The RACER Mailbag, June 15

The RACER Mailbag, June 15

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, June 15


Q: Curious on your outlook for Jimmie Johnson in 2023. We’ve seen slight lap time improvements in the road course races, but absolutely nothing to warrant any significant change in his lack of competitiveness. Does Ganassi want him back? Or is it simply, if Jimmie has the backing of sponsors, he’s locked in no matter what? I figure he’s extremely frustrated running in the back and might only want to do ovals or an Indy 500 one-off in the future.

J.R. Fresno, CA

MP: Like you, I am surprised by Jimmie’s lack of forward progress on the grid. I didn’t expect him to take down a bunch of drivers and leap to the middle of the field, but I also didn’t expect him to be a complete non-factor outside of the ovals. Ignoring Texas and the Indy 500, every finish has been from P20 to P24 at the six road- and street courses. For the sake of added context, I think most fans would agree that rookie Devlin DeFrancesco has not had a great introduction to IndyCar, but in the championship he’s one point ahead of Jimmie who’s in his sophomore season.

On the team and business side, he’s absolutely beloved by everyone. Beyond being one of the nicest and most genuine people you’ll meet, he also brings a wealth of racing experience to the team that has made it better. Johnson also brings the budget to the team, so if he’s able to keep the money flowing in, and if he wants to continue — which I’ve heard he does — the No. 48 Honda is his to drive.

Jimmie Johnson hasn’t made the step forward some might have expected in his second year of IndyCar racing. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Q: With the new hybrid engines coming in, will there be a need for refueling during the race?

Also, I’d like to say that I’m OK with the amount of commercials on Peacock. If that’s what they have to do to make the product financially viable then I’m all for it. Eventually maybe they won’t have to run as many ads if the series continues to grow.

I get that the coverage of the race isn’t perfect, but it must be extremely difficult capturing every piece of action during an IndyCar race, especially when you have camera operators capturing one aspect of the race and the guys in the booth talking about another aspect of the race. Just my two cents for the frustrated fans out there.

Ian, Santa Barbara, CA

MP: Refueling will absolutely be part of the hybrid era just as it was when the FIA WEC went hybrid in 2012; the ERS units might cause some fuel to be saved as drivers look to lift off the throttle for longer periods entering braking zones in order to harvest energy, but the deployment of that 100hp ERS charge is meant to act as an addition to the full 800hp engine, not as a replacement for some of the engine’s output.

I think the issue being raised on the full-screen Peacock commercials stems from the use of side-by-side commercials on the cable/network broadcasts at the same time. I’d think the bigger production costs are on the cable/network side, not on the live stream, so the absence of side-by-side on Peacock comes across as greedy and unnecessary to those who complain about the product. And in this case, I can’t disagree.

Q: If Texas doesn’t get a repave, instead of a rolling start, old school Le Mans foot race to the car to spice it up?

Shawn in MD

MP: Can we go ahead and make this the new rule for every race?

Q: Marshall, you zeroed in on something in your Cooldown lap that hadn’t even occurred to me and that seems to be plaguing JHR: Ilott’s hands were torn up on the streets of St. Pete and now Ferrucci’s got brutalized in Detroit. What could possibly be so different in their setup than all the other teams?

Belle Isle used to be a doubleheader. Ferrucci ran that multiple times and I never heard of any major complaints. I couldn’t even imagine what would have happened had it been another doubleheader.

Ferrucci was fast and then he just disappeared and I had no clue as a viewer what happened to him. Did Grosjean suffer some of the same hand issues being that scar tissue is not as pliable? Hopefully I get a chance to pry JHR a little at Road America.

Thanks for pointing out what happened to JHR. This is my first Mailbag since Robin. It took a while to get back into reading it and I just wanted to say thanks to the RACER crew for holding the fort.

Ken P., Naperville, IL

MP: The main thing that stands out to me is Santino hasn’t been on the full-time IndyCar trail, so his hands aren’t as beaten up and weathered as those who’ve done all the road and street courses. Detroit’s a brutal place to show up and go with soft palms. Teams have three different steering rack options that range from easier-to-turn to harder-to-turn. Every driver has their preference on the type of feel they want to get from the steering wheel, but if there’s an injury or buttery skin, the lighter option is the way to go.

Secondarily, there’s a suspension setting called caster — commonly adjusted by lengthening or shortening the lower front A-arms to introduce a fore-and-aft tilt into the upright that holds the brakes and wheel and connects the steering rack to the front suspension. Some drivers like a lot of caster, which gives a lot of feel through the steering wheel, but also increases the effort to turn the car. It sounds like a combo of harder steering rack and higher caster is what’s at play here.

Santino Ferrucci in the process of battering his hands at Belle Isle. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Q: What has happened to RLL Racing? It seemed like, before the season, they made driver changes and they might start to challenge for wins again. However, they seem like they can hardly break out of the midfield, and even with a three-car team they can’t seem to get any momentum and I think they only have a few top 10s from Graham as the highlight of the season, and the month of May was a disappointment at best. They seem to have the big sponsors to get them what they need but can’t capitalize.

Eric D

MP: I did a deep dive on RLL with Graham Rahal last week that might offer some insights. In short, they need a brand-new damper program and a lot more engineers to keep pace with the teams they want to catch and defeat.