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.
NOTE FROM MARSHALL: My wife and I are headed out today for a vacation to celebrate her birthday, so I’ll be away for Mid-Ohio and most of next week. As a result the Mailbag will also take a break, but you’re welcome to send in questions and I’ll pick them up for the next Mailbag which will run on July 13.
Q: I have a few random, and dated, comments and questions. Happy to see Daly and Rosenqvist doing well lately. Hope it continues for them. The Indy GP seemed to have a noticeably larger crowd than in prior years. Do you agree, or did it seem similar to before?
As amazing as the Indy 500 is, I can understand double points although, at the same time because it is such a huge race, I think having it be for no points at all could also be good. I know that many won’t agree, but that is OK.
Lastly, I find it very impressive how Andretti is able to consistently find new sponsors to bring into the sport, not only as a great way to make ends meet, but to sell the series and his team and any B2B deals they work out. As it is to find money, good for them. (Honorable mention to Rahal as well).
Andy Brumbaugh, Columbia, SC
MARSHALL PRUETT: The Indy GP looked and felt like the healthiest I’ve seen it firsthand since the inaugural race in 2014. The only thing missing in your thoughts about awarding no points for IndyCar’s biggest race is the reason why you think it would be a good idea. Since I can’t come up with a reason where it makes sense, or would be a positive, I’ll need your help on the rationale with that one. Michael’s business development team has been the best in IndyCar for more than a decade; RLL, as you note, isn’t far behind and if we’re handing out awards, Graham Rahal might be the best driver/businessman we’ve seen since Parnelli Jones.
Q: I can’t recall in the past years hearing drivers state during interviews how much fun they are having in IndyCar. This is why they race and we live vicariously through them. Driving a car fast is a blast! I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Mike in Indy
MP: IndyCar drivers have tons of fun in the series, but it doesn’t always extend into pure fulfillment behind the steering wheel. As the best drivers have told me, when compared to the pre-aeroscreen DW12s, or the manufacturer aero kit DW12s, or the Lolas, Reynards and Panozs some drove in CART or Champ Car, the current iteration of the DW12 is underwhelming due to its high weight and high center of gravity.
These drivers aren’t like you and I who get a thrill every now and then by going quickly for short bursts in a road car. These are elite professionals who want to drive the sharpest, most exhilarating cars, and for many who’ve driven the DW12 and other IndyCar models prior to 2020, the car today is considered a disappointment.
There are periods in every sport where the rules make for something that’s less explosive or dynamic than other periods. From a pure driving standpoint, IndyCar’s best drivers long for a lighter and more nimble machine.
Q: I know Firestone takes different compound tires to different tracks. What about the rain tires? Do they have different compounds of those or is there just one type that is taken to all tracks?
MP: One compound, and some of the rain tires being hauled from race to race by Firestone are a few years old.
Q: There were reports over the past weeks indicating a likely depleted field for the upcoming IMSA race at CTMP/Mosport, specifically due to the COVID requirements for entry into Canada. Estimates were that 25% or more of the grid are not vaccinated. Interestingly, I have not heard of any similar concerns amongst the IndyCar paddock about the Toronto race. I was wondering if you could shed any light on both the upcoming IMSA and IndyCar events. Are there still concerns about the ability to properly field entries?
MP: Hard to say on the IMSA side, since I haven’t focused much on the series this year, but the entry list is noticeably light in GTD, bringing the total car count to 26-27, based on whether the CarBahn/Peregrine team can recover from having its Lamborghini trashed by the two idiots playing bumper cars in LMP2 last weekend.
I can say that with IndyCar’s well-known shortage of experienced crew to draw upon, I’d be surprised to learn if any of the full-time teams with entries headed to Toronto would allow this to become an issue among their employees. Complying with all border-crossing requirements in order to do the job comes with accepting the job.
Q: How do you rate the chances that the Peugeot 9X8 Hypercar will become a race winner? Peugeot’s record in sports car racing speaks for itself, but this car is so unique you have to wonder. I can’t imagine the Peugeot board of directors forking over hundreds of millions of dollars on a design they don’t think will win. On the other hand, Mercedes bet the farm on a zero sidepod design for their F1 car this year and it’s been third-best.
Jonathan, Ventura, CA
MP: I would have been concerned if the 9X8 was designed 30 years ago and lacked all of the highly refined simulation tools to validate the concept. But in 2022, I’m not concerned. The only question is how the car will fare against proven cars like the Toyota and Glickenhaus Hypercars, because until they share the same track for qualifying or a race, the respective strengths and weaknesses of the Peugeot won’t be known. The shock would be if the 9X8 was faster than the two models with more than a year of racing and development to draw from, so in that regard, if it’s last on debut, that’s where it belongs. If it’s last after six months of competition, that’s where the alarm bells will be triggered.
Q: I’m heading to Mid-Ohio and dragging some friends along with me. One is a big racing fan, the other went to IU so he gets it and the third is big sports fan but I haven’t been able to turn him into a race fan and probably never will. I took him to Indy last year, and while he had a great time he wanted to go somewhere different this year. Our schedules all lined up with Mid-Ohio. Do you have any suggestions for how to make the race an enjoyable race for all? We have tickets in the Esses but plan on walking around to check out the track. Are there any viewing areas you would suggest we stop at to check out the action?
Also, if Tony George were still in charge of the Speedway, do you think he would use his powers to entice the new LIV Tour to hold a tournament at the Speedway’s golf course? He just loves a good split.
Mikey, Long Island, NY
MP: Mid-Ohio has two big features that should make it fun for everyone. First, almost section of the track can be accessed by foot or golf cart, and you’re pretty close to the action, so that makes for great viewing and photography, if that’s of interest. Watching the cars blast through Turn 1, on driver’s left or right, is incredible, and from there, Turns 4 through 9 from the inside of the track (driver’s right) are my favorite. Crazy elevation changes and lots of bravery on display.
The other aspect to love at Mid-Ohio is the camping and communal vibe you’ll find while exploring the outer loop. If you’re a Rossi fan, you’ll find people with Rossi shirts or banners, often with the BBQ going and a few adult beverages in hand, and they’re usually happy to welcome a member of the Rossi tribe into their area. Same for Herta fans, Newgarden fans, etc. It’s an awesome place to make new friends, spin some yarns, and feel like you’re connected to the core of IndyCar. Road America’s the same way.
And yes, Mr. IRL would certainly welcome a rebel tour to play on the IMS greens.