The RACER Mailbag, October 26

The RACER Mailbag, October 26


The RACER Mailbag, October 26

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Q: Lance Stroll given a three-place grid penalty for driving that dangerously? What is the FIA playing at? You cannot move in reaction to try and block another driver. 

Had Fernando Alonso’s car actually started flying, he’d have had no control and if a marshal or photographer been in the line of fire, they would have been killed. And it would be all on Lance Stroll.

Moreover, his attitude after the race about the incident was breathtakingly arrogant and entitled. Surely a race ban is necessary, not just for his outrageous maneuver, but for his nonchalance?

Jordan, Warwickshire, UK

CM: I was amazed Alonso defended Stroll after the race, to be honest, and I checked with him in private to make sure he wasn’t just saying it because he is joining Aston Martin next year and he insisted he wasn’t. He felt Stroll didn’t move in response, just unfortunately moved a split second after Alonso himself had. I’m not so sure, but perhaps the stewards took those views into account in that it wasn’t a clear-cut block but more an intended attempt to defend the inside before Alonso went there.

I know what you mean about his attitude too, but that might have been another reason the stewards still penalized Stroll even with Alonso’s comments, because they felt he needed to learn it wasn’t something that could be dismissed lightly. I think a race ban is too far, though — these guys race hard every week and they are always inches from moments like this. A tiny misjudgment can have big consequences, but I feel like there needs to be utter stupidity or maliciousness to get into race ban territory, and Alonso felt there was neither of those here.

Q: This may be more coincidence than anything, but I have a theory on the decline of NASCAR in particular. (Note: I only really watch IndyCar these days.) When I was a kid in the 1990s and a teen in the early 2000s, cars were easily identifiable as the sponsors were the same every race and paint schemes change little from year to year. Even if you didn’t follow closely, you knew when you saw the bright orange Tide car, that was Ricky Rudd — every race. When you saw the DeWalt car, it was Matt Kenseth… every race. Valvoline = Mark Martin. Essentially, you identified the drivers more by what the car looked like than the numbers. When teams went to rotating sponsors, it became difficult to follow if you didn’t watch every week.

The “identity” of being a fan also went away and marketability got wonky. Look at F1 — McLaren is papaya and even a casual fan will know if they see you in papaya you’re a McLaren fan. Red = Ferrari. All that to say, I think there’s something about the stability of drivers and sponsors when it comes to being able to follow the sport and market it, and when that went away the decline came.

Ross Bynum

KELLY CRANDALL: NASCAR went through a glorious period where it was very easy to connect a driver to a paint scheme, and there is no denying that a driver was associated with the car they drove. Jeff Gordon and DuPont. Dale Earnhardt and GM Goodwrench. Jimmie Johnson and Lowe’s. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Budweiser. The list goes on, including the ones you mentioned, Ross. But as the cost of racing got more and more expensive, when sponsors started to depart, it became really hard for teams to find full-season sponsors. In fact, I think the only one left is Ally on the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports. FedEx was one, too, but the No. 11 at Joe Gibbs Racing has had other one-race sponsors like Sport Clips come on in recent years. The point is, teams are no longer in a position to brand around one company — which gives a driver an easy identity — because it’s too expensive for those companies to sponsor 38 races, and that’s why there is a rotating cast of sponsors on a car.

Even during its silver era, McLaren had a papaya soul — as evidenced by the pre-season testing livery on the very wonderful MP4/12 in 1997. Motorsport Images

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, October 22, 2013

Q: As an IndyCar “lifer,” I get very sensitive whenever NASCAR claims to be the greatest, most-skilled, best, fastest, etc. In light of that, I need someone to explain to me (like I’m a five year-old) how Talladega is the “world’s fastest racetrack,” as we were reminded yesterday with unabashed fervor after every commercial break. I understand that the track’s size and high banking lends to higher speeds for NASCAR and that the restrictor plate controls speed, but I’m not finding the statistics that back up the claim of being the “world’s fastest track.” Is it a mentality of “if it didn’t happen in NASCAR, then it didn’t happen”?

My brother, who has drunk the NASCAR Kool-aid, looked at me like I was an idiot and, dripping with contempt, told me, “It’s the fastest track in NASCAR, and if the IndyCars ran on it, the drivers would pass out, so it’s the fastest racetrack,” to which I responded, “But that hasn’t been proven.” Uncomfortable silence for several minutes. In all sincerity, please help me understand where I’m off-track.

Cyndy Riordan

ROBIN MILLER: First of all, smack your brother because he’s wrong. Gil de Ferran set the all-time, one-lap oval-track record of 241mph at Fontana in 2001 in an IndyCar!!!! Last time I checked, the speeds at the Indy 500 were 20mph quicker than Cup cars at ’Dega (and IndyCars lap IMS 40mph quicker than Cup cars do). So smack him again.

IndyCar Setup Sheet