Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to email@example.com. 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: Put your Robin hat on for a minute. What would Robin’s top positive stories have been for the 2022 Indy 500, and what would his top criticism of the month be?
Allen C., Brownsburg, IN
MARSHALL PRUETT: Thanks for the note, Allen. Asking me to pretend to be my late friend and colleague and respond like him isn’t something I’m comfortable with. I’m my own man, here doing the work, so respect that. If you’d like to know my top positive stories and top criticism, you’re welcome to ask.
Q: Remind me again why IndyCar closes the pits when there is a yellow. Palou never had a chance. Not enough time to safely react to pit closed light.
John B., Indianapolis, IN
MP: It’s a weird one, isn’t it? At some events, it feels like there’s an extra couple of beats given when a crash happens in order to let those who would be screwed get in before the pits are closed, and at other times, it seems like no mind is given to waiting one extra second to prevent a driver like Palou from being screwed. The inconsistency is where my frustration lies. Either everybody gets screwed, or nobody gets screwed.
Q: Once again IndyCar’s absurd and arbitrary full-course caution/close the pit rule destroys a driver’s race. Palou had committed to pit before the accident and was literally 50 yards from the pit entrance when they closed the pit. It’s just ridiculous. These are allegedly some of the best drivers in the world, but they can’t be trusted to clear an incident safely and get to pit lane? On road courses if the incident is in Turn 3 and the leaders are at Turn 6, why shouldn’t they be able to pit?
I know in a previous Mailbag you stated that it somehow evens out over the course of a season, but I have to disagree. I’ve watched just about every IndyCar race since 1994 and have seen too many times where the race leader, who is destroying the field, gets caught out by a full-course caution and fail to even make the top 10. This is just one of the rules that make IndyCar seem amateur compared to other series.
MP: I imagine a perfect solution exists, but I’ve yet to see it.
Q: Are you living inside my head? Your article about Indy is spot-on and right in line with everything I am thinking. Kudos to Doug Boles and his staff for bringing the people in. This entire month has felt special. The excitement was there. Now, if I’m IndyCar, I am flat embarrassed at what I brought to the Speedway. Yes, I’m sure there were over 100 passes for position, but it was the same two or three cars. I pass you at the beginning of the stint, you pass me towards the end. At this point you are right, it’s time to swing for the fences. Let’s get something done before Gateway – another track where the promotion group is top notch.
Has Conor Daly taken over the role of local hero? Turn 3 was going crazy when he took the lead. Glad to see him find his way to the front. They lost something on the last couple of stops, but the hope was there. So what was the bigger story of the month? CGR dominance, or Penske forgetting to show up?
MP: Ed gets a bigger cheer from the crowd than Conor, but there’s no reason for that since Daly has been the one with better race day performances in recent years. Ganassi hasn’t won in 10 years; Penske last won in 2019. Chip’s win was the much bigger deal. When I saw him after the race, he looked like a decade of stress and anger had been released from his pores.
Q: Can you find out why there was no balloon release? What happened to that tradition? BTW, great race, plenty of drama, passing and excitement. Loved all 200 laps.
Eric Rife, London, OH
MP: Yes, IMS announced a few weeks before the race that they would stop releasing the balloons.
Q: While I was lucky enough to see a wind-aided Conor Daly touch 244, Fast Friday was quite calm this year. I know that the wind spooked a paddock that is already risk-averse on the day before qualifying. Do you see the series making any adjustments to the agenda (adding boost earlier)? Or perhaps a vintage/other race if the paddock wants to keep their cars ready for quals?
Dave, Cranford, NJ
MP: Not sure on how “calm” is being applied here, Dave. The veterans said it was the worst and scariest day they’d ever had in a car at Indy, so whatever the extreme opposite of calm might be, that’s what Fast Friday was for them. We’ve never had that happen before on Fast Friday, so no, I’d hope the series wouldn’t change its processes in reaction to something taking place on one occasion.
Q: I just read that some F1 drivers say they wouldn’t consider driving at Indianapolis because it is too dangerous. They would consider driving at Le Mans traveling down Mulsanne at over 200mph sometimes in the rain at night with trees and Armco on both sides and passing cars traveling 50 to 60mph slower. Safety team responses are measured in minutes rather than seconds. Am I missing something?
MP: It’s an easy, lazy excuse, based on tired stereotypes that the Indy 500 is super-deadly. Any F1 driver that watched Colton Herta’s big crash where he walked away unharmed, and says it’s too dangerous, is a moron or someone with an anti-IndyCar agenda. Le Mans, in a GT or prototype, will be safer than anything a driver will experience in an F1 or IndyCar, so that part can’t be argued.