The RACER Mailbag, June 15

The RACER Mailbag, June 15

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, June 15


Indy Q: A. The new Indy car needs the aeroscreen to blend with the lines of the car. Obviously it was a late addition, but the current one is ugly.

B. The new car needs a more angular/aesthetic nose.

C. When you look at Formula 1 and Formula E, the cars have a modern bent on the open-wheel aesthetics. IndyCar should not copy those designs, but get something different for the next go-around.

Tim Gleason, Chicago, IL

MP: On topic A, I believe we’ve now crossed the threshold of 100,000 people who’ve said the same thing since the aeroscreen debuted in 2020.

On B, I’ve been one of thousands to make the same observation, so let’s hope IndyCar and Dallara are listening.

On C, don’t look for the next car to stray too far from what you see today.

Q: Can Townsend and Hinch please stop referencing the tire options as primary and alternate? I know it’s network television and there are casual viewers but it’s easier for everyone if you just say blacks and reds. Explain the differences once then everyone can see the sidewall colors for themselves.

John from Indianapolis

MP: I’m sure they could, John, but that’s what they are — primaries and alternates, as listed by Firestone — so if the complaint is that they should stop using the correct terms, I’d also need to make the switch because I use the same terminology in my reports.

Q: Excuse the vent, but there is a question here.

For as long as I can remember, without doing a lot of research, Mid-Ohio has historically been scheduled in the early part of August, a few times at the end of July, and back in the CART days it was held in September. It basically had a relatively consistent place in the IndyCar racing season schedule.

So, along comes COVID and it disrupted the status quo for various reasons. But why has the Mid-Ohio IndyCar weekend now become a 4th of July thing for the second year in a row? I went last year only because my 2020 tickets (which I could not attend) were carried over to 2021. This year it’s just impossible to justify going to an IndyCar race during a holiday weekend. Family commitments and traditional July 4th activities take precedence in situations like that.

I can understand IndyCar likes having a large crowd for TV. Mid-Ohio always draws well for IndyCar and looks great with the aerial shots, but this has disrupted the yearly plans of quite a few people — not just myself — who looked forward to the traditional late summer slot to share with racing friends and fanatics.

Is there any word from IndyCar and/or the Mid-Ohio ownership group if it will revert back to a familiar slot later in the summer?

Terry J., Germantown, MD

MP: I reached out to IndyCar to ask, Terry, and was told there are no plans to move off the July 4 timing for Mid-Ohio. The race runs on July 3, for what it’s worth, so I’d think most attendees will have the 4th to celebrate at home. NASCAR’s at Road America on the same weekend and they tend to race on or around the 4th every year, so I’m not sure I see the big foul on IndyCar’s part for trying to build a celebratory event at Mid-Ohio on a holiday weekend that NASCAR’s used forever to wave the American flag with its fans.

Q: In the last Mailbag, someone wrote in about the lack of passing in the Indy 500 and that after Palou’s incident, he was running just in front of Jimmie Johnson and couldn’t move forward much due to severe difficulties in passing. In your response, you elaborate that the aeroscreen is the issue and that it is well documented.

While there is no doubt that the aeroscreen has resulted in harsher air behind the race car, last year Pagenaud worked his way from 26th to third and Montoya from 24th to ninth. This year, Castroneves went from 27th to seventh and Montoya from 30th to 11th. How is it that, despite the aeroscreen and the dirtier air it creates, some drivers passed so much?

The 105th and 106th runnings of the Indy 500 have been incredible!

Richard M., Pittsburgh

MP: Well, one thing that’s always true is I’m an idiot, Richard, because I completely failed to mention the other big contributor to the problem — possibly more than the aeroscreen — is the absence of the rear wheel guards. While the devices weren’t a thing of beauty, they did wonders to clean up the air leaving the car to reduce drag and turbulence.

On top of introducing a new and more powerful front wing, I do wonder if IndyCar should consider creating an Indy-only return of the rear wheel guards, maybe with a new design as well, to make passing more common within a cluster of cars.

As to the primary question you’ve raised, there will always be outliers like Simon and JPM, etc. They tend to have better mechanical grip than those they’re passing — that’s what the Ganassi team aced this year. If you listen to those who aren’t as fortunate, they all say the same thing about the struggles to pass, though.

Maybe we could just have the rear wheel guards back for Indy? Brian Cleary/Motorsport Images

Q: Love your work Marshall — always fascinated by the volume of insightful postings you provide during the busy month of May.

Had a fantastic Indy 500 race day, as usual. That show never fails to deliver! Curious as to why Marcus Ericsson was so much faster than the other contenders the last 25 laps or so to enable him to win the 500. He was clearly dominant on those last stints, and he was able to create and maintain a sizable gap during those late green flag laps — no other leader was able to do so all day. I told my fellow attendees that he had so much speed that he would have won over Dixon regardless of that late pit penalty. What did he and his team [do] to position themselves — that the other teams didn’t do — to have that rocket ship late in the race?

John Sullivan, Lee’s Summit, MO

MP: The Ganassi team found a rather amazing mechanical setup on their cars that made great cornering speeds without burning up their tires. We saw that across four of the five entries, with Jimmie being the only exception, at times, on race day. There’s also the oft-rumored “kill mode” Honda makes available to its drivers that is said to offer extra power; Chevy is said to avoid using a “kill mode” for the sake of increased reliability.