RACER Mailbag, May 11th

Welcome to RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to mailbag@racer.com. Due to the large number of questions received, we cannot guarantee that every letter will be published, but we will answer as many as we can. Published questions can be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET every Monday will appear next week.

Q: To prepare for the 500, this week I watched a DVD from Rare Sportsfilms about the 1972 race. One segment featured Harlan Fengler driving down the Speedway in a street car showcasing IMS’s all-new caution light system, which featured lights and numbers to keep race cars maintained at a constant pace of 80 or 90 mph while on alert. At first glance, this seems like a pretty good system compared to the package we see today, resulting in something that seems like some unnecessarily long yellow. Why is the caution light system abandoned? Are competitors happy with the system we have today? I guess there is additional excitement after restarting, but on the surface it seems that the practice of keeping the car at a constant pace below the yellow color is a cleaner approach. What prompted the packaging method? What is your preference?

Mark Founds, Mason, OH

MARSHALL PRUETT: Well, there was the whole Roger Penske lawsuit with the PACER light system that took months to reconcile the Indy 500 winner, then took away Mario’s second win and awarded Uncle Bobby the first part. (Instead of repeating the whole thing in Mailbag, my friend Dave Scoggan did a nice part about it here).

I haven’t heard the current number of drivers complain about the restart of the Indy 500 since former series president Randy Bernard forced them to double-start. Unless we’re talking about a restart with one lap to the end, we usually see the driver in the second or third catch the leader and it happens a little bit back and forth. I agree with one file.

Q: Do you think McLaren is rethinking Hertha, given that he made so many driving mistakes this year? O’Ward, meanwhile, shines.

What’s the problem with Daly? He was always thought to need an entire season with one team to put it all together. I noticed, while VeeKay became your No. 1 free agent in your stupid season update, you didn’t even mention Conor. Is he in the mix for next year’s place?

Tim B.

MP: It seems to be a case where Colton wasn’t the same 1000-percent locked and focused guy we’ve seen the last two seasons. Despite doing our videos at the end of the day, I didn’t have time to dive deep with him on the subject, so I’ll follow more.

However, I connected with Conor after Barber and he was incredibly honest in his assessment of why the year didn’t go the way he had hoped. Look for that story this week. He signed a multi-year contract, so he is good after 2022.

Q: I never watched a sporting event based on who the speakers were. And I never watched it for the same reason. And I’m willing to bet that’s true for everyone watching. I’m a big fan of Jr. and we all agree that Danica is a polarizing figure. I don’t know if I understand why NBC feels the need to bolster the 500 set list. Does anyone on the top floor of Rockefeller Center think more people will get involved in the most watched moto race based on talking heads?


MP: I’m going to watch an NBA game just because Kevin Harlan is playing play-by-play, but I hear what you’re saying. It’s our biggest race, so while I agree it seems very unlikely that the event will experience a noticeable increase in viewership with the return of Dale Jr. and Danica, I understand why NBC wants to add bits of flair to the show.

I guess it’s a change from people who write to complain about Leigh Diffey. Picture via Penska Entertainment

Q: I was watching one of the shows before the F1 race and they were talking about a hole in the nose of the car that directs airflow from the front into the driver’s cockpit space. I wonder if IndyCars is doing the same thing, as this might provide relief from the aeroscreen?

Shyam Cherupalla

MP: Racing in high ambient temperatures with radiators mounted on either side of the cockpit running at 200F or higher will always provide a great cockpit experience, with or without an aeroscreen. IndyCar has been using ‘nostrils’ in the DW12 nose since 2020.

Q: I read your latest stupid article of the season. I think you should include two current F1 drivers: Nicholas Latifi and Lance Stroll. There are reports that Latifi will reject Williams at some point in the middle of the season. With the support he has, I could see that he will drive better in IndyCar. Then there’s Lance Stroll and his father Lawrence – there are reports that he will put Aston Martin up for sale and sell it to Audi.

If that happens and Lance Stroll is kicked out of the team, dare I say Lawrence Stroll could help Lance by buying an existing IndyCar team like Dreyer and Reinbold and maybe bring Aston Martin as the third engine in IndyCar? By the way, IndyCar and IMSA should add a race at the new Miami Autodrome.

Alistair, Branson, MO

MP: IndyCar could definitely be used by more Canadians. I’d rather see Albertin Parker Thompson get the recognition than Latifi or Stroll, but the kid doesn’t have the family money to run it in the series. Maybe the young winner of the USF2000 race and Quebecois Thomas Nepveu will arrive first.

Q: What attracts DRS? You can’t make a car go faster through raw power so you do it by reducing drag? Is 200 miles per hour all an F1 car can do? Danica said in the pre-race that these are the fastest cars. I’m confused. A breathless commentator said the DRS gave an additional 12 miles per hour. How much does HP push-to-pass need in the current IndyCar?

I understand that these cars are overloaded with aerodynamics and all that pressure means resistance. But really people, either take some of it off and test the driver’s ability to keep the car under you, or get more horses.
There were a couple of incidents. Both seemed to me like the fault of a backlog car. Now, these guys have super licenses – you know, the ones IndyCar drivers seem to never be able to earn – and they don’t know they’re next to another car in the middle of a bend of ever smaller radius? Really?

I watched the race because I was curious. In the end, what I felt was the disappointment and anxiety of IndyCar returning to racing.

Dr. John Maggitti

MP: Well, F1 had this thing where passing was seen as often as Bigfoot, so DRS was the answer to F1’s problem with passing. They work 200-plus in a straight line, which impresses me; i thought i saw 208mph on one boat last weekend.


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