The RACER Mailbag, May 10

The RACER Mailbag, May 10


The RACER Mailbag, May 10

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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: So I watched F1 in Miami, expecting a snoozefest.  I watched the celebrity-laden, ponderous pre-race evaluation of Miami’s swimming pools, boats, bling, and buzz. I watch the ‘breathless’ (bizarre) grid walk. After what seemed an interminable wait and the umpteenth Fast and Furious hype, Michelle Rodriguez says “Are we talkin’ or are we racin’?”.  I smugly laugh at this as it’s been endless talkin’ and I’m expecting boring racin’.

But – the race was, to me, hella fun. Verstappen winning on strategy and a spectacular drive. Multiple incredibly talented drivers passing all over with different tires and different strategies. A surprisingly yellow-free race. The usual entertainment of listening to people with strange accents getting excited about everything from DRS to the stewards’ mindset. And, by the way, nonstop coverage with no commercials. Yeah, it was fun.

Then I reflected on how much I enjoyed the Long Beach Grand Prix (attended live) with its usual festival atmosphere and multiple great races. 100 Days to Indy is getting better. Peacock is awesome, letting me watch every on-track session whenever I want to. IMSA is way cool and getting more popular. Can’t wait for Laguna. Heck, even some of the NASCAR controversies seem interesting to me, and I’m not normally a big fan.

I guess what I’m saying is that this feels like a great time to be a race fan, and instead of denigrating some series or grumping about how this doesn’t feel like 1969 anymore, I’m just plain enjoying it. Yeah, there are always challenges, and yeah, not every event is flawless. But if this momentum continues, we are in for a great year of racing and I hope a lot of new fans along with that.

Just wanted to provide an offset to the usual cranky complainers. Racing is great!

Paul, Sonoma

MASHALL PRUETT: Thank you, Paul. I’m with you on most of what you wrote. F1 isn’t of interest this season for me, but that’s just because we know the outcome of the races before they take place. Back in 1988 when McLaren was the clear overdog, we didn’t know if it would be Senna or Prost, which made viewing mandatory. Verstappen’s on another planet—I did shake my head when the Sky F1 hosts posed the same question twice over the weekend as to whether Checo can beat Max to the title, and their hilarious answer both times was yes—and did what greats do by dominating the field. Unlike 1988, it’s Max, and only Max winning, unless something truly strange occurs.

And while the Red Bull show isn’t all that interesting to me, Max put on a show and won last weekend and the coolest development of the season with Alonso and Aston Martin doing big things has been a joy to follow. That’s awesome; even though first place isn’t really up for grabs, there’s a great sub thread to follow on who’s best-in-class.

IndyCar’s yet to disappoint this season, and the same can be said for IMSA with its fresh GTP cars and stellar GT racing. I’ve seen some of the greatest series and eras in motor racing, and have them saved in the form of memories, photos, videos, and memorabilia. And if I could go back in time and enjoy them again, sure, I’d go, but racing’s in a great place right now and I’d rather live in the present than the past.

Three other things I can confirm: Ross Chastain throws an impressive overhand right, Noah Gragson can take a punch, and Sunday was by no means the first time they’ve been on the delivery or receiving end of such things.

The battle for wins in F1 has been one-sided so far this year, but the emergence of Aston Martin has kept things spicy behind Red Bull. Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Q: In my opinion IndyCar has had the superior racing product the last few years, but seems losing the media spotlight to F1’s rise in popularity Stateside. Do you think that having a woman in a competitive car regularly would help differentiate the series from F1 and garner more interest? Is this even close to happening?

Brett Roach

MP: I don’t. We’ve had Danica Patrick, Katherine Legge, Ana Beatriz, and Simona De Silvestro as highly talented full-timers, and IndyCar made no significant inroads on its rivals. I do think it would be awesome if we had not one, but multiple women in competitive cars, but I don’t think it would bring a ratings, attendance, or popularity windfall. We’ve seen it before, and it wasn’t a sustainable draw.

The only difference I can think of from then to now is the world is a very different place so maybe having some kickass woman for an entire season would bring in more interest in 2025 than it did a decade ago.

Jamie Chadwick’s the closest we have at the moment, and she’s a few years away from being ready for IndyCar.

Q: Lewis Hamilton mentioned his desire to test an IndyCar. Let’s say he decides that he wants to race at the Indianapolis 500. If you were Lewis, what team should he drive for that would give him a chance to win the race, and what team would be willing to give him a chance to race at Indy?

Alistair, Springfield, MO

MP: The obvious ones like Ganassi, Andretti, Penske, McLaren, Rahal and Shank come to mind as those are the most recent Indy winners, with a premium placed on Ganassi and McLaren since they’ve were the best at Indy last year. That would change if others take the lead this year or next.

As for being willing to ‘give him a chance,’ we’re talking about the most successful and most popular active driver in the world, right? I’d think every team, down to the newest and smallest, would be tripping over themselves to land the biggest name in racing and bring an international audience to their doorstep.

Whether you love him or don’t, he’s a cultural happening in ways that extend far beyond the sport and that’s something the Indy 500 has not done for decades. Hamilton at Indy, unlike Alonso at Indy, gets all the major networks involved for the first time in forever and brings millions of people who know nothing about IndyCar and the Indy 500 to our crown jewel.

I listened to one person from the series last year weigh the options they had for social media influencers to bring in for a regular event; the best I heard was someone with an online cooking show with just over 30,000 Instagram followers. Half the celebrities who attended last weekend’s Miami GP — with a combined follower base in the tens of millions — were there to see their pal Lewis. Penske Entertainment can only dream of such a thing taking place at the 500.