ford 302 is probably the cheapest race car to build in the world. Teams can raid junkyards for replacement engines…

Do it as an invitational-type event and throw a few old-school Indy guys in there – kinda like how that superstar racing series did on the asphalt short tracks.

The best 10 or so current IndyCar drivers versus five current young dirt car up-and-comers and five “wild cards.” Toss in a couple of NASCAR guys too. Tony Stewart and Kyle Larson should absolutely be there.

But we need a sponsor. Who’s the biggest seller of potting soil? Think we can get a few million bucks from an organic manure company to put on the “Dave’s Dung Delivery 100” once a year?

Mike in s****y Tampa

MP: How could Tampa be s****y, Mike? My French Fry, Sebastien Bourdais, lives there! I love the idea. Since we’re going retro, I bet I could get the Pep Boys and Northern Lights to sponsor it. Smoke and Larson in junkyard roadsters? C’mon, they’d get their asses kicked by Parnelli.

Q: I flip open my laptop to find the second day of Indy testing is under rain delay. A few moments later I see the usual safety trucks running laps to dry the track. Isn’t there a better way? Given all the advancements in motorsport over the decades, it seems this archaic technique needs a serious upgrade. Is IndyCar looking into more efficient, faster and cleaner track drying technique? Maybe this would be a question to pose to STEM classrooms in finding a solution.

BTW, this will be my 25th. consecutive Indy 500. Had to puff out my chest a little.

Fred in Oregon

MP: So you’re saying sending Montoya out in a jet dryer is a bad idea?

We have the technology. Motorsport Images

Q: The state of Missouri is extremely lucky to have the USA’s newest road course in the amazing Ozarks International Raceway located near Lake of the Ozarks. Having been recently to a regional sports car event, we were amazed at this facility. Obviously they have more work ahead, but the infrastructure for major race weekends is apparent. Have you heard of anyone connected with IndyCar having spoken with or even touring this awesome road course yet? Would Indy cars have any problems with an undulating track that has over 1000+ feet of elevation changes per lap?

Rusty, Hollister, MO

MP: I’ve seen photos and sure hope to pay a visit at some point. I can’t say if or what its FIA circuit rating might be, but if it’s up to grade to hold an IndyCar event, and there’s money put up to pay the sanction fee and properly promote an event, I’m sure the series would listen.

Q: While watching the open test at the Speedway on Wednesday and Thursday I was reminded of never being able to find an Indianapolis speed chart that shows the complete field with tow speeds and no-tow speeds. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right place. I enjoy seeing who is genuinely fast and the ones just looking for headlines. Also, I think when they start doing full 30-lap test runs in May, those are clear indicators of who to watch for. I know these things are mentioned here and there, but I can’t find a source for all the info?

Dave in DE

MP: IndyCar started including NTR (No Tow Report) info on its live timing and scoring page, which can be found on its website. There’s definitely value in knowing where the driver stand on the no-tow side, but it really only applies to qualifying potential and solo running in the race which, as we know, is a rarity. It’s when you see a driver running in the top five in with a big tow lap and also have a top five no-tow where the real contenders emerge.

Q: After reading your article discussing IndyCar’s plans to extend the classic DW12 chassis to receive its Bar Mitzvah, the only thing that I could think of is that Roger Penske the team owner is looking purely at the near-term bottom line and neither the long-term bottom line nor the concerns that the drivers have voiced over its weight and aero issues. As Mike Hull pointed out when the new engine was being tested, the teams are going to have to spend at least $250,000 to update the DW12 to handle the hybrid, while a new chassis could be in the neighborhood of $400,000. Taking Mike’s math based on what CGR has (10 cars) how does “saving” $1.5 million in 2024 actually help the teams in the long run? CGR will end up spending $6.5 million to update the DW12 and then purchase the new DW2? which ends up being a 62.5% premium. To me, that math doesn’t line up to help the bottom line for these teams. Am I missing something?

Chris in Alexandria, VA

MP: There’s a lot of opposing things going on at the same time. We’re about to receive a cool and new higher-tech engine and ERS combination, but we’re stuffing it into the oldest active racing chassis in professional open-wheel. It’s like doing an amazing renovation inside a house, but leaving the old, rusty and dusty exterior alone. Conflict No. 1.

The call was made to spend a ton of money on developing these new engines, and they will certainly cost the teams more money, so there’s a willingness to spend on new things, but not when it comes to complementing the new motor with a new chassis that’s designed and optimized to handle the extra rearward weight. Conflict No. 2.

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