Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to mailbag@racer.com. 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 see Roger Penske just suspended some crew and Tim Cindric for two races. Sort of a day late and a dollar short on integrity. I re-read the B.S. comments from Newgarden, acting so naive. I still can’t fathom that Power had same software settings and yet did not cheat. If Penske was a leader he would clean house and fire these clowns. It stinks that the 500 is coming, but it is now clouded. If the series wanted attention they sure got real fans stirred up. Guess even bad press is better than no press.

Craig B. Leland, NC

MARSHALL PRUETT: I’ve never agreed with the ‘all press is good press’ deal. We look like idiots. Based on the TV audience size at Barber just days after the scandal broke, it did nothing to put more eyeballs on the series and the race; the audience actually shrunk by 12.5 percent from the Barber race in 2023. Scandal… drama… and nobody seemed to care.

Q: How much of an impact are the Penske suspensions really going to be on the team for the month of May? In NASCAR, for example, the crew chief gets suspended (usually multiple racers for an infraction), and you get the impression that’s significant to the competition of the team at a race event. I’m sure for someone like (senior data engineer) Robbie Atkinson, the suspension is going to have an impact, given the publicity. But, in general the suspension seemed superficial and more a PR move, given that it was self-imposed and not handed down from IndyCar. That actually seems to be the worst part of it.

Matthew

MP: If Penske was serious about sending a message, he would have actually suspended them. Turning off their access cards. Taking their laptops and phones. Sending them home for the rest of the month like they are on four separate islands where no contact with the race team at Indy is allowed and no work product can be done.

You’re ‘suspended’ but can still do your full jobs before and after cars are on track at the Speedway each day? That’s not a suspension; that’s a time-out.

Q: So, at the Indy GP,  Rahal and Armstrong both had brand new engines let go before they even ran two laps at speed. Since they’re only allowed four engines for the season, they will probably suffer penalties later in the year for exceeding the engine allotment.

When Honda takes them back and if it finds that there was a manufacturing or assembly defect that was Honda’s fault and they find it is through that whole series of engines, is there any kind of provision that would allow IndyCar to waive the penalty for using an extra engine? Say Honda built 12 engines that had the same defect, they had two fail, found the cause and pulled back the other 10 before they were used, could the two teams that had failures be given a pass?

Michael Pennington

MP: Due to higher usage of engines in pre-season testing than was forecasted, Honda chose to start changing motors after Barber instead of after the Indy GP, and they had the two failures with Marcus Armstrong and Graham with the new mo tors which were sent back for inspection and fixing. On the Chevy side, Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi also had motor issues at the GP.

IndyCar has a policy that says if the motors can be fixed without major work — I’m paraphrasing — they can go back into service with no penalty. But if the motor needs to be torn apart and broken items need to be replaced, or if a bad batch of parts have been identified and all need to be updated after they’ve been pressed into service, that would fall out of the scope of a quick and easy fix. If an issue was found with one or two and the others with the same issue haven’t been installed and used, the manufacturers could apply fixes without penalties being involved.

IndyCar doesn’t care on the how or why; it has a strict policy of four engines and 10,000 combined miles of use for the $1.45 million annual engine lease per entry. Stick to the four, and there are no penalties. Need to go beyond the four, and there are problems.

Anything other than the quick/easy scenario is treated by IndyCar as an ‘unapproved change.’ So for those who needed engine changes last weekend, they’ll need to go to a fifth engine at some point late in the season, and any engines beyond the four included in the annual engine lease come with grid a grid penalty. Same for the sixth, seventh, and so on.

Q: At Indy in Friday’s first Indy GP practice, both Rahal and Armstrong had to replace a new motor with less than a couple laps running time. The NBC crew indicated that this would likely cause a grid penalty later in the season due to the need of a fifth engine. Can’t those engines just be repaired by Honda and sent back to the teams to use without burning an engine? I can understand some manufacturer’s penalty for supplying what appears to be a faulty engine but to penalize a driver and team for an engine loss in practice and not a race seems excessive. Marshall, we’re talking practice here. Practice! Is there any appeal process?

Dave Pisula

MP: Allen Iverson would be livid! IndyCar has changed the penalty at least twice since we went to the new formula in 2012. It’s solely a hit on the manufacturers in the Manufacturers’ championship, and it’s been a hit on the team/driver, and the manufacturers. I’ve never understood the driver/team part, unless someone left an oil line undone and the crew caused it to blow.

Q: Seeing the astonishing results by Nikita Johnson, I wondered if a Ganassi or similar team have signed him? If this was a F4 driver in Europe a F1 team most probably would have. In fact, maybe they will snatch Johnson from the IndyCar ladder and place him in F3 or similar next year. Here is hoping an IndyCar team is looking to the future.

Oliver Wells

MP: I’d put good money on more than half of IndyCar’s team owners having no clue Nikita exists, much less drives racecars and has been doing big things in the USF Championships for the last two seasons. That being said, based on the results to date, a smart team owner would look to get him in their development pipeline, along with Max Garcia from USF2000.