If you have a question about open-wheel racing, send it to MillersMailbag@Racer.com We can't guarantee your letter will be published, but Robin will always reply.
Q: I thought the race at Sonoma was a complete joke. These are supposed to be the most versatile drivers in the world but their performance was no better than a Formula Ford amateur race. As a spectator, I don't want to watch lap after lap of caution because of stupid moves. IndyCar is not going to gain new fans with racing like this. There seems like nothing can be done. Drivers get penalized but that does not change their behavior. I feel bad for Dixon but it appears that he did drive through the Penske pit and enough of Dario complaining.
RM: There were a couple of “optimistic” moves in Turn 7, true, but in terms of good, hard racing it was the best I've seen at Sonoma. The restarts were spectacular (25 cars barreling up the hill on top of each other and only one spin (Charlie Kimball) and two half spins and saves by Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe). I know that T.K., Simona and Justin passed a bunch of cars and it wasn't in the pits. I know yellows drag things down but, on the flip side, IndyCar ran caution-free at Mid-Ohio so I think we've had more good racing in the past two years than I can remember.
Q: Watched the race from Sonoma on the Canadian tape delayed airing (the only way we seem to get IndyCar now) and I was truly impressed with the start and restarts. These guys really can do a two-wide rolling start if they put their mind to it. I'm not sure if there were any special reasons for the quality starts, but it seemed as though the pace car was slowing the field as is necessary for a good start. The race was exciting, with lots of passing and challenging for position going on. There were lots of different pit strategies and everything was great. And then...! When the two leaders came into the pit and stopped nose to tail, I wondered who would get out first. Dixon was first, but Power's rear tire changer was going for a Sunday stroll, holding the tire sideways, taking more space than he should have. Fortunately nobody was seriously hurt, and the race continued. But I think Race Control blew it! There is no way that either team should have been penalized for a racing incident. True, Dixon may have been a bit close, but the tire carrier should have turned the tire or held it higher and scampered out of the way. After all he knew Dixon would be coming close to him. That's my rant, now my questions. Do you think Dixon should have been penalized, or like me do you think he was robbed of a possible victory and championship? For me it took a beautiful race and left me angry, and I shut it off as soon as Power crossed the line.
Keith Hines, Pitt Meadows, BC, Canada
RM: The emotional reaction from most people was that it was a bad call and Dixie got hosed. My take was that I hated to see the race decided by a call and I wish it could have been settled with a fine. But, after watching several replays and camera angles and reading the rule, it looks like Beaux Barfield got it right. And there's an email after this one that shows the Penske crewman performed the same way on all three pit stops.
Q: I certainly hope that Scott Dixon's comments immediately after the race can be chalked up to the emotions of the moment. He made himself look pretty dopey suggesting (well, actually alleging) that the Penske crewman intentionally walked into him. I mean, where in the world does Roger find such dedicated employees that they are willing walk into speeding race cars for him? I get Dixon's frustration – the penalty was certainly open to objective criticism – but the personal attack on the nearly seriously injured crewman was both fantastical and uncharacteristically low class. C'mon, Scott – you're better than that!
Bert C. Reiser
RM: Of course it was the heat of the moment. Dixon had driven a fantastic race, holding off Power on cold tires after one pit stop and driving right back into the title picture. Of course he didn't mean to clip the tire carrier and nobody in their right mind would play chicken with an Indy car storming out of the pit box.
Q: Before you or anyone says the Penske crew member was playing games with Scott Dixon, I suggest that a little review be done before making assertions. In the race, Will Power made three pit stops. On the first stop, Dixon and Power came in 1-2. Same situation and timing as the last stop. Both did their work and the Penske RR tire carrier took his tire, on his hip, around the back of the car just like the last stop. Dixon made the harder right turn to get out and did not hit him. On Power's second stop, he pitted alone. RR tire changer did the exact same thing, carrying the tire around on his hip when Power was all alone on pit road. Obviously, this is the procedure he has been trained to do. Otherwise, why would he be doing a ‘game playing' move with nobody around? On the third and final stop, the same procedure is done by the Penske crew member. The only difference in the first and third stop? Dixon, by his own admission, decided to rocket straight out. The Penske crew had done their stops the same way all day long. Dixon and the Ganassi crew should have known that. He chose to go straighter on the last stop and it cost him. If the Penske guy had done it differently all day long and then ‘played games' and done a ‘d-move' on Dixon, then an argument can be made. If anything, the Penske tire changer did Dixon a favor all day by picking up his tire in the first place. If you look where the tire was on the last stop before he picks it up, Dixon drives right over the spot where it was. If he was playing games or wanted to do a d-move, he could have just left it there as Power was still pitting. He didn't. In the end, the Penske guy did it consistently and did his job. Dixon just made a mistake and it cost him. Hit pit equipment and it's a drive-through penalty, no matter if the guy is in championship contention. It's really that clear cut.
Mark, Maineville, Ohio
RM: Just hung up with Barfield and he saw exactly what you did: no different moves by Travis Law in earlier stops. But, instead of turning right like on his first stop to avoid Power's pit, Dixon went straight this time through Power's box and triggered the unfortunate incident that cost him the victory. That's what Beaux's call was based on. Of course it turns out he could have also called a foul on Dixon for running over Power's air hose with his left rear (just saw the replay). Drivers always try to go out as straight as possible but this time it was costly.
Q: There were three possible calls for Power's right rear changer's blatant disregard for his own and pit crew's safety: The right call is no call - Travis Law is an idiot but thankfully - nobody was hurt. He was clearly trying to obstruct Scott Dixon from exiting his pit box. The next best and acceptable judgement is to penalize Power for Law being an idiot. The last and worst possibility was what the "officials" called and ruined a championship contender's race. I love the fact, too, that somehow Saavedra's crash was not yellow-worthy with crap all over the track yet a couple spin-outs cause 5-lap full-course yellows. All about safety, right? How is it possible that IndyCar can be regressing officiating-wise back to the TGBB era? I think that Beaux Barfield is daft or isn't in charge all.
RM: I think after you read the letters above you might change your mind about Law, although it certainly seems like he wasn't paying attention or at least didn't seem to have a sense of urgency. As for ruining the championship, it certainly put a damper on what could have been a single-digit lead for Castroneves, but Barfield and Derrick Walker don't rule by emotions, I promise you. As for Saavedra's accident, his car was quickly pushed into the runoff area and the debris was Styrofoam that blew off the track. The other pieces were off the racing line and my guess is that Barfield wanted to go green to the end if possible. And it worked.
Q: I'll make my case for why the penalty was the right call. A driver is allowed to drive through the edge of a pit box, I agree to that. However, if you remember Mid-Ohio 2012, Power is coming in ahead of Dixon and Dixon's crew is setup. Power safely navigates around Dixon's crew and ultimately loses the lead because of the extra time it took to get in to his box. Will couldn't just ignore Dixon's RF tire changer and cut the box to get in to his pit stall. Fast forward to 2013. Dixon is leaving his pit box and clearly cut through Power's pit box on exit. I've seen a number of pit stops from the No. 12 team and that RR tire changer mostly does the same thing every time. It is Dixon's responsibility to avoid that tire changer (even if he was being careless) just like it was Power's responsibility to avoid Dixon's crewman in 2012 at Mid-Ohio.
RM: I think your observation is backed up by all the replays I've watched since Sunday night.
Q: It wouldn't be IndyCar if we didn't have controversy, tempers flaring, and a certain team owner exchanging some post-race hot words with an opposing team's driver! I believe Beaux Barfield made the correct call on the Dixon/Power "tire-gate" at Sonoma! To think a crew member would put himself purposely in harm's way by "walking nonchalantly" carrying a tire towards an powerful Indy car which has just launched out of the pit box behind and into his stall (yes, Dixon cut across Power's stall) is just ludicrous! Each crew guy has their space to work in, it is the driver's responsibility to avoid any object, including a crew member that might be in his path, as he exits his stall. Would be the same for a tire left sitting out there, if the driver clips it on the way out – that's a penalty, too. Just very lucky there were no injuries or worse. Dixon is normally a pretty even-keeled, cool driver, but his unprofessional response during the post race interview aimed towards the Power crew member surprised me and was unfair. Also, the NBCSN announcing crew vocally exhibited far too biased opinions after the incident before they had all the facts. So what can be done by IndyCar to avoid future repeats of this incident?
Tony Mezzacca, Madison, N.J.
RM: Easiest solution is what sports cars do. Change the tires and then fuel the car but it's boring compared to an IndyCar pit stop. Safer but not as exciting. Larger pit boxes is the obvious answer but those old road courses in the USA are already out of room. But don't be too hard on Dixon: he was naturally pissed off and didn't have 30 minutes to cool off like an NFL or NBA player before we interviewed him.
Q: I'm sure you've gotten about a thousand letters in reference to Sunday's penalty, but having listened to Dixon's post race interview and reading many peoples' comments about the incident, I had to write in. Has everyone lost their minds? Dixon hit someone in the pits. For safety reasons alone, that deserves a penalty. We have drive thru penalties for hitting tires and air-hoses, of course there would be a penalty when there is A PERSON attached to that tire! And for Dixon to immediately cry foul and actually suggest that the pit man walked into his car on purpose was extremely insensitive and unprofessional. I understand he was upset, but where was the concern over the man's safety? If it had been one of the Target guys, would Dixon have been so callous? The crew guys are professionals and I think it's absolutely ridiculous to suggest that one of them would have been suicidal enough to walk into a speeding car just to get ahead in a race. No one likes when penalties decide races, but since when are races more important than safety? Overall, a lot of respect lost for Dixon. On the bright side, it was really nice to see Beaux Barfield come out and explain exactly why the penalty was handed down. That kind of communication was nowhere to be seen during the reign of TGBB.
RM: The mob mentality and conspiracy theory often creeps into auto racing fans' psyche and, I'll admit, I was thinking as I watched the replay that maybe Penske's RR tire changer was deliberately trying to slow Dixon's exit. Having seen the previous stops on tape and the replay of Scott cutting through the box and also running over Power's air hose, I now feel like somebody who flunked out of Ball State.
Q: I thought Beaux's call was right on. I thought Dixon's reaction was sad. To imply that a crew member would purposely put himself in harm's way is truly ridiculous. Look at the video and you'll see that he was within a foot of the other crewman. What was he supposed to do, carry the wheel on his head? When we were stuck with Brian Barnhart, you told us how good Beaux would be as race director and you were right on. He made a decision and whiny drivers need to accept it. I don't like when things like this effect a race or potentially the championship but you cannot hit a crewman in his own pit box and not be penalized. As for the race…we have got to do something about these guys punting other cars because they think they have a chance to outbrake another driver. Too many yellows and not enough racing. Forget the drive-through penalties…if you overcook it in the braking zone and punt a guy that's it, you're out.
P.S. Love the Racer.com video interviews too!
Michael Ultimo, Naperville, IL
RM: Considering all the chaos, it looks like Barfield calmly reviewed all the evidence and made the right call. It's a miserable job but he earned a lot of respect last Sunday. Or should have. As for the racing, c'mon, we had a caution-free race and Mid-Ohio and these Dallaras allow for some aggressive driving. When it was green last Sunday, it was quality racing. Thanks for reading and watching.
Q: I'm sure you're mailbox will be inundated tons on the Dixon penalty. I'll leave that to the others. What I take bigger issue with is Dixon's accusation that it was intentional. I find it hard to believe that a crew member would risk injury like that. People accused Dario of deliberately crashing at Indy this year. I recall back in 2007 when Michael Andretti accused Dixon of intentionally blocking Dario during a wreck's aftermath at Belle Isle. So my question is, do you believe things like this are done intentionally ever, (do you have some examples) or are people just making excuses?
Andrew Howard, Fort Wayne, Indiana
RM: No, I don't think anybody is going to intentionally hit a wall to help his pal (although Little E admitted he spun out on purpose at Bristol to get him a caution) and especially at Indianapolis. The only thing I can remember that broaches this subject is when they ran Johnny Parsons out of fuel in the Indy 500 to get teammate Gordon Johncock a yellow.
Q: Am I the only one who thinks Franchitti's “accident” at the Indy 500 that allowed Kanaan to win was intentional? Why have I never seen a replay? What did you mean when you asked Franchitti if he was happy that he had beaten the Andretti team at Sonoma? Why, in the TV coverage, do they tout the Penske and Ganassi teams' respect for one another and omit the Andretti team?
RM: No, there are some other conspiracy theorists about Indy to which I always say: how would Dario know TK was still leading since the leader was always a sitting duck on restarts? I don't recall asking Dario anything about beating the Andretti team and, trust me, Leigh Diffey, Wally Dallenbach and Townsend Bell have said plenty of nice things about the Andretti team.
Q: I've read your mailbag for years and this is my first write-in. After reading some comments after the Sonoma race I'm rather ticked off. I love that both IndyCar and F1 are now on NBCSN but people don't understand the difference in the two. IndyCar has the best on-track product this year hands down. People who watched both races this weekend seem to think IndyCar is well below F1. I disagree. You don't have the parity in IndyCar because it is a 'spec' series. It takes $10 million to run IndyCar vs $100 million for F1. I believe the talent throughout the field is greater than F1. The field is so spread out in F1 it gets boring at times. IndyCar is nose-to-tail all race and of course there will be contact. The only question I have is why doesn't IndyCar ask Sonoma Raceway to resurface the track? Barber has turned into an amazing track, one of the Top 5 in the country, after they did some grinding this past off season. Would the same help for Sonoma even with all the dirt and dust that gets blown around?
G. Edwin, Indianapolis
RM: Not sure repaving would be as good as widening it at certain places but not much you can do about dirt and dust. There was plenty of passing last Sunday at Sonoma and I think many F1 fans enjoy the cars and skill of the drivers more than watching for overtaking. I'd love to see Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca and Sonoma all get wider and some surgery to make them racier.
Q: Not really a question this time, but a suggestion...Here's hoping that every single team starts running around the car swinging a tire out as far as you can in the hopes that at least half of the other cars hit them and have to do a drive through. They just need to dress in football pads but that will make it a bit more challenging to get over the wall.
Karyn Gil, Sacramento, CA
RM: It's pretty challenging as it is but when you see all the replays I have, the Penske crewman wasn't the villain he's being portrayed as.
Q: Here's a simple rule change that will slow down pit stops but get the crew guys out from behind the car. Both right side tires and tire changers need to be on the left side of the car and go around the front of the car before your car can leave the pit.
Matt Converset, Decatur, IN
RM: That's a good suggestion. I'm just amazed more crew members aren't run over because of the tiny pit boxes and the rev limiter, fish-tailing way of leaving the pits. Very dangerous.
Q: Upon seeing that Will Power was going to pit the same time as Dixon, could Ganassi's crew have set up within their box, say one foot further away from Will's box? My initial guess why it would not be possible is that the fuel hose would either need to be longer. Likewise, could Penske set up a foot further up to make an easier entry for Power? I remember somebody pointing out the tape markings on the ground but does the driver actually see those or does he go for where the pit crew is set up?
RM: All the teams put up their tape for drivers to stop on and the white line that Power's wing was hovering over was from the NASCAR race – not for last Sunday. For the mayhem of a modern-day pit stop, the boxes are too small for today's Indy cars, period.
Q: I thought this edition of the Sonoma race was much improved over some of the prior snooze-fests of the past. A bit too much pushing and shoving throughout the field, but I guess the track required it given the limited passing zones. Surprising to see The Captain go after Marco for rubbing Power. To the question - what are your thoughts on the restarts? After a completely fubar'd start, the restarts were nicely packed. To me, though, it seemed like the leaders were brake checking, slowing way down to draw penalties against the P2 car, or some other shenanigans. It seemed to create a bunch of unnecessarily busted carbon fiber from the logjam into T1 and T2. Any insight as to what was going on?
Andy, Nashville, TN
RM: Don't think anybody brake checks in a pack of 25 cars on restarts. I think when you've got 25 spec cars driven by some pretty good shoes on a track built 60 years ago for Triumphs you're going to have some contact.
Q: What did RP have to say to Marco after the Sonoma race? It better have been, "nice drive back to 4th after my guy walled ya and you broke your wing.”
Bill Bailey, Fresno CA
RM: He accused Marco of jumping the restarts and Andretti responded that they were damn good restarts and if he'd jumped he'd have been penalized. Considering his front wing was broken for much of the race, I thought it was one of Marco's best road racing efforts.
Q: Wow what a race! I don't agree with comments that it was poor driving or embarrassing for the series, the fact drivers were racing hard and the talent levels were exposed is great to see, however I was disappointed by Race Control's calls. Stop-and-go penalties during yellow on a road course are not effective...the penalty needs to be served after the race goes back to green. The call made against Dixon was one of those that should have been made after the race with a more even-handed distribution of punishment. I believe both teams were at fault as well as the series for the atmosphere that allows such close-to-tragic accidents in the pits. There should be clear lines for the drivers and crew members. The series can't afford to paint its own boxes? Pretty pathetic. There were several great drives from the back, Simona most notably, despite getting spun by Bourdais. Heck, she made four positions in the last four laps and impressed me with tough, smart, hard driving all day – one of several races this year that show she is ready for a top ride. Hopefully Simona can get a podium or two before the end of the season to help seal the deal, but it's tough when she has to carry so much of the burden.
RM: Oh, I think stop-and-go penalties can be pretty effective. As for painting pit boxes, I believe IndyCar isn't allowed to do that on a track shared with NASCAR but I think it can this weekend in Baltimore. Simona drove a helluva race with little to show for it.
Q: Great race at Sonoma today as passing was evident throughout the field. Nice to see Will back in Victory Lane. What do you think is responsible for Honda's mid-season resurgence? Seems like all of Honda's teams have upped their games. And I think you need an IndyCar show – not the same without Wind Tunnel.
Mark Steber, Lehighton, Pa.
RM: Not really sure but Ganassi's team obviously found something with its cars and Pagenaud has been stout all season. Rahal and his new engineer seem to mesh well. I'm working on a show and I want to call it “Anything But NASCAR.”
Q: Great drive by Wilson! Unfortunate penalty to Dixon; the tire carrier could have easily prevented that collision (if he wanted). During your pre-race interview, it was good to hear that Derrick Walker is still willing to speak honestly. After the on-camera portion of the interview was over, did he respond to your parting comment about bringing the apron back?
RM: Derrick is looking into bringing back the apron at Indianapolis. One of the many smart things he's working on.
Q: I've been to Boston but not Harvard Business School however the answer to increasing Indy 500 attendance seems simple to me. You won't solve low attendance with higher prices and a second race at the same track and month. Costly and terrible advice. If you want to increase attendance and begin to restore instead of continuing to mortgage the history and traditions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, return to a single event at IMS – The Indianapolis 500.
Brad, Bloomington, IN
RM: If I had 25,000 empty seats, my inclination would be to lower the prices and concentrate on the race that made IMS famous.
Q: Not to keep beating a dead horse.....but PLEASE no Indy Car race at the IMS road course. Only reason IndyCars should be on the IMS road course is if it is for a test and free (or very small fee) for the fans. Do not put Grand-Am and IndyCar together the same month as the 500. That is a lot of money to shell out in a month. Not to mention a lot of race fans have kids or grandkids. I went to the Grand-Am race, and that is a great value for anyone that lives a couple of hours from the track. We were able to see good racing and see and interact with drivers. If the IndyCar race is set with the USCR race, I will not return to the USCR race
Jamie A. Carr, Lebanon, Ohio
RM: I think the new sports car series would bring more fans to IMS than an IndyCar road race, but you are preaching to the choir about another race in May.
Q: I have never met a racecar driver who doesn't want to race. I cannot imagine a single Indy car driver saying, I don't want to race IMS road the first of May because I am so focused on the Indy 500 at the end of May. F1 is now in Austin. Indianapolis is home of Indy Car. The road track is there. It is a no brainer to use it. Will attendance be good? No. Will attendance grow with succeeding years? I think so. So poo-poo all you naysayers. Moving on, do you think this new Formula E has a shot at becoming a viable series?
RM: I haven't heard any drivers say they don't want to run a road race at Indianapolis but I've heard a few of them question the logic. I predict you could let everybody in free and there wouldn't be 40,000. Don't know enough about Formula E to make a comment. But do we really need another series?
Q: Reading the stories about off-shore events, why the move to make them non-points races? Is this because IndyCar feels that some smaller teams may opt out of the cost of these fly-aways, leaving low-car counts (which would contribute to a lack of success), causing some scheme where GP2 teams lease unused chassis and engines for one-offs? I guess, I'm missing the point as to why these would be non-points paying races? And whose big-money does Miles envision, and why would a regular IndyCar driver risk getting hurt in a non-points race? See Jimmy Clark. Miles isn't trying to be a day late and a dollar short and try to chase after Arabian money, is he? As a fan, I'd like the off-shore races to be points-paying and I'd rather see the series go to Mexico which was always a good show or Mosport. If it does move away from North America (besides Brazil), then back to the Gold Coast for starters. Just not the road course at Indy!
Trevor Bohay, Kamloops, BC, Canada
RM: First off, Miles hasn't put anything in stone and he's exploring some races that would pay the teams good money. That's the key. Whether it's points or non-points is incidental at this time but I don't think he wants to end the season in a foreign country. I think Australia has a shot and, hopefully, either Montreal or Quebec City.
Q: I attended the Baltimore GP for the past two years and had reserved seats for both Saturday and Sunday races. However, for the inaugural race, I spent the entire day Saturday standing right against the fence at different turns admiring the amazing views from such a close and unique perspective. Last year, when Andretti was the promoter, almost all viewpoints of the track and turns from the ground level were covered by sponsor banners on the fences. Many of the banners were just blacked out with no writing or sponsor on them. Is this normal at street races? It is a shame they took away so many great views, especially for new fans that may only buy a general admission ticket.
RM: Not sure because I don't pay enough attention to those things but I'll ask Kevin Healy, the man in charge of Baltimore for Andretti Promotions. Some tracks do that to prevent “free admission” from gawkers, I suppose, but you say this is inside. I've never seen very many good seats at a street race but walking around Long Beach in the old days was about as good as it got.
Q: My question is regarding Sao Paulo race for next year. In the last few weeks, we saw some reports that Rede Bandeirantes (Brazilian broadcaster for IndyCar and Sao Paulo race promoter with Sao Paulo prefecture) is facing some financial issues and wants to cut costs and this could affect Sao Paulo Indy 300 next year, but all the information is unclear. And with the latest news that a road race at IMS could be held in the “Sao Paulo slot” (early May) makes the Brazilian fans nervous. We know that IndyCar has a contract with Sao Paulo until 2019, but contracts are meant to be broken, so how's the situation for Sao Paulo race next year?
Renato Tonini, Sao Paulo, Brazil
RM: I think the main concern for IndyCar is finding a new date in Brazil because the racing is great and the crowd looks good. Stay tuned.
Q: I don't quite know how to express to you what a poor idea it is to race in Houston in August. Two years ago, 30 days were over 100 degrees in August, our hottest month. And this is not like Dallas: the wind does not exist in August here, no breeze, minimum 70 percent humidity…Hell does not even begin to explain how brutally hot it is, there is no way I would sit in bleachers in August to attend a race 10 minutes from my house.
John Cassis, Houston, Texas
RM: Thanks John and let me assure you that A.J. and his crew have already informed of this – loudly! All I know is that Shell is the title sponsor for the race and its golf tourney is held in the spring, which would be the ideal time for the race. Ain't gonna happen. With the season ending on Labor Day, August is about the only option for 2014.
Q: It amazes me that IndyCar hasn't taken some kind of an active role to at least check the viability of running a race in the Pacific Northwest. There is a HUGE untapped market up here now that the Portland and Vancouver races have gone away. Is IndyCar even interested or is it going to take a serious promoter and sponsorship money to get the series to make a return. I think it is sad for all of us fans in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver that the closest race is in California. Would series officials ever consider contacting someone like Bruce McCaw to see if he would be interested in making a return to the series as a race promoter? Help all of us folks in Western Canada, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, Robin: we need a race!
RM: Randy Bernard got some interest from Portland last year but I haven't heard anything since and “the track needs a lot of work” is what I was told. (True?). We loved Edmonton but the Winter Olympics ruined that track and I hear Calgary may build a race track. Saw Bruce last weekend and told him we needed him back in IndyCar and he said he missed it, but…Q: They hold the AT&T Pebble Beach golf tournament one week after the Super Bowl in February. Kind of our rainy season, but mild temperatures and no snow. They had one A1GP race where there was actually snow on Mount Toro, but that's rare. We just don't have the bitter cold winters the rest of the country experiences. Would IICS be interested in Feb, March or April in Monterey? After football season but before baseball? People don't believe it, but Sonoma and Laguna are actually green for a short time.
Paul, Carmel, CA
RM: I think Laguna Seca is on Mark Miles' radar for 2015.
Q: Formula 1 continues to thrive and IndyCar continues to struggle. I know it's all about money, but why does F1 always seem to have it?
RM: Because it's got MILLIONS of viewers, huge sponsors, major manufacturers investing millions and countries sponsoring drivers.
Q: I can understand Montoya wanting to come back to IndyCar, but why Andretti Autosport? AA would be a great ride, but why not follow the Franchitti model and come back to Ganassi where he has history? What happened to Michael Shank's "All I need is an engine" interest in IndyCar? Seems like the engines are there now. I like the idea of a cluster of races in Europe in September and October to avoid the NFL and to take advantage of F1 being in Asia, but why should they be non-points races? If you are going to run the races, pay the points. Then come back to the U.S. for one last race at Fontana to end the season. One of the nice things about ending the season at Fontana during the NFL season is that it is close to Los Angeles, the largest city in America to NOT have an NFL team.
John in Charleston
RM: I think Montoya is just testing the waters but Andretti or Ganassi would be logical for him. Same for Kanaan. Shank sold his car to Sam Schmidt.
Q: Good to see the old Mailbag made the transition to Racer. How do you see the rotating drives at Coyne, Panther and BHA shaping up for next year? Which scenarios are all about funding and which are about evaluating drivers?
RM: I think Ryan Briscoe is signed, sealed and delivered at Panther but Coyne and Herta are open for debate, although Bryan really likes Luca Fillippi.
Q: I have a question regarding how the emerging Formula Electric series will impact upon the IndyCar series, particularly as Andretti Autosport and Gil de Ferran have backed the new series. Will there be competition for the same sponsors? How will Andretti Autosport cope with the expansion, will IndyCar drivers participate in Formula E events? Pondering the recent discussions about the IndyCar schedule finishing on Labor Day in 2014, could this be to avoid conflict with the Formula E calendar which begins in September running through to June? Many thanks for your insight, and great to see you with Racer!
Theodor Ensbury, Morecambe, Lancashire, UK
RM: I have no idea if Formula E will get off the ground or how it will impact Andretti's other teams. If he runs six cars full-time in IndyCar and 10 cars at the Indy 500 to go with his six cars in the feeder system, where in the hell will they find room in the shop for Formula E? I suppose in our “green” environment, this series could gather some steam but right now it's way too early to know much. Thanks for reading.
Q: Hi Robin, "The Big C" has kept me out of circulation for the last few years, so I haven't been to the Toronto Indy, or Mosport ALMS races lately, but next year is looking hopeful. I wrote you over three years ago proposing a rolling chassis formula for Indy Car. It's disappointing to me that my idea morphed into an aero package concept. It's not at all what I had in mind! In the same manner that the DeltaWing sports car was made using an Aston Martin tub, what I proposed would have allowed a single seat DeltaWing to be made from a DW12. That of course would be the extreme case. Maybe I don't communicate very well, but to me a rolling chassis comes with wheels and suspension that can always be modified. From what I've seen of the aero package rules, they aren't going to look different enough to make it worthwhile. They should save their money and scrap that idea. Let's face it, Foyt doesn't have the infrastructure to produce any Coyote creation he comes up with in enough quantity for everyone, and he shouldn't have to; let him keep it for himself. But under the current proposal he would be forced to, and I understand the reasoning for that. Other people with Big Money, not to name names, could. Let's hope someone smarter than me comes up with something that saves our beloved racing! To prevent this from being a rant, I will save other subjects for other Mailbags!
Randy Shanklin, London, Ontario, Canada.
RM: Glad to hear you're battling back. As for aero kits, I don't expect anything too radical but you hit the big problem with anything remotely innovative: there's no money out there for IndyCar. And none of the chassis manufacturers seem to want any competition. So get out your Dick Wallen tapes and enjoy the old days.
Q: The Autocourse Official Illustrated History of the Indianapolis 500 is outstanding! I've been anticipating the release of the updated second version but the release date has continually been pushed for well over a year. Can you ask your buddy Donald Davidson if there are plans for the book to be released any time soon? Please don't break my heart and tell me it has been shelved. The Indianapolis 500: The Legacy Series of DVDs is also a must- have for any fan of Indy 500 history. Do you know if there are any plans to do new DVD for the decade of the 2000s?
Scott, Portland OR
RM: I will ask Donald those questions and, yes, it is a great book and he and Rick Shaffer did a nice job. In the meantime, may I suggest going to brickyard.com and buying the 90-minute legends interview with Parnelli, Mario and Dan Gurney? I think you'll like it.