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 guess I was little impatient with my last email. Great news about Santino Ferrucci driving the No. 14 — can’t wait for St. Pete. Two young guns is just what Larry and A.J. needed. Any more news from them coming? Like sports car related ?
MARSHALL PRUETT: I agree. Santino is a perfect fit for the Foyt spirit — its first throwback driver in many years. Benjamin’s has a lot of growth to come, so I’m not placing high expectations on him as a rookie, but the bones of a good IndyCar driver are there. He’s young and simply needs mileage to develop. One thing we can say is he’s been smart in his approach to racing — hasn’t thrown a ton of cars into the barriers and made a lot of poor decisions in the cockpit.
Not ready to put their names in print, but I’ve been hearing of some supremely talented race engineers and support engineers — dampers, aero, etc. — that could be inbound.
The Porsche 963 IMSA GTP deal with Hildebrand went away a little while ago. I’ve had an interview with the new team (not JR; with a different outfit) sitting on my hard drive for a few weeks as we wait for them to formally announce their place as the last customer 963 team for 2023.
Q: In the May 4 Mailbag, you said you sat down with IndyCar during the weekend prior to discuss ideas about weight reduction on the next IndyCar chassis, and added that you might release an article on the topic in the coming weeks. However, as a regular reader of the RACER website, I can’t recall seeing such an article. Have I missed it? Or did you you simply not have the opportunity to release it?
MP: It’s on my constantly depressing to-do list, which has some long-term entries like the one you mention that I never got to and still need to work into shape. I have a few interviews with the series on the chassis and aero and 2024 engine side to get cranking on here in the coming weeks, Xavier.
Q: A few Mailbags back there was a question about why electric torque guns aren’t used for live pit stops. The reason I was always told was that it was fire hazard due to internal electric spark in the guns in the event of the fueler clamp failing and dumping fuel on to the tire changer. Is that not the case?
MP: I think we’ll see a switchover to electric guns in the coming years. They aren’t readily visible since most IndyCar races are in the daylight, but in the select evening or night races on the calendar, we do indeed see sparks being thrown on occasion if and when the wheel gun socket touches pit lane while it’s spinning at a high rate of speed. We don’t have fires caused by those sparks, so I wouldn’t anticipate electric guns would be a big new instigator of fuel fires.
Q: Two things this week. First, I’ve proposed this in the past, but it has been a few years. My suggestion is, why not add a knowledgeable fan to the broadcast booth sometimes? I think it might add a different perspective and perhaps give some insight into what serious fans want to know about. It could be a contest sort of thing, much like the two-seater program in the IndyCar Series (but these days it seems the celebrities have displaced the regular folks). Often coverage gets diluted somewhat because you don’t want to scare off the novices, but that can leave us diehards in a disappointed state. And by the way, IndyCar, F1, IMSA and NASCAR spoken here (just sayin’).
Second, the pit stop delta. This comes into play in just about every series, albeit in slightly different ways. To me it should be part of the basic pieces of information for every event, along with the other usual pieces of data: weather conditions, track length, track temperature, track records, etc. With so many series offering live timing and scoring information, the delta time should be part of the information. Instead, what often happens is that commentators tend to mention it in this sort of context: “Well, if they pit John Doe now, given the pit stop delta of about XX seconds, he’ll come out between Jim Smith and Tom Jones.” If you didn’t hear it, you will have missed it because you won’t see it in print anywhere. What’s the big secret?
Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA
MP: The first topic is one I’d never considered, Don, and probably because I’ve never seen fans brought into the booth in any other sport and I’m not sure IndyCar would be the ones to set that trend. Isn’t what you’re referring to — fan media with blogs/vlogs — what social media is for? I prefer my professional sports to be presented by professionals. The basic premise of inviting someone with no professional experience into one’s workplace just isn’t done, right? A passionate fan of construction equipment isn’t handed the keys to the crane at the job site, right? That’s what pros are for.
You present a great question on the second topic, and I’ll raise my hand and admit to being part of the problem. I had intentions of doing a standard pre-race video before every IndyCar race last season that laid out the expected number of pit stops, the pit stop windows, and the time spent for a standard pit stop, but for reasons I don’t recall, it failed to launch. I’ll do my best to not fail when the new season arrives.
Q: Have you heard about any discussions or could you ask around to ascertain if there are any future plans to introduce betting on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? I think I remember hearing they did some totally obscure and limited deal with Caesars for this last race — or am I dreaming? Who can remember — or who even heard about — that deal? Another IndyCar marketing gem.
Gambling is legal in Indiana. It would not only generate a new source of revenue (and potentially add more $$$ to that paltry purse) but should generate more interest in IndyCar’s crown jewel and, if done right, potentially grow the fan base. Seems like a no-brainer, IMO. Surely we’re long past the “family entertainment” argument days. So what’s the downside?
MP: Yes, we wrote about it in May. Have you tried using Google and a search for “Gambling at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway” to help rediscover the details? That’s what I usually do when I forget such things.
I’d imagine IMS isn’t wanting to start things off big by taking on the building of new betting stations around the property, staffing them with knowledgeable personnel, and handling all of the regulatory and compliance aspects on their own. Much easier to sign a deal with a company like Caesars to do the heavy lifting — even if it’s in a restricted capacity — and take a percentage. I’d also guess that once someone is able to convince IMS that big dollars could be generated from a large onsite betting program, it will happen. As I interpreted it, the Caesars deal was a safe baby step to take before potentially going bigger.