Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to email@example.com. 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.
Q: OK, I’m a longtime IndyCar fan. First attended Indy in ’62, so I’m certifiably an old fan. The news of Palou maybe being signed for another year at Ganassi, which seems normal, and the sudden appearance of a McLaren release that Palou was moving to that team in 2023, is disturbing. Equally disturbing are the social media comments from Palou, who until now has appeared to be a talented driver and gentleman both on and off the track.
My fear is that the nasty F1 mentality is coming to IndyCar where teams and drivers seem to hate, or at least strongly dislike the others, often including their own teammates. Is this due to the money that a team like McLaren brings to the series? Can they lure all the best drivers and break their contracts, or force other teams to release drivers via social media intimidation? Great, sounds like D.C. politics and if so, is a shame and hurtful to the IndyCar paddock.
I know money talks, but to turn IndyCar into F1 will be a sad state for fans. I’m not interested in fake reality “Real Drivers of IndyCar” TV series. To me, IndyCar has for years been more open, more collegial and more civil than F1. Drivers talk to the fans and to each other.
If most future stories will be about teams fighting each other in the courts and which driver is being paid what and by whom, well, then it’s just another boring sport where money and legal games are more important than the actual sport. I watch for on-track action, not legal bickering.
As an insider, your thoughts?
Mark in Milwaukee
MP: Great roundup of the situation, Mark. Among the various things that popped into my head when this nonsense first erupted was the FIA’s creation of the Contracts Recognition Board a while back to deal with all the staffing skullduggery going on in F1.
The need to establish the CRB spoke to the size of the problem that grew with every attempted poaching of drivers and key personnel, and like you, I do hope that what we have here with Palou/McLaren/CGR isn’t the spark that becomes a giant blaze in the years ahead. The last thing I want to write about is the formation of IndyCar’s Contracts Resolution and Policing department because other teams and drivers took inspiration from this mess and double- or triple-signed the same person, etc.
I do wonder, though, if the man who owns the series and could buy Palou/McLaren/CGR with pocket change will call a private meeting and lay down his own law. If R.P. feels this is bringing embarrassment to the series and its partners, he’s not the type to sit back and hope the problem will resolve itself. The boss of bosses won’t stand for any of his businesses to be devalued if it can be avoided, and in this case, it can be avoided.
I’ve also seen some make the argument that hate is good and this kind of war among teams could be exactly what IndyCar needs. I don’t buy it. Driver versus driver? Yes, absolutely. But does the average fan care about Zak vs Chip or Chip vs Zak? Nope.
If this was Formula 1 and semi-famous characters like Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, it would be a different story since seemingly half of every “Drive To Survive” episode involves those two saying mean or catty things to each other for the global audience’s amusement. In IndyCar, where Brown is only seen a few times a year and where Ganassi avoids cameras 99 percent of the time, it’s a non-story.
I kept an eye on the major sports sites as this went down last week, and nobody picked it up as a featured item. You’d think this one was a no-brainer that would deliver a ton of traffic. Nope. Crickets. Silence. I even had one driver call and say they were looking for the same thing and were blown away by how it registered as totally insignificant to the ESPNs of the world. I just don’t see the upside to this team versus team controversy in terms of gaining more fans and increasing viewership.
Q: With announcement that the No. 11 car will not run at Toronto due to sponsorship issues and it being the only Foyt car in the top 22 in points, I’m wondering why Foyt doesn’t shift Kellett to the 11 to keep it scoring points? What are the rules regarding multiple drivers scoring points in a given entry? Where can I find the rule book?
MP: Let’s go in reverse order. I typed “IndyCar rulebook” into a Google search and it was returned as the very first link.
The question about teams moving drivers around to manipulate the Leaders Circle competition was the second question in last week’s Mailbag, but in short, the series is under no obligation to hand out LC contracts to those who might try and game the system. No disrespect to my guy Dalton, but he’s done every race in his own car and that No. 4 Chevy entry was last in the field entering Toronto in the Entrants’ standings. Moving Kellett over to the No. 11 Chevy isn’t going to keep it inside the top 22.
Q: They are saying in Mexico that IndyCar and NASCAR are returning to Parque Fundidora in 2023 and 2024. Have you heard something about that?
MP: Good old “They”! Yes, heard about Fundidora being renovated, and have also heard conflicting messages on whether it has any IndyCar angle to it, or if it’s all about NASCAR. Regardless, if the circuit is ready to welcome NASCAR in the near future, I like the odds of IndyCar going back.