The RACER Mailbag, July 26

The RACER Mailbag, July 26
The RACER Mailbag, July 26

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: I can’t help but wonder if Simon Pagenaud’s slow return to the 60 car is by design from Meyer Shank. With the buzz that both seats would be changed next year, are they purposely slow playing his return to the car to get the opportunity to give Conor Daly an audition along with Tom Blomqvist? I get the feeling we will not see Simon back in the 60 this year. What are your thoughts?

Joey, Boynton Beach, FL

MP: This isn’t a plot by Mike Shank and Jim Meyer.

“That’s total BULL****!!!!, and you can put that all-caps and put a bunch of exclamation points behind it,” Shank told me yesterday. “Whenever Simon’s cleared, he’s back in the car. It would uncomplicate my life more than you know, if we knew for sure he’s going to be back at Nashville. Whenever he’s clear, he’s driving.”

So, there’s no scenario where the team doesn’t want Pagenaud back in the car ASAP. As it looks to 2024, and as we revealed earlier in the year, Blomqvist is expected to move up and into a full-time IndyCar seat, and while Simon isn’t signed beyond 2023, there’s a lot of value to having a champion and oval ace like Pagenaud positioned next to mentor Tom as a rookie.

Shank’s desire to have Pagenaud back for the next race does have some urgency, since Blomqvist won’t be available due to racing MSR’s IMSA GTP car at Road America that weekend. That could lead to Daly, or another driver of MSR’s choosing, to being on standby until Pagenaud’s availability is known. And with the No. 60 Honda having fallen to the wrong side of the Leaders Circle cutoff line, Shank and Meyer have more than the issue of who will drive the car to solve in the five races left to run.

Q: Someone needs to penalize IndyCar race control. The confusing penalties or lack of penalties is frustrating, but what happened Sunday in Iowa should cost someone their job.

The quick yellow when Canapino brushed the wall was a NASCAR move, but the lack of immediate yellow for that loose tire is inexcusable. That could have been launched into the stands. Multiple cars went by it at speed. The AMR Safety Team could have been there in the amount of time between when it came loose and when the yellow was thrown.

While we are at it, whoever was responsible for letting Sting Ray Robb make it to pit exit should be suspended.

Ryan in West Michigan

MP: The 7.5 seconds I counted between the wheel’s exit and the caution light going on—which is about a third of a late-stint race lap at Iowa—wasn’t a good look. In the Canapino yellow, I counted four seconds from the time he glanced off the wall to the yellow being triggered. Bear in mind that the folks in race control aren’t necessarily watching the same NBC feed as the rest of us, so the broadcasters seeing it happen from start to finish doesn’t mean race control is following the same feed. I spoke to IndyCar and they told me the caution was triggered the moment they saw it.

Unlike road and street courses where race control relies on a big bank of TV screens that show tons of trackside angles, race administration on the ovals — with the exception of Indy — is more of a firsthand live-view situation where they are looking down from the tower atop the central grandstands onto the track and calling things as they see them happen. Given the event had a new hospitality compound erected that blocked the view of Turn 3 for most of the people in the main grandstands, I’d have to think it obstructed their view as well and made seeing and calling the caution take longer than anyone wanted. Since we saw it instantly on TV and they did not, and since they called it the moment they saw it, there had to be a reason for that delay because there’s no way race control sees a wheel on the racing line and arbitrarily waits for a few seconds before acting.

The reason Robb was disqualified from continuing in the race had little to do with him, and everything to do with his Dale Coyne Racing team failing to stop him before leaving without all the wheel nuts attached, and then failing for the rest of the lap to tell him to stop. It’s the latter where the DQ was assessed.

Making matters worse, this was the second day and second race in a row where the Coyne team left one of Robb’s wheels loose. The difference being is he was able to cruise back to pit lane on Saturday and have the issue resolved without the wheel leaving the car.

It’s safe to assume he felt similar loose-wheel sensations on Sunday and slowed accordingly, hoping to reproduce Saturday’s outcome by getting back to his pit box with everything attached, so that’s on the kid, but it won’t happen again. I’m sure IndyCar will reiterate in the next drivers’ meeting that stopping the car in the name of everyone’s safety is what’s expected.

The Iowa doubleheader didn’t bring much joy for the No.51 team. Hope they at least enjoyed the concerts. Motorsport Images

Q: I won’t be able to watch the debut of “Jackie” on ESPN.  It sounds like a must-see program.  Do you have any info on rebroadcasts, whether it be ESPN or a streaming service?

Dan, Mansfield, OH

MP: I just looked and it’s already available on ESPN+, so stream away!

Q: With his array of sponsors, is it feasible to consider Devlin DeFrancesco at Ganassi next year? Chip wouldn’t have to spend any money, and he could learn from Dixon and improve.

Daniel Martins, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

MP: No. It would be perfect for Dev, but he doesn’t fit what Chip’s looking for right now.

Q: I was listening to Graham Rahal’s comments (diatribe), after he spun during the race, Saturday.

I have a couple thoughts: (pick one)

1. Graham Rahal has completely lost his skills
2. His team can’t set up a car
3. Mr. Rahal can’t communicate to the team exactly what he needs to feel in the car
4. All of the above

Obviously, it’s a family team, so I feel badly for the engineers responsible for the car.

Russ Zipoff, Dade City, FL

MP: The guy said it was the worst-handling car he’d ever had on an oval, so I’ll take his word for it. Two of his six career wins are on ovals, and at Iowa, he has four top-five finishes, so he knows the fast way around the place.

From RLL’s three cars and six race results in Iowa, the best was a 13th from Lundgaard on Sunday; the other five were 18th or worse, so we know they missed the mark by a wide margin. Conveying what you want and a team’s ability to find it, have it, or give it to you are very different things. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as ordering a Happy Meal and getting everything you wanted handed over in a box with a toy in it.

No team has demonstrated the struggles of rebuilding its engineering program better than RLL after winning in Toronto and being completely lost a few days later in Iowa.

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