The RACER Mailbag, May 18

The RACER Mailbag, May 18

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, May 18

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Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.

Q: Isn’t the combination of those three words – rain, racing, and chaos – just the best for making an amazing race to watch? What an amazing lead-in to the Indy 500. How was it from your view?


MARSHALL PRUETT: More fun than any IndyCar race I can think of in a long while. I love a little bit of chaos with my racing, so the combination of rain and a bunch of restarts was always going to be amazing.

Q: Did you ever hear an explanation of how Kyle Kirkwood ended up with one black tire and three reds at one point during Saturday’s race? Was it a rain tire with a stuck wheel nut, or did they actually lay out a primary tire with the alternates?

Tom Hinshaw, Santa Barbara, CA

MP: They were mistaken on the broadcast, Tom.

Q: What an amazing afternoon on the track it was, full of challenges, twists and turns. My one unanswered question: who was busy behind the pace car wheel? It was the most “yellow” race we’ve seen in a long time.

Karen, Fernandina Beach, FL (at IMS for the weekend)

MP: It was Sarah Fisher.

Q: I’ve watched a couple of IndyCar broadcasts on NBC and I have to say James Hinchcliffe has been an excellent addition to the team. I know he’s been in the booth before, so it’s no surprise he lets his great personality shine as well as offering some great insight from a driver’s perspective. But I get the feeling there’s something left in the tank for his driving career. If he’s hung up his helmet, I think he’s had a roller coaster, but amazing career. Do you think Hinch is done with driving, or is he going to settle in at the booth?

Brandon Karsten 

MP: It’s like you were joining in the conversation we had in Gasoline Alley on Saturday. The Mayor has been excellent in the booth, but he has another 5-10 years of top-tier pro racing left to do. I don’t know if IndyCar is where it will happen; IMSA looks like a land with more opportunities and I pointed him towards one yet-to-be announced program to contact and explore if desired.

He should be full-time in IMSA next year, and if that’s the case, who would be a good modern driver to replace Hinch in the booth?

Hinch isn’t done with life on the noisy side of the pitwall just yet. Image by Penske Entertainment

Q: Not only was the Indy GP Honda’s first victory of the season, it had three cars in the top four when the checkered flag was out. How much of that is estimated to be due to the gain from the new exhaust system? Is it not a game-changer given the qualifying where Alex Palou was the lone driver from Honda teams in the Fast 6? 

Mitsuki Matsuura, Kanagawa, Japan

MP: Another great stat mentioned by an IndyCar fan on social media was the top nine were drivers from nine different teams. That’s crazy. If we’d had an 85-lap in the dry, I think we’re talking about Chevy getting its fifth straight win. I didn’t hear anything from the Honda drivers I asked about a noticeable increase in power.

Q: I bought the IMSA Track Pass when it came out and kept it until NBC Sports was shut down. And then I bought the Premium Plus streaming package for Peacock because I wanted to 1) support NBC for supporting IMSA and 2) watch the races without commercial breaks. And it was a relationship that worked well for years, until Laguna Seca this year. But then NBC Universal got greedy and put commercials into content I was paying extra for. And when I say added commercials, I mean they put in completely different advertisements than what is broadcast OTA/cable (yes, I checked). This is not what I paid for. This is classic bait and switch deceit, and I will have no part of it.  

Haskell Barnett

MP: Thanks for the intel, Haskell. The clear leader atop the NBC Sports/Peacock Complaints Championship is the presence of commercials on the live streams, and a close second in the standings is complaints about the volume of commercials on the live streams.

Q: There were some great exhibitions of car control on Saturday, but also too many times where drivers just shoved their opponents off the track to defend position. What’s your assessment of the driving standards last weekend?

Jordan, Warwickshire, UK

MP: This was another Gasoline Alley conversation with two important figures on Monday. It seems that when possible, the act of passing someone on a road course and the passer leaving the passee enough room on corner exit to stay on the track has become an old-timey notion. The new thing is to make the pass by driving the other person off the road, and since the tracks have tons of closed-circuit and TV cameras, tons of in-car cameras, tons of corner stations with corner workers reporting contact and off-track incidents into race control, and direct SMS communication from every timing stand to race control, there should be no lack of information being received by race control to take action.

What I’m coming to believe is IndyCar is perfectly fine with the ongoing reduction in driving standards and escalating amounts of contact. There’s no other way to explain it, considering all of the footage, reports, and inbound messaging they have.

Q: Did MSR need any dispensation from IndyCar to run Helio’s 06 number, or could anyone chuck an extra 0 in front of their number? Seems odd to have the 06 and JPM’s 6 in the same race. 

Zac, Melbourne, Australia 

MP: IndyCar approves all numbers, so chucking of extra zeroes isn’t permitted. Knowing Shank, I’m surprised he hasn’t requested “5150” in honor of his favorite band, Van Halen.