Q: With everyone running Ilmor engines in the NASCAR Truck Series; what then differentiates Ford, Chevy and Toyota? What role do the manufacturers take?
Bernardo; Canyon Lake, TX
KELLY CRANDALL: It’s in the hands of the manufacturer with regard to how they want to differentiate themselves and the role they take. Some invest more resources into their teams than others when it comes to simulation time, available data and tools, driver development, and of course, money. For them, being competitive in the series is important and having a driver pipeline to their other series is important. Physically with the trucks, the OEMs were given more leeway coming into the year to redesign the nose and rear of their trucks to give them better shape lines that are closer to their production vehicles. Something like that is very important to the OEMs, and you hear it mentioned every time a race car or truck gets a new model.
Q: What advantages do the Championship 4 contenders get at Phoenix? Every year the four contenders are the class of the field. The probability of that happening naturally is unrealistic. I mean, it makes sense to me to stack the deck in their favor either via tires or a few extra HP, but they should at least be transparent about it.
Ryan in West Michigan
KC: The, shall we say, “politically correct” answer is that the four championship drivers are the best drivers of the season and, therefore, naturally, stand above the field in the last race of the season. However, optically it is very obvious whom the four championship drivers are every year compared to the rest of the field because they very much separate themselves from the rest of the field.
Sunday at Phoenix, the gap seemed a little smaller as Elliott, Bell, and Chastain fought through the field much of the day. But for the most part, yes, the four championship drivers are always up front. Good luck proving that something nefarious is going on to make it that way, though.
Q: Now that the off-season is upon us, I have a question for Marshall, Chris and Kelly: If you could go back in time to attend a race at a track that no longer exists and that you have not experienced in person, what track would each of you visit with your time machine? Mine would be Trenton and Meadowdale Raceway outside of Chicago.
Greg in Chicago
MP: The wickedly fast and flowing Bridgehampton road course in Long Island is one that disappeared before my time. Having read about the amazing Can-Am and Trans Am races there back in the day, it looked like it had everything I love about driving and racing. And thanks to sim racing, we can watch Lewis Hamilton lap Bridgehampton in last year’s Mercedes F1 car!
CM: Greg, I love Chicago so any excuse to head there would count for me, but I’ll keep it F1-specific. Although I’ll cheat and say two (you did after all!): One is Adelaide, because I love Melbourne immensely but people still seem to speak so fondly of Adelaide and there were some epic title deciders there. The other would be Reims-Gueux, because I’ve been to the old grandstand and pit complex that still sits alongside the public road and it’s incredible, you can just imagine being part of it in the early days of F1. Plus from Bruce McLaren’s book it sounded amazing to race there and then head to little bars in the villages the track linked together for celebrations afterwards!
KC: There are plenty of NASCAR tracks that fans long for, and many of them are before my time, so when I say a place like Nazareth Speedway in Pennsylvania, it might get looked as crazy. But I’ve heard a lot about Nazareth. I think Flemington Speedway in my home state once hosted NASCAR Truck Series races, so that would have been cool to see. And honestly, Walt Disney World Speedway, even though there isn’t a NASCAR connection — I was always fascinated by that place. On a vacation once, I stopped and snapped a quick picture through the fence a few years before it was torn down, and it was fun to try to imagine race cars there.
THE FINAL WORD
From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, November 13, 2013
Q: You confuse the heck outta me sometimes. It seems like almost every week a fan writes in to the Mailbag asking for more innovation, speed, new aero kits, and new engine manufacturers. Yet, you keep saying “I don’t think these changes would make a difference in TV audience figures.” Well, I completely disagree. IndyCar needs to be listening and embracing what the fans are wanting to see in their sport.
I know, I know, “listen to the fans and you’ll end up being one,” right? Sorry, but in this case, I think it’s time the IMS board listens to the fans instead of a marketing firm who suggests a road course at the beginning of May! We desperately need innovation. I love when the Chipster got Ben Bowlby to design the DeltaWing. And kudos to Ben — he was innovative, but he forgot the car needed to be open-wheeled car in an open-wheel racing series? Whoops!
As for speed, I saw Sneva hit 200mph and it was a big deal. That was 36 years ago. As a kid, I thought for sure I’d see the 250mph mark by the time I was an old man. Well, I’m 48, and the best we can do is a 237 in 1996? Why are we going backwards? Pitiful!
Here’s the deal. We need a game-changer, quickly. Speed, innovation and technology are cool! It’s what IndyCar should be about 365 days a year! Heck, I’m more excited about the FIA Formula E developments going on, and that makes me mad! I want IndyCar to be at the forefront in racing! Why aren’t we the premier series? I’ve watched more F1 races this year… and I don’t like road/street courses. But those cars are badass, and they’re fun to watch.
So what do you really think will move the needle? The only thing I’ve seen you write about is to open up the rulebook.
ROBIN MILLER: People can’t tell the difference between 200 and 220 at the track, let alone on television, and I’m just trying to look at this as a non-fan. What would make me drive to a track? The speed might, followed by different cars, but I want to watch passing and hard driving and IndyCar has that, but it doesn’t make any difference.
People keep assuming track records and six different kinds of cars will suddenly have people flocking to races or their TV sets, and I’m saying the only people who seem to care about these things are already watching IndyCar. Sure, if the rules opened up and you had Ford, Audi and Dodge coming to town, it would generate more marketing and more interest. And if the Indy 500 purse paid $1 million to start and $10 million to win, maybe McLaren or Red Bull would build a car. I loved the old days and I stooged for the last roadster to make the show with my hero Herk, but those days are gone. Nobody wants to build a car unless they’re guaranteed there won’t be any competition. It’s sad and it sucks but I’m afraid that’s the reality. At least for now.