Q: Saw “Rush” last weekend. It was a great movie and brought back great memories of Watkins Glen, Mosport and Montreal of the '70s. It has rekindled an interest in F1 that has waned since it left The Glen in 1980 and any type of American involvement since Scott Speed in 2007. Then I watched great IndyCar drivers try to compete on a joke of a street circuit in Houston where an ill-prepared racing surface affected the outcome of the race and perhaps the season. It's not the cars and not the drivers; it's the residue left over from Tony George's attempted murder of open-wheel racing in the U.S.. They get Spa and Monza, we get Toronto and Houston. They get “Rush”, we get a snail in “Turbo.” There is something missing here. I think it is that we settle and they strive for excellence.
RM: There is something to be said from going to The Glen, Road America and Mexico City to a parking lot or a street course circuit but it really speaks volumes about what's transpired since 1996. Your comparison is tough to argue with.
Q: I spoke to the rest of Australia. We are claiming at least 50 percent of Matthew Brabham.
Jed, South Australia
RM: Fair enough but he's got no Aussie accent at the moment.
Q: How many times this year (OK, count last year, too) has an IndyCar spun and stalled with no damage, and caused a full-course yellow? And how many laps has that yellow cost the fans, both at the track and on TV, of full-speed racing which erased hard-won leads? And how long does it take each time to get the safety crew out to electrically start or push-start or tow-start the stricken car? And how many times has the vaunted high-tech anti-stall software actually locked up the car and required a tow back to pit lane (under full-course yellow, as in Charlie Kimball at Sonoma) to figure out how to get rolling again?
Anybody have a really good reason why we can't use the best American automotive technology perfected in 1912, and have an onboard starter on each and every car? Detroit ships something like 12 million of them each year, and they work each and every time, for 20 years. OK, the starter and the bigger battery weigh an extra 20 pounds, but if they were required it would be a level playing field for everybody. Take out 20 pounds of ballast, or just go 20 pounds slower. It's not impossible on racecars: for years F1 cars had starters. Some current ALMS cars have two starters on the same bellhousing, just for safe redundancy. And having personally spun formula cars with starters an embarrassingly large number of times, I can assure you that the engine can be restarted before the car even comes to rest.
No safety crew, no five-lap break for the safety truck, no interminable shots of the driver doing the "push-me, push-me" dance in the cockpit. No safety crew with their backs to oncoming race traffic. Maybe even no retry of standing starts when the driver screws up. OK, I get sprint car tradition in Indiana. Is there any other plausible explanation for allowing stalled racecars blocking street courses in the 21st century?
RM: I don't have any numbers but, clearly, the on-board starters need to become operational ASAP. I'm told Honda and GM haven't spent the time on them but will step things up for 2014. Some of the longer cautions are to sweep marbles and while that's frustrating and boring, it usually helps the racing. And gives TV a break for commercials. But I agree, it makes it tough to keep your audience.
Q: Long time since I've e-mailed. I made it to three IndyCar races this year: Indy, Pocono and Baltimore. Really enjoyed all three. Baltimore was a great event and I'm really sorry it's not coming back. I'm definitely an oval guy, but Baltimore sold me on IndyCars on road/streets. That said, you commented in the Mailbag that oval racing seems to be dying but I thought you'd like to know that last weekend at Williams Grove they had the largest crowd in the history of the place for the National Open. Better yet, the race was won by Fred Rahmer in his last Open before retirement. http://tinyurl.com/pumep7t
I hope you take the time to read the article. Note what he said in Victory Lane… “I know I'm going to get drunk as hell tonight.” Can you imagine an IndyCar star saying something like that after a big win? Can you imagine the uproar from the wine and cheese crowd if one did? Ha!
Dirt track Dave
RM: It's good to know that oval, dirt racing can still draw big crowds and Pennsylvania has always been one of the best. I can remember working for RPM2Night on Open Wheel Wednesdays and John Kernan expounding on “Fast Freddie Rahmer.” Good way to go out. But I can imagine Scott Dixon saying that very thing if he wins the title this Saturday night.