Welcome to the RACER mailbag. Questions for any of the RACER writers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the huge amount of questions received, we cannot guarantee that every letter will be published, but we will answer as many questions as possible. Posted questions can be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3 PM ET will appear every Monday of the following week.
Q: Let’s say the IndyCar Final in Monterey, goes back to Marcus Ericsson and Alex Ballou or Scott Dixon and Alex Ballou. Did Chip Janassi let Alex get dressed up for the weekend?
Marshall Pruitt: Yes, without a doubt. Chip many things, but he is not a fool. If Balu is in the mix to win a second straight title, it’s not something Ganassi will face and risk losing – to himself or his sponsors – to the suit.
The real question here is whether Balo, if he is knocked out of the championship, will help Ericsson or Dixon in the remaining races? After Dixie’s comments in Toronto about loyalty etc, I don’t know if he and Palo are best friends anymore (they weren’t, frankly), and whether Marcus’ distance from the media frenzy in Palu last Thursday at IMS is an indication In terms of his position with Alex, I wonder if Palou would do his best to take points out of the CGR rivals or go for individual glory and race victories removing points from his teammates if he wasn’t in the title picture.
Q: Is there any dissatisfaction with the Hypercar teams participating in the 2023 Rolex 24? I seem to remember the mandatory BoP test at Sebring scheduled this fall for interested manufacturers, but outside of Cadillac, Glickenhaus (sarcasm), Porsche, BMW and Acura, is anyone else interested in 2023? If not next year, do you see any of the WEC Hypercar manufacturers making the leap in 2024?
MP: Only the rumor I’ve heard is that we might get a Peugeot, but to my surprise, Toyota was very quiet when coming to play. Yes, I think those who skip 2023 will join in 2024 after taking a proper look at the pace of the GTP cars.
Q: After watching the race in Indy, I’m once again frustrated at the broadcasters. Two at the kiosk is good, three at the kiosk, not much. It seems that a lot of times Townsend Bell and Hinch compete to see how much information they can distribute. The more they talk, the faster they talk. Often times they utter a lot of information which is mentally exhausting. They don’t have to tell me everything they know all the time.
MP: It’s good to hear that I wasn’t the only one who noticed an information overload, Chuck, and if it didn’t, we’d have pit lane journalists cramming several potential headlines for the week into their beats as well. It was definitely weird.
Q: What’s the deal with Jimmy Johnson getting the same amount of TV coverage as the race leaders? I understand he’s a big name in NASCAR, but until he consistently proves himself in IndyCar, I don’t think he deserves attention. I tend to think that’s because Carvana is a big commercial sponsor. If that’s what it takes to watch IndyCar racing, so be it.
I’m a fan of elliptical races and wonder why IndyCar doesn’t seem interested in racing at the Kansas Speedway. Is banking on the right track?
Tim Heard, Kansas City
MP: I attributed that to Jimmy being the most popular and well-known name in a series where no one other than Helio Castroneves has any profile outside of sports. Then you have the fact that NBC has half the NASCAR schedule on its channels, so the inevitable attempt to create interest in watching the crossover is consistent. Throw in the Carvana ads, and yes, without a doubt, it’s a strategy used by NBC, and it’s no coincidence…
If TV ratings go up as a result of NBC’s “Constant Jimmie” approach, we’ll owe them a huge thank you. If not, we’ll make another attempt to use the biggest name in the series – as we did with Danica – to try to appeal to a wider audience.
For Kentucky, I’m sure IndyCar would be interested if the track approached them with a good show and a plan for how to put a strong crowd in the stands to watch the race. The process tends to be paths up to a chain, not the other way around.
Q: You mentioned that IndyCar, as a top-tier national chain, shouldn’t be the opener for anyone. This precedent has been set aside. I personally would have preferred to see it happen in an oval shape. If you were in charge, what oval would you do in the IndyCar/NASCAR dual event?
MP: I’ll go to the gate. Talk about a clear depiction of the differences between the two types of cars and racing as I have to think IndyCar comes with a lot of love and respect for the quality of its presentation.
Q: While broadcasting the race on the IMS road course, a commentator applauded the driver (maybe it was Rinus VeeKay) for his work ethic. I have a sense of what that means in other sports, like soccer or basketball, but I’m curious about what that means in IndyCar, or racing in general. I know the drivers exercise and maybe spend some time on the simulator, but do they watch the race movie and review telemetry and that kind of thing? If they do, is that useful for the next week’s race, at a different track, or are they just giving that information away to use when back on the same track?
Chris in Richmond, California
MP: I joke with a few younger IndyCar drivers that their lives look like the old MTV Jersey Shore routine in the GTL—Gym, Tan, Laundry—but in most cases, they all train hard, spend time in a simulator of some sort, meet their engineers to plan For the next race or the last race review, and look at the data on board with the same forward-looking or background capability.
It is difficult to say exactly what the reference was to the driver in question, but it is not uncommon for a bright young talent, as we often see in other sports, to rely so heavily on that natural talent when they are new to a league or series. Within a year or two, it’s also common for those talents to realize that big stars are putting an incredible amount of time and effort into expanding their capabilities through all of the above. Most elite IndyCar drivers have the same speed, in a tenth or less, so improving that talent and adding new or greater skills through hard work is where the differences are made.