The RACER Mailbag, September 14

The RACER Mailbag, September 14

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, September 14

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Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to mailbag@racer.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: Last week’s Mailbag featured “Steve from Chicago”, aka “Mailbag Skynet” complaining about NASCAR and some other guy moaning about Ferris wheels and events. My question to all the Skynets out there is, are all the diehard fans being so negative on the series we all love part of the problem? Just saying it gets old.

David, Chattanooga, TN

MARSHALL PRUETT: Preaching to the choir, David.

Q: When should we expect the 2023 IndyCar schedule to be announced? I am assuming it is going to be very similar to this year’s 17-race calendar. Thanks!

Eric in Mequon, WI

MP: Next week or two, I believe. Just a few final bits to button up, I’m told, with Texas and Toronto as the two main ones I’ve heard about.

Q: As great a drive as Newgarden put together at Laguna Seca, it would have been great for that to have been for the championship. Unfortunately, similar to last year, he came up short with a big part of it being a potential race win escaping him due to a car failure out of his control and him finishing at the back. Congrats to Power on his consistency and sealing his legacy with not only a second championship, but also surpassing Mario Andretti on career poles.

My question is, how was Palou not penalized for his unsafe release? He hit a car on his exit. Even the booth said he should be penalized. We’ve seen drivers get penalized for less than that in the past.

Chris, Michigan

MP: I’m thankful there was no action taken. The lightest contact possible was made, neither driver or car were hurt, and the race went on with no danger to the crews and no advantage gained or lost. If that’s the kind of stuff we’re going to penalize, the entire field will be penalized at most races. I blame Formula 1, where one driver sneezing near another is the subject of a penalty review by race control. It’s a terrible approach to the sport.

Q: I’m not sure if reading too much into this, but I am catching a bit of tension between Josef and Will. With Will winning, it’s seemed like Josef doesn’t have anything to say about Will and hardly cared to congratulate his teammate. I know he lost the race and the championship and had a up and down year — is this a small sign of inter-team issues around who is the No. 1 at Penske? Have we seen a different attitude from Newgarden this season that we have never seen?

Tristan

MP: Dark Josef made a number of appearances this year, didn’t he, Tristan? He’s let the harder edge of his competitive spirit shine through this season, and I love it. As for a rift between himself and Power, I haven’t seen it, but knowing how much fire burns within him, I’d put good money on Josef being angry-mystified at how he won five races and lost the title while Power won one race and took the title home. As I witnessed his attitude in the post-race press conference, it was feelings of bitterness at coming up short more than negative feelings towards his teammate.

He may have been bummed after the race, but Newgarden was a human highlight reel at the Corkscrew on Sunday. And a five-win season is nothing to sniff at, either. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Q: The engine noise when the in-car cameras were on, in combination with the trackside background sound, completely overpowered the race commentary all weekend on NBC’s Laguna Seca coverage last weekend. Unfortunate, as those new to the sport were left in the dark without the benefit of what I assume was informative and insightful narration. Any idea if this sound mix was intentional?

Bill Branagh

MP: Did NBC intentionally drown out its commentators at the season finale? Come on, man.

Q: I know consistency matters, but one win in 17 races and you’re celebrating winning the championship? One win? One. Maybe a points adjustment would help make winning count more?

Jeff Brown, Bernardsville, NJ

MP: I hear you, Jeff; I’d have preferred to see Power have two or three wins, but every driver had an equal opportunity to win the championship and all but Power failed in their mission. More often than not, the IndyCar title winner is the person who was most consistent across the entire season instead of the person who won a ton but also had a ton of poor finishes. Power leveled the competition by taking nine podiums, which is remarkable.

Q: Before the season we wondered if the Big 3 teams would become the Big 4. Would McLaren solidify itself as a perennial threat? Then the top six in the championship were occupied by three Penske and three Ganassi drivers. Big 4? More like Top 2. Andretti has had its credentials revoked, and if it loses Herta (it should; he’s qualified for F1) I’d pick Coyne to have a better year than Andretti in 2023.

Ryan in West Michigan

MP: Such a weird year in that regard, Ryan. We’ve had the Big 3 forever and I’m not keen on expanding it to the Big 4 or Big 5; it needs to be a knockout scenario where someone’s always vying for P3 in the Big 3. But I am good with it being reduced to the Big 2, because that’s where we ended up this season.

Andretti Autosport needs to earn its way back into the Big 3, no doubt, and while AMSP took their spot for most of the season, they faded — for the second consecutive year — down the homestretch and watched as Penske and Ganassi created clear separation from the rest of the field. I can’t wait to see who tries to claim P3 in the Big 3 next season.

Q: After watching Will win in Laguna and then flipping over to see Bubba win in Kansas, my question is, where have the celebration donuts and burnouts gone in IndyCar? In the last two races Will and Scott went straight to victory lane, but in NASCAR they spend five minutes doing donuts and burnouts in front of the flag stand. I understand if they don’t want to tear up equipment and if it is related to a TV window, but I do love me some donuts!

Steve

MP: I’ve been wondering about the same thing, Steve. Knowing how it was the last race of the season for that engine, I did expect some tasty donuts from DJ Willy P, but he was decidedly mellow after clinching the championship. They’re all worried about damaging the motors, so I wonder if Chevy and Honda can develop a “Donut Map” where the engines are pulled down from a max of 12,000 rpm to 10,000 or so.

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