Q: This year, to get pole at the Indy 500, a driver has to risk it all three separate times; Regular qualifying, Fast 12, then Fast 6. Genius! Maybe the good folks at the NFL will see the upped-entertainment light and institute a multiple-round Super Bowl; a 12-quarter extravaganza, played over two days, with the teams contesting the final hour naked. Think of the drama, the ratings! Oh, you want a question… It wasn’t broke. Why fix Indy qualifying?
A. Jenkins, Ontario, Canada
MP: I’m concerned that out of spite for your letter, they’re going to implement the Fast 12, Fast 6, Fast 3 and Fast 1 next year. Kidding aside, I like surprises in qualifying, and it seems like the surprises are spent by the end of Saturday with whomever makes it into the Fast 9 (now 12). It takes most of the anticipation out of it for me, so adding another layer to the anti-climactic outcome by limiting the run to pole to six drivers is a snoozer. I’m hoping to be proven 100-percent wrong in a few weeks.
Q: Have a couple of questions, probably mostly related to next year now. With the troubles teams have in finding chassis to rent or lease for the Indy 500, do you see any of the current wishful 500 entries like Vasser-Sullivan, Paretta, Cusick Motorsport, etc., buying their own chassis since they will be around for a couple more years?
Also, since Carlin is allowing Juncos to utilize its engineers and crew, do you see Carlin coming back into IndyCar? I was sad to see a new owner have so much difficulty and fade away. Hoping they will be back.
Rod, Fresno, CA
MP: Great question, and yes, that is the absolute plan for Cusick and Paretta. I know the DragonSpeed team is also keen to buy a chassis after selling theirs to Shank ahead of the 2021 season. Vasser-Sullivan have owned a Speedway-tuned DW12 for a few years; I’m told it’s still at the Coyne shop and yes, more than a few people inquired about leasing it, but all were politely turned down.
It’s hard to complain about not being in the Indy 500 when you lack the main thing needed to be in the Indy 500. Carlin is done with IndyCar as a team; I’m not sure on the employee usage part and who pays for what, but Ricardo Juncos and Brad Hollinger own all of Carlin’s former IndyCar assets — cars, pit equipment, etc.
Q: Starting out positive: It’s May! Now, reality: I really dislike the Fast 12 and Fast 6. Seems like a NASCAR-style gimmick that introduces unnecessary risk for three more drivers plus the six who will do two runs. Heck, let’s go outside the box and have two sprint races on that weekend. No one does that, right?
Mike DeQuardo, Land of Road America
MP: If we’re going to mess with things, let’s go nuts and have the grid for the Indy 500 set by a bunch of heat races at IRP using the old Fast Masters Jaguar XJR220s.
Q: Can we put an end to the Pole Day gimmicks? Let’s just make it easy for anyone to explain and understand — on Sunday the track opens for qualifying at 11 a.m. and closes at 5:45 p.m. — the fastest car is on the pole at the end of the day. There is no need for a fast lane or a slow lane and in order to get in the line, you must withdraw your previous time. This would give us more drama than any manufactured “shootout.”
John P., Brownsburg, IN
MP: I miss Robin Miller all the time, and more so when news like this lands in our inboxes and I know I won’t be receiving a call 30 seconds later with him starting off with a “JESUS CHRIST WHAT THE *$%^&#@! ARE THEY THINKING?” followed by an epic rant lasting a good five or 10 minutes.
Best I can say is IndyCar has known for a little while now that it wouldn’t have a 34th entry for the 500, so as I see it, the tweaks to Pole Day are a reaction to the lack of drama that bumping might have brought. And since Penske Entertainment does look to entertain, I get it. But yeah, if anybody lacked motivation to make sure we have at least 35 entries every year from here on out, let the amazing struggles to get to 33 from 2022 serve as the inspiration.
Q: Almost afraid to ask, but have you gotten any updates on Alex Zanardi’s status and recovery?
MP: The Zanardis are keeping a tight lid on Alex’s progress. I could press a few friends who might share some updates, but I’d rather not. Please don’t mistake a lack of regular updates for an indicator of something negative. It’s just the family’s preferred way of dealing with the situation.