Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: Why is it that Santino Ferrucci can step into an IndyCar and run in the top 10, but cannot get a full-time ride with any team in the paddock? He should be high on A.J. Foyt Racing’s radar as Santino brings more to the party. He needs to get back into IndyCar. Young American talent. What are your thoughts on possible teams he could land in?
KO, Chicago, IL
MARSHALL PRUETT: We’re on the same page here with “Santucchi.” He’s American, fast, and experienced –— all things that should tickle the interest of Super Tex and Larry Foyt. I know the team is going to test some other drivers here soon, but it does seem like Ferrucci is the perfect fit for the opportunity and the team’s sensibilities. Other than Foyt, I wonder if Juncos Hollinger Racing, which wants to run a second car — not sure if that’s part- or full-time — next year, saw enough at Detroit to consider him for something bigger.
Q: Noticed during the in-car camera shots of Dixon at the 500 that his wheel was canted to the right as he went down the IMS straights, and was centered as he did the turns. Some, but not all of the drivers had this setup in their in-car camera shots. How standard is this, and how long have drivers used it? And is it Indy-only due to the matching turns?
Rick Smith, San Diego, CA
MP: Dixie’s been doing that for as long as I can remember and it is quite common. Yes on the matching corners, and I’d need to go back to watch some Texas in-car to see if anything similar is done there — I just don’t recall.
Q: I can appreciate all of the hoopla around Jimmie Johnson running the 500. However, I think lost in all of this is Kurt Busch and his amazing sixth-place performance in 2014. He did not have the benefit of previous experience in IndyCar like Andretti, Stewart or Gordon did (with Gordon and Stewart matching the sixth place performance). Of all four who have attempted the double (let alone just the crossover between NASCAR and IndyCar) his performance still ranks at the top of any NASCAR primary driver competing at Indy (a la Johnson) and deserves more attention. His appreciation and respect for the 500 was also overwhelming.
MP: Excellent points on Kurt, Kathleen. He was super smooth and impressive all month. In hindsight, yes, I don’t know why we, collectively, didn’t make a bigger deal of how well he did in a strange and fast car with 32 other crazies out there. Makes me wish we’d get him back for another go at Indy 500 glory.
Q: Great job on the Mailbag. As an engineer I really dig the technical deep dives — that is a big part of the appeal of IndyCar and RACER.com to me.
To that end, do you have any details of the crash-worthiness of the aeroscreen? I believe that there is physical testing that is done on the Dallara chassis to ensure that it provides adequate driver protection in the event of an accident. But was the same done with the aeroscreen? And if so, were any predictions made on the survival probability of previously fatal accidents? I’m really hoping that there is hard data that shows that the odds of surviving these kinds of accidents in the future have improved dramatically.
One just can’t say enough positive things about the safety improvements that IndyCar has made over the years, and after seeing the aeroscreen for the first time in person at the Indy 500, it really looks pretty cool.
Ed, Hickory Hills, IL
MP: I’m not sure they’ve gone as far as survivability projections since there’s a million different scenarios where the screen or halo could be compromised. But yes, full load testing on the titanium halo was done and withstood 30,000 pounds of force without deforming. The screen was also subjected to the firing of heavy projectiles at it from various angles and withstood those as well. I believe we did an article or two on such things a few years ago that went into greater depth.
Q: Last week you asked, “Does the world contain one human being who would feel compelled to compose an email that complements NBC Sports?” I will. I think NBC has done a great job at trying to be a true partner of the sport. They’ve shown a desire to give viewers more IndyCar content, with the post-race show on Peacock, practice sessions, etc. It wasn’t long ago you’d be hard-pressed to find races on broadcast/local television, and now all but three are on NBC.
They’ve even worked to give better coverage. I have loved having Hinch in the booth, bringing a current driver’s perspective. I thought all of this year’s pit reporters at the 500 were great. They use all the extra time they have on Peacock during practice sessions to give glimpses into what drivers are doing while not in the car and how the race strategists work with their teams. Heck, I’ve even learned the names of some race strategists because of this! Sure, there’s always room to improve things, but overall, NBC’s partnership has been great for IndyCar’s current growth.
MP: IT’S A MIRACLE! (Kidding.) Thanks for restoring my faith in humanity, Billy (kinda kidding).
Q: Speeds appeared to be up this year at Indy but I don’t know that anybody has really touched on why. It seemed to really add to the pent-up energy for this year’s race. The car is well sorted out by now and I would think any gains in chassis or motor would be minor. Any insight on that? Sealer perhaps?
Bob Vawter, Indianapolis, IN
MP: I asked that one to a lot of drivers and engineers, and most pointed to tire improvements from Firestone and general knowledge gains with the car and aeroscreen. Getting a really sharp answer to the question was surprisingly hard, so those are the best generalisms I can offer.