The RACER Mailbag, September 14

The RACER Mailbag, September 14

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, September 14

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Q: What are the benefits of starting a stint on scuffed tires? Do they come up to temperature faster? Grip better out of the gate? I heard about a driver at Portland starting a stint on scuffed tires, but the commentator said they probably wouldn’t last as long as stickered tires.

Sean Raymond

MP: No clue what the commentator was referring to; a scuffed set, also known as a set of heat-cycled tires, helps to cure the tires and get some extra life out of them.

Q: It seems that a potential F1 move by Colton Herta comes not only with pressure on him personally, but on all of IndyCar as far as IndyCar’s relevance as a top global racing series. If he is successful that would be amazing; if not, it would bring all the “I told you so” camp to the forefront. Also, if Colton is successful, do you see Michael having a clause to get him back if Andretti F1 ever happens?

Dave in JC

MP: True on the Colton/I-told-you-so angle, Dave, but that’s no different for any of the Americans, from Scott Speed to Michael Andretti to Eddie Cheever, etc., from decades prior. Just the latest example. His IndyCar contract runs through 2023, but has an out-clause if an F1 opportunity comes along. Can’t see, though, how he could sign to drive for an F1 team while having a future driving contract with his former team. That seems like something that would make an F1 team balk at signing him.

Q: Would an IndyCar race at North Wilkesboro be entertaining?


MP: I’d be there in a heartbeat, Kyle. As fast as these cars are at Iowa on a 0.875-mile oval, I bet they’d be a thrill on something even smaller.

Q: We hardly ever see Sam Schmidt anymore. What is the status of he and Ric Petersen? Has their ownership percentage changed? Will it be Arrow McLaren racing soon?

Mike DeQuardo, Elkhart Lake, WI

MP: Saw Sam a few times last weekend. He’s been pretty busy with business and family matters — all positive — away from the IndyCar circuit at times this year. Not sure if I saw Ric in Monterey, and when I asked about ownership percentage changes earlier this year, I was told no. Haven’t asked recently. The name you’ve suggested is one I’ve heard rumored before.

You can still spot Sam in the paddock. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Q: Herta to AlphaTauri. Malukas to the 10. Rosenqvist to the 26. Palou with AMSP. Lundqvist to Coyne/HMD. On the hot/cold scale, am I ice cold or scalding hot?

Andy Brumbaugh, Columbia, SC

MP: In order, Andy: Sounding less likely for 2023 and if it’s not 2023, I’m told that AT door likely closes for 2024 and beyond. Nope on Davey to the 10. If Colton leaves and McLaren’s silly enough to let Rosenqvist go, it would make a lot of sense. All parties definitely want Linus in a DCR w/ HMD car. They need to figure that out soon because the new Indy Lights champ is getting new looks elsewhere in the paddock.

Q: Just read the articles about Juncos moving to two cars for 2023, and Honda speaking about engine availability for 2023. Based on what you know so far, I have a few questions I’m hoping you can answer: Is Foyt going to field two cars in 2023, or will it try again for three? Do you think Ganassi will have four cars or drop to three, and do you think Coyne will get an engine for a third car?

Also, with ECR fielding the car for Paretta Autosport, do you see any chance of a full season between Ed on ovals and Simona on road and street? It looks like there will be 27 cars on the grid now with Juncos, so what do you think the car count will be for 2023?

Rod, Fresno, CA

MP: Two cars for Foyt. The rest of your questions involve answers that could only be provided with a time machine where I’d have to go into the future to learn what decisions have been made. I’d guess Jimmie’s thinking about returning for the ovals. Linus could be in the 51 car if Sato steps back and could be in a third if he doesn’t. Beth’s found sponsorship to do four races in 2022; tripling that amount to do all the road/street courses would be amazing, but would also be incredibly hard to achieve. Less than 27, for sure.

Q: I have a few concerns with the Herta-to-F1 scenario. 1) I don’t trust Helmut Marko any further than I could throw him. 2) I hate to see him get Michael Andretti-ed. Not to take anything away from his skills, but I’d have to hypothesize that much of the interest in him is that he’s American. “Drive to Survive,” other than being mentioned 152,000 times here in the Mailbag, has grown interest of F1 in the States — a primo market. What remains to be seen is when DTS goes off the air, how many F1 racing fans are left after the soap opera stops? Nationality matters not to me, but to marketers it seems to.

My point is, they’re taking this kid and putting him in an unfamiliar car, unfamiliar series, system and tracks with high expectations in the impatient pressure cooker of Red Bull Racing. All just to get people to care about the flag on his helmet? On that note, will U.S. audiences ever get fully invested until there’s an American driver with an American power-unit manufacturer in an American car (not an English-staffed Italian franchise)?

Shawn, MD

MP: I’m not sure there’s enough of us to truly care about being flag-waving supporters of Colton, Chevy/Dodge/Ford, or a true American-built car/team in F1. I know diehards will get behind such things, but not enough for it to be a big nation-wide thing.

Q: I was watching the replay of the 1987 CART race at Laguna Seca and during the race Mario made a three-tire change in one of his pit stops. Maybe I just haven’t paid attention too closely, but does something like that still happen in the IndyCar series? Also, why would it be a better option to only change three tires and not four?

Matthew Houk, Columbus, OH

MP: It doesn’t these days, Matthew. 1987 was the last of the Laguna races on the original layout where it was almost one big left-hand turn. I’m guessing they changed all but the left-rear tire, which would have been the freshest of the four. Lots of reasons why — could be a sticking wheel hub/nut issue to slow the stop; could be a bad day for that tire changer; could be a shortage of fresh tires to use; could be a desire to get more rotation out of the car, which you’d get by having an older tire on the left rear, etc.