The RACER Mailbag, December 28

The RACER Mailbag, December 28

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, December 28

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Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to mailbag@racer.com. 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.

The RACER Mailbag will be taking next Wednesday off and return on January 11. Thanks for all your letters this year!

Q: I haven’t been upset enough with IndyCar in recent months to write into the Mailbag. I don’t care what Indy Lights is called, I don’t watch it. Penske doesn’t owe it to me to share his business plan. I want the cars to be more powerful and we’ll still see that happen, partially, though I am sick of the DW12 — it would look so much better if they reduce some of the front overhang and can design around the windscreen to integrate into the whole shape of the car.

But I’m writing to say what a monumental mistake IndyCar is making by excluding IndyCar from IndyCar tracks on iRacing. It’s ridiculous. I can’t even articulate why, because it’s so obvious. I’m a “casual-plus” fan — I don’t own many books or memorabilia, I can’t recite every Indy 500 winner, etc.  But I can name all current drivers and teams, I watch most races, I have a favorite driver, I attend a race every now and again, I try to get my friends/family interested. I’m a fan IndyCar needs to hold on to.

And IndyCar has totally disenfranchised me. It’s so fun to try to run 200 laps at Indy with 32 other drivers. It’s so engaging to jump in my rig for a half hour after watching a qualifying session and see if I can come close to Will Power’s pole time. Among many others, I’ve raced against Robert Wickens and Alex Gurney. iRacing and IndyCar worked so well during the lockdown. Of course it’s not the real thing, but it’s competition and it’s fun and it’s engaging.

I’m less angry and more… again, disenfranchised. Will I be less likely to watch an IndyCar race this year? Yes, and it’s not because I’m angry. It’s because iRacing gave me a way to directly and personally connect to the real deal, which increased the amount of interaction and engagement I have with the real series.

Corey in New Orleans

MARSHALL PRUETT: Where the main issues exists here is IndyCar chose — and that’s the correct word — to sign away all gaming rights to its new and sole vendor. That choice is very different than NASCAR, for example, which signed a console game deal with one company and a streaming game deal with another. IndyCar had options to do the same and chose not to. Said another way, nobody forced IndyCar to sign the deal.

Here, IndyCar chose to abandon the throngs of iRacing fans who, in the decade-long absence of an official IndyCar game, have signed up and paid for the pleasure of racing Indy cars and building strong global communities with other sim racers. Letters like yours speak to the power of iRacing’s IndyCar family.

And now, with a new gaming partner that might have the worst reputation of any game producers I’ve heard of, IndyCar signed away everything to that partner at the complete expense of all those who’ve kept IndyCar gaming alive via iRacing. I’ve lost track of how many people told IndyCar they were making a giant mistake with its vendor choice. Let’s just hope the new vendor defies everything and delivers the game because if they don’t, this will go down as one of the bigger “I told you so” failures for IndyCar.

Q: Not that Michelin Pilot Challenge is hurting for car entries, but would the inclusion of an alternative fuel/power class like Super Taikyu’s ST-Q draw in interest from manufacturers? We have seen them rush to GTP due to the hybrid factor, and being able to showcase another green car within their portfolio in the same paddock could help draw in potential sponsors and car buyers, especially with the road car DNA that MPC has that the top series doesn’t.

I understand that the series as a whole isn’t meant for factory programs, but by being separated from the others from a championship standpoint, I think it could help draw in eyes of both fans and manufacturer executives in a series where a lot of young drivers are looking for help to make the jump up. 

Kurt Pohs

MP: Look at most racing organizations with multiple tiers (IndyCar and Indy NXT, IMSA with the WeatherTech Championship and MPC, as you note) and they tend to save the major technology advancements and big promotional items for the top category where the most attention will be drawn. Selling manufacturers on doing something significant in a series where you’re lucky to get 25,000 to tune in just won’t happen.

Fancy seeing one of the new Super Formula cars adapted for IndyCar? It would be different… Photo courtesy of Super Formula

Q: Seeing the news about Super Formula’s new car on RACER.com is one more reminder of how stale IndyCar’s DW12 has become. Given that Dallara builds chassis for Super Formula as well as Haas’s F1 car, I have to believe the only hindrance to IndyCar getting an update is down to IndyCar. The blind desire for a growing grid count isn’t adding quality, and the high-tech aspect of open-wheel racing is quickly lost as the cars approach legal drinking age. Unless R.P.’s plan is to position IndyCar as the pre-eminent vintage racing series, it is becoming harder with each passing season to be excited for what’s to come. The cars do matter. That’s what drew me as a kid and has maintained my interest as drivers and teams come and go. New cars every year like F1 aren’t necessary, but at least once a decade doesn’t seem unreasonable. 

Marc, Columbia, MD 

MP: There aren’t enough team owners pushing the series to do a new car so the series isn’t doing a new car. And when one of the biggest team owners also owns the series and that team owner believes there’s no need for a new chassis, we have this ridiculous scenario where the same DW12 has been in service across three Presidents — Obama, Trump, and Biden — so far.

And depending on how our next election cycle goes, IndyCar’s vintage racing chassis could continue its service under another a fourth President. If that doesn’t embarrass every decision maker at IndyCar, I don’t know what will.

MX-5 Cup | Round 1 – Daytona | Livestream

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