The RACER Mailbag, May 11

The RACER Mailbag, May 11

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, May 11

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Q: It feels like chassis have become precious commodities in the last year, with the smaller teams leasing/buying them off one another and teams hoping to get into the series unable to secure one. Does IndyCar not have the ability to have Dallara just… build more of them? What’s stopping (hypothetically) Vasser-Sullivan from informing IndyCar that they want to enter, and IndyCar then contracting Dallara to build a few chassis? They’ve built hundreds of DW12s by now. What is the roadblock that I am missing?

Steve in Dallas

MP: It isn’t hundreds, but yes, there’s nothing stopping you and I, or a small IndyCar entrant, from ringing Stefano dePonti at Dallara in Speedway and placing an order for a DW12. I mentioned in a few articles about the struggles to get to 33 entries that Dallara is ready and waiting to build cars and they say it would take about a month to deliver. IndyCar doesn’t actually need to get in the middle of the process. You might have read some offseason stories about teams, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing being one of them, ordering more DW12s, and recently, Zak Brown told us Arrow McLaren SP has done the same as it prepares to go full-time with three entries next year.

What’s been missing is the desire by some aspiring Indy 500 entrants to fork out a lot of money to buy a car when it’s easier on their limited finances to try and lease a DW12.

Q: I just have a quick follow up question regarding Roger Penske being against Indy Lights cars on the IMS oval. Is Roger against fun?

Sue from outside of Boston

MP: Thankfully, no, but the Freedom 100 crash a few years ago where Chris Windom’s car broke in half scared the bejeezus out of R.P., and hence, no more Indy Lights racing on the big oval.

Q: I have a great idea for this year’s Indy 500. When Mario takes a lap or two of the Indy oval, how about his passenger being… A.J. Foyt? Two great icons of the USAC/IndyCar world! Then, at the end of the laps, they stop at the start/finish line waving to the crowd? We know A.J. won’t be around forever given his health issues, and this would be a great send-off to him.

Jerry from Houston

MP: I say this with all due respect as a fat guy who couldn’t fit in the two-seater that I’m not sure Super Tex would have an easier time squeezing into the thing. That stuff aside, we’re not sending off A.J. He’s the Keith Richards of motor racing.

Even if A.J. was built like Zach Veach you’d probably have a hard time convincing him to take the back seat. Image via Penske Entertainment

Q: I am a long-time fan of IndyCar racing. Is it crazy that I miss the IRL and the great races they had, especially at Texas? Aurora and Infinity engines. But then again, I miss the days of the Buick V6 so I guess I am crazy. Comments?

Rick in PA

MP: An “I Am Indy” straightjacket is on its way to Pennsylvania, Rick.

Q: It is my understanding that IndyCar allows Chevy and Honda to make one update per year. Last year, I believe Chevy made its update at the beginning of the season and Honda did its before the 500, which it went on to win. Given Chevy’s dominance this year, I am assuming it has made its update for this year. Has Honda made one yet, or is it going to wait until the 500 again?

John Goetzman, Waynesville, NC

MP: IndyCar does not police how many improvements its engine suppliers make each year. It controls the type of updates and improvements that are permitted to be made. Both manufacturers will have new tricks and gains in the motors they dispatch for use on Carb Day/race day, and within the rules of what they can modify this year, they’ll keep after it all season.

Q: Reading about the difficulty of putting together the program for the 33rd car for this year’s Indy 500 has gotten me wondering about the alliances that come and go. My question centers on Dale Coyne’s business model. Most of his entries over recent years have been “Dale Coyne with XYZ Racing.” The arrangements come and go and seem to end with little drama, unlike the dispute over ownership of the car that both Top Gun Racing and the Enersons lay claim to, although Sebastien Bourdais might not agree.

Does Coyne own the hardware and support equipment, hold the engines leases, employ the crew and effectively lease a turn key operation to his partners? In appears that the partners are responsible for bringing the sponsorship to fund Coyne and choosing the driver. This seems to be an effective model to keep Coyne in the series and open the doors to new organizations and drivers. If it’s not a lease, what’s the structure of Coyne’s deals? I know that in the past, Coyne has run cars out of his own pocket sporting Sonny’s BBQ and Boy Scouts of America “sponsorship.” Clearly, that wasn’t a sustainable business model. Kudos to Coyne for finding a way to keep his team operating and relevant where others, such as Carlin, have failed.

Bill Carsey,
North Olmsted, OH

MP: The only non-DCR assets that I know of were the Speedway-prepped Dallara DW12 that Vasser-Sullivan bought and placed with the team, and a VS engineering support transporter. Everything else is owned by Dale, DCR’s employees are paid by DCR, etc. The alliances with VS, RWR, and HMD have all been mechanisms to reduce Dale’s annual costs of competing in IndyCar, with VS bringing the aforementioned assets and about half the budget for that entry. I’d assume RWR’s sponsorship deal cover a similar amount, if not more on that car, and HMD is known to cover most of the tab on that car. Dale’s the last of the old-school team owners who puts millions of his own dollars into the team each year. I have nothing but respect for the guy for doing so.

Q: I’m surprised you mentioned IndyCar tracks have got to have FIA Grade 2 — is it mandatory considering how IndyCar is pretty independent from FIA? The ovals we got must have gotten grade 999 by FIA standards.

On the other hand, next month I’ll be attending my first-ever race event, the Jakarta ePrix. I’m very excited! The track itself is inside the Ancol Theme Park area so the ticket prices are already factored in park entry. I guess it’s similar to how it works for races inside/next to any fairgrounds area in U.S. — one ticket, multitude of fun.

Axel, Indonesia

MP: I don’t recall saying they had to be Grade 2, and yes, IndyCar sanctions itself, but the FIA grading is a solid indicator of standards for the series to use in its decision-making process. Enjoy the ePrix!

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