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: Let’s suppose that come the IndyCar finale at Monterey, the championship is down to Marcus Ericsson and Alex Palou or Scott Dixon and Alex Palou. Does Chip Ganassi let Alex suit up that weekend?
MARSHALL PRUETT: Yes, without a doubt. Chip is many things, but he isn’t an idiot. If Palou’s in the mix for a second consecutive title, that’s not something Ganassi would monkey with and risk losing — for himself or his sponsors — due to the lawsuit.
The real question here is whether Palou, if he’s out of the championship fight, would help Ericsson or Dixon in the remaining races? After Dixie’s comments in Toronto about loyalty and whatnot, I don’t know if he and Palou are besties anymore (they never were, to be honest), and if the distance Marcus kept from the Palou media frenzy last Thursday at IMS is an indicator of where he stands with Alex, I do wonder if Palou would do his best to take points off of CGR’s rivals or go for individual glory and race wins that take points off his teammates if he’s not in the title picture.
Q: Are there any rumblings of Hypercar teams participating at the 2023 Rolex 24? I seem to recall a mandatory BoP test at Sebring scheduled this fall for interested manufacturers, but outside of Cadillac, Glickenhaus (sarcasm), Porsche, BMW and Acura, is anybody else interested for 2023? If not next year, do you see any WEC Hypercar manufacturers making the leap in 2024?
MP: Only rumors I’ve heard is we might get Peugeot, but to my surprise, Toyota has been awfully quiet on coming over to play. Yep, my guess is those who skip 2023 will join in 2024 after getting a proper look at the pace of the GTP cars.
Q: After just watching the race at Indy I again come away disappointed in the announcers. Two in the booth is fine, three in the booth, not so much. It seems that quite often Townsend Bell and Hinch are in competition to see how much information they can dispense. The more they talk, the faster they talk. Many times they verbalize so much information it is mentally exhausting. They do not have to tell me everything they know all of the time.
MP: Good to hear I wasn’t the only one who noticed the information overload going on, Chuck, and if that wasn’t happening, we had the pit lane reporters cramming as many potential headlines for this week into their hits as well. It was a weird one, for sure.
Q: What’s the deal with Jimmie Johnson getting as much TV coverage as the race leaders? I understand he’s a big name in NASCAR, but until he consistently proves himself in an IndyCar, I don’t think he deserves the attention. I tend to think it is because Carvana is such a big commercial sponsor. If that is what is takes to watch IndyCar races, then so be it.
I’m a fan of oval races and wonder why IndyCar doesn’t seem interested in racing at the Kansas speedway. Is it the banking on the track?
Tim Hurd, Kansas City
MP: I’d put it down to Jimmie being the most famous and widely recognizable name in a series where everyone other than Helio Castroneves has zero profile outside the sport. And then you have the fact that NBC has half the NASCAR schedule on its channels, so the inevitable attempt to create crossover viewing interest is a constant. Throw in the Carvana ads, and yes, no doubt, it’s a strategy employed by NBC, not a coincidence…
If TV ratings are up as a result of NBC’s ‘Constant Jimmie’ approach, we’ll owe them a big thanks. If not, we’ll chalk it up to another attempt to use the biggest name in the series — like we had with Danica — to try and appeal to a wider audience.
As for Kentucky, I’m sure IndyCar would be interested if the track approached them with a good offer and plan of how they’d put a strong crowd in the stands to watch the race. The process tends to be tracks reaching out to a series, not the other way around.
Q: You’re on the record stating that IndyCar, as a top-tier national series, shouldn’t be anyone’s opening act. That precedent has been set aside. I for one would have much rather seen it happen at an oval. If you were in charge, what oval would you do the double IndyCar/NASCAR event at?
MP: I’d go for Gateway. Talk about a clear depiction of differences between the two types of cars and racing where I’ve got to believe IndyCar comes away with a lot of love and respect for the quality of its show.
Q: During the broadcast of the race on the IMS road course, one commentator applauded a driver (maybe it was Rinus VeeKay) for his work ethic. I have a sense of what that means in other sports, like football or basketball, but I’m curious what it means in IndyCar, or racing generally. I know drivers work out and probably spend some time on a simulator, but do they watch race film, review telemetry, and that sort of thing? If they do, is that helpful for a race the following week, at a different track, or do they just file that information away for use when they return to the same track?
Chris in Richmond, CA
MP: I joke with a few of the younger IndyCar drivers that their lives sound like the old MTV Jersey Shore routine of GTL — Gym, Tan, Laundry — but in most cases, they all train hard, spend time on a simulator of some sorts, meet with their engineers to gameplan the next race or review the last, and look over onboard data in the same rearward- or forward-looking capacity.
Hard to say exactly what the reference was to the driver in question, but it’s not uncommon for a bright young talent, as we so often see in other sports, rely heavily on that natural talent when they’re new to a league or series. Within a year or two, it’s also common for those talents to realize the big stars put in an incredible amount of time and effort to expand their capabilities through all the aforementioned items. Most of the elite IndyCar drivers possess the same speed, within a tenth or less, so refining that talent and adding new or greater skills through hard work is where the differences are made.