Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to email@example.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.
ED’s note: We had a few letters from readers last week wanting to know the identity of the person shown speaking to Devlin DeFrancesco on the TV broadcast after he climbed out of his crashed car at TMS. According to the team, it was “Coach Hector,” aka DeFrancesco’s personal performance coach and trainer Hector Maradiaga of Infinity Sports Institute in the Miami area – MG.
Q: Wasn’t Texas run at night at one point? If so, does nighttime affect the racing dramatically?
MARSHALL PRUETT: It was, and it does. It’s the swings in temperature from the start of the race to the middle and latter stages when thinner air becomes thicker air and influences downforce, which can be tuned throughout the race — within reason — by teams during pit stops, and with the change in downforce, you’re also at risk of burning off your tires if you start overly light on aero and cause the tires to slide.
Q: While the seating chart and number of grandstands for the 2023 Honda Indy Toronto are the same and the promoters don’t anticipate adding additional ones, it’s evident that the current pit lane has to be reconfigured to fit a 27-car field. As you know, the pit lane that has been in use since 2016 barely squeezed in 24 full-time entries last year. I know that the promoters and IndyCar have a plan. That’s great, but what is it?
The reason I am asking is so I, and no doubt others like me, can figure out the best place to sit if we want to have a stellar view of the action in the pits. The promoters usually post a Festival Map diagram that shows people how the track and its infield is laid out, but the only track map that is on the site right now is for 2022. If you could get IndyCar and Honda Indy Toronto’s promoters to shed more light on this, it would be appreciated.
MP: Based on a conversation I had with IndyCar’s Jay Frye about this exact Toronto pit lane scenario during the offseason, this year’s race will indeed squeeze 27 cars onto the same location as last year.
Q: Were you able to speak to Evi Gurney or anyone else at AAR about the Dan Gurney autobiography? If so, what’s the latest update? We’ve been hearing (for years now) that Evi is going through photographs. I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever see his autobiography in print.
Rick Johnson, Lynnwood, WA
MP: I fly down to LA on Wednesday and will head straight to AAR. I’ll get an update while there, Rick.
Q: I’ve always wondered how the GTD teams pick what car they run, and how that may be different from the GTD PRO teams. Is it driver preference? Business interests (like, I’m a Porsche dealer so I’m going to run Porsche)?
MP: All about the preference of whomever is paying the Pro-Am GTD bills, including the manufacturers. (That part’s supposed to be a secret). Take the new AO Racing team. Owner/driver/financier PJ Hyett is a lover of Porsches, so they run a Porsche. Could be a dealership thing, like Paul Miller Racing which has run just about every GT3 model made by a brand they represent — BMW, Porsche, Audi, and Lamborghini come to mind among the cars they’ve raced that have a direct link to what they sell on the street. And then you have the privately funded Magnus Racing, which has run every GT3 car on the planet and frequently switches brands to ensure it is using the hottest model of the season. GTD PRO teams are, almost exclusively, fully funded by the factories.
Q: I watched every minute of the race at TMS, as I do every year. I was amazed when I read the story on RACER that the race attendance improved significantly. Sorry, but that doesn’t pass the eye test. No secret that huge portions of the grandstands are closed off and have been for years. But the grandstands that were open had so few people that it was painful to watch. In fact, after a few laps, it was obvious that the director of the broadcast was taking pains not to use shots that showed how empty the stands were.
Ovals are the heritage of IndyCar. While I love seeing them run on street and road courses (I’ve been to Mid-Ohio 15 times), it is sad that there are only five ovals on this year’s schedule. TMS needs to stop yapping and actually put fans in the seats, and Roger and his folks better figure out how to help.
Bob Isabella, Cleveland, OH
MP: Nowhere in the story did we state there was a significant improvement in attendance. I wrote that there was a double-digit percentage increase in ticket sales, and that there was a visible year-to-year increase, but we also included a photo that clearly demonstrated the stands were anything but full.
The story was a deserving nod to the track’s new efforts to do better, and as I noted, they didn’t say what exactly that increase happened to be. If it was 10 percent, and there were 5000 people last year, it means there were 5500 this year, or some variation on that theme. Whatever it was, a double-digit increase is meaningful, considering how poor attendance was in 2022.
I’ve hammered Texas in the past — last year being the most recent — for the poor efforts to grow its IndyCar audience, so what purpose would barking at the promoters again, after they’ve demonstrated an improvement, happen to serve?
For those of us who were there on pit lane or in the stands on April 2, there was a feeling of encouragement that Texas can and did do better, and was given a ton of footage to use to draw a lot more people in next year. If, after a whale of a 2023 race, sales are flat in 2024, there’s no hope for the future. But for now, with the track’s renewed interest in IndyCar, I can’t find a reason to ignore the positives and dwell on the negatives.
Q: Will IndyCar be using any of the new aero updates this year at the 500? The tracks are super-different. I’m wondering how much, if any, crossover there is with the new parts. Also, if the caution didn’t fly, do you still take Newgarden as your winner?
MP: IndyCar will have new stability wickers and new rear wing mounting plates that will allow for more downforce to be cranked in for race setups. There’s more that I’ll put together in a written piece and a video once we get to the open test later in the month. Minus the last caution, Pato would have been hard to beat.