The RACER Mailbag, May 18

The RACER Mailbag, May 18

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, May 18

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Q: Who controls merch situation IndyCar itself and the teams in general? The offerings on the shop on the IndyCar site are… not that great. The designs and choices are meh at best. I have, however, found some awesome throwback items at The Shop Indy online that are 100 times better than anything on the IndyCar site. Although, I think The Shop is somehow aligned/owned by the Ed Carpenter family, as 99% of the team/driver merch is ECR. Also, I’ve looked at team websites, and the gear there is spotty at best.

I’m sure part of it is supply and demand, but there’s frequent talk about all the people wearing awesome driver and team merch at their races, and the lack of team/driver gear at IndyCar races. But most of the team/driver-specific gear IndyCar offers isn’t great at all. I often look to get a couple shirts or hats, but rarely buy anything outside of some throwback stuff because the current designs aren’t any good.

Ross Bynum

MP: I walked through the giant IMS/IndyCar merch shop in the garages next to the Pagoda on Friday, and other than the replica driver jerseys, Sweet Lord, the driver and team t-shirts were ridiculously uninspired and basic. Granted, every fan isn’t looking for a thousand colors or abstract art, but if you walked out to where the driver and team merch trailers were located, you’d find more inspired clothing.

Q: Last week’s Mailbag had a number of writers wondering what all the hoopla is with F1 after the Miami GP was run, and the huge fan support and attendance the race receives. You and your readers are wondering why IndyCar cannot get that kind of fan devotion, except maybe during one race a year.

The answer is quite simple, really. In F1, the cars are the stars. Drivers come and go, they have good years and bad years. But the papaya-colored McLaren, and red Ferrari, and the blue livery of Red Bull, is consistent branding. Yes, you could probably get a Hamilton hat, or a Leclerc hat, or Sergio Perez shirt  in Miami. But all have the colors of the team on them You lament the hats were $80-$120, and that is quite ridiculous. But that hat will be relevant all year, and next year, and next year. Sponsors may change, logos will be different, but a Mercedes is silver, Ferrari is red, McLaren is papaya, always.

I could go guy a blue/yellow NAPA hat with Rossi’s name and number on it today. Next week, Rossi could be driving a green Capstone-liveried car, so my hat has lost its relevance in just five days. It is all in the branding. People cheer on Ferrari, more so than Carlos Sainz. There are orange smoke bombs in the stands supporting Verstappen, and that will happen even if he should go drive for someone else. But the Red Bull fan will still care for Red Bull. Love is something that is nurtured, and the up and downs that are endured to keep that love. Continuity then, is the key. True, IndyCar only has Honda and Chevy as manufacturers, but a quarter of F1 is Ferrari engines, and almost half are Mercedes.

The other point I want to make is one I have been making ever since IndyCar gave away its broadcast rights to NBC. There are rich people in many parts of the world that used to watch IndyCar practice, qualifying and races on YouTube whenever they wanted. They would sometimes say, “Gosh, it would be fun to go to Long Beach, or Toronto, or Nashville, to see the IndyCar race, and the party that goes with it.” Instead, now they can’t see IndyCar on YouTube, they have replaced IndyCar with whatever series they are following now. These fans now have plans to go to F1 in Miami, Montreal, Austin, and soon, Vegas. Dump that NBC deal, become global again.

Paul Sturmey, Ontario, Canada

MP: OK.

McLaren is papaya, always. Except for all those years when it was silver. Or those other years when it was red and white. Rainer Schlegelmilch/Motorsport Images

Q: You said in the last Mailbag that Kirkwood to Andretti “is happening.” It’s a no surprise, everyone thinks it’ll happen and it means Rossi is out. But what’s next for him? AMSP? CGR? ECR?

Szymon Kunda

MP: It’s happening. In the most recent silly season piece on RACER, I wrote that Rossi’s said to be on the Chevy-powered AMSP announcement docket at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

Q: Right about the time that DragonSpeed announced its entry into the 500 this year, there was an interesting interview with Elton Julian where he noted that the crews for IndyCar teams skew significantly older than other series he’s been involved with. I wanted to see your thoughts on this, as that’s not something that the average viewer thinks about. Perhaps its residual consequences of the Split and engineers fresh out of college going elsewhere in the 2000s because of that mess? Obviously this is more of a question for Mr. Penske and crew to ponder, but what avenues might exist for trying to draw younger crews into the series? 

Nathan from York, PA

MP: I think that Elton’s comments were 100 percent correct from his last experience here in 2020, but he might slightly revise that view once he gets a good look at the paddock in 2022. There’s been a significant “youth-ification” (not a word) over the last few seasons, and while there are plenty of veterans still in motion, there’s a whole new wave of younger men and women turning wrenches, on the timing stands, and filling other important roles.

Q: I have a question about F1’s carbon fiber front suspension arms. When Hamilton spun Verstappen at Silverstone, I was amazed that Lewis’ car wasn’t damaged and the rear of Max’s car was broken. If that was an IndyCar, the front would’ve been bent or busted and both cars would likely be out of the race. At the time I thought that carbon fiber should be banned for safety reasons. However after seeing the Miami race, I think it makes sense on street circuits where there’s lots of beating and banging and the cornering speeds are slower.

Would it make sense for IndyCar to make use of carbon fiber front suspension for street races, costs aside? The cars could touch and bump, but fewer cars would be knocked out, and perhaps there would be fewer cautions as well. I still think it’s a hazard for ovals and high-speed road courses.

Inquiries on discussion boards have some responders positing that the carbon fiber pieces aren’t adjustable and the arms themselves have to be replaced to adjust the suspension geometry — is that true? If so, it would be a big inventory of parts and costly.

John Langston, Edmond, OK

MP: Hi John, you have things backwards here. F1’s carbon suspensions are not stronger than the steel suspension arms and pushrods used in IndyCar. Not by a long shot.

MX-5 CUP | ROUND 10 – ROAD AMERICA

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