The RACER Mailbag, December 21

The RACER Mailbag, December 21


The RACER Mailbag, December 21

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Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.

Q: I just read some good news. IndyCar has a new series sponsor, the Fred Astaire Dance Studios. The company said it is coming on board because it’s never seen anyone that can do the one step forward, two steps backward move any better.

Seriously, the engine situation that you did so well explaining is truly two steps backward for the series. And as a long-time IndyCar fan I can’t think of a way the series is going to get out of this mess. But I have a couple of questions. The first is, what do other series such as the World of Outlaws do regarding engines? Do the teams build their own engines, or are there three or four engine builders that most of the teams use, and if so, what are the costs involved?

Also, what about NASCAR Cup? Hendrick Motorsports builds its own engines and I believe TRD supplies engines to the Toyota teams. What are the costs to supply one Cup team for a year’s worth of engines?

Finally, it really doesn’t make any sense that Chevrolet/GM is racing an ICE in IndyCar. Every press release or public appearance by CEO Mary Barra for the past decade is about GM having an all-electric fleet by 2035. 

Rick Schneider, Charlotte, NC

MARSHALL PRUETT: I’d say it makes plenty of sense for Chevy and Honda to be building and racing with ICEs since both brands are nowhere near being all-EV. In the future engine formula I hope to see for IndyCar, flexibility will be a big part of the game so, as we get close to 2030, then 2035, the series’ engine partners can dial down the ICE part and dial up the ERS side to represent more accurately what it sells.

The smaller the series, the more common it is for teams to build their own motors or to rely on local builders to assemble their engines. For my first season in the Indy Racing League in 1997, our TKM/Genoa team relied on Chicago’s NAC Engines to build our 4.0-liter Oldsmobile V8s, and Mickey Nickos and his family were local legends when it came to building sprint car motors. As the IRL made big leaps in professionalism, the smaller builders fell out of the series and some big names joined in like Ilmor. It’s been a long time since you or I would be allowed to spin the cam covers off an IndyCar engine and have a poke around the spinny bits.

KELLY CRANDALL: To the NASCAR part of your question, it’s a bit hard to put an exact number on this because teams will have different terms of deals with sponsorship tied to the program or other contingencies with their engine suppliers or OEMs. But for a top-tier Cup Series engine program like the Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports teams, you’re likely looking at spending in the millions of dollars.

Q: Do you have any information regarding the viability of Mid-Ohio and Green Savoree Promotions? I have been attending events at the track every year since 1971 and think it’s a great track for spectators. I understand I shouldn’t believe most of what I read online; however, I am a little concerned about the ability of the track to host major events in the future. You mentioned previously the facilities needed to be upgraded in comparison to other tracks on the schedule. With repaving of Road America, do you think IndyCar will or has put pressure on Green Savoree to do so? Why is IMSA not returning in 2023?

David, Fort Wayne, IN

MP: I’ve heard IMSA elected to drop Mid-Ohio in favor of the new date at Indy (because it wanted to stay at the same number of races/didn’t want to expand its schedule) due to its aging infrastructure and comparative lack of modern hospitality and corporate entertainment options.

The Indy road course bores me to tears when stacked against Mid-Ohio, but if you’re looking to impress CEOs from Porsche, Aston Martin, Lexus, and the rest of the 18 manufacturers who race in IMSA, you pick IMS over Mid-Ohio every time.

I don’t think you have anything to worry about with other racing series making that same call, at the moment.

Q: What’s bigger — the number of emails regarding LEDs, dumping the 2.4, or where the bleep is The CW?

Shawn, MD

MP: Yes.

It’s Throwback Wednesday for the Mailbag, with both LED panels and The Milwaukee Mile back in the rotation! Penske Entertainment photo

Q: Milwaukee Mile improvements update!

The State of Wisconsin Building Commission will consider a series of requests later this week that should pave the way for approximately $3 million in repairs/improvements to the Milwaukee Mile over the next seven months.  These repairs/improvements are largely safety related as the track prepares to host more events in the future, including the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on Sunday, August 27, 2023.

Specific areas of repair/improvement include:
• Replacing expired components of the existing barrier impact wall system
• Installing new stretches of barrier impact wall
• Replacing existing turf with asphalt
• Modifications to existing pedestrian and vehicle gates
• Installing new energy absorbing sand barrels
• Repairing concrete bases of the existing outer catch fence system

Maybe if IndyCar decided to return, the track would have a better future. If the state puts money into improving the facilities then Roger Penske should get the series to return.

CB, Naples, FL 

MP: This is a perfect Christmas gift for Miller.