The RACER Mailbag, May 11

The RACER Mailbag, May 11

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, May 11

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Q: Great to read the article about Wilson/Cusick/Julian putting the deal together to be the 33rd entry, but this started me thinking about years that had 34 and 35th entries as alternates. I understand the well-funded larger teams have spare chassis, but is there concern that a small single-car (tub) team could have a crash in practice or qualifying and have to withdraw and still be short of 33 cars in the field?

And in the never-ending discussion regarding Milwaukee, so many times I’ve see the comments about people saying they want the race, but the crowds are never big. Times have changed and let’s try it again, let us fans put our money where our mouth is. How about bringing in a promoter that says X number of tickets need to be sold to hold the race, then start selling tickets and if enough people show interest, hold the race, otherwise return the ticket money. Let the fans speak with their wallets, skip the speculation and let the fans decide.

Craig C, Slinger, WI

MP: Definitely a concern if Stef’s Foyt tub is damaged prior to the race. Considering how long it took to get a single chassis freed up for Cusick/DragonSpeed to use, I can’t see how any team would consider making a spare chassis available until after Carb Day. I love the idea about Milwaukee. Sounds like motivated fans need to get the ball rolling.

Q: So with Stefan Wilson now confirmed as the 33rd and final entry into the 106th Indy 500, are we going to hear the historic “Gentlemen, start your engines” command to start the race? I believe IndyCar owns the rights to that phrase. Unfortunately, no woman will be racing this year. That said, it would be a nice return to that historic and spine-tingling command we heard for so many decades.

Jim, Indy

MP: Out of curiosity, is “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines” somehow less spine-tingling? Maybe I’m weird and different, but the act of starting the engines and getting the field rolling is what tingles my spine. I’d be saddened to hear that old-timey command again because it would only highlight the absence of women racers on the grid.

Q: What’s the point of the hybrid? It hasn’t attracted a third engine supplier. It has added unnecessary cost to cash-strapped teams, and weight to the chassis that will negate any power gains.

Who cares about green? IndyCar should go the other way and build monsters again. Just take the 2.4, crank up the boost and RPM and go from there. All this time they should have been designing a new chassis to go with the 2.4 and the safety improvements. The thought of an IndyCar tipping the scales at 2000+ pounds (with driver) just makes me gag. An IndyCar should be around 1500 or less (no driver) with insane amounts of power so it scares the drivers themselves. Is it even possible to reduce enough weight in the DW12 to save the handling, or will it corner like a pig? What a waste of money.

Jonathan, Plainfield, IN

MP: I know IndyCar’s veteran fanbase isn’t the one being targeted with hybrid and all-electric cars and trucks from Chevy and Honda, but the younger generation of fans are the ones who care. Also, Honda made it very clear to IndyCar that without adding a hybrid component to its next engine formula, there would be no Honda in the series. Honda has a number of new hybrids landing on the showroom floor later this year, and since they use racing to promote their road cars, we have hybrids coming to IndyCar. There’s some weight to save, but we’re talking double-digit, not the triple-digit you’re hoping for.

Q: The photography question from Erik S. in the May 4 edition of the Mailbag (along with my own ongoing quest to revive an old Canon DSLR) got me wondering about the gear the pros use to photograph cars on track. Are there particular brands or camera models that most folks in the business tend to own, or does it come down to each photographer’s personal preferences?

PJ in NY

MP: Definitely a preference thing. I’ve been a Canon guy since I bought my first camera, a used A1, in 1986. Nikon is the other main choice, and more recently, Sony and a few other brands — mostly of the mirrorless sort — have become popular.

Canons loaded. And Nikons, and whatever else. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Q: Why isn’t the Penske organization loading up the Speedway with solar panels when the Speedway isn’t in use? They could have the infield, the track, the seating and the top of the structure itself with panels and create enough clean energy to be one of the biggest power producers in the state of Indiana! They could leave the panels on top of the stadium permanently to run the place during events. The Penske organization is leaving some serious cash laying around…

If the motorsports industry wants to look like it’s going “green” by adding a hybrid power sources to racing series, why aren’t all these speedways and racetracks using their stadiums and parking lots to make electricity – and money! – and get a little goodwill to boot?

Now that would be going green.

Richard S., Fort Worth, TX

MP: That’s a great question. I’m still trying to figure out where RP’s gonna get all those 2.5-mile long extension cords to keep the cars plugged in and charging during the Indy 500.

Q: I’m thinking back to the end of the 2020 season when Felix Rosenqvist gave the middle finger to Chip Ganassi Racing to join Arrow McLaren SP and then CGR quickly hired Alex Palou, who had finished 16th in the standings with one podium for Dale Coyne. A few weeks later it looked like CGR missed out on hiring Kevin Magnussen after he was dumped by Haas F1, and quickly hired him for the IMSA DPi team. The oops thing in this whole equation seems to be Palou, and yet he now appears to be the new Scott Dixon. Is this a “better to be lucky than good” situation, or is it the way Chip planned it all along?

Jamie Roe

MP: Total luck. I’ve written a few times that Ganassi had no idea who or what they were getting, other than a kid who had a few flashes of promise at Coyne and who seemed to be a quick study on oval racing. But they had no clue he had the goods to become a champ in his first try for the team, much less win the title and continue asserting himself as — at least through the four opening races of the year — its lead driver.

Q: While standing in the autograph line at Barber I asked Kyle Kirkwood if I would see him in an Andretti car next year. He smiled and said “maybe.”

Tom Gish Louisville, KY

MP: You might have gotten to most definitive answer from the kid so far, Tom! It’s happening, which is far from a surprise, and what I love most is thinking of what Herta and Kirkwood can do together next year. Grosjean as well, who hasn’t been able to match Herta’s pace at most tracks, and will have another young lion looking to own him — and Herta — at every opportunity. And, if Andretti Global gets the green light for F1 in 2024, we could see Herta gone and Kirkwood as the new Andretti team leader in IndyCar. Wild stuff.

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