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Daniel Ricciardo is optimistic that Formula 1 will eventually move towards a rule package that will diminish the car's role in determining performance, and will better reflect the talent of drivers further back in the field.

"Lewis [Hamilton] has won three of the last four championships, but if he was in a midfield team, he wouldn't have three of the last four championships," Ricciardo said. "The car is a big part of it, but you need to be a good driver to get the equipment to the top. You need both. It's still a bit more dominant with the car than the driver – I'd say maybe 75 per cent to 25 per cent.

"If we make it a bit more equal by bringing the driver in a bit more and taking the equipment out, then that would be better. A 50/50 would be something more realistic in the near future, and hopefully that's the case.

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"Even from Lewis to the guy that's coming last, maybe the lap time says 3.0s, but the driver is maximum 1.0s. We are all a lot closer than that, and it would be great if we could all stay within 1.0s with the equipment because then the racing would be pretty fun."

While acknowledging the role of Mercedes' dominance in Hamilton's recent title success, the Australian reserves special respect for the way his rival maintains a high performance level in F1 while simultaneously pursuing numerous interests outside of the sport.

"Lewis, even if with the best material, he still had pressure and expectation, and he's had that since he started F1 ten years ago," Ricciardo said. "I think he's always been on a very high level, and he's also got a lot of other distractions in his life, and can still perform when it counts. I respect him and take my hat off to him – as a driver, he is very competitive."

FujiThe Borg-Warner Trophy has returned back to the United States from Japan after its first-ever departure from the country. Tens of thousands of Japanese fans and stars from Honda's motorsports family, including Jenson Button, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, were on hand as Takuma Sato was celebrated for his Indy 500 win during a two-week tour.

"It's been an amazing two weeks with the Borg-Warner Trophy," said Sato, who drew a large crowd at Motegi for the Honda Racing THANKS DAY event, which featured the trophy and some demonstration laps. "It's special having so much support from the fans from east to west – it's been a busy trip but such an incredible experience. I'd like to give the whole team a big 'Thank You' and to everyone who has supported this special, once in a lifetime project – especially Honda and BorgWarner – without both of them, this would have been impossible.

"Having the Borg-Warner Trophy at my annual fan club meeting (over 800 fans in attendance) is an incredible feeling to share with everyone, unbelievable. A big thank you to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum to help make the trip to Japan happen – thank you, I really, really appreciate it!"

The trophy's trip included a visit to Mt. Fuji before heading to the BorgWarner plant in Nabari – a six-hour drive from Tokyo – where Sato was surprised with a conference room named in his honor.

Trophy handlers A.J. Fairbairn, manager of restoration services, and IMS Museum assistant curator Jason Vansickle traveled with the trophy to Japan and were responsible for packing and re-assembling for each appearance – not an easy task, since the trophy travels in three separate custom shipping cases that weigh close to 200 pounds each.

Members of Sato's fan club were treated to a photo with the 500 champion and the trophy. At the end of the event, Sato replicated his Victory Lane celebration, wreath, milk bath and all.

"The people's reaction to seeing the Borg-Warner Trophy in person was something I'll never forget," said Scott Gallett, BorgWarner vice president of marketing. "BorgWarner is proud to help support all Takuma's and Honda's celebration events and we would like to publicly thank Takuma for personally supporting our BorgWarner events. Takuma is a happy and humble champion for sure."

Click on the thumbnails below for larger images from Japan.

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F1 lineup honeThe Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) has hit full membership of the current grid as the F1 drivers unite to influence the future direction of the sport.

GPDA chairman Alex Wurz confirmed the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen have officially joined the union, for what he believes could be the first time ever. Wurz explains the reason behind the commitment is due to the likely changes being implemented in F1 under new owners Liberty Media.

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"F1 is entering a period of evolution, change and perhaps even a degree of turmoil," Wurz told the BBC. "They recognize they must be united and represented to face that challenge.

"[The drivers want to] prevent any politics or power fights from ultimately compromising on-track performance. The drivers believe unity is fundamental for the sport's success."

Wurz says the drivers are encouraged to see the 2017 regulations – of which they were in favor – resulting in increased interest in the sport, even if they still want to see improvements made.

"We are all particularly proud that the new cars, with their faster cornering speeds, had such great effect," Wurz said. "The drivers love them and we have seen an instant increase in viewership and followers.

"The GPDA pushed for this rule direction for the last three years. Happy drivers are F1's best sales tool.

"We are glad that Liberty and their technical research team followed the GPDA's suggestion from more than a year ago, where we wished for a less sensitive airflow concept of aerodynamic-related rules in order to be able to race closer. That's just one example and one of many the drivers have in mind."

According to Wurz, the drivers want to address the issue of track limits and over-regulation of the sport, while also seeking ways to improve overtaking and track action. Other areas the GPDA are concerned about include the noise of the power units, lack of visual impact from current camera angles and the large variation in budget levels leading to a significant spread in performance from the front to the back of the grid.

Wurz added any changes need to be "very careful and considerate adjustments" to ensure recent progress made with the cars on track continues.

Rebellion JEPAnglo-Swiss FIA WEC team Rebellion Racing is set to compete in LMP1 once again in the 2018/19 'Super Season' after competing in LMP2 this season, winning the class title.

RACER understands the newly crowned LMP2 champion will be an ORECA LMP1 effort, though the team has not yet announced which chassis or engine supplier it will use. For the team's LMP1 effort, RACER understands ORECA is set to play a leading role on the engineering side of the effort and it is also understood that the new ORECA LMP1 car will be exclusively supplied to Rebellion for the 2018/19 season.

The team's return to LMP1 – it won the class Privateer Trophy in the FIA WEC each year from 2012-16 racing with Lola and R-One chassis – brings the total number of confirmed full-season LMP1 entries for 2018/19 to nine.

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Both its cars will be revealed at the Geneva International Motor Show in March.

The team's driver line-up will race with a mixture of team mainstays and experienced team debutants. The team's 2017 LMP2 champion Bruno Senna will return, with Rebellion regular Mathias Beche and Petit Le Mans star Gustavo Menezes. The trio will be joined by ex-Porsche LMP1 drivers Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer and Jackie Chan DC Racing 2017 LMP2 Le Mans winner Thomas Laurent.

"I am very happy to be in LMP1 with Rebellion Racing for the 2018-2019 FIA WEC super season," Senna said. "The many changes in the rules will be a huge challenge, but we have drivers and a quality team to deal with them. We will push very hard for those crucial Le Mans wins!"

American Menezes, who will make his LMP1 debut with the team, addded: "I would like to thank Rebellion Racing and especially Calim Bouhadra and Alexandre Pesci for their trust. I was an ambassador of Rebellion Timepieces this past year and now I've become an official driver of the team. I had a great time with Team Signature and now another adventure begins. I am 23 years old and now moving to the top category. It's a great opportunity and it's going to be incredible."

The move marks a return to the team for Jani, the 2016 FIA WEC drivers champion who joined Rebellion in 2010 and remained until joining Porsche in 2014.

"I am looking forward to coming back where my endurance career started nine years ago," Jani said. "Rebellion Racing played a huge role in my career and also helped me become a factory driver for Porsche. When Porsche stopped in LMP1, it was clear for me that I wanted to race again for Rebellion. With the new regulations, I hope we can reach the overall podium at Le Mans and with a bit of luck, maybe we can even grab some wins during the super season of WEC.” 

Lotterer, who will also race with TECHEETAH in Formula E, is among the drivers contracted with Porsche despite the end of the LMP1 program. But he previously said the German marque has been "relaxed" in allowing him to pursure opportunities that would secure an opportunity at Le Mans.

”I am very happy to join the champion Rebellion team," he said. "The LMP1 project is very exciting and to be able to go on with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA WEC challenge is something I did not want to miss. I am motivated and looking forward to having a great time with great people there.”

GadeLe Mans-winning race engineer Leena Gade is on the radar of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for its rising Verizon IndyCar Series program.

Multiple sources have told RACER the Briton, whose success with the Audi Sport LMP1 program made her among the highest-profile engineers in motor racing, was a guest of SPM last week in Phoenix where the team participated in a manufacturers' test on behalf of Honda.

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With the shuttering of Audi's LMP1 program in motion toward in 2016, Gade moved to Bentley Motorsport as part of its customer sport program where she worked through the recent completion of her contract. It's believed SPM could have competition for Gade's services from teams in a variety of international championships, and no decision has been made as to where her next adventure will be based.

If Gade were to join SPM, she would be come the second ex-Audi Sport engineer to tackle the uniquely American open-wheel discipline that races on three types of ovals along with road and street courses. Her former LMP1 colleague Justin Taylor, who spent the 2017 season engineering JR Hildebrand at Ed Carpenter Racing, earned two podiums both on ovals before returning to sports cars with Mazda Team Joest for its 2018 IMSA Daytona Prototype international campaign.

As part of a thorough revamping of its two-car team that fields James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens, SPM has made a number of impressive changes and additions during the offseason. Among the key acquisitions, former Chip Ganassi Racing engineer Todd Malloy came onboard as technical director, and if Gade were to accept an offer, the team would welcome a triple Le Mans winner with a fresh pair of eyes to bolster its open-wheel operation.

phpThumbWelcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.

Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com 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: I wanted to get your thoughts on a theory I have about Marco Andretti. He seems to be a pincushion for a lot of Mailbaggers who like to poke fun at his lackluster results. I'm not a Marco apologist; some of the criticism is deserved, some of it not so much. His grandfather is arguably one of the best racecar drivers in history, while his dad was arguably one of the best AOWR drivers of his generation – always worth the price of admission.

Marco doesn't have the skill, ambition or determination his gramps and pops had, but the last time I checked, neither do any other current IndyCar drivers – with maybe the exception of Dixon. He is perceived by some as arrogant, but I think that's mistaken for his not-so-warm personality (just like his dad), immaturity and lack of patience.

In 2006 he came within one straightaway from winning the Indy 500. In 2008, 2010 and 2014 he finished third, was fourth in 2013 and sixth in 2015. In an F1 test in 2007 his lap times were a second slower than Alonso and Button on the same day. In 2008, none of his teammates could match his lap times at the 12 Hours of Sebring. I don't know what any of this means other than these results don't reflect (in my opinion) a driver who's slow or bad. He's always fast on ovals, rarely wrecks the car, but seems to struggle on road and street courses.

Let's face it, he'll never be as good as Mario and Michael. That in itself is enough pressure. I suppose you could say that it's easier for Marco to become a bit complacent when things aren't going so well, being that his dad is unlikely to dump him. Most drivers are out the door when they don't perform, especially when they don't bring money and sponsors. Having a third-generation driver with the name Andretti is good for the IndyCar series, and I wish there were more with names like Andretti, Unser, Mears, Johncock, Rutherford, etc.

Has Marco underachieved so far in his racing career? Probably, but IndyCar has a lot of competition with a lot of great drivers. He will continue to have his work cut out for him if he wants to succeed in the future and win races. I believe Marco has two problems and one of them is not his right foot, but the mechanism that controls his right foot, which is located up between his ears. His other problem is his last name. If he can find a way to put aside these prolonged issues, I think he has as good a chance as anybody to win the Indy 500. Isn't that what it's all about in IndyCar – winning the 500?

Steve Sporer, Chicago

RM: Obviously, carrying that last name has made it possible for him to stay in the sport, but also added an immense amount of pressure to perform. Michael managed to handle the expectations with great results (as did Al Unser Jr.), and who knows what would have happened if Marco wins that first Indy 500 back in 2006. As you pointed out, he's always been quick and could easily be a multi-time winner at IMS but, for whatever reason, he's struggled on road and street courses in an IndyCar. Part of it has to be mental, or confidence (or lack of), but last year was a good example in that he started out practicing at or near the top but couldn't repeat it for qualifying – he never made one Fast Six. Yes, two wins in 12 years could be classified as major underachievement, but he's still only 30 years old so it's not like he's out of time to turn things around. It's at the point where nobody expects anything, and that's sad for him and IndyCar. I pick him to win Indy almost every year and maybe someday he'll break the Andretti curse, which would go a long way in improving his résumé.

Q: Every year, there is some pronouncement from Marco Andretti about how next year something will magically make his luck change. Is the car number switch really going to make a difference in 2018? He's already had Herta in his ear for 2017 and the results were not radically better. I think not. What say you?

David, Waxhaw, NC

RM: As I stated in the letter above, Marco began 2017 so much stronger with Bryan in his ear and in his head on the pit box but, despite the good practice times, the results just weren't there. But I do think Herta is his best shot at finding a groove.


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Q: What do you make of Marco moving over to the No.98 car? I guess it can't hurt, but like you, I always wanted to see Marco consistently fight at the front of the field. While he's still relatively young, honestly, how much longer can he run towards the back of the field when driving for one of the three best teams on the grid?

Jim Doyle, Hoboken, NJ

RM: Obviously, changing cars or numbers isn't going to make any difference, and just about everyone at Andretti Autosport has worked on Marco's car at one time so finding some chemistry would be paramount. But to answer your question: I think he'll have a ride as long as he wants or as long as Michael fields a team.

Q: Over the past few years we've seen more and more involvement by IndyCar drivers such as Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Montoya, Kannan, Castroneves and Bourdais in the IMSA series. I've followed Marco's career and have always wished him the best. It's a mystery why he hasn't had more success. He's expressed the desire to try new things in IndyCar; conditioning, focused training, etc., but where's the desire to be a pure racer? It's nice to once again see drivers getting involved in more than one discipline and expand their horizons, just like the good ol' days. Marco had a go with a few races in the ALMS [2008] and even at Le Mans in 2010. I've never understood why he hasn't found a way to get out and get more exposure. Remaining strictly an IndyCar driver is not doing him any favors. Anything on the horizon that may put him on the IMSA grid? GTD? GTLM? Prototypes?

Terry Johnsen, Germantown, Maryland

RM: There are full-timers in Andretti's Formula E and RallyCross teams so no place to run there, and Michael was vying for an IMSA team with BMW but it didn't happen. I would think any IndyCar driver would try and run as much Outlaw as possible since there are only 17 races and a few test days but, sadly, it's not like the '60s when there were available cars in series everywhere, so A.J., Mario, Parnelli, Gurney and the boys could race every weekend if they wanted. But I don't know of anything available for Marco right now, and I also don't know how seriously he pursues one-off rides in sports cars.

Q: Always read the Mailbag and have decided to finally come from Australia (I'm a Kiwi) and watch IndyCar next year. I have been thinking about the Indy 500, but I'm also considering instead doing the Grand Prix at Road America and then the Iowa race – driving between the two? (That way I can see an oval and America's best road course). Would you have thoughts/suggestions/recommendations? I'm hugely excited to see the effects of the new aerokits, which look pretty damn good IMO, except the blockers in front of the rear wheels. Thanks again for all you reporting and work and bring on 2018. (Let's go DIXON).

Justin Holden

RM: Indy has been a damn entertaining show the past decade so it would be tough to suggest going anywhere else, but your Road America/Iowa option sounds great, especially since Dixon thinks the cars are going to be tougher to drive on short ovals and road courses. Do me a favor and let me know what you decide. We'll try and get you a little IndyCar welcome wagon kit.

Q: Just reading Mailbag where someone asked about PT's attitude regarding his 2002 Indy 500 non-win. Paul was one of our favorite drivers, and we were able to see his last win at Cleveland in 2007 even though he had his third front wing on the car at the finish. (That was also the last time that we saw you). He was such an over the top, hard-charging driver that we watched him closely during every live or TV CART/Champ Car race that we saw. I don't believe we missed any one of them over the years. We have been very surprised at how well Paul has accepted the 2002 result. I know that I would have never gotten over something like that if it had happened to me.

In his commentary during the telecasts he is always spot-on, and he has never shown any animosity towards Helio. We have been very impressed by the way he does the broadcasts. Paul has been very professional when commenting on the performance of both Helio and Seabass before, during and after the races. I especially like when he advises the young drivers during the race to be patient. He was great to watch back in the day. If he himself had been a more patient driver, he would probably have won many more races as he might have driven for the "Captain" for many more years than he did.

Dick & Sue Hildebrand, Ormond Beach, FL

RM: You are spot-on – PT has never played the pity card during an NBCSN telecast and always speaks well of Helio and his longtime rival Bourdais. The Indy verdict bothered him, of course – how could it not? But he moved on. My favorite moment was in 2003 when ESPN's John Kernan was interviewing Dario on RPM2Night about Helio going for a third win, and Franchitti said: "You mean his second, because P.T. won last year." It's always funny to hear Paul talking about patience because he had none, and that's why we couldn't take our eyes off him at speed. But if he holds a grudge towards TG, Barnhart or HCN, he does a good job of keeping it to himself.


abbott tracyfront

Q: I like you Robin. I love IndyCar racing. Next year will be my 42nd consecutive Indy 500. However, if you print one more comment from a disgruntled fan supporting Paul Tracy over the finish of the 2002 500, I am going to scream. Sorry, but no matter what anybody might personally think about the finish, the record books will always say Helio Castroneves won the race. It will say that tomorrow, next week, next year, in 10 years, in 100 years. And no matter what anybody says, it is not going to change! Sorry! So grow up and shut up and get on with your life. Sheesh! Am I a Helio fan? You bet, and I hope he gets a fourth 500 win to drive you and Tracy supporters even more nuts.

Dean Owens

RM: Sorry Dean, but that's a part of IMS history that will never be forgotten and fans like to talk about periodically. But it's not a matter of persuading anyone, it's a matter of seeing the video and knowing the facts and understanding it was a kangaroo court. Of course nothing is going to change, but it doesn't change what we saw and heard in 2002. I just wrote a nice tribute about Helio at Indy for RACER, and if he wins No.4 in May, I'll write something even nicer.

Q: Do you think Danica will have any effect on the Indy 500's TV ratings? I've been having an on-going battle with a friend over her. I say she would bring higher ratings if she replaced Marco for the entire season, even if she didn't do too well. He disagrees. What do you think?

Mike Talarico, Riverside, CA

RM: Good question. The last two Indy 500s (the 100th and Fernando Alonso's first one) turned out to be ratings flops – 2017 was the worst ever – so I have no idea what might move the needle since the racing has been fabulous. And don't forget that TV ratings really leveled off for the IRL in Danica's final four seasons, so while I think it will create renewed interest from the media, I'm not sure it's going to resonate in the Nielsen's.

Q: After reading Chip's comments last week regarding Danica running the Indy 500 for him being a "small chance of happening" and that it had to make business sense for all parties I come away with this conclusion: Whatever sponsor Danica brings, it will have to help pay for other aspects of Chip's team, perhaps even some of Scott Dixon's 2018 sponsorship. Am I right? Also, with this news now being public, what are the odds she's driving for Chip in May on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being 'no chance' and 100 being 'a lock'?

Damon in Hilliard, Ohio

RM: The day Danica announced Daytona and Indy would be her final two races, I called Chip and he admitted there had been discussions but that nothing was set and it had to make business sense, so nothing has changed. Would her funding help Dixie? I can't imagine it being that much money, and a May-only program is going to be pricey enough. But I do think IndyCar is going to make sure it happens, so whether DP brings a big sponsor or a small one, she'll be in a competitive car in May. And I still think it's an 85 that it's Chip.

Q: I have a question and a comment. It has been said that a race in Mexico without an established Mexican driver in the series will not be successful. Makes sense. After watching Takuma Sato run by himself in front of a big crowd at Motegi, why isn't IndyCar trying to go back to Japan? Especially now with Sato being the defending 500 champ. Seems like a lock for a successful race.

And regarding the new aero kit, I have an idea for IndyCar. Every year, NASCAR runs a race or two with retro paint schemes on the cars. Now that IndyCar has a car that resembles the cars of old, why not run a race with retro liveries – not actual sponsors, just paint jobs? Penske already does it with Menards and Pennzoil. How cool would it be to see those two plus AJ's Copenhagen look, Little Al's Valvoline look, Fittipaldi's Marlboro look, Rahal's Genuine Draft look, Forsythe's Players look, all racing around IMS? I doubt it would attract any new viewers, but damn it would be cool for us die-hards!

Blake, Flower Mound, TX

RM: The last time IndyCar raced at Motegi it was packed because Sato was in the field and, obviously, now that he's the Indy 500 winner it would probably be a tough ticket because he's a national hero. But unless Honda of Japan decides to jump back into the promoting business, it's likely up to IndyCar whether it ever gets back on the schedule. Right now I don't hear anything from either party in terms of going back. As for retro paint schemes, it would be kinda cool to see, but as hard as it to find sponsors nowadays I think most IndyCar teams are concentrating on how to keep them happy, and I'm not sure throwback cars do anything for them.


MarshallPruett5202217Indy500 00 0088 0080 copy

Q: Reading the questions from the last couple Mailbags about A.J.'s runs in the Aerotech got me wondering how fast one of today's IndyCars could run on a closed circuit like the 7.7 mile Ft. Stockton test track? If a team had the necessary resources and motivation to properly set up a DW12 for a maximum speed on a circuit like Ft. Stockton, do you think it could challenge AJ's 257.123 mph record?

Mike M.

RM: The natural reaction would be "hell yes" because of all the aerodynamic advancements in the past 30 years, but I need to ask an engineer. Better yet, let's ask Marshall Pruett:

"The current DW12s, at Indy in lower drag/downforce trim, and with mid-level boost, run over 240 mph at the end of the straights. If Chevy or Honda were to go the route of the Aerotech and build a custom, heavy-duty, high-power engine, and add drag-reducing bodywork, specifically to shield the front and rear tires and cockpit, I'm confident A.J.'s old record could be beaten. If we're talking a regular DW12 with no modifications, no, it wouldn't crack 257mph, but again, the IndyCar chassis-based Aerotech was anything but stock."

Q: It makes me very happy to see Honda showing off their Indy 500 champ. It makes me even happier seeing all those people in the seats to watch one car go around Twin Ring. I'm sure 100 other people have "when is Indycar gonna return to Japan" covered so here's my question? Where the hell is the Stateside promoting of Newgarden? You, other media, the fans, even IndyCar have all said we need him in national commercials, and a social media blitz, and don't let happen to him what happened to RHR... well, the only place I find him is on social media and you know what his recent tweets have been? Stuff about getting ready for next year! What happened? What are we doing here? It's the same damn thing again! Send his ass to the Chili Bowl to hand out promo stuff in an IndyCar booth, or to Tony Stewart's house and have them do a FB live for an hour while fishing so people can see his personality, or to a country music show in Nashville... anywhere that he (and IndyCar) can just get a little exposure and gain a new fan.

Matt, Marshall, MO

RM: I have zero confidence that JoNew will get anything resembling a national ad campaign or exposure, unless you count the Detroit Auto Show, and I was once told that the Chili Bowl wasn't IndyCar's "demographic" so don't hold your breath on the booth I suggested three years ago. The problem is that IndyCar isn't going to spend the money to promote JoNew to the masses, and Team Penske doesn't have a sponsor willing to either. He will likely be another nameless, faceless IndyCar champion.

Q: I read a comment in the Mailbag lamenting the fact that IndyCar doesn't run on "F1" tracks. Look at the classic road courses here in North America. Think of Sebring and Mosport. Many of our tracks would need to have major changes made in order to bring them up do FIA F1 specification. In doing so, I believe they would lose a great deal of their character. So many of the FIA tracks have enough run-off that a driver losing it in turn one has enough run-off that his luggage has to be forwarded by the airline. COTA with its great turn one, the esses, all of its great turns, still seems a little sterile to me. The Yabba Dabba Doo Grand Prix was quite a snorefest. It might have been better had there been IndyCars running, but again, it is a sterile track. The nattering nabobs of negativity should be glad they are able to access so many fantastic contests and at reasonable prices.

Brian Bristo, London Ontario

RM: While I loved watching IndyCars at Brands Hatch and Silverstone, it would be just as nice to see Road Atlanta and Mosport in the mix someday for IndyCar, and I'm told it would require some work in runoff areas but nothing like an F1 track would. And I like your Yabba Dabba Doo GP – it was much more entertaining than the race.

Q: Driving up Georgetown Rd. I noticed an Ed Carpenter racing sign. It's in front of what I think was originally the Players racing shop (just north of 71st). Has Ed moved his team from Main St. in Speedway?

David K.

RM: Yes sir, ECR has moved into Gerald Forsythe's old place because Mike Harding took over the shop on Main Street in Speedway.

Q: I don't think this topic has been covered yet, but does the move of Helio to IMSA mean that Roger Penske won't be calling races for anyone this season, or are they going to shuffle things around again at Penske?

Ryan Ward, San Jose, CA

RM: My understanding is that The Captain will be calling Will Power's races, with Tim Cindric still with Josef Newgarden and Kyle Moyer with Simon Pagenaud. I imagine Helio will have Jonathan Diuguid on his pit box in May.

Q: Robin, I just wanted to let your Mailbag Readers know that Phoenix Raceway is having a Christmas sale, with two very good discount packages offered for the IndyCar race. Promotion expires on 12/22, so hopefully this message makes it into this week's column. Here is the offer page.

Rob Joseph, Chandler, AZ

RM: Thanks Rob. I know Bryan Sperber and his PIR staff want IndyCar to make it and they're all fired up about the Mario Andretti promotion, so this is good news. Thanks for sharing.

Q: Any chance that we will ever see another IndyCar race at the Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland? If you think not, any particular reasons you know of?

Tim Howell, York, PA

RM: If Mike Lanigan could find a title sponsor like he had at Houston (Shell), then I think he would bring Burke Lakefront Airport back in a heartbeat. But without a major title sponsor or a promoter – and those must go together these days – all we're going to have is memories of a great event.

Q: With all of the banter last season about yellows and whether or not the pits are open or closed can ruin a race (Toronto), what would you think about the idea of a rule stating that pit stops MUST occur on green flag laps? I've never liked rules stipulating whether you can or can't come into the pits, and I dislike even more what these happenstances do to the racing. I'm also coming at this from growing to LOVE rallycross racing over the last few years and the strategy and suspense that the Joker Lap offers. I was thinking of ways for that to be incorporated into IndyCar racing, but in reality the pit stop already is a "joker lap" of sorts. The only thing that prevents it from being such is that everyone tries to pit under yellow if they can, and there's no guarantee that everyone takes it under the same conditions. Forcing stops to happen on green flag laps would sure create a lot of excitement as drivers manage their gaps and in/out laps. It would also help prevent potentially skewed results that come from the timing of full-course yellows.

Lyle James, Dayton, OH

RM: Tony Cotman, in between designing and trying to improve tracks for IndyCar, has spent his share of time in Race Control and offers the most logical answer to your question:

"There are two ways to look at this. 1. Pit stops under yellow make racing more exciting as the field gets bunched up and mixed up providing greater opportunities for different winners. 2. Pit stops under green will likely provide less passing (due to fast at front and slower at rear) but the fastest car is more likely to win. Over the years there have been mandated pit windows, pitting under green, pitting under yellow, all in an effort to nullify the yellows, but the reality is whenever a yellow occurs it has some sort of impact and ultimately effects strategy. There are many issues such as what if someone is about to pit, they are out of fuel and it goes yellow? What if someone is in the pit and it goes yellow, that's a major advantage. No matter which way you slice it, there are multiple scenarios that arise. So, are we after the better show or pure racing dictating the winner?"

17KAN2bc3164Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch and Stewart-Haas Racing will stay together into 2018. While there has yet to be an official announcement, per an SHR team source, Busch has indeed re-signed with the team.

Details of Busch's new deal were not revealed. Those could come in the near future.

"Having my hard work pay off by winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and the 2017 Daytona 500 has given me the drive to continue conquering the NASCAR world," said Busch in a statement released by his representatives. "I am excited to enter the 2018 racing season as a Monster Energy athlete where I will continue to drive my favorite manufacturer, the Ford Motor Company.

"Knowing that SHR is committed to optimum performance, I believe that I have everything I need to win races this season and take home the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup. I look forward to taking on next year with my team, sponsors and determination."

The option on Busch's contract was not picked up in during the summer and the two sides had been in negotiations since. While Busch acknowledged he had explored other options, the hope from both he and SHR officials was that he would remain with the organization.

Busch joined SHR in 2014 and has five wins in the No. 41. He has made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.

It was also announced that Busch had recently signed with Livewire Entertainment out of Orlando, Fla., to serve as his management agency. He has also expanded in hiring Hollywood agency ICM Partners for opportunities outside of NASCAR.

JGS 9503 1Trevor Carlin's plans to move his championship-winning junior open-wheel organization up to the Verizon IndyCar Series have been in motion since the team's formation.

The powerhouse entrant, champions in seemingly every European ladder series, added a North American chapter to its legacy in 2015 when Carlin Racing joined Indy Lights on the Mazda Road to Indy. And with the Lights title won by Ed Jones in 2016, there was only one step left for the British team to make.

"It's a dream come true, really," Carlin told RACER. "And it literally was a dream 30 years ago when I first became aware of IndyCar racing and watched it. To be able to say there's going to be a Carlin entry in IndyCar and the Indy 500 is a dream come true. I'm very thankful to all the people along the way who've made it happen. It's a big moment."

The list of drivers who've moved onward and upward from Carlin Racing is staggering. Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel and his former teammate Daniel Ricciardo are only two of the supreme talents to compete in Carlin's blue livery along with Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato. And the team's 2018 IndyCar drivers, Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball, are returning to an outfit that played a major role in their development.

With Carlin's European ladder firmly established, completing the step from Indy Lights to IndyCar is another major achievement for the Briton.

 R6T7512"It's really nice because our job has been, and still is, to help young drivers work their way through from Formula 4, USF2000, and up through the ladder," said Carlin (pictured above). "What's happened up until now, at a certain point, is we've had to say goodbye to them because we haven't been in a category IndyCar or Formula 1 where we could hang onto our drivers. And now, we've got a chance where we can take a driver from the very beginning all the way to the pinnacle.

"It hasn't been something that was really achievable in Formula 1 because the barriers for entry are so high. But the way the Verizon IndyCar championship is set up the financing, the concept of the cars it just made it achievable for a normal team. Because that's all we are. Here we are now, about to embark on this great mission."

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As the only IndyCar team based in Florida, Carlin has experienced some of what the A.J. Foyt Racing squad has encountered by running at least one of its cars from Texas. With the IndyCar Series and most of its entrants located in Indiana or neighboring states, established crew members have been reluctant to move. Carlin is confident the team's approach to fielding Chilton and Kimball will overcome the issue.

"It's difficult for some people to take up offers with us because they have families and have roots," he added. "Our target is to build a young energetic team; we've got a good mix of guys from the States, a couple of European guys are coming over not many, actually and the attraction of at least having some sun in the winter when you're not racing is good. We'll have a satellite base in Indianapolis for three or four months of the year when we're on the road working."

Along with Harding Racing, Juncos Racing, and Michael Shank Racing, the Carlin team is part of an important wave of new IndyCar entrants headed for the grid in 2018. In his typical fashion, Carlin's sights are set well above leading the incoming class.

"There's certainly a buzz about the championship, and I think you'll actually find there are more drivers looking for seats than there are seats available," he said. "I think the timing is good: IndyCar has got the business model right, got great supporters and great suppliers, and great events. With the new aero kit, this is the right time for us to move in, and our target is not to be the best of the new teams, it's to start competing as quickly as possible with the existing teams."

Listen to audio of Carlin interview below:

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