LAT cobb 160916 Sonoma 01684

LAT cobb 160916 Sonoma 01684Coming off a strong rookie season with Dale Coyne Racing, Conor Daly has spent the last month pushing for another opportunity in the Verizon IndyCar Series. A return to DCR is a possibility, and he's also in the frame for drives with AJ Foyt Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing, but the Hoosier doesn't expect to relax until his name is on a new contract.

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"I've been looking at the offseason and where I am in it right now and have been trying to stay positive about my chances," the 24-year-old told RACER. "I think any driver without a contract feels frustrated, so it's just a case of managing the process and continuing to talk to teams to see what we can develop for next year. This might be the hardest time ever – certainly that I've seen – for young drivers to get their foot in the door and stay in IndyCar without bringing a lot of money to give to a team."

Daly points to the multi-year contract his former Indy Lights teammate Josef Newgarden signed when he entered the series in 2012 as the perfect scenario for a rookie. It seems hard to fathom today, but Newgarden's first year in IndyCar with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing gave no indication he would drive for Roger Penske in the future.

Piloting the No. 67 Honda, Newgarden never cracked the top 10, finished 15th or worse in 10 races, and placed a lowly 23rd in the championship one spot ahead of Simona de Silvestro in her Lotus-powered HVM entry. Newgarden turned his educational rookie campaign into a vastly improved 2013 season where he finished 14th in the standings, scored his first podium, and caught the attention of his future employers.

lat abbott Det 0616 7831Daly, who also spent his rookie season driving for a small Honda-powered team, had similar results in one regard by placing 18th in the standings – ahead of fellow rookie Max Chilton and Foyt's Jack Hawksworth. The key difference compared to Newgarden's debut is Daly's four finishes inside the top six and one podium.

By the numbers, Daly appears to be ahead of the curve and wants a chance to prove it.

conor 2"I had a one-year contract with Dale Coyne and I'd really like to find an opportunity like my friend Josef had when he arrived in IndyCar," he said. "It really was the perfect contract. Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman signed him for multiple years. It gave him a chance to develop in the same environment  he had stability to bank on and ran with it.

"You look at where he is now with Penske, and you have to give credit to how Sarah and Wink went about giving Josef a platform to grow into where he is today. If it was just one year for him, or me, or any young driver coming up, it's super-tough to demonstrate all you can do. It's a two- or three-year process, and that's what I'm hoping to have. I thought the year went well and want to get back and use that experience because it really counts in IndyCar."

Daly says he will continue pushing to secure a new (or familiar) home in IndyCar for 2017, and continues to root for other young drivers in a similar position.

"The door is definitely not closed at Coyne and there are a lot of smart people there who are going to help the team make big strides," he added. "Rejoining Dale's team would be fantastic, but there's a big sponsorship ask and need. I'm trying to help there, but I'm talking with other team owners; I have a good relationship with Ed Carpenter, Larry and A.J. Foyt, and have been talking with everyone. I'm going after everything out there and have to wait to see how it plays out.

"I want to see Spencer [Pigot], RC [Enerson], and myself back full-time. IndyCar has a lot of talented young guys, young Americans, and there would be nothing better than if we can all continue together next year."

Quantum 1The Indianapolis 500 had never seen a leap in speed quite like it – and it never would again. Huge wings and massive boosts made the 1972 race a journey into the unknown.

Peter Revson captured the pole position for the 1971 Indianapolis 500 at a record 178.696 miles per hour. Just one year later, Wally Dallenbach qualified at 178.421mph – and missed the show!

In what went down as the most jaw-dropping Month of May in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history, horsepower ran amok, speeds jumped into uncharted territory, and stopwatches were almost rendered obsolete.

Quantum 2Bobby Unser won the pole in Dan Gurney's Eagle at 195.940mph – 17mph faster than Revson's year-old mark – and the average speed for the 33-car field was 183mph – some 12mph quicker than the 1971 lineup.

"Man, that was a fascinating time, because there was so much to learn and ideas were flying around just like the cars," says Mario Andretti, who was part of the Vel's/Parnelli Jones Superteam that year, along with Al Unser and Joe Leonard. "We had huge rear wings, new profiles and the horsepower was huge!"

McLaren had rocked the IMS establishment a year earlier with a new, sleek design by Gordon Coppuck that would qualify first and second with Revson and Mark Donohue, as well as alter the look of an Indy car and send the opposition scurrying for the drawing board.

Even though neither McLaren M16-A had finished in '71 and Al Unser had soldiered past the new wave of English innovation to score his second straight victory in a two-year-old Colt chassis, the Brits had put a scare into Gasoline Alley for the second time in a decade.

So when Indy opened for business in the May of '72, there were four new McLaren M16-Bs – factory entries for Revson and Denny Hulme, who would soon be replaced by Gordon Johncock after suffering burns in practice, and the Penske Racing-run machines of Donohue and Gary Bettenhausen.

Quantum 3The Superteam had the radical new Parnelli VPJ-1 chassis (above) designed by Maurice Phillipe, who'd previously penned the Lotus 72 Formula 1 car and turbine-powered, wedge-shaped Lotus 56 Indy car; A.J. Foyt sported a new Coyote, and there were a pair of new Eagles for Jerry Grant and Unser.

A disparate entry list that also included chassis called Antares, Brabham, Scorpion, Lola, Kingfish, Gerhardt and Colt did have one common denominator: a massive rear wing that stretched to the outside of both rear tires.

"We tested in late 1971 at Phoenix without a wing and then we put one on and it was like night and day," recalls Roger Penske, who was, of course, an original McLaren owner in '71 with Donohue. "It was the beginning of a new era and a new word: downforce."

"It was those giant rear wings and horsepower," says Foyt (pictured below with his '72 Coyote), whose modified Ford/Foyt V8 was massaged by engine guru Howard Gilbert. "But it was mostly horsepower – and I know that we had 1,200 horsepower that month." Sonny Meyer, son of three-time Indy king Louie and one of Indy car racing's most respected motor men for decades, still smiles when he thinks of 1972.

"Oh man, that was a lot of fun because we had unlimited boost (manifold pressure). And it was crazy because the driver also had a boost adjustment in the car, so he could crank it even more after someone like George (Bignotti) turned it up," says Meyer, who was an invaluable part of Pat Patrick's team's Indy wins in 1973 and '82. "We made more than 1,000 horsepower and that's staggering with a four-cylinder engine."

Adds Foyt: "You had to have an educated foot back then, because you could spin the wheels coming off the corner. We had that much power. It was great."

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DOLE LAT LM24 2014 500102The Indy 500 is ...? The Daytona 500 is ...? The Monaco Grand Prix is ...? It's hard to find a singular example that belongs at the end of those questions, but the problem doesn't exist in endurance racing: Audi is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

At 18 years, the German auto manufacturer's sports car program is older than some of its fans and spans a longer period than any other prototype constructor in recent history. In the absence of Porsche and Ferrari and Ford – the preceding marques that laid La Sarthe's foundation, Audi swept in and redefined the race and the sport as a whole.

ANALYSIS: What does Audi withdrawal mean for WEC?

LMP9947Audi's two-pronged effort landed in 1999 amid an odd but wonderful time in global sports car racing. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota ramped up big Le Mans programs (left: start of the '99 24 Hours) and took shots at winning during a transitional period for the event, but those fleeting efforts were only chasing instant gratification.

With a grander view of the possibilities presented by Le Mans, Audi staked its claim, developed a long-term plan, and reaped every reward it had to offer. Where other brands went to win a motorized competition, Audi formed annual expeditions to showcase new technology that told a story and blitzed the opposition.

Where other brands parachuted into to steal a quick hit of promotional shine, Audi sewed its seeds with billions of dollars spent across three decades to produce finely crafted marketing and messaging programs around the event.

Through its involvement with the 24-hour race, Audi transformed its image from a boring purveyor of uninspiring sedans to a brand that has become synonymous with mind-altering speed and technical advancement.

audi 2008It's TDI. It's TFSI. It's the R8, R10, R15, and R18s. It's Audi Sport, Joest Racing, and Champion Racing. It's Tom Kristensen (pictured) – Mr. Le Mans – and the all-time record of nine Le Mans wins, with seven while driving for Audi. It's Allan McNish, Dindo Capello, Emanuele Pirro, Frank Biela, and so many others who delivered 13 overall victories at La Sarthe. It's "Truth In 24" and the "Truth In 24 II" sequel. It's Vorsprung durch Technik. It's rewriting the script on how to develop and sell new technologies around an iconic motor race. It's rivalries with Peugeot, Porsche, Toyota, Bentley, and wicked internecine battles. It's diesel versus petrol. It's the old grocery store-turned-Audi Sport base in Ingolstadt. It's the signature silence from a turbodiesel prototype. It's Ralf Juttner, Leena Gade, Wolfgang Baretzky, Dave Maraj, more than 600 people who breathed life into the program since its formation, and Michele Alboreto, who lost his while testing in 2001. It's ALMS championships, WEC titles, Manufacturer championships, wins at Sebring, Petit Le Mans, Spa...Australia...and every corner of the racing world. It's stability. It's tradition.

The German auto manufacturer singlehandedly raised the value and meaning of Le Mans, turned the event from 24 hours of conservation to an all-out sprint, amassed millions of fans, and trained them to dedicate one weekend each June—either in person or at home with the TV, Internet radio, spotter's guide, and a full ration of food and beverage—to celebrate the almighty pursuit of racing's crown jewel.

Le Mans is Audi. Audi is Le Mans. It will take many years to fully appreciate the brand's contribution to modern sports car racing – and longer, I imagine, to grow accustomed to its absence.

 9SG9285 1Just when you thought that the Verizon IndyCar Series had run out of ways to surprise, 2016 came along. The championship was won by a guy who looked all at sea 12 months earlier, his closest rival didn't even participate in the first race, and the winner of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was a recent F1 refugee who apparently figured out how to make a car work without fuel.

Twenty-four drivers made at least three starts during the 2016 season, and each one is a story. Join RACER each day as we retrace their journeys.



Preseason hopes:
"Win the [Indy 500]. And the championship."

2016 Best result: 2nd (Indianapolis 500)
2016 Championship position: 10th (432 points)

The Colombian is freakishly good at the Speedway, but what did you see in 2016 to suggest that he's upped his game since last year?

PRUETT: The signs were there but they weren't huge, nor were they easy to spot during a down year for Andretti Autosport. Munoz has an abundance of talent that will be rewarded once consistency arrives. The best metric that stands out for Carlos was found in qualifying.

The Andretti team was lost more often than not during time trials, and in those instances, it would be normal for a veteran like Ryan Hunter-Reay to distance himself from Munoz. But it didn't happen. RHR's average starting position was 11.8; Munoz managed 11.9.

On the menu for 2017, Munoz needs to continue improving his pace in qualifying and back it up with greater race day consistency. He started 12 races from 10th or lower, and finished 10 races outside the top 10. If and when he can put a season together where fewer fluctuations occur, he'll be a pain in the ass at every circuit.

MILLER: Two podiums and a pair of seventh places this season compared to one win, a pair of fifths and two sixths in 2015 seems like a wash to me. And he still appears stronger on ovals than roads or streets, but the Honda aero kit may be partly responsible for his struggles in qualifying. But it looked like his race craft improved this year, as he made some nice charges through the field. 

Munoz finished the year as the highest-placed Andretti driver. Granted, he, Rossi and Hunter-Reay were covered by just four points, but can we still argue a case for Munoz's talents being underappreciated?

04CJ8995PRUETT: Without a doubt. For those who cover the series on a regular basis, we know he's immensely gifted. The ability to appreciate that talent is where things get lost in translation. Munoz's English has always been a barrier to gaining more airtime and coverage outside of the Spanish-speaking world, and that's a shame. The kid has a great sense of humor, a serious appreciation for history, and has led an incredible life in just 24 years, but he's rarely the first to be engaged for IndyCar's English-speaking audience. It leaves his driving as the primary language to resonate with far too many fans, and for those who are keen observers, Carlos has built a solid core of supporters.

Other than possibly Scott Dixon, Munoz has the fastest hands in IndyCar; the kid lives on the ragged edge and thrives when oversteer is involved. If he can improve his ability to connect with the series' base, I'm sure a lot more fans would come to appreciate Munoz's abilities behind the wheel.

MILLER: I suppose that's fair, since his name rarely came up in all the early Silly Season rumors because his funding was going away. He's quick, no doubt about it, and still a kid (24) trying to work on his consistency, but he obviously packs a lot of promise. But maybe it's more under the radar than underappreciated.

Munoz has brought sponsorship up until this point, but believes that he deserves a seat on merit next year. If you were a team owner with a funded seat, would you have any reservations about putting Munoz into it?

PRUETT: Zero reservations. The new IndyCar formula has seen young drivers bring something to land a ride, and in the case of Munoz, he's used it to showcase his talents and earn the attention of paying teams. I've heard his contribution was only 20-30 percent of the annual budget, which isn't significant at the IndyCar level. Getting paid five or 10 percent of the team's budget is what he should receive going forward.

MILLER: I guess it depends on the sponsor. If it's Fuzzy's, would they really want a Colombian that isn't very popular or media savvy? But if it's ABC Supply, they're still in the game because of A.J., and he and Larry Foyt get to make the calls - and Carlos' performances at Indy seem to have sold them. He definitely deserves a seat in IndyCar without bringing money, but we could say that about a lot of drivers. But I still think he'd be better served as Montoya's apprentice at Foyt's for at least a year, because I'm not sure you can build a team around him yet.



Mikhail Aleshin
Marco Andretti
Sebastien Bourdais

Ed Carpenter
Helio Castroneves
Gabby Chaves
Max Chilton
Conor Daly
Scott Dixon
RC Enerson
Luca Filippi
Jack Hawksworth
James Hinchcliffe
Ryan Hunter-Reay
Tony Kanaan
Charlie Kimball
Juan Pablo Montoya

2007 copy

Almost two decades of Audi participation at Le Mans has come to a close following the German manufacturer's announcement that it will pull out of sportscar racing at the end of the current WEC season. Join RACER for a photo tour of Audi's 18 years (and 13 wins) at motorsport's ultimate endurance event.

(Click the thumbnails to enlarge the images)

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Circuit of The Americas chairman Bobby Epstein would like there to be a bigger gap between the Formula 1 races in the United States and Mexico to help boost attendance.

The races are on back-to-back weekends this year while the 2017 provisional calendar has installed a two-week gap between the two events. But Epstein believes they should be at different points in the calendar. He feels the return of the Mexico City race last year hurt ticket sales at his event and would ideally like to see Mexico twinned with Canada earlier in the season.

"Mexico had a real impact last year, we know it did," Epstein said. "There is value in spreading Mexico and Texas apart date-wise. I'm talking a gap of three or four months.

"If you make two trips to North America, you don't put the two races that are closest together [back to back]. I would put Mexico with Canada as it's hot here in June and July, not pleasant like now."

Epstein noted attendance at the Austin track has been reducing since the inaugural race in 2012, with heavy rain last year causing havoc with the event's running.

This year, the track – which has a 10-year deal to host F1 – cut ticket prices, added a no-flood guarantee and a maximum wait-time guarantee for shuttle services in a bid to appeal to fans. Track officials also signed Taylor Swift for a concert on Saturday night to attract a younger audience and boost sales.

On Sunday, COTA reported a record attendance of 269,889 for the three-day weekend.

"For the first year of any event, you can expect it to be the biggest," said Epstein. "You should cast that aside as you'll have people who go for the novelty.

"After three to four years, if you're going to be a successful grand prix, you're going to start to see a rise again. We're starting to see the repeat visitors and we're starting to see more pick up locally and some people are building tradition around it."


Originally on

Audi will pull out of the World Endurance Championship and end its 18-year involvement in the Le Mans 24 Hours at the conclusion of 2016.

The axing of the LMP1 program, which yielded 13 Le Mans victories and the WEC drivers' and manufacturers' titles in 2012-'13, follows what has been described as a realignment of Audi's motorsport program.

 L0U0872The German manufacturer will focus on its participation in the Formula E Championship with the Abt-Schaeffler squad (pictured), having announced a greater works involvement in the electric single-seater series at the beginning of last month.

"We're going to contest the race for the future on electric power," Audi chairman Rupert Stadler said. "As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsport cars, as Audi's technological spearheads, have to even more so."

Audi's all-electric production vehicles will go on sale at the start of the 2018 model year.

The official announcement of the news from Audi uses the word "instead" when talking about the end of the WEC campaign and the new focus on FE. Audi Sport boss Wolfgang Ullrich had previously stated that FE was an "additional program" and would have no bearing on the decision making process regarding a continuation in LMP1.

Audi's statement hinted at a drive to reduce the company's motorsport budget by saying the decision needed to be understood "in the context of the current burdens of the brand," which is a reference to the financial liabilities that are likely to follow last year's "dieselgate" emissions scandal. It also said that some of the technical resources within Audi Sport would be diverted into the development of production vehicles.

audi2The decision comes against the backdrop of declining sales of turbodiesels – the technology Audi showcases in the WEC – and political pressure in some markets to outlaw diesels.

A requirement of the participation of two brands from the Volkswagen Group, Audi and Porsche, in the WEC is that they used different technologies.

Audi has lent its name to the Abt team's Formula E program since the beginning of the series in 2014-'15 and is stepping up its involvement for the 2016-'17 season in what is envisaged will become a full factory engagement.

Audi's participation in the DTM is unaffected by the decision, and it is considering expanding its involvement in World Rallycross, where it currently offers technical support to 2016 champion Mattias Ekstrom's privateer team.


Originally on

phpThumb 1Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and

Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.

Q: Two questions for you. 1) From the outside, we all know of Newgarden's talent, media savvy, fan friendliness, and personality. He'll do great things at Penske. As an insider, what's his character like? Does he understand all that Sarah, Wink, and Ed did for him? Especially Sarah and Wink, who put their own business/money on the line for him. Or does he view all that as mere stepping-stones to a top-line seat? 2) I agree Munoz has demonstrated the talent to deserve a paid ride. Still, curious what happened to his family support. Why did the money dry up?

Mike C., San Francisco, CA

RM: I know how much Josef appreciates the opportunity those three gave him and he's always giving them credit in interviews. When he said leaving was a "tougher decision than people can imagine" he was telling the truth, because the team was built around him. I think he's got great character, but moving to Penske is a career-defining moment and he's earned it. I have no idea why Munoz's money went away, but that's the way of the world in auto racing. Besides, I think he's going to be eating a lot of Texas BBQ and ice cream next year.

Q: I would love to see both Conor Daly and Sage Karam develop successful careers as IndyCar drivers. I know that there are extremely limited options for any driver looking for a seat. That being said, I have to disagree with you about hoping they end up at AJ Foyt Racing. AJ Foyt Racing is a team that has seemed lost in recent years. Promising drivers have gone there and lost confidence, had poor results, and seen their value in the paddock plummet. Jumping into a team that is struggling to find its way is a dangerous proposition for a young driver still learning the cars and finding their way in the series. As Marshall said in the article about Hawksworth "Three IndyCar seasons with small (Herta) or wayward teams (Foyt) is almost a guarantee to create some form of career damage..." That perfectly describes Conor's experience. Maybe a limited season with a more stable team is a better career move for drivers like Daly and Karam. (Road courses in Carpenter's car?). Not that my opinion matters, but I think Foyt's team needs an experienced driver to help right the ship (Montoya?). I just don't want to see Daly in Hawksworth's position two years from now.

Mark, Littleton, CO

RM: No doubt that AJ's team needs to re-load but I'd much rather see Conor or Sage in a full-time ride with Foyt than only running the Indy 500. The ideal situation would have been Kanaan or Montoya in the No.14 and Daly or Karam in the No.41. Or that same scenario with Ed Carpenter. In the old days, owners would have been fighting over a kid with Karam's speed, aggression and age, and I think Conor upped his stock with some of his runs last season. They're both good racers who belong in good rides in IndyCar because they are the future. But we need more car owners so they aren't lost in the shuffle.

Q: Josef Newgarden's move to Penske reminds me a lot of Little Al before the 1994 season, and Josef himself reminds me of Unser Jr as far as his versatility, excellent racecraft, and ability to take care of his equipment. Since Josef is not being joined at Penske by his ECR engineer I was wondering - did Unser Jr take anyone from Galles with him to Penske in 1994? Also, the race broadcasts from back then always refer to the crew chief of the car (Owen Snyder for Unser at Galles) but never the engineer. Were the terms used interchangeably back then? I wouldn't be surprised if Newgarden has immediate success at Penske just like Unser did!

Michael, Albuquerque

RM: That's a very flattering and pretty accurate comparison, because Josef seemed more willing to take what the car gave him rather than always trying to wring its neck. But that's maturity, and now he's got the best of everything on the best team, so stand back. I think Brian Barnhart went with Junior to Penske, but not engineer Allen Mertens.

Q: Why Honda (in IndyCar) is so indifferent towards any Japanese driver whose surname isn't Sato? Takuma is a decent driver and his achievements are impressive, but he is veteran and after one or two seasons he'll retire and there are no any candidates on the horizon to fill the void. I know that American HPD is not exactly Honda of Japan, but it's still Honda, and it risks not having a Japanese driver on the grid in 2019/2020. The best thing for Honda in this situation is that they don't even need to push Sato's successor through MRTI ladder system, because, any guy who is talented enough to earn wins in Super Formula and GP2 won't be a moving chicane in IndyCar. And it seems like there's not much of a big demand for Nobuharu Matsushita (ABOVE) in Formula 1.

Nick Savern

RM: I don't know that it's indifference as much as it is who's out there that Honda wants to promote? I've always been amazed that with all its series and financial support, Japan has never spawned a championship-caliber open-wheeler. Saturo & Kazuki Nakajima, Aguri Suzuki, Ukyo Katayama, Kamui Kubayashi and Sato were the best in F1, while Kosuke Matsuura, Roger Yasukawa, Shigeaki Hattori, Toro Takagi, Hiro Matsushita, Naoki Hattori, Hideshu Matsuda and Sato have all tried IndyCar with only Sato (one win at Long Beach in 2013) distinguishing himself - although Matsuda was a damn good qualifier at Indy. Maybe if Sato had been with Ganassi or Penske things would have been different, but as long as Honda is involved, it seems like a good, young talent from Japan would get every opportunity to succeed in F1 or IndyCar. I just don't know who that is right now.

Q: I have to admit that I am ashamed of myself for not watching DWTS when Helio was on it. But being a big fan of the Mayor and because the IndyCar season is over, I've watched and supported our boy as he's been dancing his way into the viewing audience's hearts. I was scrolling through Hinch's Facebook page and started noticing how much press he's doing for DWTS. In the last six weeks he has made promo appearances at Planet Hollywood, Times Square, started a weekly DWTS blog for Sports Illustrated, Iheart radio music festival, appeared on Hollywood today live, FOX sports live, and the Ellen DeGeneres show.

All this press is for DWTS, and at some point they mention that he also drives race cars on the side. My question is, why is it in six weeks DWTS can see Hinch's marketability and promote the fire out of him to the pop culture that doesn't know an IndyCar from a rental car, but IndyCar can't promote its own drivers like this? Show your support for Hinch even if you don't watch the show, and go to the DWTS website and vote for him every week anyway. He is actually pretty good at it. Let's hope he doesn't leave Gasoline Alley for Broadway.

John in Arkansas

RM: IndyCar doesn't have the marketing budget to compete with ABC's or the draw of DWTS, but hopefully it's reaping the benefits of Hinch's story and personality. If anyone has a chance to use another platform to make people watch an IndyCar race it's the Mayor. His wit, charm and humility connects with everyone and watching his dance after surviving that crash is endearing to young and old alike. I warned Dave Despain that Hinch would take over WIND TUNNEL because he was soooo good when co-hosting, but now I think he'll replace Jimmy Kimmel on ABC's late show when he quits racing.

Q: I've noticed over the last few years that several IndyCar drivers have made appearances in the IMSA series. Hunter-Reay drove a couple times in a DP, Graham drove a GT in the 24, and even the newly-crowned champ ran at the Petite Le Mans. Add all the Ganassi guys and Bourdais, and it seems like everyone grabbed some extra seat time now and then. My question is, with Marco Andretti suffering from a severe case of 'backmarker-itis', why hasn't he gotten in on some IMSA action? It would seem that if these winning drivers see the value of extra seat time, why doesn't he? I'm sure his phone isn't ringing off the hook to get in any of these cars, but as we all know money buys drive time in sports cars. Seems to me when you struggle at something, the more practice you can get, the better off you'll be. He says he cares about improving,  but from a fan's point of view ... not so sure.

Chris, Ft Lauderdale

RM: A few years ago at Sebring all the talk was how fast Marco was running the LMP2 Honda through Turn 1, so he's had some sports car experience. But, to your point, I doubt he's in real demand right now, so unless Michael starts a team, not sure where he'd go unless he brought a sponsor.

Q: Now that JPM is not going to be full-time at Penske, can you share where that relationship went south and why?

Mark in Cincinnati

RM: I don't think it went south, I just think it was timing. The Captain had a chance to pick up a 25-year-old rising star and a 41-year-old badass' contract was up, so a decision was made for the future. Penske is keeping a seat open for JPM at Indy, so there's still a relationship if he wants one.

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Q: Do you think IndyCar will keep adding more ovals to the schedule? Maybe Chicago or Michigan (ABOVE) again? Also, why doesn't Sage Karam have a full-time ride anymore?

Taylor Solmos

RM: If there are willing ovals out there that can get a suitable date and sanction fee price. Gateway pursued IndyCar but that's been a rarity lately, and more ovals may have to be deals like Phoenix where IndyCar was the partner. Don't see Michigan as long as Belle Isle is around, and I'd rather see Richmond back on the schedule than Chicago. Sage doesn't have another full-time ride yet because there aren't enough car owners and the ones IndyCar has don't seem willing to invest in the future. But Dario is a big fan and so I am – that 21-year-old kid has all the tools, he just needs someone to believe in him and give him three years to develop.

Q: I read with interest that Sam Schmidt says that the realigning of Honda with Ganassi and some of the other fallout with teams probably means that he cannot secure an engine deal to run a third car next year. Seriously? In this day and age you have a prominent car owner wanting to run another car full or mostly full-time and the engine manufacture can't provide another lease? I would think in this day and time IndyCar would step in and say find a way to work it out. We need more cars!!

Forrester L Morgan, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

RM: Manufacturers dictating policy is never a good, but they've got leverage because nobody else is knocking down the door to join IndyCar. And I guess IndyCar should be thankful Honda is willing to add to its list to try and level the balance of power. When Mike Shank bought an IndyCar a couple years ago he couldn't get an engine, and that sent the worst possible message to potential participants. IndyCar is working on a third manufacturer and that would be great, but what we really need are more car owners and some incentives to make people want to come to IndyCar.

Q: After watching the USGP (again) I'm obliged to ask why IndyCar doesn't run at COTA. The old argument of proximity to Ft Worth is ridiculous to me as rabid IndyCar fans that follow that series would go to both, especially if they were months apart from each other. It seems as though IndyCar is admitting it cannot attain stature as a world-class series (which it once was). I am a purist and love that IndyCar has returned to Elkhart Lake, but COTA is the most modern and spectacular road circuit venue in North America and a series that has chosen to be an American series should be there. I also noticed the USGP held its own right in the middle of the NFL season, did it not?

William "Colonel" Sanders, Olathe, KS

RM: It is ridiculous, but still in play because Mark Miles feels like IndyCar needs to make sure Eddie Gossage and Texas are rewarded for their loyalty. But, as we've documented for several years, Texas doesn't have the crowds or the leverage it did in the IRL days, and having an IndyCar race at COTA in the spring or fall would be excellent if, indeed, COTA wants one. It looked like a nice crowd last Sunday in Austin but the TV number was 0.5 (727,000 people) on NBC while NASCAR pulled a 2.2 on NBCSN (3.6 million).

 Murenbeeld USAC 84

Q: I hope Silly Season winding down will allow you to edify readers with an historical overview. I'll take it as given that Rick Mears is Penske's greatest Indy 500 driver. Who do you see as the three greatest Penske drivers in its history, over a season?

B. McDogge, Mosport, Ontario

RM: Damn, that's not an easy one to answer. Al Junior won 8 of 16 races in his 1994 championship (ABOVE) so that's got to be one of them. His dad stepping in full-time for Rick Mears in 1985 and taking the CART title in at age 46 was pretty impressive – as was The Rocket's 1981 crown when he won six of 11 races.

Q: Is there any chance that Ganassi could use the Chevy aero kits with the Honda engine? Of course that would be bad PR, and Honda would hate it. I am recalling a rule that allowed a team to select whatever aero kit they wanted, but had to stick with that kit. So possibly, the team would have to keep the Chevy kits if they were not allowed to change. Or, does Ganassi changing engine manufacturers trigger a rule that allows them to change aero kits? If this is true, could Ganassi changing engines allow them to exploit the choice rule and keep the Chevy aero kit? Clearly this is purely a thought experiment and would never happen. (Or is it because Chip has no loyalty?). Thanks for all the great reporting, Robin.

Kevin Weigel

RM: No, that won't be happening with Chip or anyone else. You dance with the one you signed up for and in 2018 everyone will have the same aero kits. Ganassi is loyal to money. Thanks for reading.

Q: The fans and drivers, almost to a person, want to see more power. Perhaps 900-1000 HP. There also seems to be consensus that the aero over the car should be reduced to cause less dirty air and better passing, not to mention better-looking cars. Some seem to feel more downforce from the underside of the car would be an acceptable trade-off. And there seems to be about a 50/50 split on mechanical grip. Half want bigger tires to keep the lap speeds which would be lost to lesser downforce. The other half would like the same, or even smaller tires, so the cars would slide around more and the drivers would have to visibly work for their times. I haven't heard any opinions on these points from the powers that be.
Have you? What do they say? What would you like to see?

Chad R. Larson, Phoenix

RM: I would say that a lot of us older IndyCar fans want 1,000 HP and tougher cars to drive, but I think the younger ones are quite happy with the quality of racing today. I don't know the answer and I wish we had a lot of different cars and engines, but that's not realistic anymore so maybe we should be happy that IndyCar is the best racing among the Big 3.

Q: One thing that I have been trying to wrap my head around is why only the first four or five rows are side-by-side on the initial start of many races? I know that at some tracks, like Long Beach, it is very difficult to get the cars around the final turn side-by-side, but why is it that many times only half the field is lined up at the green flag? Should IndyCar maybe wait until the cars are packed up before giving the one-to-green signal?

Alan Bandi, Butler, PA

RM: The only possible good and fair start at Long Beach is a standing start (as was proved a few years back) and the same goes for Toronto, but it was scrapped because of the unreliable software. Throwing the green later down the straightaway is discussed at different tracks, but then they're always worried about piling up the while field in Turn 1. All I know is that the fans loved the standing start at Long Beach, and IndyCar needs to make sure the fans are happy.

imsc4695Q: I have Jim Hurtubise Miller High Life Mallard as my background on my computer, and it made me wonder who built the Mallard? What was the fastest lap that Jim managed in that car at Indianapolis? Has anyone attempted to run another front-engined car since the Mallard? Would IndyCar even consider that style of car in the future?

Tony Matracia

RM: Jim and brother Pete built the Mallard in their shop in North Tonawanda, N.Y. in 1967 and I was lucky enough to stooge for them in 1968 when Herk qualified the last roadster in IMS history (ABOVE). He brought it back a couple more times and I think ran a lap of 174-175 mph in the late '70s. But he took it to Daytona in the fall of '68 and ran a lap of 191 mph – god was he brave! It was the last of that era, and I don't think it's ever coming back.

Q: What do you think of the doings at Laguna Seca? Do you think the new people are a good thing? Looks like a bit of political gamesmanship was going on.

Don Betsworth, Torrance, CA

RM: I have no idea Don but Marshall Pruett was on that story from Day 1 so you need to read this.

Q: I was saddened to hear of Brock Yates passing. It got me reading his book "Cannonball" again for the third or fourth time. Are there any rumblings about a memorial Cannonball dash this February? I think that would be a fitting tribute if it could be pulled off. It could be called "The Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Brock Yates Memorial Trophy Dash." Send me an e-mail, I'll run it with you!

Bill Phypers, Brewster, NY

RM: No plans to my knowledge, but Brock wanted to try one grand finale a decade ago before his lawyers convinced him that was a bad idea. I'm afraid those spirited days are over in this country, I'm just glad I got to be part of it one time. And Paul Newman was excited about the thought of doing it with Eddie Wirth and myself before it got tabled. I imagine there could be an outlaw version of it some day, but the cool part was the notoriety it achieved in Car & Driver and then Brock's book. Glad you enjoyed it.

Q: I just saw a picture of the Champ Car Panoz and was wondering why the current Indy cars need the air box or whatever you call the enclosed roll hoop? The Panoz, Lola, and Renard chassis look so much sleeker without it, and I don't understand why it's necessary.

Jim Doyle, Hoboken, N.J.

RM: Over to Marshall Pruett. "The good news is IndyCar has asked the same question, and come to the determination its 2018 universal bodywork will ditch the overhead airbox. It made sense when the original new-spec IRL cars from Dallara and GForce in 1997 used naturally-aspirated engines all the way through Honda's spec NA V8s through 2011, but with the move to turbos and enclosed intake plenums, the air could have been fed from the sidepods. That change is a year away."

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