The RACER Mailbag, May 18

The RACER Mailbag, May 18

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, May 18

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Q: Start planning for next year this year. I’ll be 50 for the 2023 500, which I plan to attend for the first time. Is there a first-timers guide anywhere? Could you be my personal concierge? 

Shawn in MD

MP: Get me one of those three-wheeled cycles with the big bench on the back, and I’ll gladly pedal you around IMS for the month, Shawn. Not sure about a first-timer’s guide, but if you are on Facebook, there are a couple of excellent IndyCar fan groups — you might check out Elite IndyCar — and pose that question to the members and I’m sure you’ll get all kinds of suggestions.

Q: After reading your Silly Season update on drivers and seeing that the Enersons now own their chassis, along with Paretta saying it plans a partial season in 2003, I’m curious to know what you foresee as the number of full- and partial-season entries for 2023?

I would suspect that after this season Foyt drops back down to two cars with Kyle Kirkwood going back to Andretti, and if Jimmie Johnson doesn’t return for a third season I would think Ganassi would potentially just field three cars in 2023.

That would drop the starting field from 26 back to 24, however with AMSP saying it is planning on adding a third car, and Ed Carpenter saying he wants to run a possible third — although I would suspect that ECR may join with Paretta for that, which would potentially take the starting grid back to 26. What do think the percentages of the Enersons running a partial or full season in 2023?

Also, with Vasser Sullivan having a chassis with Coyne, will it expand in the 2023 season? What are the odds of Cusick, or DragonSpeed, or Dreyer & Reinbold expanding beyond just the Indy 500?

Is Juncos going to add a second car for 2023?

Are there any other new teams you might have heard rumors about? We need some new blood and owners in IndyCar to expand past the existing 10 owners. It would be nice to see 12-13 owners in the series next year.

Rod, Fresno, CA

MP: Hi Rod — it’s never a bad thing to spread the 17 questions across two or three Mailbags… 😉

  • Most teams support themselves by running multiple cars, so you won’t find Foyt or Ganassi just dropping down to fewer entries unless it can’t be avoided.
  • If the Enersons find or want to spend many millions, they’ll be on track.
  • If Dale wanted to run three cars and had someone paying for the third car to run… he’d be running a third car!
  • Slim to none.
  • Maybe.
  • Yes.
  • We do. It’s among the biggest issues to solve. As I wrote last week, the newest team to join the series and eventually go full-time was Meyer Shank Racing in 2017.

Maybe Marshall can drive reader Shawn around the Speedway in this thing, assuming Keke Rosberg and Patrick Tambay are not using it. Motorsport Images

Q: During the F1 Miami GP, Perez had an engine problem that was serious enough to bring into question whether he could finish the race. A DNF was a real possibility. Apparently the problem was fixed remotely from the pit wall.

How much remote adjustment is possible in F1, and do IndyCar teams have the same capabilities?

Warbird Willie

MP: Great question! Teams in both series are not permitted to monkey with the cars while they’re on track, so if there’s an issue that might be resolved, it’s done by the driver through the steering wheel and using the various electronic resets or bypasses designed into the software. By comparison, the “fix-it-yourself” options are far greater in F1 than IndyCar due to the vast differences in rules and technology.

If the drivers can’t correct the fault via the steering wheel, we’ll see them pit and their F1 or IndyCar teams will plug into the car and see if and what they might do at a more advanced level to overcome the issue. We’ll also see steering wheels replaced during those stops if there’s a belief that the electronics within the wheel itself are faulty.

Q: I recently saw an ARCA race at Michigan and the crowd was small – about the size of a good IndyCar crowd at Texas. Has anyone thought of trying to team up with ARCA to race at Michigan and maybe some other tracks?

And in a response to a question about IndyCar and Road Atlanta, you said Road Atlanta needs to reach out to IndyCar. That’s the problem – it’s ass-backwards. If you want to race somewhere, you go knock on the door to sell what you have to offer. I was a USAC tech and chief steward for the Midget, Sprints, and Silver Crown cars for 15 years, and my supervisor got us more races by mailing out flyers to potential tracks. If IndyCar wants to grow its business, fan base and sponsorships, that’s the thinking that has to be done.

AE, Danville, IN

MP: As much as I wish I had superpowers and the ability to read people’s minds, I cannot say whether anyone has ever thought of putting IndyCar and ARCA together. If nobody showed up for IndyCar at Texas and nobody showed up for ARCA at Michigan, I’m not sure that’s an open-wheel/stock car crossover event waiting to succeed.

Totally disagree on the Road Atlanta thought. This isn’t some amateur act trying to find county fairs and dive bars to play a set. The (name your favorite big musical act) doesn’t call around trying to see if they might be welcomed to put on a concert in town; they’re courted and strike lucrative deals befitting of their stature. I’ve heard nothing from inside IndyCar to suggest it’s pining to go to Road Atlanta. If the fine folks there might want an IndyCar race, they need to make it known to IndyCar.

Q: This may have been asked before, and it may seem like an idiotic question but would making the chassis (except for the carbon fiber tub that surrounds the driver) honeycomb aluminum with a fiberglass body covering safe enough and less expensive? I’m thinking it could convince new owners into the series and increase car counts if this would be less costly yet still safe and not hurt speed and performance.

Also, I’m curious if that would basically mess up the whole engineering side of the equation as far as weight and suspension designs. I’m a lifelong IndyCar fan, but I’m no engineer or mechanical genius by any stretch of the imagination.

Al Schonberg, Rockford, IL

MP: Since IndyCar is already facing a significant rise in weight when the hybrid engine package arrives in 2024, adding a bunch of extra weight by trading yards and yards of carbon bodywork for heavier fiberglass would be a non-starter.