Hello open-wheel types and thanks for all your questions. I intend to answer your questions every week during the season, so just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t feel left out if I didn’t directly respond. I appreciate your interest and passion.
Q: It was great seeing Charlie Kimball get the win at Mid-Ohio. I have been waiting all season for the “we need to save fuel” strategy to blow up in someone’s face. I get so sick and tired of hearing the phrase “save fuel.” The races should be a sprint with the drivers pushing the entire way, not a clinic on fuel conservation. If we wanted to watch clinics on fuel conservation we would watch people roll on down the road in Hybrid cars. Bravo to Charlie for pushing the car. I do have some gripes to add though, can we get rid of these big gaps between races in 2014 or can we have more races in 2014? Can we get MIS back on the schedule in May, June, July, August, or September? Invite the Brewers guild, and Michigan car clubs the people will come in droves.
CJ Shoemaker, Charlotte NC
RM: Agreed, the two worst phrases in racing: “Thinking about points and trying to save fuel.” We want to watch RACING and, therefore, it was cool to see Charlie and Simon Pagenaud going flat stick the whole day. It’s also why we need 150-mile doubleheaders on ovals like Iowa. MIS not likely until Detroit goes away.
Q: After watching Charlie Kimball win last weekend’s race at Mid Ohio by RACING and RACING HARD (read not trying to save fuel) I think Indy Car should adopt a new rule. Make it illegal to save fuel. Make it mandatory for all drivers to race as hard as they can at all times. A more exciting strategy would be to figure out when to stop after racing flat out and top off so you can race hard to the checkered flag. How many teams at Mid Ohio blew it by trying a two-stop strategy only to change horses mid stream and go to a three stop strategy? Wouldn’t it have been fun to see someone challenging Kimball last weekend by racing as hard as he was the entire race? Far be it from me to enjoy a Ganassi win but kudos to Charlie! Somewhat more importantly, RIP SPEED. Thanks for years of great racing coverage and broadcasters like Despain, Varsha, Squire, Berggren and Miller. I will miss Wind Tunnel most of all. Good honest show. With any luck NBCSN or Velocity will pick up the slack.
Bill Phypers, Brewster, NY
RM: Well, Hinch had the same strategy but pitted too early and Helio went to three stops so save his day but Pagenaud and Kimball were battling as hard as you could want for the lead at the end of the race. That’s all you can ask at a road course.
Q: Good race, yet another reason why you can have awesome racing without competition (er, “debris”) cautions. It was interesting to watch the strategies play out over an entire race distance, and I thought Kimball’s pass for what would be the eventual win was awesome! Also, mad props to TK for pulling off in a responsible manner so as not to ruin the rest of his competitor’s race.
RM: To think we’ve had back-to-back caution-free races at Mid-Ohio is amazing but they needed to be for Charlie’s strategy to pay off and when it became obvious a 2-stopper was going to be way too slow a pace, the Big 3 changed plans. It was very cool of T.K. to do the right thing.
Q: Kudos to Charlie and the team for an excellent drive and great strategy, I knew this win was coming, sooner than later.
In the post race interview, Dario referred to him as “Charlie Murphy” I laughed at that but was curious how Charlie got that moniker. Also, any idea when the 2014 schedule will come out?
RM: It comes from the Dave Chappelle Show of which Dario and Dixie are big fans and it’s a reference to Eddie Murphy’s brother.
Q: Not only was it great to see Charlie Kimball get his first win at a tough track but even more bad ass that he did it on a flat out run and his hell bent pass on Simon for the lead change was sick! That fuel saving jazz is for the birds and I can only hope that teams will get that friggin strategy out of their playbooks – the drivers don’t like it, the fans don’t like, the promoters can’t like it and even if the drivers do win on that style it’s more of an engineer win than a driver win (blah). Any chance the Grid Run will be back? Did Chip leave a dent in the pit lane after that tumble?
RM: Will Power was lamenting afterwards how much he hates fuel runs and was envious of Kimball’s balls out orders. In 2012, Scott Dixon and Will Power ran 1-2 on 2-stop strategy so this year chief steward Beaux Barfield to shake things up. It worked. Adding five laps to the race created choices for the teams and, obviously, made for an entertaining finish. I hope the Grid Run re-surfaces soon and I understand Mid-Ohio sent Ganassi a bill for damage.
Q: Well, Mid-Ohio wasn’t the impatient/crashes/yellows type of race that you predicted. Seems like the impatience actually translated into some good passing maneuvers on track. For a track labeled as a no passing, follow the leader type of race producing track, this race was far from that. It was really fun to watch on TV. Plenty of passing & dicing. It was interesting to see how the race shifted from RHR & Power leading the way to CK & SP leading. A really great drive by Charlie! Who needs push to pass! Just charge back to the lead & drive! My question is that when the winner pulls into the pits & stops & is full of adrenaline, energy & excitement, who’s the mastermind that always has an IndyCar employee tell the driver to wait & not get out of the car? That’s really stupid. What a moment killer! For god’s sake, let the winning driver & his teammates enjoy the moment naturally. Is that too much to ask? Chip wanted to yank his first time winning driver out of that car & lift him up to the sky like a new born baby but there’s that guy saying: “stay in the car!” Huh? Why? No other series does that. Now I know in past races, that IndyCar guy would have the driver sit in his car until the commercial break is over – which is an eternity. But, for the Mid-Ohio race, the broadcast didn’t go to a commercial so that makes the sit in your car & wait thing even stranger. Can you tell the powers that be to just stop that already! Please. Just let the driver jump out of his car & do whatever the moment brings to life.
RM: Other than picking Ed Carpenter to win Fontana last year, my record is about the same in the NFL: 30 percent. Television is the reason the driver waits in the car and NASCAR does the same thing.
Q: Maybe I am writing in too much, but I wanted to submit some feedback. I sat in the Esses last Sunday and the crowd was MASSIVE. I have not watched the race on TV yet, but I did watch Simon’s interview and I can understand his frustration. I can understand Viso fighting to stay on the lead lap, but I watched Saavedra hold up Simon lap after lap and each time he went by he was getting the blue flag. Granted I am only seeing turns four through six, but from my angle it didn’t look like he was being a good sport letting Charlie just pull away like that.
RM: Pagenaud had a little chat with Saavedra at our State Fair get together on Monday so I guess he saw the same thing you did. But Viso actually helped set the winning pick for Kimball.
Q: I love having multiple strategies in play in a race. What I don’t understand is how any team thought two stops would work. Assuming they got a properly timed yellow where the 3-stoppers haven’t started a cycle of pit stops the 2-stoppers still had to spend far too many laps on a set of the primary black tires. Marco showcased just how slow those tires were at the start of the race and you’ve got to try and save fuel and run on the blacks for 30 laps? That’s a real head scratcher. Not only was it slower but it was about 40 seconds slower. That says a lot. Absolutely thrilled to see Charlie win a race. Now if only management will pull their heads out of their backsides and realize ending the season in September is the worst idea ever.
Ryan in West Michigan
RM: Dario, Dixon and Power are the best at saving fuel and keeping up a decent pace but all three knew it was way too slow a pace early on (a second a lap slower than Kimball) and the Target boys were able to rally quicker.
Q: What a fantastic race! Loved to see someone go flat out and beat fuel economy! Viso has always been the dirtiest and most disrespectful driver in IndyCar. What he did to his teammate in practice and what he did in blocking Charlie and Simon was inexcusable. In the good old days AJ, Parnelli and Gary Bettenhausen would have fixed the problem by rearranging his face. When is IndyCar finally going to start doing something about him?
Tom Harleman, Indianapolis, IN
RM: It looked like he was running just quick enough to be in the way but I don’t think he’s driven dirty very often this season. He’s actually smoothed out and had some good runs.
Q: At the end of qualifying at Mid-Ohio it was announced that RHR had come within 4/100ths of a second of the outright course lap record set in 2000 by Gil de Ferran driving one of the mighty Reynard-Hondas. How can that be? The CART cars had 250-300 more horsepower than the current engines and I’m guessing just as much if not more downforce than the DW12. Does 13 years of tire development alone account for the Dallaras running such similar lap times to the CART cars? The new car LOOKS so slow in person and on TV compared to the old ones on street and road courses. Do the guys who drove in CART (Dixon, Franchitti, Servia, HCN, and Kanaan) have any idea how they are going so fast with so much less HP?
Kelly Saulie, St Louis, MO
RM: Dario and Gil co-own the track record at Mid-Ohio and, yes, Firestone gets credit for much of the speed.
Q: With Honda going to a twin turbo for 2014, what are the chances that stupid ugly gigantic IRL-ish airbox can be altered in the near future? As I recall, it was said that Honda’s single turbo arrangement force that big hump on the cars, whereas the Ilmor/Chevy and Judd/Lotus didn’t require that. I also read that Dan Anderson has everyone from Honda to Mazda to Chevy to Ford under consideration to be the Lights engine. Call me crazy, but if they go with Ford, could that mean they are interested in IndyCar again?
Greg (Belleville, NJ)
RM: This from IndyCar tech chief Will Phillips: “The proposed aero kit regulations allow the choice of overhead airbox or not – that will be up to the manufacture to choose, so if it goes ahead the 2015 look could be very different.”
Q: Any news yet on who will be replacing IZOD next year as the series sponsor? Thoughts on all the changes going on at Indy Lights from new ownership to new cars in 2015 to a new tire supplier next year. To me these all seems like positives for the series.
Scott Wood, SW Florida
RM: None. I think Verizon was interested until Randy Bernard got fired but not anymore. Dan Anderson is a racer and his involvement should be damn good for all parties.
Q: Do any of the drivers, teams, tracks, etc. have an issue with the lapped cars to back on restarts with under 15 to go rule? Isn’t lapped traffic a part of NASCAR, I mean racing?
RM: I suppose it is part of it but fans seem to like the contenders being able to settle things among themselves.
Q: What is your take on Josef Newgarden? He always seems on the verge of going to the next level, but seems to trip up at the most inopportune times. Met him and his family, Wink and Sarah at Pocono and really made my wife and I bigger fans of them. We have been to a lot of IndyCar and CART races and find the teams, drivers and owners very open and fan friendly (except for a few). If the average fan went to a race day, I’m sure their interest would rise.
Dino Raso, New Hanover, Pa.
RM: He’s a good kid with plenty of talent who, more than anything, could use an experienced teammate like an Oriol Servia. Josef’s never had a teammate (other than Bryan Clauson at Indy who was also a rookie) and that would be a instant way to speed his progress.
Q: I heard a rumor, which I hope is not true, concerning the Baltimore Grand Prix. I was told this may be the last year for the race in Baltimore because when the ALMS and Grand AM merge next year, it will create a scheduling conflict. As a result, the race may get moved to the Virginia International Raceway. Please tell me this is not so. The Mayor and other public officials in Baltimore have worked long and hard to make this race a success. It should not fall victim to scheduling conflicts involving a merger with a lesser series. I feel sure the Virginia International Raceway will not draw 150,000+ fans, even though it is an exceptional track.
Jim from Baltimore
RM: Not sure about the sports car angle but when you read about all the turmoil in Baltimore government and see how many millions the promoters have lost in the first two years it certainly makes you wonder if it can survive another year.
Q: Any word or thoughts on whether the 2014 IndyCar schedule will feature any other venues in the northeast region besides Pocono or Baltimore? We would have loved to attend this year’s race at the Tricky Triangle but it was scheduled on the exact same weekend as ALMS at Lime Rock Park, which caused many fans such as myself and my husband to have to make a difficult choice. What are the odds of a race actually happening in Providence? Any possible way for IndyCar to piggyback or connect with the NY/NJ F1 race?
Chris in CT
RM: We all wish Watkins Glen would get back on the schedule but Providence went from red-hot interest to silence. Will there be an F1 race in New Jersey? If so, can’t see Bernie sharing the bill with IndyCar.
Q: It sounds like Kurt Busch is more than just “California Dreamin’” when it comes to running in IndyCar. He is apparently dead set on running the 2013 IndyCar finale at California Speedway. However, it sounds like the one hurdle he must cross before getting there is sponsorship. With that said, do you have any inside knowledge on sponsorship leads for Kurt for a one-off at California? And, if he does run this race, whose equipment will he be in? Finally, what kind of expectations should we have for Kurt, and what kind of expectation should he have for himself?
Jay Matheny, Mayfield, KY
RM: I was at his IMS test with Andretti Autosport and we’re assuming that’s who he will drive for at Fontana if things work out. I imagine he needs a sponsor but I know he’s 100 percent serious about running the Indy 500 in 2014. Expectations? He did a nice job in the test but running in the Top 15 would be above and beyond.
Q: A couple mailbags ago someone asked about why IZOD wasn’t more prevalent in the promo material or throughout the broadcast, and you answered b/c they would be gone after 2013. It got me thinking and brought up an interesting question: “How is this series going to survive w/o a major title sponsor?” With IZOD pulling out after this year, that’s reportedly $10mil in annual sponsorship dollars gone. And keep in mind that even with that IZOD money, the series is still deep in the red, so how much worse is it gonna be when IZOD pulls out? Unless IndyCar lines up another company willing shell out that kind of overinflated fee, then the series may find itself at a real financial crossroads. True, they may be able to secure another sponsor to replace IZOD, but I highly doubt that it’ll be for anything close to what IZOD was paying. That said, the question then becomes, how much longer is the Hulman-George family going to keep pouring money into this series? They have spent hundreds of millions of their fortune keeping this thing alive since its inception, how much longer are they willing to continue propping up this money pit?
Keep in mind these facts:
1) The Brickyard 400 is nowhere nearly as successful as earlier.
2) In all likelihood MotoGP will be going away after this year.
3) F1 has already been gone for years and isn’t coming back.
4) The Indy 500 had it’s lowest TV ratings ever, and there was a lot of aluminum showing at this year’s race. I don’t even want to bring up the fact that they’re raising the prices for next year (stupidest move ever), and what that will do to further decrease the attendance Where are the massive funds necessary to keep this ship from sinking going to come from?
Sheen, Hollywood, CA
RM: That’s a good question and while IndyCar has run without much in the way of title sponsorship before (IRL and Champ Car), it’s really critical nowadays since money and exposure is so scarce. The Leader’s Circle money is actually in place of the purse money but if the HG family paid $1 million per race (except Indy) it would save them a big chunk of change. Of course, without the Leader’s Circle, it’s doubtful IndyCar could field more than a dozen cars.
Q: I have to say, this season keeps on getting better and better. The most first time winners in years, amazing racing, a car where you can pass on both road courses and ovals, strategy, and a championship battle which has more twists and turns than the Elkhart Lake so many have wished was back on the schedule. Yet, still, TV audiences and race goer numbers continue to struggle, and it’s seemingly caught the eye of Jeff Gordon, who had some harsh words about attendance. So my question is this: What will it take for IndyCar to work its way back into the TV Sets and minds of people? We’ve tried the crazy, the adventurous, and the sensible options, and whilst the latter seems to make those who watch come back, they’re not getting people to tune in with them on a race-by-race basis. Is it better to concentrate on North America only, or is it time we get out to those international markets again and provide a real fan alternative to F1? My worry is that unless things improve, some sponsors may get bored of half empty stands and viewership less than 30% of the NSCS, and more, that NBC may un-prioritize IndyCar if the NASCAR/ F1 combo provides better cross promotion.
Wil Vincent, Birmingham, Ala.
RM: There was always logic that IndyCar needed to stay in North America and get successful like it was in the ‘90s before heading to other countries. And the flip side is that those big sanction fees from Australia, Brazil, Germany helped keep the ship afloat. I don’t know the answer. Obviously, having good racing doesn’t seem to matter and I always thought Marco and Graham needed to be champions to get IndyCar back on the national map with the media. I think Mark Miles has some ideas about running overseas but maybe not for a year or so.IndyCar, Miller's Mailbag