Q: We all know that racing is dangerous; both the drivers and fans accept that. Every time there is a flying car incident, there is outcry over the car being unsafe, the track being unsafe, pack racing, blah blah blah. It is racing which is more dangerous than driving your road car – and your road car is capable of getting airborne at highway speeds, capable of barrel rolling at back road speeds, and capable of getting pretty well smashed up on a city street. I have a theory why Indy cars have the big crashes that they do, and the number of cautions they produce. I believe, at the root of it, it has everything to do with parity of chassis, engine, and tire. The fact that these drivers run so close to one another has to play a role, the qualifying times are evident of this. If we compare IndyCar to Formula 1, there is a great reduction in on-track collisions and cars flying. I think that has everything to do with the cars having different engines and chassis thus the field can separate.
I also think the amount of runoff area weighs heavily in this. It isn't rocket science: cars run close to one another and mistakes get magnified. Just like on a congested interstate, one person's mistake could cause a 50-car pileup. It was nice to see single-file restarts in Houston, and I hope they are here to stay for road and street courses. It was also nice seeing another round of standing starts; I really hope they will be common place for all non-ovals. I really hope that in coming years we can have a three- or four-week run of back-to-back races to cap off the season. These long breaks between races suck.
RM: I think your analysis has merit and it's probably surprising there aren't more big accidents considering the speeds, parity and depth of competition. But, while the fan does assume some amount of risk, what happened at Houston requires an immediate solution and it will get one before 2014.
Q: With everyone so concerned about fan safety, why do stands get installed on the outside of turns past mid corner or the apex? Seems like you're kind of setting the links of the chain for a problem by positioning them at those locations. Seems like moving the stands to the inside of the corners would be a way to break the accident chain. Don't know about the consequences for viewing from those stands, but it would at least help avoid the debris/car from flying right at fans for the most part.
Whatever happened to the Nation's Cup or whatever it was called back in the day? When my wife and I watch the races, we (I) like to name where the drivers are from as the results are shown, and it's incredibly diverse! Why not embrace this and make it another points race? Have South America, North America, Asia and Europe, and I think it'd be a great way to demonstrate the diversity of the series to casual fans. Most casual fans don't really know these guys have come from all over the world to race right in front of them. I always enjoyed at the beginning of the races when Paul Page, in his Paul Page voice, would say, "and in the Nations Cup..." with the standings on screen. Embrace the diversity, use it for something!
RM: Fans like to be close to the action and a promoter wants to try and provide the best experience and viewing points possible – not an easy task at a street race. In hindsight, those Turn 5 stands were probably dangerous and will likely be moved for next year. The Nation's Cup was a CART thing so, naturally, it died along with CART. And by the way, with Dixon, Power and Briscoe around, I think the list needs to have the Antipodes in there, too…
Q: I noticed at Houston they weren't using the double-file restarts. Was there a rule change? I'm glad I found you at RACER.com. I was really missing the Mailbag.
RM: It was done because the track was so rough at a couple key places. And thanks for your support. RACER.com is the site for coverage of American open-wheel and sports car racing, and a U.S. perspective on Formula 1 and its feeder categories. Thanks for joining us.