Feb. 24: On Danica, Barber and pack racing
Question: Last weekend I heard a NASCAR expert _ I believe it was Mike Waltrip _ say pack racing is what the fans want _ and NASCAR is going to give it to them. Well, so far they got it, and they also have seen multiple accidents in practices/races. I just thought this was interesting given recent history and how it differs from the philosophy IndyCar has adopted. (Tim, Level Green, Pa.)
Answer: I noticed and thought the same thing. NASCAR certainly has created a much better environment for such action, but a sport can get a false sense of security. The force Danica hit with yesterday should remind everyone that all accidents are different, and she could have been hurt even with all the safety improvements. Fortunately, she wasn’t.
Question: I was wondering if you could clarify the part about IndyCar allowing manufacturers to catch up with the others. (Brent, Edinburgh, Ind.)
Answer: The concept is to keep a manufacturer from falling behind, and if one does there will be an adjustment period June 18 and again at the end of the season. That’s fair, and that’s what keeps companies in the game. I thought it was interesting that IndyCar will allow the trailing manufacturer to close most of the gap with the others but not all of it. And there will be no reduction by the leaders. It’s just a chance for the trailing to close the gap.
Question: I know this is something that came up on the Q&A a few months ago, but with the season approaching, I thought it might be worth revisiting. Is there any push to improve the victory lane celebrations on TV to make them appear a little less _ searching for the right words _ tacky and cheap? They really don't come across well in the broadcasts. (Leigh, London, England)
Answer: It’s funny that they don’t seem that way in person, but I appreciate your perspective. Looking at yesterday’s NASCAR victory lanes, I’ll say there’s probably not a whole lot a track and the sanctioning body can do. That’s the time to allow the teams and their sponsors to get credit.
Question: Why do oval track promoters/owners have such a hard time making their Indy Car events successful? What is it that road/street courses have over them that allows them to be successful? I would think for viewing oval tracks have the advantage. Other than IMS, you can see virtually 100 percent of the circuit from your seat at an oval. Not so with road/street courses. (Zak, Memphis, Tenn.)
Answer: Let’s make it ovals vs. street circuits since permanent road courses have different variables. I don’t think there’s any question that race fans prefer watching track action and therefore are more drawn to ovals or road courses with nice viewing locations. But street circuits are closer to the people, especially the ones who are drawn to the event the way they might a street fair or a circus. To them, it’s a once-a-year chance to be a part of something big, with food, beverages and ancillary entertainment aplenty. I can see the attraction, but I’ll take an oval any day.
Question: Do you really expect pack racing to be a problem this year? With three engine manufacturers, there will probably be a larger disparity in speeds compared to all cars powered by identical engines. I expect the field to be much more spread out than we have seen in years. (Jim, Toledo, Ohio)
Answer: Yeah, me, too, but I understand the concerns in Texas. Having said that, we haven’t seen true pack racing at Texas in several years. Cars get in line, work mostly the bottom groove, and it’s about as safe as the sport can be. Pack racing is when you can throw a blanket over the field and cars are in all the lanes. Something big could happen at a high-speed oval like Texas, Indy or California, but I don’t think it will be anything like we saw at Vegas. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like Vegas except at Daytona and Talladega.
Question: I will be attending the Barber Motorsports Park race this year. Besides walking around and checking out everything, where is the best place to sit? Do you know when IndyCar will release the start times? (Chuck, Fishers, Ind.)
Answer: The starting time at Barber will be around 2:30 Eastern since the TV window is from 2-5. At Barber, I’d take a lawn chair and a blanket and set up in the Turn 2 area. It’s gorgeous with a big screen there. But I know there are other spots, too. Explore early and check out different spots. It’s easy to get around the facility with the trams.
Question: Danica Patrick crashes hard at Daytona, walks away from the accident and proceeds to thank NASCAR for the SAFER barrier. Did she forget her roots and that IndyCar developed it? (David, Naperville, Ill.)
Answer: Clearly, she owed it to Tony George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League to include them. But it’s worth noting that NASCAR played a big role in the development, and TG will be the first to tell you that. I visited the University of Nebraska’s Roadside testing facility in Lincoln during the development process, and I know it was a collaborative effort.
Question: In Danica's crash, she placed her hands up by her facemask when it was obvious she couldn't regain control of the car. I was taught to grab your shoulder harness. What's the purpose of putting your hands up to your facemask in NASCAR? (Mike, Indianapolis)
Answer: I’m not positive, but I thought it was to try to keep her head from lunging forward as Michael Waltrip’s did. As for grabbing the shoulder harness, wouldn’t that leave open the possibility that hands could get tangled up in them?