The RACER Mailbag, September 14

The RACER Mailbag, September 14

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, September 14

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Q: Are testing dates per team or per car? I’m wondering if Ganassi could’ve sent two cars to test at Portland and two to Laguna?

Vincent Martinez, South Pasadena, CA

MP: No, a team, at a track, burns a private test day. Otherwise, Ganassi, Andretti, and all of the big teams would send individual cars to different tracks on the same day to exploit that possibility and get data at three or four tracks at once. Great idea, but it ain’t happening.

Q: IndyCar’s in-car cameras present huge drag right on top of the roll hoop (and now that I’ve taken notice, they really look weird to me, natch). Perfect focal length, by the way. But those look like 20-year-old technology. I assume they carry heavy batteries for the whole race and have a little mechanism to clear the lens, too. Any plans to rework those with the new cars?

Gary Kellogg, Portland, OR

MP: Lots of assumptions here. They add drag, but it’s not huge, and yes, they add weight, but that’s equalized across all cars so camera users aren’t disadvantaged. Those are made and managed by the team at Broadcast Sports International, and as they’ve always done, if there’s something new or improved to try, they’ve never been shy in giving it a go. But spending a ton to re-do all overhead cameras just for the sake of looks would be a tough expenditure to justify.

Q: I understand why IndyCar would prefer not to compete with the NFL for TV ratings but I’m looking at the schedule today and IndyCar is competing with the NFL’s opening week and directly against the Indianapolis Colts in the largest IndyCar TV market.

Any insight why IndyCar would end the season on NFL opening weekend versus last weekend when the company line has been don’t compete against the NFL? Did Roger Penske and team fail to look at the calendar, or are things changing?


MP: The calendar is set by available dates at the tracks and available dates by NBC to send trucks and staff to cover the events, and not the other way around where IndyCar sets the dates and the tracks and its TV partner falls in line. FWIW, the season ended this year on the opening weekend of the NFL and on the third NFL weekend last year.

Q: Felipe Drugovich won the F2 championship over the weekend. I think you mentioned his name in an IndyCar silly season report. Drugovich has become my wife’s second-favorite Felipe (Nasr being No. 1). Formula 1 seats are slim pickings at the moment. Any chance he will be at CGR for 2023?

Jonathan and Cleide Morris, Ventura, CA

MP: That was the rumor I’d been hearing but was unable to verify. Heard an offer was made but was ultimately declined due to an F1 offer of some sorts coming through. [ED: He signed a reserve and development deal with Aston Martin earlier this week]. But now, with rumblings of McLaren backing away from Palou and leaving him on an island, a return to Ganassi — unless he wants to sit out for a year or two on “gardening leave,” as the English like to call it — seems like the only path to continue his career in the short term, assuming the chatter I heard was accurate.

Q: I’ve always loved the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca. Are there any other tracks around the world, aside from that Isle of Man or Dakar Rally insanity, where the drivers almost literally drive off a cliff?

Srephyp Llib, Southeast, NY

MP: Bathurst is the first track that comes to mind.

Take the Corkscrew, make it a bit tighter, replace the gravel trap on the outside with a concrete wall, give it an Aussie accent and voila: you have The Dipper, the sequence of corners that marks the start of the descent from the top of the mountain at Bathurst. Mark Horsburgh/Motorsport Images

Q: I heard lots of talk during the race that the Laguna Seca track will be resurfaced in the off-season. What does that entail? I would think they grind down the top layers and redo them, but not sure. When that happens, does Firestone and IndyCar do extensive testing there to get data on the surface?

Matt, Dallas, TX

MP: All-new surface applied, Matt, but I’m not sure on the method; I’d need to ask the vendor, assuming a company has been chosen. Barber and Road America were recently repaved; no extensive testing by the series or tire vendor took place, so I wouldn’t expect it here. IndyCar did name Laguna as one of its three official test sites next year, with teams having one day — the Thursday of the race weekend – to test and learn the characteristics of the new surface.

Q: While I greatly appreciate your experience, I think your answer on battery-powered wheel guns was a little off-handed. Personally, I believe racing series still use air-powered guns mainly due to tradition. If the desire was there, companies such as Snap-on could easily produce battery-powered guns that are the equal to the currently-used gun.

Today, I can buy a Snap-on impact gun that has 1,000 pound feet of torque. Yes, the current wheel guns are custom-made and cost upwards of $6,000+ dollars, but that would not stop any manufacturer who wished to enter the market if the series would allow battery-powered guns. Who wouldn’t want to get rid of multiple nitrogen tanks and hoses and replace them with — pick a number — of lithium batteries and chargers?

Chuck Genrich

MP: Thanks, Chuck. Most of what I say is off-handed. As I mentioned in my brief response last week, if teams felt electric wheel guns were ready to use on pit lane, they’d be using them. It’s just another way of overstating the obvious. But I didn’t say they’d never be used. Sometimes I’m not able to tell you everything I’d like to.

If and when the series or teams feel they will have an advantage by going electric, they will. Tradition means nothing in a sport where every open area of improvement is exploited.

Q: Why do teams take off the front wing and put them little further up the nose when taking cars between the garages and the pits?

Scott, Howell MI

MP: That’s done to make it easier to push or tow the cars without fear of scraping the front wing endplates on the ground. There are lots of seams and transitions and angled roads to navigate, often with the back of the car hiked up on a quick jack, so the nose and leading edge of the front wing end plates can be precariously close to the ground. Moving the nose up to the top mounting holes solves the problem.