The RACER Mailbag, August 31

The RACER Mailbag, August 31

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, August 31

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Q: In my conspiracy-driven sick mind I had a thought… Might Kyle Busch’s contract issues play into IndyCar’s hands? If he doesn’t sign anywhere in NASCAR, who in IndyCar might be first in line to snatch him up for the 500? And don’t you think having that talent in the 500 would be cool?

Dare to dream…

Bill Phypers, Brewster, NY

MP: I loved seeing his brother do so well on his Indy 500 debut and think Kyle would be a great addition to the field. At the same time, in a Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing, he’d be at the bottom of the depth charts. As good as Kyle Busch is on ovals, so is Will Power, Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Josef Newgarden, etc. In a top team, I’m sure he’d run extremely well, but let’s not believe for a moment that IndyCar’s best oval drivers would be playing second fiddle to Rowdy.

Q: Last weekend at Formula 1’s Belgian Grand Prix, there was a situation in which the car that qualified fastest on Saturday was unable to start on pole on Sunday due to a grid penalty. While there is debate as to who is recorded as winning pole – Max Verstappen qualified on pole while it was Carlos Sainz Jr who started there – it’s a matter that concerns only the record books.

In the IndyCar series however, there is a point (and trophy!) awarded for pole position. My question thus is: if there is such an occasion that a driver qualifies on pole for an IndyCar race but they are already subjected to a grid drop/back of the grid start, are they still awarded the point for their pole position, or would the points be awarded to the driver that qualified second?

Obligatory “when is IndyCar returning to Cleveland/Milwaukee/Michigan/Surfers Paradise/Brands Hatch/Lausitzring/Assen/NOLA…?”

John, Angus, Scotland

MP: Yes, winning the pole and the point that comes with it has nothing to do with grid penalties for a session – the race – that has yet to occur. Point for pole and recognition as the pole winner aren’t voided because of an unapproved engine change. And here’s a Breaking Exclusive Scoop: IndyCar’s returning to Brands Hatch!

You read it here first. Motorsport Images

Q: Pocono Raceway in August 1984 was the first IndyCar race I attended, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’m sad to see Pocono lose its IndyCar race and its second NASCAR date in the span of only a few years.

I wanted to ask you about the feasibility of Pocono Raceway configuring a road course or Roval for use by IndyCar? I don’t believe IndyCar has any desire to return to the Pocono tri-oval, but there are compelling reasons why IndyCar should return to the mid-Atlantic region. In my view, the road course at Indianapolis has provided exciting racing, especially the May race this year, and it seems like that success could be duplicated at Pocono as well.

My concern is that Pocono Raceway’s long-term prospects are not good, and once we lose these tracks, they are gone forever. A dual date with NASCAR on the tri-oval and IndyCar on a Roval would get me to fly across the country and attend. What are your thoughts?

Kevin P., Los Angeles, CA

MP: The last time I wandered around Pocono’s infield, it had the look of a road course in need of a complete makeover if a pro-level event were to be held. A combo roval event with NASCAR would be an interesting proposal, although I’m not sold on the idea of the region being ready to flood the track with fans who are drawn to road racing. It had good roval crowds many decades ago when IMSA turned up, but many generations have followed who only know Pocono to be a home for oval racing. Anything’s possible, and I’d rather see IndyCar and NASCAR play together at Pocono than on the combo Brickyard weekend on the IMS road course.

Q: I was a spectator at my first Indianapolis 500 in 1963 and a spectator at six more before covering the race as a sportswriter then photographer for 27 years. That was followed by spectating at five or six more and working on the Safety Patrol for three years along the back stretch and Turn 3. I also covered many other IndyCar races over the years. I became known as “Crash” because I never missed getting publishable images of track incidents that could be seen from my position. I never missed because I could tell a driver was in trouble, sometimes before the driver knew it. I studied the cars, the drivers and IMS as well as other tracks to help me anticipate problems.

All of the above is to explain why I believe oval IndyCar racing, and probably twisty racing, could be improved by narrowing the tires. Narrower tires reduce drag on straightaways and reduce grip on turns. That, in turn, creates more variation in speeds during sections of laps. Some drivers will be better at managing slowing for turns and accelerating out of turns. This makes differences in driver talent and bravery a greater factor than it already is and will make for better racing.

With the planned changes to the chassis in a few years, now might be a good time to also consider wheel and tire width.

Mark Wick

MP: Thanks for writing in, Mark. There’s a bit of a misnomer here that changing tire/wheel size would unlock differences in driver talent, suggesting that if it stays the way it is now, such things won’t be seen. We could go twice as wide or go skinny like MotoGP tires, and the best will be faster than the rest. Back in the day when Roadsters were on tall and skinny rubber, the best went to the front and the rest went to the back, so there’s no magic to be had by monkeying with tires and wheel sizes. Turning the cars into dragsters on the straights and turtles in the corners is everything I wouldn’t want to see.