Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to mailbag@racer.com. 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 read in the previous Mailbag that Oliver Askew has been in contact with some IndyCar teams for the 2024 season. I really regret that Askew has not yet had a second season to demonstrate his potential, especially as we now realized that he was not so far off the rhythm of Pato O’Ward if we compare him to Felix Rosenqvist, for example. In addition, his experience in Formula E (where he was rookie of the year and he was closer to Jake Dennis than Andreas Lotterer this year) would be a very interesting experience for the teams with the transition to hybrid in 2024. Hope to see him in IndyCar or IMSA’s GTP next year. What do you think?


Yannick, France

MARSHALL PRUETT: I met Askew and Kirkwood for the first time in 2014 or 2015, and between the two at that time, I thought Oliver was going to be on the fast track to IndyCar success before Kyle, and sadly, instead of both being on top of the IndyCar world today, one’s in and the other is out.
I do hope someone will give Oliver a better chance to shine. Of the remaining free agents, most have a known quality to bring, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

I know of one team that’s committed to a new driver (for them) whom they aren’t all that excited about, but the driver is the best they can recruit at this time. Compare that to an Askew who is an Indy Lights champion, had a mostly bad rookie season with a team that never really wanted him, and has untapped potential that could — and I stress the “could” part — be higher than many of the known products on the market.

But, most team owners will err towards a safe bet instead of an unknown like Askew, which is sad. And, thankfully, we have a few who are willing to give our young champs a full-time chance, like Ganassi with Linus Lundqvist.

Q: I live outside of the United States. There are plenty of foreign IndyCar fans. When you request autographed photos from drivers and teams you have to send an SASE. That’s a reasonable requirement.

The problem? Unless you have U.S. stamps on the return envelope, it will bounce back to the sender for incorrect postage. I checked with post office and there isn’t an international stamp that is globally accepted on SASE. What’s a fan outside the U.S. to do?

You can’t buy U.S. stamps in Canada, for example, even from USPS, and our Amazon is different from yours. This issue would also exist in other countries. Can you ask IndyCar what to do and/or publish my question to see how teams would address requests from outside U.S. for photos?

David Colquitt

MP: This makes me really sad, David. I get the self-addressed stamped envelope routine here in the U.S., but with all the damn money teams waste on absolute nonsense — how about $90 leather belts by one squad — I’d have to believe they can afford postage to build a wider international fan base. Let’s see if any respond.

Q: I’m a bit sour on the idea of IndyCar having discussions about charters. It touched a nerve. The series still has no clear marketing strategy, no races in the Northeast and no plan in place to address this. If they want to build value, why not make their product easily accessible to the largest TV market in the country? Was that discussed? The only race near the Northeast is held in another country and streamed behind a paywall. Sorry for the rant.

Rob, Rochester, NY

MP: I hear the no-Northeast race complaint on a regular basis, Rob, so you aren’t alone. One impassioned IndyCar fan said the same thing to me after the WWTR race, in fact.

Q: I read Marshall’s article on the five most recent unapproved engine change penalties to be applied at the Bommarito 500. I understand that rules are to be followed, but it must be a necessary change for the teams or they wouldn’t do it — at least, I hope. I’ve probably lost count, but in the last two races, nine penalties have been applied. That’s at least one-third of the 27 cars running this season which have been affected.

Are the changes due to faulty engines, or just normal season wear and tear? If such a high percentage of teams are being penalized, would it make sense to look at the rationale for the rule.

Jim Bryan

MP: The rule is each annual engine lease comes with four engines and 10,000 miles of service, so to try and prevent teams and manufacturers from gaming the system, a grid penalty exists if more than four are used. You could go over four if explosions have happened, and then that’s just bad luck you’re paying for. You’ll also see, late in the season, when we have drivers in the championship hunt, a switching to the fifth for the sake of reliability because high-mileage motors tend to be the ones that pop. So, if you’re running strong in the championship, it’s a smart call to make that change to a fifth at the last oval, take the nine-spot penalty, and suffer no real consequences in the race.

The overarching goal for the rule is to keep manufacturers from going nuts with their budgets and moving to fifth and sixth engines with most of their better drivers just for the sake of always having fresh motors in action. This is a normal routine; get to the last few races and the grid penalties start ramping up.

Q: Who brings extra engines to the race? Do Honda and Chevy bring a truck filled with engines, or do teams carry their own? Regarding tires, is there a difference between scuffed and used reds? Why not always use new reds to get more laps? Finally, when Felix Rosenqvist’s car took off by itself into the tire barrier (at Detroit?), what reason was given for the malfunction?

Janis, Tampa (where you can hear the sun sizzle)

MP: Each manufacturer transports extra engines to the races. “Scuffed” alternates are nothing more than used alternates, and since there are fewer alternates than primaries, teams often have no choice but to use the used alternates in the race. No, Arrow McLaren never officially explained what happened, but it’s believed it was a case of the pedal assembly coming loose.