Q: Formula 1 drivers think they are the best drivers in the world but most of them say they would not run the Indy 500 because it is too dangerous. All racing is dangerous — drivers get hurt at local short tracks as well as big speedways. What a lame excuse. I thought that if a driver wanted to prove they are the best that Indy would be the race they would want to be in.
David, Ft. Wayne, IN
MP: I’ve always rated WRC drivers as the bravest and craziest in motor racing. I respect the F1 drivers who, when asked about doing the Indy 500, simply say it doesn’t interest them. It’s the other folks who trot out the tired excuses who make me want to strap them into the two-seater with Mario, dial up the boost to 50psi, and let the GOAT take them for a 10-mile qualifying simulation at the Speedway. There isn’t a vacuum on the planet that could empty all the tears, among other things, from their seat after the run.
Q: Since we are seeing both IndyCar and NASCAR on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the last weekend in July, will we see Jimmie Johnson racing in a NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course since he is running full time in IndyCar?
MP: Since he no longer races in NASCAR and he did the same weekend last year with CGR and only did the IndyCar portion of the event, I’d have to imagine nothing’s changed this year, Chris. Given how Jimmie is struggling to run ahead of where he ran last year in IndyCar, adding a stock car distraction at the Brickyard/Indy GP event seems like a perfect way to get less out of himself in both cars.
Q: I want to shed some light on the reason why the pits are closed when a yellow flag is initially indicated at all tracks IndyCar visits.
The foremost reason is safety of the drivers and the safety team. IndyCar wants to ensure cars passing through an area where a car has crashed or otherwise stopped are going slowly enough to not endanger the rescue, fire, and medical personnel driving to or dealing with a crashed or stopped car. The best way to do this is to close the pits so that no driver feels they may be disadvantaged by being behind an accident area and therefore losing time to cars that are in front of the accident area. Not closing the pits would naturally cause drivers to take more risks, drive quicker prior to and through an accident area, and delay safety, fire, and medical vehicles from reaching the accident because of the extra risk involved when trying to stay out of the way of at-speed race cars.
We also have to consider the odd accident, usually at a street circuit, that completely blocks the track. You can’t penalize the 10 drivers not involved in the accident but stuck behind it, nor can you advantage the 10 drivers ahead of the accident based on dumb luck.
It stinks that the single driver inconvenienced at IMS was likely to have an impact on the finish. I imagine the issue would be much less discussed if the offended driver was Jack Harvey, who was pretty invisible in the 500.
A “timing line” exemption would likely complicate the re-ordering process and lengthen the yellow flag time if it were to be implemented, which is something to be avoided based on the number of “yellows are too long” complaints received.
If you are asking yourself, “How can F1 not close the pits when a yellow comes out?” Well, I have the answer: Safety in F1 is a joke. Full stop.
MP: Thanks, Eric.
Full admission here — the open/closed pits debate has been going on for so many years and was covered enough times in the Mailbag by Robin that I just don’t have the heart to rehash something that’s been rehashed to death. So when good folks like yourself and others on the open or closed side of the conversation write in, I’m inclined to say thanks and keep it moving.
Q: I have used Rain-X on aircraft windshields with excellent visibility even in the heaviest rain. Is there some technical reason some kind of rain repellent can not be used or would not work on the aeroscreen?
Robert Bentley, Darien, IL
MP: The tear-offs used on the aeroscreen have a Rain-X-like coating that’s hydrophobic.
Q: In your previous mailbag, you stated, “We’re in a good place right now,” and I really want to believe it because I wholeheartedly believe IndyCar puts on the best racing product out there, but when I look at the ratings, it paints an entirely different picture. Judging by Twitter and other online banter that covers IndyCar, the 500 scored less-than-expected ratings while the following week’s Detroit GP appeared to be in the toilet with only 354,000 viewers. Are we really in a good place? What do you believe can be done to raise viewership? I worry because I absolutely do not want IndyCar to vanish down the road. I love it immensely and want it to thrive, but I know my dedication alone won’t keep it afloat.
Thanks for all you do! You’re one of the gems of this sport.
MP: If we judged IndyCar’s health on Detroit’s rating from being on the USA cable outlet, we’d say it’s poor, but I always think of things like this in terms of songs on a new album from your favorite band. Is every track an all-time classic? Absolutely not. Hopefully the majority are really good and a few are truly exceptional (I’m on a flight to Road America listening to Moon Tooth’s 2019 gem “Crux,” and it’s about 90-percent amazing).
IndyCar’s debut on USA wasn’t great and, in fact, reminds me of some of the less than impressive ratings that weren’t totally uncommon on NBCSN. On average, the ratings are solid when IndyCar is on the big NBC network, and it’s here where the positives are found. How do we get more people to watch IndyCar? There’s a Nobel prize for the first person who can answer the great open-wheel question of our lifetime.