Q: I enjoyed Baltimore despite all the carnage but after reading the 9-4 Mailbag I couldn't help noticing that no one commented on Simona's performance. If HRH, The Princess of Petulance, had ever come from 17th to fifth on a street course, the kudos would have gone on for months. Simona flat DROVE through the field with very little help from attrition. Yet when I watched Atlanta later, I heard that Danica was driving a "great" race (three laps down at that point). My question is a simple one: "WHEN DOES SIMONA GET THE CREDIT SHE DESERVES?”
Jim Malloy, Pittsburgh, Pa.
RM: Speaking of getting lost in the shuffle, yes, agreed, Simona drove her heart out at Baltimore but it was lost with all the other storylines. And don't quote NASCAR commentators using the word “great.” So and so had a great run (and he was 17th).
Q: You need to help me out with this one. I'm a lifelong loyal Indy car fan, but something isn't adding up with what I read and what actually happens, relative to drivers. If winning purses are embarrassing (and therefore not even published), there is little viewership, the season schedule is a mess, there is limited horsepower, and there is a good chance you'd have to bring your own sponsors/money to be able to race, why would a good racer want to race in this series? Is it simply being able to race in the 500? The legacy of Indy car? Being interviewed by you? C'mon: what am I missing?
Randy Mizelle, N.C.
RM: When you hear Harvick or Johnson say that while growing up they idolized Rick Mears and wanted to be an Indy 500 driver, I imagine it was because of the speed, the history and how cool the cars were compared to an old tin sled. Indy drivers made a lot more money than NASCAR drivers in the 1980s and '90s but now it's reversed. Ya really think Montoya has had more fun the last few years than kicking ass in CART and banging wheels with Schumacher in F1? But if you start out in open-wheel and get good, you want to advance and be an IndyCar regular. I guess now you're just hoping you don't have to bring too much money.
Q: Why does IndyCar think that non-points races will work better in Europe than points races worked for CART a decade ago when the economy was better?
Jim Overmeyer, Islip, N.Y.
RM: Not sure I follow you. Mark Miles wants to generate more money for his teams and hopefully keep mechanics from being laid off for six months. Whether its points or non-points is moot; the goal is to provide revenue.
Q: Is there a reason Houston can't be before the Indy 500 either the week before or after Barber? Seems to make more sense for team travel and weather. August seems insane, especially if it is a double-header.
Matt Converset, Decatur, Ind.
RM: Shell sponsors a huge golf tournament in the spring, that's why, but I think the race will be in June in 2014.
Q: Well the Italian GP was somewhat boring despite Mario Andretti do a guest analyst spot. His stories and insight did liven it up. The RACER article on his Formula 1 days was a nice follow-up. Fairly good but the big point most writers never find out is that while driving the Lotus 79 Mario spent the whole season using the weight jacker to balance the car which provided him a huge advantage on top of the ground effects. Not even Colin Chapman was fully aware of this at the time.
Also, Mario's famous comment about most drivers, even at the F1 level, thinking that the brakes are only for slowing the car down still sticks in my mind today. His car control, in any type of racecar, is unlikely to been seen again in my life given the specialization needed today. Do you agree with my comment about current era drivers being unable to duplicate Mario's feat in so many different types of cars?
Tom Patrick, Lake Arrowhead, CALIF.
RM: We'll never see another Parnelli, A.J., Mario or Dan Gurney – the four most decorated and diverse racers ever. But I think Tony Stewart might have been able to hang with them had he been in that era. Mario is always good to listen to and a national treasure. And check out part 2 of the Andretti World Champion story: tire stagger and weight-jackers do get mentioned as tools that only Mario appreciated.
Q: I went to Laguna Seca to see the Grand-Am race. I was so impressed to see Bourdais, Tags, Dario and Dixie handle a much different car on a very slick track. But the highlight of my weekend was to talk with Dan Gurney. I know he's world famous, but I feel he is still underrated. Can you write about Dan for those who never saw him drive?
Gerry Courtney, San Francisco, Calif.
RM: The best story I can tell you about Daniel Sexton Gurney is what Jim Clark's father told him at the funeral. “You were the only one my son feared.” No better compliment.
Q: Has IndyCar ever considered using the knockout qualifying/Fast Six format on an oval? Even modified to have six cars on track at a time could be spectacular.
Baltimore was very entertaining and IndyCar could be really entertaining at a tight proper road course with some runoff area. Would Lime Rock or Virginia International work for IndyCar?
Any talk of modifying the points system? Helio leading the series, while running around in 12th place most of the time, would lead me to think that it needs some tweaking. What do you think?
Joe Walsh, Sacramento, Calif.
RM: It's really good on a road course but not sure it would have as much drama on an oval. I realize single-car oval qualifying is beyond boring and heat races are fine but need to pay more money. Lime Rock and VIR are too small, I'm told, and we probably shouldn't touch the point system since the last several titles have been decided in the season finale.
Q: Steve Matchett was in the booth for one IndyCar race this year and really did an exceptional job. Any chance we'll see him in any of the last races of the season, or perhaps next year?
Mark Holden, Cutler Bay, Fla.
RM: I think the plan is to use Matchett and Will Buxton at a couple races to help cross-promote IndyCar and Formula 1 on NBC Sports Network. Probably see both again in 2014.
Q: I'm a good friend of Ralph (Mike) Frey, aka Ralph the Mouth. I've known Mike for 30 years at K-C and was introduced to you in Milwaukee many years ago. Is it true that you and Mike took his fleet car, I believe a boxy Malibu, on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
RM: That would be true but, of course, I didn't let him drive (he spun out on dry pavement at 30mph in 1968) and he screamed like a little girl as we went into Turn 3. A lot of people used to drive their passenger cars around IMS back in the day because there was no security – especially at night.