The RACER Mailbag, July 19

The RACER Mailbag, July 19
The RACER Mailbag, July 19

Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to [email protected]. 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: Have you heard of any teams that would be interested in Romain Grosjean if he does not sign an extension with Andretti Autosport?

Josh, Havertown, PA

MARSHALL PRUETT: I haven’t. Romain’s a fan favorite, no doubt, but that fandom doesn’t necessarily extend throughout every corner of the paddock. The question to ask is, what would be of interest for Andretti to hold onto or for other teams to pursue? And I don’t say that be mean — I’m just looking at the scenario objectively.

If he was winning races, it’s a different conversation altogether. But being 2.5 years and 40 races into his IndyCar — following 10-plus years in F1 — and having zero wins to market is an issue. Especially since he’s one of the highest-profile drivers in the series and is said to command a healthy salary. Due to that profile and salary, much is expected, and instead of things getting better, they’re getting worse with the last six races featuring six finishes outside the top 10 and a lot of wrecked machinery.

He’s been at Andretti for 1.5 years and has seen all his teammates, barring Devlin DeFrancesco, score a win over that period. This certainly makes it more challenging to market his services. Going deeper, just as teams do when they’re evaluating free agents, he placed third among Andretti’s four drivers in last year’s championship and he’s third again in 2023.

Granted, he could easily win this weekend in Iowa or at Nashville, or the Indy road course, etc., and turn things around, but the weight of his name and big expectations and cost are the things through all Grosjean’s output is filtered by potential employers. Beating only DeFrancesco, so far, isn’t driving value upward, and with the routine crashing and tantrums seen and heard by other teams, he’s become a hard product to sell.

Hopefully, his results and fortunes improve because he’s important to a lot of IndyCar fans.

Q: My wife saw Zach Veach in Arrow McLaren team kit, walking with Arrow McLaren team personnel, at the Toronto race. What’s Zach’s status with the team?

Peter Brevett, New York, NY

MP: He’s been heavily utilized as a simulator driver for Arrow McLaren when there’s time available on the Chevy driver-in-the-loop sim in North Carolina, and spotting for Felix Rosenqvist on the road courses.

Grosjean remains a big hit with fans, but he needs to keep his stock high in the paddock, too. Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Q: I read the Pratt Miller article about a possible IndyCar entry with great interest. This is huge. Would they develop their own engine, or run presumably a Chevy?

Oliver Wells

MP: Only way to run their own engine is if they were paid to do so by an auto manufacturer who signed a major deal with the series, and since Pratt Miller doesn’t create engines, I’d lean towards a no on this one. They’ve been a factory client/partner for GM since the 1990s, so Chevy is where I’d place my expectations.

Q: Can IndyCar teams see real-time tire temperatures?


MP: They can, and real-time pressures. And so can Firestone, who will pay a visit to a team if they see a tire or tires are being run below the minimum recommended pressure for the event. Here’s a video I did on the topic last year.

Q: This isn’t really a question. It is a hope, or maybe a plea. My unapologetic, selfish hope is that Simon Pagenaud is either made to sit out the remainder of the season, or is hopefully reading this and decides to take care of himself.

I am someone who experienced a traumatic brain injury as a child, and seemingly went on to recover to 100% through my early childhood to the point where everyone, even myself, totally forgot about the whole ordeal. Fast-forward 50 years to 2019, when the gift that keeps on giving — COVID — attacked  something in my brain that basically spiraled me down into the state my head was in 50 years earlier.

Obviously, the medical protocols for a TBI in the late 1960s and early ’70s were not what they are today, and Simon and all of our athletes are in a much better place than I was in terms of treatment and medical knowledge. But even today when dealing with my new team of neurologists, it’s clear we don’t have anywhere near a total understanding of what happens to our melons during the healing process.

My personal opinion is Simon should sit the rest of the season and play it safe, and come back 100% next season. By the way, it bothers me to hear the first question out of everyone’s mouth when a driver crashes badly is if they can get right back in the car. How about putting no pressure on the driver after a crash like that and giving them the space they need to recover properly?

Bob Fay, Seymour, CT

MP: I hear you, Bob, and in a perfect world, or at least a world where he was under contract with MSR through 2024, he’d be able to do as you suggest. But on the heels of his worst IndyCar season ever, and that was prior to the brake failure and crash, sitting out isn’t an option if he’s able to drive because he needs to defend his seat. Missing his third and fourth races coming up in Iowa is just brutal for Simon, and the team, which wants him back in the car immediately, would rather have him in the seat than on the sidelines.

The truth is, this is a business built on hard competition, and since he’s paid to drive, there’s a race-by-race judgment going on for him and every other driver, by which his team forms an opinion as to whether drivers should remain employed beyond their current contract. Simon was 24th in the championship going into Mid-Ohio, and what sucks most is he and the team felt like they’d turned a page the race before at Road America and were on the cusp of giving everyone hell at Mid-Ohio and beyond. The timing of the crash and concussion could not have been worse.

So, with non-compelling results prior to Mid-Ohio to use in contract negotiations, he does need to go out and drive and put up the kind of qualifying and race performances that will keep him in the No. 60 MSR Honda. I’m one of many who are rooting for the Pagenaud of old to make a comeback ASAP.

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