The RACER Mailbag, September 14

The RACER Mailbag, September 14

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, September 14

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Q: In the previous Mailbag you said something to the effect of, “why can’t Penske Entertainment commission an engine and make a deal to badge it with a manufacturer.” And this is what I’ve been talking about all along — why couldn’t they get Cosworth or some other engine maker to come out with an engine and ask a manufacturer to badge it? IndyCar would probably have better chances with attracting manufacturers to badge it; it’s probably easier than the manufacturer getting involved and developing an engine from scratch. What is preventing IndyCar/Penske Entertainment from pursuing this option?

Shyam Cherupalla

MP: I’d say the hold-up is the desire to spend tens of millions on an engine program without having a manufacturer committed to pay for some or all of it up front. One thing R.P. does not do is spend a lot of money and then search for someone to help justify the expenditure.

My note in that Mailbag was one of changing the approach from waiting for someone to call and commit to forking out $50 million to join as a manufacturer to going out and actively seeking to partner with a manufacturer and shouldering some of the costs under the name of marketing and promotions. R.P. co-founded and co-owns Ilmor Engineering, makers of Chevy’s IndyCar engines. If he’s going to spend some of his own money on a new engine, I’d guess it would be with his own company.

Q: So, a couple of Mailbags back you dropped a hint on news about the proverbial third engine supplier for IndyCar. If I recall, in one of your responses to a question, you said that there may be some news forthcoming, but you wouldn’t announce or report on it in the Mailbag forum and that it would definitely be a standalone story. I don’t want to be thrown into “Lucy and the football” comparisons, but I’ll ask anyway: If there is nothing to report (yet), can you tell us if there are at least interesting rumors afloat? There’s still time to develop that hybrid engine. So there, I bit again, and asked the question.

Jim, Indy

MP: Wrote a story last week on Toyota taking its name off the table in the coming years, so that’s the big news. We’ll open the new 2.4L formula in 2024 with Chevy and Honda, only. I’ve heard there’s another brand that’s sniffing around, but I don’t have a name to share here quite yet, Jim.

Q: Should Kyle Busch go to RCR, does that mean Tyler Reddick is released early/gets a third car/Kurt’s out? If Tyler goes to 23XI early, does Denny Hamlin give him a car? Lastly, is there a dark family secret around why Austin seems to be the favored grandson over Ty? 

Bernardo, Canyon Lake, TX 

KELLY CRANDALL: Those same questions were on the lips of a lot of people in the paddock over the weekend, but they’ve now been answered by Tuesday’s confirmation that Busch is going to RCR, which will expand to three cars and retain Reddick. The only lingering question is what Reddick’s team will look like, since it won’t be the No. 8 with Randall Burnett.

As for the grandsons, Austin is older than Ty and, as such, has been the first to come through the ranks. Austin made it into each series before Ty and has had more success winning both a Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series championship. Perhaps you could say that Austin has had the better opportunity being the first one to get there, so to speak. Ty has also spent time away from the family and tried to do his own thing, both on and off the racetrack. He’s wanted to carve out his own identity, whereas Austin has always been tied to the family business, speaks about the family business, and hasn’t hidden that it’s his future. So, in that sense, it’s easy to think there is a favorite.

He knows where he stands in the Dillon grandchild pecking order. Motorsport Images

Q: I try not to get caught up in the whole “is IndyCar better than F1” silliness. They’re different series and I enjoy them both. But I think it’s embarrassing for F1 to regularly have amateur hour every time a safety car comes out and safety workers look like a cartoon trying to get the track cleared, particularly when time is of the essence. F1 loves to boast about how it’s the pinnacle of motorsport, but with no dedicated safety team that travels week in and week out, I can’t help but face palm when a car is stranded on the side of the circuit with no debris and five-ish laps to go and they can’t get the race green.

With the ridiculous money F1 has, this shouldn’t be an issue. IndyCar has had a dedicated team for decades, and while cautions can take time, I always know that if a race finishes under yellow, there probably wasn’t much more that could have been done. I don’t feel that same about F1.

Michael, Halifax, Nova Scotia

CHRIS MEDLAND: I agree to an extent Michael — F1’s processes take too long. At most venues, the safety team is perfectly good enough (but not all, I admit), but the current desire to ensure the safety car has picked up the right car and then bunched the pack up before you allow a crane on track etc can be very slow. It’s coming from the right place after Jules Bianchi’s accident and a number of near misses before that, but it should be quicker.

It takes too long to deploy the safety car in the first place sometimes, and ironically in Monza it was actually the permanent dedicated safety car team that made an error, picking up George Russell rather than the race leader Max Verstappen and waiting too long to release the queue of cars so Verstappen was at the head. By the time it did that, you had cars scattered all over the place and needed the final lap to group them all up again.

Q: Why does F1 seem to have such a thing for always removing dead cars (intact but with no drive) with a crane? Assuming the car is intact and can be put in neutral, a flat tow with almost any vehicle is far quicker

Doug Farrow, Plymouth, MN

CM: You’ve answered part of the question yourself, Doug — it’s when it can’t be put in neutral. That’s what happened with Ricciardo’s car, otherwise it would just get wheeled back into a gap in the barrier by the marshals. But it was stuck in gear (which happens relatively often, given the complexity of the transmissions and PUs), so needed lifting. As we saw with Vettel’s car earlier in the same race, that could go into neutral and so was pushed away easily and quickly under VSC, which is quicker than hooking it up to a tow truck.