Q: I know the Mailbag is mostly about IndyCar, but I have a general open-wheel question for you. I'm disheartened to see all good, young American drivers heading to NASCAR (I understand why they are going). Question: will the USA have a competitive driver in F1 within the next 10 years? I can't think of anyone on that path except for Conor Daly.
Wally, Eden Prairie, Minn.
RM: Alexander Rossi has been successful in every formula in Europe and appeared to be in line for an F1 ride this year but can't compete with the money being brought in by other drivers. If he can't find backing, he's likely never going to make it and young Daly is fully aware of how the game is played (despite his success this year).
Q: A quick shout-out to 47-year-old Dave Darland. He has six USAC sprint car victories this year, moving him to second all-time in the USAC sprint car victory record book. He is tied with Jack Hewitt at 46 wins and just six behind Tom Bigelow's record of 52 wins. He's battling Bryan Clauson, who wasn't even born when Dave started running USAC sprinters, for this year's crown. Dave is getting it done!
RM: Yes he is, and he's one of the best people as well. You can see him in action this weekend at Rossburg, Ohio in the annual 4-Crown Nationals.
Q: Several years ago, I heard a rumor that there is a "secret" agreement that the engine on Vuky's winning roadster is never to be fired. Be that as it may, IMS blew a wonderful marketing op by not having Bill Jr. drive his Dad's winning roadster around the track on the 60th anniversary of his dad's first win at Indy.
I would make the case that Vuky was the greatest to ever drive at Indy. He won 1953 and 1954. In 1955, after a stirring duel with Jack McGrath (until McGrath had his magneto go sour), he was running away from the field until fate intervened. Looking at the picture of Vuky taking the checkered flag in 1954 with Jimmy Bryan's right front tire even with Vuky's left rear. The casual fan would think, ‘Wow that was a close finish!' The truth is Bryan was taking the white flag as he was a full lap behind as Vuky had lapped the field! I'm no Donald Davidson, but I don't think that had ever been done, except maybe in the very early years when just going 500 miles was quite an accomplishment.
If fate had treated him a little better he could have been our first 4-time winner, coming within eight laps of winning in 1952, winning in '53 and '54, and a threat to lap the field again in '55. I'm glad to have been there to see it, even though I was only eight-and-a-half years old on Race Day 1951. Vuky was truly my hero. I don't think anyone, A.J. included, has ever dominated Indy like Vuky did.
JM, Zionsville, Ind.
RM: Howard Keck gave that 1953 car to the IMS Museum with the orders it would never run again, nor would it ever be allowed to leave the grounds. They even removed the camshaft to make sure the engine would never fire. Vuky Jr wanted to drive his dad's car again but it wasn't possible.
Q: Been enjoying the Danny Thompson LSR diaries on RACER.com. Mickey Thompson has gotten a bad rap in Indy car circles due to the Eddie Sachs/Dave McDonald crash. As someone who was there, what do you think? Raving lunatic or ahead-of-his-time genius?
I think it is interesting that Danny Ongais, another person known for high-profile crashes at Indy, drove for Mickey in all forms of motorsport. There's a great documentary there, don't you think?
RM: I was in the grandstands in 1964 and didn't get to know Mickey until he brought his off-road series to Indianapolis in 1984. But he was way ahead of his time and a clever, hard-working character who was a delight to get to know. When the tire profile was changed in '64 at Indy, it changed the handling of his “roller skates” and he was concerned prior to the race.
Yes, he would be a wonderful documentary. He's one of those guys like Gurney, Granatelli and Chapman who made us fall for Indianapolis.