The RACER Mailbag, June 8

The RACER Mailbag, June 8

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, June 8

By , ,

Q: I’ve spent a couple of weeks trying to figure out why the record qualifying and practice speeds at the 500 didn’t excite me much. I think it was the knowledge that qualifying is run under different rules than the race. I guess I’m not a fan of turning up the boost to create artificial excitement. Is there another reason for doing it? (I’m trying not to become a curmudgeon as I get older, but occasionally it sneaks out.)

Tobey Taylor, Houston, TX

MP: It’s 100-percent artificial to create excitement. But I don’t have a problem with that. We get to see, for three days a year, what an IndyCar can do with most limitations removed, at the place that made the series what it is. Could the boost be increased even more? Without a doubt, but Chevy and Honda haven’t validated that power level, so it isn’t used. I’d look at it this way: We’re less than two years away from IndyCar having more than enough power to do big things in qualifying and race trim with the new motors. I love the idea of those four laps and again for the 200 laps that mean the most being something other than full throttle.

Scary speed and momentum forcing drivers to lift — assuming that’s what we get — would be pretty cool. Cars should always be faster than the tracks they race on and force the drivers to lift and differentiate themselves in how close they’re able to play at or near the limit.

Q: I want to give a fond farewell to racing on Belle Isle in Detroit. Perhaps getting on/off the island was a pain, and maybe viewing angles weren’t always the greatest for fans, but it was a special place. A “temporary permanent” road course, if you will.

Although I didn’t start attending events there until 2019, I will always have a soft spot for the island track. The park is beautiful. Walking around the paddock, which is literally and figuratively the heart of the track, was something special. Making your way from grandstand to grandstand, going between trees and picnic areas, was cool. And all this just a few minutes from a vibrant, exciting, downtown Detroit.

I get why the race is moving downtown, but will miss the unique experience found on Belle Isle.

Matt Philpott

MP: My first Belle Isle was in 1996 and I loved it from the moment I got there. Detroit, too. Like you and many others who don’t want to see it go, my question to RP’s Detroit GP leadership group is, what do they have planned to bring that special “feel” of Belle Isle over to the new downtown venue? I really hope is doesn’t suck.

Belle Isle, 1999. Dario Franchitti looked happier at the end of the weekend after taking the win ahead of Paul Tracy and Greg Moore. That weekend also marked Moore’s final podium. Motorsport Images

Q: OK, I understand if you are in qualifying Group 1 you get placed ahead of the person in Group 2 at the same finishing position. But in Detroit, Will Power was 0.6s faster than Kyle Kirkwood and was placed behind him. Alex Palou was 0.5s faster than Santino Ferrucci and was placed behind him. Dalton Kellett didn’t even have a time and was ahead of Felix Rosenqvist. So please tell me how it makes sense that the faster person is not placed ahead of the slower person?

What is next, stage points? Why do you even have to have groups? Is there something wrong about having cars go out and try and set a time without groups? It seems to me if you have someone a lot faster placed behind someone slower it makes the start a lot more dangerous.

Tom in Waco

MP: Tom, looks like you’ve cottoned on to something that’s been done this way for a really long time. The ones who qualify in the first group, with less rubber on the track, get the better starting positions and those in the second group fall one spot behind — a case of odd and evens.

Keep in mind that qualifying faster than someone on Saturday doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be faster on Sunday; setup changes don’t always keep the faster ones in front of the slower ones, and vice versa. As an aside, and as I noted, this odds/evens qualifying system has been done that way for quite a while; so if it were really a problem and more dangerous, why haven’t we seen evidence of it?

Q: Is there a plan to put the aeroscreen on the Indy Lights cars? Would there ever be a reason to take the aeroscreen off the IndyCars? I suspect not, but the halo makes it easier to view the driver while still offering plenty of protection.


MP: I called Indy Lights director Levi Jones and he said: “There’s no plans right now to do an aeroscreen, but we’re going to be talking about what kind of upgrades we want to do with the [IL15] chassis because it’s gonna be in use for a while longer. The aeroscreen is one of the things on our list to discuss, and if it or anything else makes the racing safer or better, those are the kind of things we’re looking at.”

Q: That’s two weeks in a row Rossi has had one hell of a drive. If only the cartoon anvil hadn’t hit him during the Fast 12 qualifying session. He was fast and the team got the strategy right. It could be he has no pressure since he knows he is moving on next year. Your thoughts? Also, a hell of a drive by Kirkwood, too.

Last question: silly season. So the big changes we expected (thanks to your reporting) dropped last week with Rossi and Kirkwood. With Pato’s deal extended, what is left for silly season? I know Rosenqvist is probably a question, but anyone else?


MP: Alexander’s known he was leaving Andretti for AMSP for a long time, so other than making it public, I’m not sure there was much of a surprise to trigger something better or different behind the wheel. Keep in mind that his amazing Indy 500 drive came before the announcement. As I’ve written dozens of times since he had a bad turn of fortune, they guy is amazingly talented and will break through the funk. And he has. No surprises there.

We have filling Kirkwood’s seat at Foyt, deciding who’ll be in Rosenqvist’s seat at AMSP — if they don’t retain Felix, questions over who will be in the No. 06 Shank car — will Helio get another full-time invite, or will he step into a month of May role, and then we have will or won’t VeeKay stay at ECR, and if he goes, who does Ed hire as his replacement. Juncos Hollinger is flirting with the idea of going to two cars, so who drives that if it happens? And there’s more, but that’s enough for now — plenty to be decided!