The RACER Guest Mailbag with IndyCar president Jay Frye

INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - MAY 27: Indycar President, Jay Frye at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday May 27, 2023 in Indianapolis, United States of America. (Photo by Jake Galstad / LAT Images)
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - MAY 27: Indycar President, Jay Frye at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday May 27, 2023 in Indianapolis, United States of America. (Photo by Jake Galstad / LAT Images)

It’s been a few years since we’ve invited a motorsport luminary to do a special Mailbag takeover, and who better to break that drought than IndyCar president Jay Frye?

Frye will be well-known to the vast majority of RACER.com readers, but for those in need of a quick recap, his path to helming the day-to-day operations of the NTT IndyCar Series began with stints at Anheuser-Busch, and later Valvoline Racing. From there, he held executive positions with NASCAR teams MB2 Motorsports and Red Bull Racing before moving to Hulman Motorsports as chief revenue officer in 2013, and became IndyCar’s president of competition and operations two years later. His success in that role led to his being appointed IndyCar president in late 2018.

We’d like to thank Jay for taking the time to answer questions from a readership that includes a lot of IndyCar’s most passionate and knowledgeable fans.

Oh, and while this does not mark the return of the Guest Mailbag as a regular feature, you will see more of them at irregular intervals going forward. In fact, we already have our next guest waiting in the wings. Watch this space…

And now, over to Jay:

Thank you for the tremendous questions. We know INDYCAR fans are as knowledgeable as any fan base in any sport. Your love and passion are on display every race weekend. Because of that, I wanted to address every question that was submitted. We are proud of our product and believe the vision for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will continue to bring the best racing on the planet for a long time to come.

Q: As a lifelong Indy 500 and IndyCar fan, as I reflect upon the season up to this point a comment and couple of questions come to mind.

Comment: The improvements in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar overall you and Doug Boles have led since Roger Penske assumed ownership are clear and appreciated. Particularly notable is the professional manner in which the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the series overall are being operated, the increased number of teams and associated improvement in competition across all of Indycar, and the access to full coverage of each race weekend available through Peacock.

Questions:

1. What are the top three priorities of your rolling five-year plan and the targeted timing for completion of these prioritized action items?

2. What opportunities and challenges do you envision for IndyCar associated with reports that three of the top young drivers in the IndyCar series, (Palou, Herta, O’Ward) all are actively pursuing F1 seats or have expressed a desire to move to F1 within the next couple of years?

3. Given the concerns expressed about the application of rules associated with the multiple red flags at the end of the Indy 500 this year, do you expect revised or clarified rules to be implemented for next season in a manner that teams and drivers can formulate their race strategies to align with a clear understanding of the use of the red flag?

Thank you for making yourself available to answer questions!

Doug Stair

JAY FRYE: Doug, let’s go one by one (and thank you!):

1. The hybrid, a third OEM and continued fan outreach and engagement.

2. We work hard to be a series that attracts great teams and drivers. Those three drivers are certainly that.

3. We will continue to do all we can to finish races under green within the posted distances.

Ongoing fan outreach is one of IndyCar’s main priorities for the next few years. Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Q: Recently on Conor Daly’s podcast, Will Power mentioned something about different sidepods and larger front/rear wings coming for speedway trim. Any idea when we’ll get to see them?

Brandon, South Bend

JF: You’ll see them in 2025.

Q: The one good thing about the Dallara IR-05 and the Panoz GF-09 were that the sidepods were flat, which made for great sponsor optics. The original and manufacturer aero kits were almost unreadable even standing still from most angles, and while the UAK is a great deal better, the curve at the front and bottom of the sidepod still makes the sponsor area smaller or forces the logo to fold down into a shadow. I know IndyCar and Dallara design for function first and then form, but have they given any thought to better sponsor optics for the new chassis?

Buddy Campbell

JF: When we designed the UAK18, we commissioned a sponsorship “heat map” from an outside marketing firm that actually showed increased coverage versus the previous car design. The aeroscreen has also added additional branding opportunities.

Q: I imagine you would agree with the idea that one of IndyCar’s strengths is the need for drivers to be talented across all disciplines: road/street/ovals. While I enjoy the road and street courses, there’s nothing that can match the spectacle of Indy cars on an oval, yet we find ourselves with only five races on four oval tracks. What do you think is the solution for ensuring that our current oval events remain strong while also looking to additional opportunities to add more ovals to the calendar?

Mitchell Slagh

JF: We love ovals! There are many factors involved and it’s more complicated than you would think.

Q: Since the late ’90s, many street races have come and gone in American open-wheel racing. NASCAR recently took a page from the book of IndyCar and put on its own street race in Chicago. Despite a wet start to Sunday, the Cup race was great. RACER’s Mark Glendenning reported that 80% of ticketholders for the Chicago street race were first-time race attendees. It was also the most watched NASCAR race on NBC since 2017. So, obviously the race was an overwhelming success.

So, my question is: How does IndyCar respond to the success of NASCAR’s first Cup race on a street circuit?

Historically, IndyCar did not have to worry about NASCAR trying to mimic IndyCar’s affinity for street racing and the festival-like atmosphere which accompanied these races. Now, it makes me wonder if the success of the Chicago race will cause NASCAR to look toward scheduling more street races in other markets. I know you cannot speak for NASCAR, but you can for IndyCar.

I am just wondering if NASCAR’s newfound interest in street racing is a cause for concern for IndyCar? Surely IndyCar has taken notice of NASCAR’s first street race in Chicago and the success of it.

Ken, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

JF: Ken, Chicago was a great event — congratulations to NASCAR. We are very proud of our street course events at St. Pete, Long Beach and Toronto, which have all been part of the INDYCAR schedule for years, as well as all of the great things going on at our newest street courses at Detroit and Nashville


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