Q: Besides Chevy and Honda proceeding with aero kits and Dallara not, have you any news on any other company planning to make an aero kit? With regards to Indy Lights, any news on the proposed building of the new chassis for 2015? Lastly, give us your take on the 2014 silly season and possible destinations.
RM: No but we should be getting a release from IndyCar any day now. Tony Cotman is in charge of the new Lights car but way too early to know much. Silly season predictions? I'll save those for a column next week.
Q: I have really enjoyed the last two seasons more than I think any since I began following CART/IndyCar in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, I have resigned myself that, due to changes in culture and greater availability of entertainment alternatives, that IndyCar is destined to be a niche sport. In your opinion, can IndyCar survive and even thrive as a niche sport or does it take more $$ than can be generated by a niche sport? It seems we need a fresh crop of wealthy “sportsmen” like John Zink, Jim Kimberley, the Wilkes, Mike Boyle, etc. who pay to participate in the sport because they want to, not to advertise anything in particular.
Chris Ruske, Millville, NJ
RM: I think Indy cars, sports cars, midgets, sprints, motorcycles and dragsters are all niche sports and, yes, they can survive but how do they thrive? More sponsors and new owners help but nothing would help more than a mega title sponsor that buys national TV time and, of course, better TV ratings to more people might come on board.
Q: Why would not the Disney oval work perfectly well for the Indy finale? Is A.J. Watson still around to slap together a mile dirt "aero package" to get the DWs on Springfield and the Indy Fairgrounds where some Gen-Xers can rediscover the edgy sport of their grandparents? If Brawner could get Mario's Hawk up Pikes Peak and Lloyd could get the Mongoose around Springfield just short of making the field in the '60s, I bet a DW12 could be made to run the cushion.
RM: I watched Rube try to qualify the Mongoose for the Hoosier Hundred and it was painful. The only way you're going to see any of your dreams come true? Buy a Dick Wallen video. But a special challenge race on the dirt with IndyCar drivers in late models might generate some interest. Might.
Q: Seeing the success of AJ Allmendinger in the Nationwide Series has reminded me of an idea that I had last year. I would love to see Will Power get a shot at one of these road courses. What do you think about Roger Penske giving Will a shot and how well do you think he would do?
RM: I think he would struggle with the weight and tires for a couple races but eventually get the hang of it like A.J. and Sam Hornish have.
Q: Just watched the Nationwide race at Mid-Ohio. Good racing, too bad for all the stupid NASCAR rules like: lucky dog, green-white-checker and throwing yellow flags for no apparent reason. Do they use local yellows? (My 13-year daughter even asked me why they didn't use a local yellow!) This race just confirmed my thought that NASCAR is to racing as the WWE is to wrestling.
RM: No, no locals and it's maddening to watch lap-after-lap of caution for a spin or a tow-in. I liked the old Formula 1 days – no cautions EVER.
Q: Is Kurt Busch going to race at Fontana this year as a prelude to Indy, and if Busch does a halfway decent job at Indy, do you think this will open the door for other NASCAR drivers to give the 500-miler a tryout?
RM: No, because most of the name drivers have a binding contract that wouldn't allow them to test an Indy car, let alone race one. Kurt is in a unique position but I imagine he could still do Indy in 2014 if he's hired by Tony Stewart.
Q: Has Michael Andretti considered writing a book about his career, especially his time in F1? Would be so interested. Almost as much as Montoya driving IndyCars in 2014. Any truth to the rumors or just driver/sponsor pressure to Hinchtown? Great to see RACER have you and the rest of the "beat" crew. I still own my first six plus years of RACER magazines in boxes and treasure their features/pictures.
RM: Never heard Mike mention anything about a book but I don't see him interested in sharing a lot of personal stuff; he's just pretty private. Montoya called him about a ride and, obviously Hinch and GoDaddy will go a long way in shaping what the 2014 driver lineup looks like. Happy to be at RACER. Glad to be anywhere at age 63.
Q: Congrats on your move to RACER. Question, is this the last year of IZOD's sponsorship deal with IndyCar? If so, anyone in line to take over as title sponsor for next year?
Jim, San Diego
RM: Yes, this is it for IZOD and, no, there isn't a replacement in the wings just yet. But IZOD hasn't done much of anything the past two years so it's not like a big loss, other than the money.
Q: Well, it's twice now that NASCAR has walked away from ESPN. Don't blame NASCAR. Money talks. Can't believe NBC paid that kind of money, as attendance and viewership seems to have peaked for the tin-tops. Just think it is funny because ESPN probably made NASCAR a "crossover" sport years ago...and they walked. Then, once they got them back, and put IndyCar in the distant rear view mirror, again, they walked away once more. ESPN better get more Texas Hold 'Em Tournaments going. Still don't see the attraction of 3,500 lb. pigs that run 30-40mph slower than an IndyCar. I think I might do everything I could to get a title sponsor to optimize exposure....even if you have to sacrifice some dollars. But wouldn't it be nice if every time you walked into a McDonald's or Subway, there were IndyCar napkins with schedules and wall posters and IndyCar hanging mobiles, etc. You could really cross promote the hell out of both entities. This is a much better product, but God, it so badly needs exposure! IZOD? You need something more mainstream...and visible. And no, that doesn't include a plan for running on that stupid 16th Street road course.
RM: It's a funny deal (to quote Sterling Marlin). ESPN made NASCAR and then NASCAR pitched them for FOX and NBC and then ESPN came back only to be outbid by NBC again. There was no chance ESPN was going to get into a bidding war over NASCAR and I understand they had a party to celebrate losing the contract. For the folks who think IndyCar now has an opportunity to be on ESPN full time, get serious. ESPN didn't want the most popular form of motorsports so why would it take IndyCar? The bottom line is that NASCAR races still kick the ass of every sport except NFL on a weekly basis, so it will be a way to put NBC Sports Network on the map. Big time.
Q: I was wondering what you remember about Bruce Jacobi? He seemed to be a “super sub,” often filling in temporarily when a team was between drivers or their regular driver was injured. He made a 10-year career of this in Indy cars before moving to stock cars where he sustained fatal injuries in a qualifying race at Daytona. If he had gotten a regular gig with a top team, how good would he have been? He seems to be an almost forgotten footnote in racing history, so any light you can shed on him or his career is appreciated.
Gregg Rauscher, Port Colborne, ON
RM: Bruce was a journeyman who was entered at the Indy 500 almost every May from 1960 to 1974 but never made the race. He qualified in 1962 but the engine blew as he took the checkered flag and he crashed (only to be bumped a few minutes later). His best ride was in 1963 with the Vita-Fresh Special but he crashed that before qualifying. His best-ever result was a fourth at Springfield in 1970 (thank you Donald Davidson for the fact-check). The real tragedy is that he'd been away from racing for almost a decade when he went to Daytona in 1983 and had his fatal accident. He was a handsome, very personable guy who was at the right place at the right time to get some decent chances but never quite made it.
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