Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.
Q: I read with interest two recent articles on RACER.com quoting Roger Penske on F1’s expansion into the U.S. market and his desire for more ovals on the IndyCar schedule.
Mr. Penske seemed unconcerned by the F1 expansion. His attitude came across as “a rising tide lifts all ships.” More F1 fans should translate into more racing (and therefore IndyCar) fans. While that may be true, Mr. Penske has missed a huge point. I see U.S. companies like AWS and Oracle as sponsors on F1 teams. Those sponsorship dollars should be in IndyCar. A more popular F1 means fewer sponsorship dollars for an already-starving IndyCar paddock. Also, if more F1 fans means more IndyCar fans, why did IndyCar fail at COTA, which packs them in for F1?
As to adding ovals, where are they going to come from? NASCAR owns half of the ovals in the country and they do not subscribe to the “rising tide” theory. NASCAR will do nothing to support IndyCar races on its ovals, as it sees IndyCar as a competitor for fans and sponsorship dollars, not as a partner in the auto racing business. The other half of the oval population is owned by Speedway Motorsports, LLC. Based on the way they promote at Texas, they don’t seem a reliable partner to help IndyCar grow its portfolio of oval races. I submit that Speedway Motorsports has never properly promoted IndyCar at Texas. While it depends on your perspective of what a good crowd is, I would remind people that when Texas was drawing really large IndyCar crowds, they were made up mostly of NASCAR fans who had to buy season ticket packages that included the IndyCar races in order to obtain what were then precious NASCAR Cup tickets. Unless Mr. Penske wants to get back into the racetrack business, I don’t see where an expanded oval schedule will come from.
Mr. Penske is correct in that IndyCar’s mix of tracks make it a unique championship. I would love to see a 21-race schedule with seven ovals, seven temporary circuits and seven permanent road courses like CART had at its peak. But, as the late, great Robin Miller was forced to point out too many times, those days are gone.
Bill Carsey, North Olmsted, OH
MARSHALL PRUETT: Thanks for the read-through, Bill.
Q: Along with the announcement of Paretta’s 2022 plans, I saw it was continuing the partnership with the University of South Carolina. To what capacity are USC and Paretta Autosport involved with each other?
Ian from SC
MP: Beth tells me the team “will be providing virtual guest lecturers and are looking to build cross-discipline internship opportunities across sports business, marketing, and engineering” in their relationship with the University of South Carolina.
Q: Listening to the local (Quad Cities) evening news tonight and heard a commercial from the Iowa Lottery announcing a chance to win tickets to the Iowa race and some laps around the track during the weekend. You get a chance to win with purchase of a lottery ticket. I wasn’t in the room so didn’t see if the ad featured IndyCars, but I’m guessing that it did. Nice to see another TV ad promoting the race and series.
I don’t think Mario was mentioned as a successful driver after leaving Penske.
MP: Great to hear, Mark. Good note on Andretti. I guess I didn’t think of Mario as a post-Penske driver since he achieved so much success in racing long before he drove for The Captain and I wouldn’t credit R.P. as being the impetus for Mario’s success afterwards.
Mario Andretti claimed one Indy car win from 23 starts with Penske between 1976 and 1980 (and this race – Pocono, 1976 – was not it). But he also won 11 grands prix and a world championship during the same period, so he probably slept just fine. William Murenbeeld/Motorsport Images
Q: I know IndyCar teams have spotters. Why don’t the cars have blind-spot warnings the way almost every street car does?
Earl, Edmonton, Canada
MP: Great idea. It’s one of the things I’ve written about a few times as being a smart upgrade for the next IndyCar. IMSA’s sports cars have rear-view video cameras that feed into the cockpit and some even have radar that informs the driver which side a pass is being attempted. At a place like Indy, such technology would be great to have.
Q: From a development standpoint, is USAC still viable for Indy cars? I did attend the recent USAC Sprint Car race at my home track in Ohio (Atomic Speedway in Alma) and the quality of racing was good despite it not being the golden age like it was 20 or so years ago.
Matthew Marks, Jackson, OH
MP: Only if IndyCar re-establishes an oval championship within the full-season championship. There’s just nothing that a USAC oval education is going to give a quality driver that a quality road racer can’t pick up in a season or two of IndyCar.
Q: Will we be using the DW12,000lbs in 2030? I think at the very least we’re married to it until 2026 at this point. Has Indy Car considered commissioning the new chassis so that it is available to implement should this prove to be a poor decision? They can slow roll the rollout of the new chassis, but they should at least have it designed and ready to put into service if it’s needed.
Ryan in West Michigan
MP: I can reveal here in a #BreakingExclusiveScoop that starting in 2024 when the new hybrid powerplants arrive, every IndyCar driver will be required to have passed a tractor-trailer driving school and present a Class A CDL to the series to receive a racing license.
Kidding aside, I will admit that when I sat down with R.P. for 30 minutes or so in Long Beach and rattled through a long list of questions for various stories, the new-chassis-timeline question was the one where I was praying he’d say, “Why yes, it is a priority and we’ll have the first renderings to share in a few months.” If RP doesn’t want it anytime soon, we won’t be getting it anytime soon.
Q: I’m in Toronto and I see the Honda Indy tickets are for sale. All the seats seem to be in one area. I used to sit on the start finish straight and now these seats aren’t available anymore. I was thinking Green Savoree should bring the grandstands back and offer them at a super discount price of $5-10 a seat, and maybe offer these in areas of Toronto where there may be underprivileged kids or adults who maybe can’t afford the full price.
Maybe team up with local schools to sell tickets and do a little fundraising? Just a thought…
MP: Might be hard to get a promoter to spend money on renting grandstands just to take a loss. I’d assume the cheapest tickets are of the general admission variety, and having walked every inch of the Toronto circuit, I can tell you there are some interesting vantage points to be had with a GA ticket.