Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: Is it just me or does every city with an F1 race make it a 150-mile radius dead zone for an IndyCar event? And which shakes are best – Steak ‘n’ Shake or Dairy Queen?
Janis in Tampa
MARSHALL PRUETT: I wouldn’t so much put a 150-mile radius on things as I’d say street race put on by F1 will always draw a crowd, and COTA was designed with F1 in mind, so it has the hearts and minds of domestic and international fans. IndyCar is known to have some new venues (or returns to familiar ones that previously worked) in mind, so don’t lose hope.
And let’s not be silly, it’s Steak ‘n’ Shake.
Q: With the much-needed good news of Kyle Larson joining the big race in 2024, what would be some welcomed “good news” you’d like to see from IndyCar in the coming weeks? Do we have anything else to be excited about moving forward that you know of in the works?
MP: There’s a cool possibility for another Indy 500 entry this year that I’ve been asked to keep the lid on, and if that happens, IndyCar fans just might like it. The series is working on some calendar additions as I just mentioned, so that’s encouraging. There’s a new biofuel coming this season that’s cool. And the racing is always great. It’s a bit of a rinse-wash-and-repeat in that regard.
As for big new items like a fresh chassis, new engine formula, additional manufacturers signing on, and so on, those fall more in the longer lead-time category. I keep coming back to the one thing that IndyCar does better than any of its rivals in the racing marketplace, and that’s the quality of racing in most of its events.
Q: Driving home the other night I was listening to my NBA favorite Sacramento Kings on the radio. The announcer for the game was Gary Gerould and I have been listening to him for years. I don’t know how it finally happened, but it hit me that Gary and I share two loves – IndyCar and the Kings – and that this is the same guy that I watched for years on IndyCar broadcasts! How did the G-Man get into IndyCar racing, and is he still involved with IndyCar at all? Light the Beam!
MP: Gary was involved in broadcasting since he was a kid and I believe was drafted into race broadcasting when he joined NBC. He hasn’t been involved in IndyCar in forever, which is too bad. I always enjoyed his talents and personality; it was great fun catching up with him back in the day when I was on pit lane with whatever Atlantic/Indy Lights/IndyCar team I was on and although I was a nobody, he always made time to talk IndyCar or the NBA — shared passions.
Q: Great to see Takuma Sato and Sting Ray Robb get last two IndyCar seats. Has Sato raced in endurance racing, whether in IMSA or the WEC or elsewhere? As an older driver with Honda backing I am surprised he didn’t participate.
C Bailey, Naples, FL
MP: Takuma was possibly going to drive in LMP2 with his former Rick Ware Racing team, but that didn’t happen. I’d be surprised if Acura/Honda doesn’t find some IMSA opportunities for him this year since he has some newfound free time.
Q: Simple question for you after looking at Rossi’s sexy new Arrow McLaren ride. Do you think he regrets turning down Penske and reupping with Andretti several years ago? I would think that would be a resounding yes, unless there is some water under the bridge I have no idea about.
Also, who would you blame more on the failed partnership – Rossi or Andretti Autosport? I know the deal about bad luck, but let’s say for kicks that you can’t blame lady luck on this one. Rossi is such a badass racer, but he also comes off as a bit arrogant and aloof. Would you say there’s anything to that? Dixon and (to a lesser extent) Newgarden seem so in sync with their teams. I don’t get that vibe from Rossi.
Randy from Milwaukee
MP: I wouldn’t pretend to know what makes Rossi tick, but he does strike me as an extremely pragmatic person, so if that’s an accurate assessment, I doubt he spends much time playing the “what if” game with himself. He was the top Andretti driver for a number of years and then Colton Herta showed up and took control. Rossi got back to a closer version of his old self in 2022, but the pecking order didn’t change.
If he’d left for Penske, he’d have a more experienced and complete version of Herta to deal with in Newgarden, so life would have only gotten harder. And then there’s Will Power, the master of the pole position and now a two-time champion. My wife, who is an introvert, tells me she sees the same traits in Rossi, so is it aloofness or just an aversion to all the things that make sense to an extrovert like yours truly?
I know Arrow McLaren boss Zak Brown thinks he’s got a serious new weapon to use in Rossi, and with the esteemed Craig Hampson as his race engineer — plus a giant budget — I’m confident saying he’ll have every resource needed to win races and his first championship. There are no excuses for him, or the rest of the team, to be anything less than a major player in how the title is settled.
Q: I love the ideas and passion of both you and the people who submit great ideas and comments about improving IndyCar. Just one question: Is IndyCar listening?
Keep up the good work, and hopefully there will be a time you can proudly say you cover IndyCar again.
MP: I’m just as proud to cover IndyCar as I was a year ago or 10 years ago, Bill. If I didn’t love it and have pride in where I work, I’d find another series to cover. I know a few people at IndyCar read the Mailbag, but the new owners aren’t looking for input from folks like me.