The RACER Mailbag, May 11

The RACER Mailbag, May 11

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, May 11

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Q: I come to you today in the spirit of JFK, who famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” For the sake of this email, we will say, “Ask not what [IndyCar] can do for you — ask what you can do for {IndyCar].” I am one who wishes IndyCar had as many races as NASCAR. I want to see them every weekend.

It seems some of the other racing series do a bit better at marketing their product. The hype around a certain other open-wheel series is impressive considering its parade-like races. So, with that, what can we as IndyCar fans do to better help get the word of IndyCar out there? How can we be a greater impact? I truly believe that IndyCar has a superior on-track product than the others. What would you like to see the fans do more to help IndyCar grow?

Michael

MP: I dream of having more IndyCar evangelists like you, Michael. That’s what I’d like to see more of… and what the series needs. I had a long chat with a smart and talented IndyCar driver last week on the topic of the series and its teams needing to do more on developing a bit of hero worship with our drivers.

Some of the footage in the grandstands during the F1 race made it look like mass hysteria broke out whenever Verstappen, Hamilton or Norris went by… I’d bet most of those fans couldn’t tell you what an MGU-K happens to be, and I’d also bet 99 of them have never met or been within 100 feet of Max, Lewis or Lando, but they worship them in ways our drivers simply do not receive. Do F1 drivers do things on track that warrant a higher level of fandom than what ours do in their cars? No, not at all.

So if it isn’t about what they do in the cars, it must be a case of feeling like you know the drivers enough to be heavily invested in their life and success or failures. The conversation with the IndyCar driver ended with a question on whether our drivers are too accessible, too common, and therefore, feel more like a brother, sister, or cousin, than a world-class athlete who deserves the same worship as your average F1 driver.

We’ll see a decent number of Grosjean jerseys and O’Ward jerseys this weekend at the GMR GP, but nothing like the F1 grandstands where fans are blanketed in team shirts, hats, and flags. It’s a damn shame.

Q: Well, after a phenomenal inaugural F1 race at the impressive Miami International Autodrome, is there any reason why IndyCar should or could not race there? The crowd was huge, the track impressive, and all the European atmosphere you could swallow!

Dan in Arizona

MP: I’m not sure the track is meant to remain fully operational between F1 visits, so that would be my first concern. My take: It’s F1 at its best. Insane amounts of money spent to put on an event and an insane response from fans, celebrities, and broadcasters who made it the most important sporting event in the country last weekend. I saw one photo where a F1 merchandise vendor was asking $80-120 for team hats. For effing hats! There’s a layer of cool and exclusivity that F1 offers and its fans can’t get enough of. I do wish IndyCar had that “problem”…but let’s keep the hats at a reasonable price, people.

They’re smiling because it hasn’t twigged that they could have bought similar-looking Felix Rosenqvist shirts for a quarter of the price. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Q: What do you know about the new IndyCar spec engines that have been tested recently? Were you present on the hill at IMS for the first test? Does it make sense to increase engine capacity when trying to attract a third engine manufacturer, in a time where car makers are reducing the capacity of road car engines?

Mark, Seymour, IN

MP: I’ve heard a number of things and hope to put them in an article before the end of the month. I wasn’t at the test; RACER’s Lear jet was in the shop, unfortunately (kidding). Chevy and Honda were all for the move to 2.4 liters, so it made sense at least to the ones who are already here.

Q: In 1993, there were 22 different teams entered at Indianapolis. Forty-two car/driver combos attempted to make the race. In 1999, there were 28 different teams entered. Forty-one car/driver combos attempted to make the race. In 2011, there were 19 different teams entered. Forty car/driver combos attempted to make the race.

In 2022, there are 12 different teams entered at Indianapolis. There are 33 car/driver combos that will all make the race.

It’s very simple. In 2022, there simply aren’t enough teams involved (or allowed to be involved) at Indianapolis. For real competition to return (which has to be a part of the Indianapolis 500; or a big part of the allure and uniqueness of the event vanishes) we need more teams for the month of May. Period. Or we’ll continue this sad and pathetic song-and-dance we have been doing far more often than we haven’t been in the last two decades.

Drew in Indy

MP: Yep, in the world of supply and demand, we’ve had a demand issue for a while now with team ownership. Ed Carpenter Racing is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and it’s the second-youngest full-time entrant. Meyer Shank Racing is the baby in the family at six. We have some great prospects in Beth Paretta and Don Cusick, but until they own cars, own a shop and transporters and have 15-plus employees on the payroll, it’s hard to count them in the same way as a MSR or ECR.

IndyCar knows it needs to radically rethink its structure as three teams comprise almost half the field; making a proper case for becoming an IndyCar team owner, based on sound business principles, is where its future will be secured.

Q: As I watched the first F1 race in Miami I noticed while there were marbles, it was way less than what we saw at St. Pete, Long Beach and Barber. Are we running super-sticky tires in IndyCar now to perhaps overcompensate for the heavy DW12? I just don’t recall marbles being as bad as they have been this year.

Gary, Round Rock, TX

MP: Going softer has been what I’ve heard from quite a few drivers, so what you’ve mentioned aligns in that area.

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