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: Romain Grosjean is popular, but his Andretti tenure has been a real mess: woefully inconsistent, plenty of plain bad luck, weird problems with the car (the steering column that breaks twice?) and some awful strategy calls combined with bad pitstops from the team.
He’s definitely more affected by confidence more than most drivers. If he’s on a streak then he’s damn quick; if he’s on the back of a few bad results then he pushes too hard and errors creep in. Just bring the car home, for crying out loud. I’ve screamed at the TV more times than enough.
I still remember Laguna Seca when he was driving for Dale Coyne Racing… Romain pushed like hell, sending his car on like no tomorrow. I’d love to see a big reset and a return to Dale Coyne Racing, IndyCar is better for having Romain in my opinion.
Jack Taylor, UK
MARSHALL PRUETT: It was a bad season for drivers who were at the end of two-year IndyCar contracts: Grosjean, Jack Harvey, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Conor Daly, too, I believe.
Romain’s speed is highly respected, and that’s the thing some midfield teams are interested in acquiring. At Coyne, there were no expectations and he was impressive in that no-pressure environment. At Andretti, as the replacement for Captain America, it was nothing but pressure, and it took he and race engineer Olivier Boisson most of 2022 to shape the car’s handling into something he could drive hard.
Things got off to a great start in 2023, but there were too many driving errors, mechanical miscues, and emotions boiling over. Andretti is the wrong team for such things to happen, and that’s why the relationship deteriorated so quickly. If this happened at a place like Team Penske, you can rest assured a dressing down from Roger, or an ice-cold come-to-Jesus interaction with Tim Cindric would have kept Romain in line and focused on getting the best from himself.
For where I understand he’s most likely headed, Juncos Hollinger Racing, I do have concerns about the same boiling over of emotions between driver and team owner, so if that deal gets done, let’s hope matches are kept far away from what could be a combustible situation.
Q: Nolan Allaer just won the Formula Ford SCCA national championship in the same car his uncle used to win it in 2011. Maybe the DW12 isn’t so old after all. 😉
Tom Hinshaw, Santa Barbara, CA
MP: The difference here is Formula Fords never stop being relevant or cool. I frequently dream of having my 1980 Tiga Formula Ford back in my hands…
Q: I have a suggestion for Penske Entertainment about how to market its potential exhibition yawner at Thermal Club next spring. How about calling it the Austin Powers Classic? $1 million was a whole lot of money in the ‘60s. Today, not so much. Not even second place in so many of the ubiquitous weekend golf tournaments. I highly doubt touting the size of that purse will draw a lot of interest. If anything it’s maybe a little embarrassing for the country’s top open-wheel series.
Not sure who calls the shots, but seems like they (and IndyCar fans) would have been better off staging a real points race on one of the NASCAR sunbelt tracks. It’s a perfect time to have leveraged a new venue, since NASCAR so badly wanted to be back on the oval at Indy. Instead, appears NASCAR actually had some influence, even if slight, on the Texas cancellation. Like I said, who calls the IndyCar shots?
MP: Of the many complaints about this event, I’ll admit that I never imagined the size of the purse would come under fire, but that’s just a failure of my imagination.
Q: Can we expect NASCAR to ruin Iowa for IndyCar the way it did Texas? Since NASCAR hasn’t been to Iowa in years, it will most likely to have few test sessions there. What if they want to put down that oil slick crap? Does IndyCar have recourse to not race there if that happens?
Tom Ross, Morro Bay, CA
MP: Let’s hope NASCAR keeps its resin in the containers. IndyCar and Hy-Vee are wedded with Iowa, which is the company’s home state, so no, Iowa’s happening for sure.
Q: After 50 years, the Reno Air Races are done. To fill the void, is it possible to get IndyCar to investigate a race at that airport instead?
Barney, Reno, Nevada
MP: Only if Comedy Central promises to film a new episode of its rebooted Reno 911 series during the event.
Q: Anyone have any idea what IndyCar’s mission statement is, or would be if it had one?
MP: It took me a moment to realize you weren’t suggesting the mission statement was to make bacon (not kidding).
Would IndyCar’s mission statement be different from any other sporting league that tries to provide athletic competitions for the entertainment of fans, and the enrichment — either financial or through personal fulfillment, or both — of its participants in a multi-event format where a champion is crowned?
Q: While Porsche Rennsport was going on a couple weekends ago, I was at the American Speed Festival at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, MI. One car I saw was the Robertson Racing Ford GT that got on the class podium in the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans. Andrea Robertson was there with the car, and I had a really nice chat with her talking about her Le Mans experience and running the team.
If I recall, there were a couple of privateer European teams, and I thought the Robertsons had the only American team to field a Ford GT at the time. Do you remember if Ford ever considered a factory effort with the Ford GT during the mid 2000s, or was that program meant to be for privateers like the Robertsons? Also, how did the Le Mans regulations work at that time to allow a five-year-old car like that to compete long after Ford stopped making the GT?
MP: If Ford had designs on a factory effort, I don’t recall them being shared with the public. Oliver Kuttner was central, I seem to recall, in making the privateer GTs for the Robertsons and others. We saw one dressed in Falken Tire’s colors in the former American Le Mans Series, and in purple for Petit Le Mans, and in Europe, as you mentioned. I was at Le Mans for the car’s debut in 2011, and if my memory isn’t failing me, it was accepted through its homologation and running in the ALMS GT2 category. The ACO was a bit more lax with such things during this late 2000s and early 2010s era; we had old Spykers and a Lamborghini and some other oddities that brought variety, but little in the way of true competition for the standard bearers of GT racing at Le Mans.