The RACER Mailbag, May 18

The RACER Mailbag, May 18

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, May 18

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Q: Had a great time at IMSA Mid-Ohio, although I think IndyCar should be there. There was over a two-hour gap on Sunday, which I understand from TV schedules, but really there should have been a race going on. IndyCar needs to move the Indy road course event to the last weekend and race with IMSA in May at Mid-Ohio and add the Glen to the calendar for the fourth weekend.  

Paul Hirsch, Westlake, OH

MP: I don’t foresee the Indy GP ever leaving its mid-May slot as the warmup for the 500. Teams get to move into their garages, get setup nice and early, do the GP and then roll right into practice for the 500. The cadence is just right.

Q: After looking at the still photos of the Indy GP I noticed that behind the front wheel the rain is hitting the ground effect. I’m wondering if the rain hitting this area gives any more downforce to the car (which would probably be needed in wet weather)?

John from Racine, WI (And no, I’m not going to bring up the Milwaukee Mile)

MP: Not totally sure what’s being asked, John, but no, those drops of rain reduce the volume of air passing over the wings, and with less air, less negative pressure is generated. BRING BACK THE MILE!

Q: Indy GP was chaos of all the best kinds. Firestone needs to keep those wets the way they are so that it rewards moves like Colton’s – a driver who can keep slicks under them on a track that wet and still go faster deserves to move up 14 spots in three laps, especially if the series doesn’t screw that driver over at Detroit by letting most of the field pit under yellow before the pace car has everyone.

I also don’t see how the aeroscreen can be blamed for the lack of visibility at the end.  That spray looked on par with other races where IndyCar has thrown a red flag in years past, long before the aeroscreen was even a thought.

Kirk Lane

MP: Agree on the first part, but not on the second. Minus the aeroscreen, we have all the same water hitting the drivers in the helmet, and while that’s never awesome, at least they’d be able to pull tearoffs off their visors when too much muck builds up. When they’re hitting behind an aeroscreen, they’re passengers behind something they can’t clear by hand.

We’ve had plenty of open-wheel races over the years where the rain and spray/mist became too heavy for drivers to see, and they radioed in to tell their teams and race control. There’s nothing to do in those instances but to stop. Same with the aeroscreen, as we saw, with the difference being that IndyCar drivers are stuck with whatever’s happening on the screen and have no chance to try and improve the situation like they would without it.

If you want to be one of the most versatile drivers in the world, you’ve got to be ready to race in a lake. Brett Farmer/Motorsport Images

Q: Do you feel IndyCar is doing enough to improve, promote and grow its overall product both domestically and abroad? I had high hopes when Penske bought the series but as a longtime fan, it feels like the series has failed to evolve. What, if anything, do you feel IndyCar should be doing to increase attendance/viewership and in turn incentivize companies/manufacturers and race promoters to invest in the series?  

Jeff A. in Florida

MP: Hard to answer on the abroad part, since I’m domestic. I’d say that I have to constantly remind myself that Roger Penske isn’t a magician. He bought IndyCar/IMS at the start of 2020, saw the world shut down for a long time, had the calendar turned upside down, shuffled the calendar again in 2021, dealt with the serious and significant delays — the supply chain issues spoken of in every facet of life — and yet the series saw growth in ratings and no teams were lost.

If you’re a regular reader of the Mailbag, you know we routinely address concerns in all the areas you’ve mentioned, but if we’re going to judge the Penske Entertainment era against others, 2022 would be the first that’s close to a clean and normal season. Coming back to the not-a-magician part, I’d say we’re a year away from being able to give a full appraisal on how much they have or haven’t done.

Q: I’m not sure if I missed it mentioned somewhere, but is there a reason Tony Kanaan is taking car No. 1 for Indy? My assumption is that Palou has the right to it but is keeping No. 10 for sponsorship reasons, and the team is giving it to Kanaan as a sort of farewell honor. I do miss the days of the defending champion carrying No. 1. I never understood how having the “regular” number could be more important than that champion’s No. 1, but I guess that’s why I’m not in marketing.

Henry, Richmond, VA

MP: I asked the CGR team to help with an answer, and this is what they sent back:

“As the reigning overall series champions, the team has the right to run the No. 1 car. But after speaking with Chip and IndyCar, the team gave that honor to Kanaan and The American Legion Honda to help them launch the “Be The One” campaign. Their mission is to end the stigma around asking for help and encourages the public to be the one to save a veteran’s life.”

Q: Seeing Santino Ferrucci fill in for the injured Jack Harvey at Texas earlier this season got me thinking. How many drivers without rides are usually on site at a typical IndyCar race weekend?

Joe, Malvern, PA

MP: All depends on where we’re at and if the Road to Indy is on the schedule. If we’re racing at a venue near where drivers live — such as Dallas-based Santucci coming out to hang out at Texas — or one where recent drivers are coaching kids on the RTI, the numbers are decent. Otherwise, it’s usually just the early and late races on the calendar as drivers hunt for opportunities.

Q: In response to the question about solar panels in last week’s Mailbag, IMS has a giant solar farm outside of Turn 3, it can be seen on Google Maps.  If I recall correctly, it powers the Speedway when it’s in use and the surrounding neighborhood when the track is dormant.

Brandon from Noblesville, IN

MP: Thanks for the info, Brandon.