Q: How many times has The Captain contacted NAPA? Reportedly there were two years left on a three-year extension with MWR that paid $18 million a year and we know IndyCar would be a whole lot cheaper. JPM wins his second Indy 500 under NAPA colors for Roger Penske… Am I dreaming?
Dick, Ormond Beach (I still love Langhorne)
RM: You would think he made that call instantly but NAPA seems to like Martin Truex, so it seems more logical it might follow him to his next stop in NASCAR (Rusty Wallace speculated Joe Gibbs in a fourth car). And NAPA is used to big TV ratings, of course, so it would be a boon for IndyCar to steal them, if not a longshot.
Q: Juan Pablo Montoya is a professional racing driver. He does not have to race to prove anything. He just has to do his job and get the job done. Penske is a professional team that is supposed to be at the top. Obviously, RP feels that JPM can get this job done for him. All this talk about him being fan- and sponsor-friendly is B.S.: Penske wants to win races and feels that with JPM he has a better chance of doing so and that he can attract the money to pay for the upgrade.
RM: I agree. I think RP sees JPM as a steal and somebody hungry to re-establish his badass self in open-wheel racing. Somebody tried to tell me that Juan was so eager to be competitive again he agreed to drive for free. Now that is B.S.
Q: What are you hearing on a ride for Kanaan for next year? Is the Foyt team a possibility, since it appears A.J. respects TK about the most of any of the current drivers? Plus, a 2-car team would really benefit Foyt with the extra data. And A.J. knows TK can win the 500, which is probably the most important thing to him. Just a thought; curious to get your perspective.
RM: Spoke with Jimmy Vasser last week and he thinks they're getting close to re-signing Kanaan but Foyt would also be a logical stop – especially since Sato has dropped off so drastically. And you're right, A.J. doesn't admire too many of today's drivers but he does respect Kanaan.
Q: Considering the rumors of Tony Kanaan coming to NASCAR, I'd like to know your thoughts as to why so many Indy car drivers have struggled so much in a stock car? If the Indy drivers are supposedly some of the best in the world, why is so hard for them to adapt? I believe it's because they cannot adapt to the significantly reduced downforce coupled with the fact that a stock car requires so much more actual steering input than an Indy car does.
Other than Tony Stewart, who drove midgets, sprints and Silver crown cars before Indy, none of the others in recent times have ever driven anything that would ever come close to being that loose and having to actually steer the car.
Gregg Paul, Mukwonago, Wis.
RM: Talking with Dario Franchitti about that the other night and he said it was just so different and so hard to adapt. He said Jimmie Johnson was always trying to help but he just couldn't get comfortable driving loose enough. On the flip side, A.J., Parnelli, Mario and Gurney had no trouble adapting to tin tops in the '60s and '70s and they all won races. Last time I checked, no NASCAR driver has ever won an Indy car race or really come close.
Q: I am a 40-year-old Indy car fan who is finally getting to go to my first race in person at Houston this year. Is there anything that you would say "You've got to make sure you see _________"?
Plus, where will the line be to get one's picture made with the best open-wheel reporter in the business today?
John Hankins, Pine Bluff, Ark.
RM: Get Johnny Rutherford's autograph, compliment A.J. on losing weight after his operation, tell Rick Mears you want to see him do some TV commentary and get your picture taken with Mario.
Not sure what day Marshall Pruett is arriving.