Hello race fans! Greetings from Fast Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Fourth floor media center is filling up and the green flag just waved for today's 6-hour practice session.
Rookie Carlos Munoz has the top speed of the week at 225.163 mph, but that's certain to fall today with the cars running an extra 40 horsepower in preparation for qualifying.
Let's get to the questions!
Who do you think will be on the Pole for the 97th Indianapolis 500?
Based on what we've seen so far, I'm guessing it will be an Andretti Autosport driver. Let's call it Marco Andretti.
Think Carlos Munoz has a legitimate shot at the pole?
He's obviously got a fast car, as the NASCAR announcers would say. Rookie poles are an unusual occurrence but the kid is fearless and aggressive and we'll have to see how he stands up to the pressure of qualifying at Indy.
Did you Know Former NASCAR Driver Dick Trickle Who Passed Away on May 16 at the age of 71?
I briefly interviewed Dick Trickle about 20 years ago, I think at the Fast Masters series of Jaguar races in the summer of 1993. I forget whether it was then or another time, but I broke the journalistic code and asked him for an autograph for my neighbor who was a passionate cigarette smoker. He signed "To Buck, keep smoking, Dick Trickle." And yes, he was rocking a heater at the time. Trickle apparently hated the taste of Winston cigarettes, but tried to avoid smoking his favored Marlboros in public in deference to the series sponsor. He'd often have a friend hand him a lit Marlboro.
Why do people call you oreo?
I suppose it's because it's the first four letters of my last name. It's a good product to be associated with and I got a nice gift basket one year from RJR Nabisco in response to my annual Oreo Awards.
FYI AJ Allmendinger just turned the fastest lap of the week at 225.523 mph.
Will Bump Day have any bumping this Sunday?
I think there will be 34 or 35 entries when all is said and done. Buddy Lazier got on track this morning and ran 219 mph. I can't for the life of me figure out why he would want to come back at age 45.
Well there's certainly a lot of desire to run the rest of the season, but a lack of money. It's extremely difficult to sell sponsorships - at least sponsorships of reasonable value - when television ratings are low. The TV numbers will improve with Indy and the upcoming Detroit and Texas races on ABC, but there's still a ton of room for improvement.
Where's the best seat at IMS to watch the INDY 500?
I'd point you toward the bird's nest seats at the top of the Turn 1 and Turn 4 grandstands. Indianapolis is unfortunately not a typical oval track where you can see the whole track from almost every seat, but the top of 1 and 4 offer your best shot at that. I also like the seats across from the pits just below the upper grandstand level that used to function as the press box.
Who do you think the IndyCar PR department is rooting for hardest to win the 500? One of the potential four-timers (Helio and Dario), one of the young Americans (Marco, Graham, Daly) or Hinchcliffe, probably the best personality in the series?
I think you've nailed three great scenarios from INDYCAR's perspective. Add to that a female winner (Simona De Silvestro, Ana Beatriz or Pippa Mann, assuming she qualifies). The 4-time winner would be the biggest from a purists's standpoint, though should Helio prevail, people like myself will rehash the 2002 controversy with Paul Tracy.
Is Kurt Busch going to try for the double this year?
Not this year but it sounds like he's already trying to make it happen for 2014.
Who's your favorite INDY 500 winner, ALL TIME, and why?
Rick Mears has always been my favorite Indy car driver. His rookie race of 1978 was my rookie 500 as well, and even then, I thought he was super cool. He retired the year before I broke in as a journalist, so I never got to cover any of his races when he was still driving. But I've had the privilege of interviewing him many times and he has been a great resource to me personally during some difficult times. He's every bit as much a great human being as he was a race car driver.
Is Honda behind in the engine battle so far vs Chevrolet? Andretti keeps towing to the top but Ganassi doesn't seem too far behind. Is it possible Honda has an ace up it's sleeve for when the boost gets raised?
Last year, when Honda introduced its first scheduled spec upgrade of the season, between Indy qualifying and the race, it was a huge step. That kind of history is unlikely to repeat itself. Honda had a bad race at St. Pete but bounced back pretty strongly by Long Beach and Brazil. Everyone is pretty much on schedule in terms of their engine mileages this year; there was no mass change like Chevy did at Long Beach 2012.
What was your favorite indy 500 memory?
There have been a few: Meeting Clay Regazzoni on my first day at IMS in 1977; the "party" years (1982-1992), when they closed the streets and the fun raged all night long; first 500 in the media center, 1993, when I got to meet many of the F1 journalists I looked up to, when they were here covering Nigel Mansell; the tension in the media center during close finishes; taking my young son to the track as he develops his own Indy memories.
When they finish the 100 Million or so in upgrades, is the plan to move the race to the evening? Are they worried about competing with the 600 in Charlotte during that time slot?
There's no question that there is a plan a foot to introduce night racing to IMS. As a local resident who lives three blocks from the track, I have mixed feelings about it. I think it's mainly intended to try to make the NASCAR race more interesting. I can't imagine anything that could make the Brickyard 400 more entertaining, though hopefully these vaunted Gen 6 cars will race better than the old ones did.
Do you know if attendance and TV ratings are up this year?The racing been great but the series doesn't seem to be marketed very well
Promoters said attendance was up at St. Pete, Barber and Long Beach, and on TV, Brazil looked well attended. Unfortunately the TV numbers on NBC Sports Network are down this year, averaging in the 0.2 range. The Indy 500 should draw in the 4s on ABC and the other ABC races generally draw in the 1 range. That's better than 0.2, but still poor compared to NASCAR, which generally pulls around a 4.5 for most Cup races.
What Happens if the Pole Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 & Bump Day Gets Cancelled due to Bad Weather?
They will stage a qualifying session on the first available day, with each driver guaranteed at least one attempt.
We've had some quick laps here from surprising names. Sebastien Bourdais ran a 226.3, and Oriol Servia just ran a 226.813. They're both powered by Chevrolet. Fastest Honda on the board so far is Ryan Briscoe, P7 at 224.467.
While the racing has been great the past 2 years part of what draws people to racing are the look,sound and speed of the cars.Right now INDYCAR is coming up short in all these areas.Agreed?
I do tend to agree. My attitude about the looks of the DW12 has softened a bit, but I still think it's a fundamentally ugly car and I wish they would un-shroud the rear wheels. I think it's fantastic that these turbo cars are much quieter than the last generation of IRL cars, but some people think they're maybe a little too quiet. I think you'll see speeds rise slowly over the next couple of years.
I was under the impression that Wirth Research had been working on a high downforce kit for Honda but it seems they only want to use unique oval bodywork. With Ganassi crying all the time about innovation it is suprising to see them behind the restricted implementation of the new kits. Have there been any rumblings about the limited introduction in 2014 after Chevrolet skipped the meeting?
I've only heard the things you mentioned. Two versions of new aero kits will be required, for road course/short oval and speedway trim. Whether it's for reasons of cost or competition, it sounds like they're going to implement the high speed oval package first, even though those races make up a much smaller percentage of the schedule.
Is there a big difference between aero kits for oval and road/street races?
The sidepods and floor are the same. I believe only the front and rear wings are changed.
Who will be the Second Woman in IndyCar Series History to win an IZOD IndyCar Series Race & Where?
Given the current contenders, you'd have to guess Simona De Silvestro. She's shown she can run up front in decent equipment. I don't have any idea where it might occur.
What do you think the chances of Audi joining INDYCAR in the near futur?
Probably pretty slim, but it's interesting to see that they have publicly acknowledged that they are exploring the possibility. It would be a great thing for INDYCAR, because they would bring the series prestige and marketing power.
I see Kurt got up to 218 in Andretti's car during his test run. That was still over 6 mph slower thanj Danica when she ran the old car. Seems he should have gotten some advice from Danica becasue Danica knows Indy.
I'll pass that along to Kurt the next time I see him.
Do you see INDYCAR racing at the Circuit of the Americas in the near future?
I have no doubt that INDYCAR will look into racing there. It would certainly create an interesting trifecta of Texas races, in all three Indy car racing disciplines - oval (Texas Motor Speedway), street course (Houston) and natural terrain road course (COTA). Knowing Eddie Gossage, he would be strongly resistant to another Indy car race in Texas. He's already steaming about Houston.
Marco ran a 227.3 and followed it up with a 228.412.
Marco ran a 227.3 and followed it up with a 228.412.
Kurt was unable to attract sponsors the past couple of years in nascar. Is Andretti going to sponsor Kurt himself if and when he runs in IndyCars?
I think there's enough novelty value in a NASCAR driver running the Indy 500 and doing the double with Charlotte that they won't have too much trouble drumming up sponsorship. It wouldn't surprise me if Andretti spent some of their own money to run Kurt in an oval race later this year - Milwaukee or Pocono have been mentioned - to get his some race experience and generate interest for Indy 2014.
Will Power is out and he just ran 228.401.
Power fell off to a 227.565 next time by.
Carlos Munoz warms up with a 228.170. Josef Newgarden, P9 at 226.2, is the top Honda man.
Who has been your biggest surprise on track during the month so far?
Certainly it's been Munoz. In fact, he just went FTD at 228.52 mph.
Dark horse Indy 500 winner-Will Power? Since he's had terrible luck on the road/street courses so far maybe he is due.
I thought about picking him as my winner so that maybe his streak of misfortune would end. But I'd probably end up jinxing him even more. Power just needs to get a couple of good solid oval finishes in to get his confidence back. The guy can drive, but ovals can mess with your mind.
With the disparity between ovals and street/road courses, what oval tracks (if any) would you like to see back on the INDYCAR schedule?
I'd like to see Phoenix and Michigan return here in the USA. Looking abroad, Motegi is my favorite oval track in the world and maybe Takuma Sato's winning form will be enough to convince Honda to bring the series back to Japan. Among road racing venues, Elkhart Lake and Cleveland are at the top of my list.
Any chance of an Indy Car race in North Carolina? Would love to see them in NASCAR country and it would be a local race for the Penske Team.
Seems pretty unlikely unless Bruton Smith and SMI decide that they really want to invest in Indy car racing. It's unfortunate that the predominant memory of IRL races at Charlotte was the incident when a wheel went into the crowd, killing 3 and injuring 8.
Well, we've reached the end of our allotted hour. Thanks to everyone for your questions and opinions! Indy qualifying can be seen this weekend on NBC Sports Network, and of course the 97th Indianapolis 500 will be broadcast on ABC at Noon ET on Sunday May 26. In fact, six of the next seven IndyCar Series events will be on ABC, so please tune in!