The RACER Mailbag, October 5

The RACER Mailbag, October 5

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, October 5

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Q: When IndyCar released its 2023 schedule, you had a new article on the site within hours titled “IndyCar exploring options for new venues.”

Let the speculation begin!

Milwaukee Mile: Dave Kallman of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is pessimistic that an IndyCar return to the Mile can be successful. A late August date with the NASCAR Trucks is the best hope for a reincarnation. I cannot see Penske and Detroit relinquishing its date after Indy.

Mexico: Fundidora Park in Monterrey is the best bet. There is some construction going on there and it is the hometown of Pato O’Ward. And Monterrey is much closer to the border than Mexico City.

Denver: I thought the Ball Arena (former Pepsi Center) street circuit used from 2002-06 was decent. But, Stan Kroenke, the billionaire owner of the Nuggets, Avalanche, and Ball Arena, has plans to develop the Ball Arena parking lot for retail, housing, and green space. Perhaps a race in Denver will have to be somewhere other than around Ball Arena.

Richmond: The attendance was good there for the first few years. Towards the end the racing turned processional. I recall then-teammates Dixon and Franchitti apologizing for a processional race at Richmond. Give Richmond another try?

Pittsburgh: I think a Pittsburgh street race is a Rahal pipe dream at this point.

Unspecified road course out west: Could it be a return to Sonoma? Maybe Utah Motorsports Campus? I cannot see it being Las Vegas.

Ken C, Thunder Bay, ON

MP: Speculation keeps us entertained, especially in the offseason!
Kallman’s a smart guy with all the local insights, so I wouldn’t argue against him. I would add, though, that IndyCar is genuinely motivated to take another shot at making Milwaukee work, and if they maintain that energy, good things can happen.

Q: I really enjoyed camping at Mid-Ohio on the first weekend of October last year for the finale of the Road to Indy series. By contrast, this year’s RTI categories finished with a rush of three high stakes races at Portland International Raceway. With the chaotic starts of those races under dubious and vacillating rules which resulted in a significant shuffle in the final standing, might Andersen Promotions and Penske Entertainment opt to go back to Mid-Ohio for a more stable and equitable finale to the Road to Indy season?

Don Davis, Chardon, OH

MP: It’s a great point, Don. Asking a bunch of kids towards the bottom tier of the Road To Indy — the USF2000 class, in particular, where they have so much left to learn — to navigate the crash-happy Turn 1 chicane without taking each other out might be asking too much. As we saw, big mistakes made across all three USF2000 race starts changed the championship in significant ways, and that’s a shame.

But, the other way to look at it is a bunch of kids learned some huge lessons, mostly on the ‘what not to do’ side, and those who were able to steer clear of contact were duly rewarded. Best suggestion is to use what the IndyCar drivers lobbied for, which was to get an early start coming out of the final corner so there was more separation by the time they got to Turn 1. It worked to perfection.

Q: Congrats to the Meyer Shank team on its DPi championship! It has been great to see them slowly grow bigger and better. In 2019, I took my young nephew to the IndyCar race at Barber, and we stayed at the same hotel as MSR. At breakfast, the mechanics and engineers were super cool and allowed the boy to ask them a bunch of questions; Mike convinced the staff to feed him mimosas. Hope they never change!

Regards, Kyle

MP: MSR is the closest thing you’ll find to a group of fishing buddies who’ve decided to go and win the 24 Hours of Daytona, Indy 500, and three IMSA championships between beer runs and fish fries. The most real and relatable team I’ve come across in pro racing. Now it’s time to get the IndyCar program in order.

Shank’s amassing one heck of a trophy collection. Phillip Abbott/Motorsport Images

Q: New name ideas for the series and ladder:

Top Tier: Astor Cup (Astor Cup presented by…, or NTT Indy Car Astor Cup Series)

Second Tier: Vanderbilt Cup (Vanderbilt Cup presented by…, or PPG IndyCar Vanderbilt Cup Series)

It would be nice to have a stable name associated with the series and trophy and then add and change sponsors and presenters. Changing the name of the trophy name every time the sponsorships change, as is done in other series, is cheesy. The two IndyCar trophies (along with the Borg Warner) are iconic and timeless.

A couple weeks ago there was a question about using old IndyCars for the second tier series. Could we gather up all the DP01s and put old Judd V10 F1 engines in them for the junior series? There was one running around at M1 this past weekend in Pontiac, MI and it sounded really cool.

Eric Gackenbach, Dearborn, MI

MP: By gather, you mean paying a lot of money to the private owners of 15-year-old vintage Indy cars and then pay tons for coveted and limited-supply Judd V10s… to use as the cars at the top step of the junior open-wheel ladder… which would likely be faster than the current DW12s. I love it!
As for names, It’s been the IndyCar Series since 2005, with various sponsor names added up front. Is it really that unstable?

Q: Did Chip cover his DPi crash damage costs by selling tickets to the reaming he surely gave the two drivers? Odds of either returning next year?

Doug Farrow, Plymouth, MN

MP: As one Ganassi staffer told me, if they were able to sort out the Palou situation and keep him in place, they can keep Earl ‘The Hammer’ Bamber and Renger ‘The Anvil’ van der Zande in their Cadillacs in 2023.

Q: An odd comment for me since my interest tends to wane with the seasonal shifting of Mailbag percentage away from IndyCar, but I really enjoyed the video link in last week’s Mailbag to the 1971 team principals’ race at Brands Hatch. I would like to see Toto Wolff and Christian Horner included in the field with Chip and Zak in spec cars, but open-wheel cars, not tin-tops. Maybe non-winged sprint cars on dirt.

My question is, should I be relieved that the 2023 IndyCar schedule is unchanged from last year, or disappointed that it is not?

Gary E, Dwight, IL

MP: I think Zak wins that one. He was pretty good back in the day when he was on the 1990s version of the Road To Indy, and he’s also the only one among those you mentioned who regularly races or tests vintage GTP, CART, and F1 cars.

My take on the schedule is that after two years of COVID-affected calendars and shortened seasons, I like the idea of year-to-year consistency. But I wouldn’t feel the same way a year from now. Not when F1’s expanding and doing new and interesting things, including barnstorming America with three raced. Not when NASCAR, at least with its Coliseum opener and addition of a Chicago street race and a greater shift towards road racing, is making an impact by trying to do new and interesting things.

I like the schedule steadiness for IndyCar because it allows teams to save and prepare for a new and more expensive engine formula and the related chassis and aero updates coming in 2024, and it also speaks to the series having stability where it was recently lacking, but it can’t afford to get left behind by its bigger rivals by giving fans, sponsors, and manufacturers the same old calendar in 2024.

MX-5 Cup | Round 2 – Daytona | Livestream