If you have a question about open-wheel racing, send it to MillersMailbag@Racer.com. We can’t guarantee your letter will be published, but Robin will always reply.
Q: That was one heck of a race at Fontana. Like you were saying, if you didn’t enjoy that race, you don’t like IndyCar. A lot was made by the local news about all the crashes but that was some of the best racing I’ve seen in a long time. The crowd was cheering all night long, especially when Helio was in the lead.
By the way, I haven’t seen any attendance number from the weekend but there were a lot more people than last year. I think the lower temperatures helped a lot. There were more people on the Friday, too. My wife really enjoyed herself and thought the racing was exciting. Of course, she was pulling for Helio (Dancing With The Stars and all) but I just smiled and said I’m glad she had fun. She was actually talking already about going to Long Beach next April so needless to say, I was pretty stoked. The new Dallara has won over a lot of naysayers so I think next year should be another winner. I’m openly optimistic about the Indy road course. More racing is always a good thing. I think this car will showcase that track well.
Doug in Murrieta, Calif.
RM: Twenty-nine lead changes, non-stop passing and five-abreast restarts usually make for a great show and that’s what we got. I could hear the crowd (even though I was wearing headsets) go wild when Helio went from 12th to first and a lot of you folks stood for most of the final 30 laps. It was priced reasonably and there were more people than 2012. Glad you’ve made a fan out of your wife.
Q: I just finished watching the race and it was awesome ” second best of the year behind Indy. I think IndyCar needs more ovals to grow the TV numbers but I understand the financial side of it. Munoz and the Dinger are wheelmen! They were fun to watch. IndyCar needs to work on forming up better on restarts. The legend class at my local dirt track do better than these guys. I just wanted to let you know Indy cars on ovals get my heart going faster than any other racing and I watch it all.
RM: You would assume ovals always out-draw road or street courses in TV ratings but that’s not been the case the past few years. There is no argument that ovals are Indy cars’ legacy and most breathtaking shows but, other than Iowa (when it runs at night), it’s a challenge for promoters to fill seats. I’d prefer double-file restarts on most ovals ” especially Pocono and Fontana ” but Indy still manages to be exciting under single file.
Q: To anyone left out there asking, ?Do you want to go back to the days where only nine cars finished a race, and only five were on the lead lap?? my answer is an emphatic ?Yes!? Those incredible 500 miles reminded me more of the 2000 Michigan 500 ” the biggest reason I became addicted to Indy cars ” than any other race. Heavy attrition, cars swinging low and high to grab clean air through the turns, drivers working multiple lines, slingshot passes and, if you had the right setup and some fresh tires, you could carve through the field even after having your visor replaced.
In my delirium, I even thought that Castroneves had a chance to get his lap back and go for it. Even if no one shows up, this series needs to be at Fontana and Michigan, and anywhere else that can produce that kind of racing. Just keep the cameras away from the stands and on the cars, bump up the speeds to ?Gil de Ferran level,? and watch people fall for Indy car racing like they used to.
RM: Only having five cars finish on the lead lap is quite unusual these days (especially with 55 laps under caution) but it didn’t diminish the action or drama for the championship. Fontana has always been a great venue for Indy cars to strut their stuff and they did again last Saturday night. It was edgy and unpredictable.
Q: I constantly read your Mailbag but this is my first time replying to you. How many cars actually finished the race? Seemed like maybe eight, though nothing wrong with that; reminded me of 500-milers of old where only five on the lead lap and 10 in the race altogether. One last thing: how many people attended the race Saturday night? Also planning on going to the race in St. Petersburg and this time bringing my dad.
Vinny St. Petersburg
RM: Nine cars were running at the end with ninth-place Ryan Hunter-Reay eight laps behind because of his mechanical ills. Only eight cars finished the 1988 and 1994 Michigan 500s. No official attendance given but veteran motorsports writer Louis Brewster estimated 30,000. Yes, go to St. Pete: it has a great atmosphere and the racing is often good.
Q: My compliments to the NBCSN announcing crew for the Fontana race broadcast, particularly to Townsend and Wally for their terrific insights. I’ve watched many, many races on TV over many decades, and the quality of the Fontana announcing ranked among the best I’ve ever listened to. Thank goodness NBCSN remains the IndyCar broadcaster ” as opposed to, say, ESPN.
RM: Agreed and that’s why it’s imperative to have a current driver in the booth if possible because Townsend knew what was coming if Munoz stayed low. Like Dan Wheldon before him, TBell knows his stuff and expresses that knowledge with passion, humor and candor. And Wally has been in just about every type of racing condition or situation and does a nice job of explaining what it’s like to the viewers.
Q: Congratulations to race winner Will Power and this year’s series champ Scott Dixon but I can hear the keyboard on the computers going and many complaining about the long caution periods in the race. As one who started following OWR listening to it on radio and still a loyal follower on TV, I’ve also been to a number of races at Pocono. Lest we forget these new cars are made with carbon fiber (lightweight and safer than the older ones) so when they are involved in a crash the carbon fiber just shreds, so they have to spend a lot of time clearing up the pieces or they could cause damage to other cars and even to a driver. It’s all part of racing, like it or not. So to those that keep crying about the long cautions stop crying and be thankful that it carbon fiber takes the beating and not the driver. One of the best racing seasons again.
Joe Steber, Albrightsville, Pa.
RM: Good point, Joe ” sweeping up shards of carbon fiber takes time and IndyCar also tries to sweep the marbles when possible to make better racing. So, while it can test your patience, the end result is usually worth waiting on ” as we saw.
Q: I used to race in the Barber Dodge series and worked for various teams in CART and Indy Lights. I’ve been out of racing for about five years and decided to go to California Speedway on Saturday night incognito. Instead of my annual trek to Long Beach walking around the paddock visiting old friends, I decided to take my six-year-old son as a paying customer to see what it would be like.
First of all, it was a great deal! $35 ($25 for me since I bought tickets from a guy in the parking lot), free parking, kids under 12 free. The problem was no one knew about it because, unlike Long Beach, there were zero ads on local radio; not even the free stuff where stations list things to do this weekend, etc. Not one word! Granted, Toyota pays for the Long Beach ads, but I’m sure something could have been worked out, like having stations at the fan center. Also, the pre-race nonsense was the most painful hour and half of my life! It was worse then the drive from Ventura! Are you kidding me? Why couldn’t they skip all that B.S and entertain the fans by having the Lamborghinis race? That was a joke full of 15 minutes of nothing happening. The fact that the race started 20 minutes late was puzzling, because nothing was going on during the pre-race show. IndyCar is not motocross, so they should stop trying to be! Lame!
Also, why does it take 25 minutes to clear the track during a caution? Twenty-five minutes for the Justin Wilson crash; 15 minutes after he was in the medical center, the race restarted, so that wasn’t the reason for the delay. IndyCar is like a confused teenager who is trying to find his identity. They need to look at what worked in the past (1982 to ’96), and stop trying to be cool, because they aren’t! Skip all the B.S. before the race and show some racing! No one cares if it’s a bunch of amateurs in Lamborghinis as long as they’re cool-looking and sound fast!
By the way, the racing was great! My son loved it and he might have the bug?
Mike Rossi, not really ;-)
RM: Not sure where you live but I heard ads for the race on a couple different radio stations and I know Auto Club Speedway had some special promotions going on. The race started late to give the sun a chance to go down and not blind the drivers going into Turn 3 (which it did during an earlier test day). I think we all wish the cars looked and sounded better but it’s tough to argue about the racing and I’m glad IndyCar may have made a new fan.
Q: Good for Scott Dixon to win the title but something has become more apparent after hours of digesting the season finale: I really don’t think it helps the sport grow at all. You have a driver with basically no personality but great skills, he is on one of the most dominant teams that basically has been IndyCar for last 13 years. It’s always Ganassi, Andretti or Penske and the series needs new fresh faces that actually win. Let’s face it, Graham, Marco, Hildebrand or Newgarden just aren’t getting it done. Sometimes talent helps overcome an average car if you get my drift and there just needs to be more parity in the series. I guess my beef is that even with Ryan Hunter-Reay (an American) winning, the series seemed to never rise up a notch. Heck, I really believe Ed Carpenter would do more for the serious fan than any Ganassi, Penske or Andretti Autosport driver has or done over the last 10 years.
RM: There is no denying that Dixon is pretty much an unknown to the American public but I can assure you he’s got a good personality and better sense of humor. The question is, how does IndyCar get that out to the general public? I do think Rahal and Andretti would generate more press from the mainstream media but IndyCar as a whole is a stranger to most of America. Television is the key ” more eyeballs, more promotions and more endorsement ads.
Q: Congrats to Will Power. He has an oval win that nobody can say he won cheap with a random grid draw or any other gimmick. He had a fast car all weekend and won a 500-mile race. Congrats to Scott Dixon. I’m not a fan, but he is the champ. Congrats to Randy Bernard. Much of what we saw this season was stuff he brought to the series. It was a great season. Congrats to Taku, Hinch, Pagenaud and Kimball for their first wins. I look forward to 2014 even if it is the last major series to start and the first major series to finish. Bring on 2014!
Ryan in West Michigan
RM: Power said it was the best win of his career so that should tell you something about how hard he drove. As I was driving out of the track Saturday night (early Sunday morning), I got a call from Randy and he raved about how good the racing had been because he still cares about IndyCar and wants to see it grow. Not many guys like him and, you are right, his fingerprints were all over 2013.
Q: Is it me or is Will Power The Biggest Wienie Ever? His victory circle interview definitely gets him a nod in my opinion. His comments about Ed Carpenter were totally unnecessary. You won the race. Say thank you to your team, sponsors, and wife and get off the stage! If you factor in the double flip-off, and running into Dixon this year (repeatedly) he might get the trophy for Biggest Wienie of All Time. Is anyone else suspicious of the restart during of the middle of yesterday’s race? Blocking Dixon, really? If Will’s parents were really looking for a cool name they should have considered “Oscar Meyer”!! Congrats to Dixon and Chip for smacking Penske, AGAIN! I wish Power would say something about AJ ” we haven’t had a good victory circle punching in years…
RM: Actually I liked Will’s comments because it showed his desire to prove people wrong about him and ovals. He said Ed’s comments inspired him and he wasn’t mean-spirited (he also said he respects Carpenter’s oval-track prowess and was proud to have beaten him). I know fans don’t like to hear winning or podium drivers complaining but I don’t think Power was doing that. He was just relaying a comment from a competitor that fired him up to do better. And he did.
Q: Memo to Mark Miles: You absolutely cannot crown your champion at 12:20 a.m. on the East Coast! Only in IndyCar! Also, how long can St. Pete hang on without a title sponsor?
RM: RM: No doubt it’s not ideal (as the TV ratings showed) but it will continue at least one more year. Honda had been a great partner but is now gone so, as we’ve seen in the past 30-plus years, a title sponsor is almost mandatory to survive. So good luck to Kevin Savoree and Kim Green in search of one.
Q: I’m pleased that Helio did not win the title. You should not be able to win a championship by being content to finish in the Top 10 at every race, which is what they did once they got a good lead in the championship race. Had Helio pushed a little bit harder during the mid-season races, he’d probably be the champion today. I can’t pick any specific races to say, “This is where they lost it.” but there were a bunch of so-so performances that cost him dearly. It should always be about winning!
You really have to wonder about Roger Penske. Is he getting too old? He and his team made some questionable calls over the last few races that certainly didn’t help Helio’s chances. Furthermore, there have been a lot of bad calls over the last few seasons that have cost Will Power the title as well. I really believe that Ganassi has passed Penske as the top team.
RM: Nothing against Helio but I agree with you on that point and also think winning races still needs to pay more points (although IndyCar’s point system works since the last eight years the title has been decided in the finale). Dixon had the most wins (four to one) and top-5 finishes (10) while he and Castroneves each led 239 laps. But it just seems fitting when the champion is the driver with the most victories. As for The Captain, he’s still plenty sharp and everyone makes mistakes but Team Penske hasn’t lost anything ” except the past five championships.
Q: Wow! Ten different winners, four first-time winners, two of them multiple winners in Hinch and Pagenaud (who likely won’t look back now that they have broken their ducks). The resurgence of Will Power (hopefully we see the same for Dario). A long-awaited victory for an old warhorse in A.J., some good news stories, such as Allmendinger’s return and Tag’s great run at Fontana before swapping ends. Plus it was another nail-biter to decide the title. I couldn’t believe the scrambling in the lead pack with 20 or so to go after the second to last caution. Around seven cars swarming for the lead, reminiscent of an Indy 500 restart. I can’t believe that a title contender wasn’t collected, but am glad that the title was decided cleanly, although the viewers never did see how Helio’s wing broke.
I don’t recall the clag, as David Hobbs has coined it, being so bad at Fontana in the past. Anyway, when most Indy drivers were queried last year by Marshall as to who they predicted to win it, the majority answered, ?Dixie’, so the best driver won, and guess what: he won the most races. That is how it should be. It’ll be another long off-season, but nothing compared to that of next year. I still am not sold on ending the season on Labor Day.
RM: The fact that 10 different drivers scored victories just illustrates how competitive IndyCar has become with the new Dallara. Only 33 years old, Dixon won’t get to A.J.’s 67 wins but with 33 victories already, he could easily press Mario’s total of 52 before he’s done.
Q: I was very disappointed that Panther let J.R. Hildebrand go after Indy. It seemed like they gave him an untamed rocket and expected him to drive it through 800 corners. Kind of unfortunate for one of the nicest guys in the paddock, and an American good-old boy as well. I know he can drive, as I have seen him run away with the Firestone Indy Lights series title in 2009 against a stiff field with the likes of Hinchcliffe, Kimball, Saavedra, Beatriz, and Mann.
Now, I understand that there is a difference between the likes of Saavedra and the likes of Scott Dixon and Castroneves, as well as the differences between Indy Lights cars and IndyCar cars. However, I know that he can drive. He has that much going for him. And he is a nice, clean-cut, young American face in a series that is trying to regain an American base (both drivers and fans). Seems like someone will give him another shot.? Do you think that there is another ride that will be opening up for him in 2014? He is currently in a part-time agreement with Bryan Herta Autosport, but I do not know if that will develop into a full-time ride. I think he would be able to hold down a middle-to-top-tier seat, much like James Hinchcliffe has done at Andretti Autosport. Now, we could argue about whether or not the Panther ride was middle tier or not. I would lean toward saying that it was a low-tier ride, due to the fact that not even the late, great Dan Wheldon could get a win with Panther through two full seasons. Do you see anything opening up for Hildebrand during this off-season??
Tyler from Moravia, NY
RM: I’ve heard the National Guard wasn’t too happy either but the bottom line is that team hasn’t won a race since 2005. It got more competitive after it changed engineers but that was after J.R. was cut loose so I’d like to have seen him with Tino Belli. Hildebrand has been a winner at every level and, as he showed last Saturday night, he belongs in IndyCar. He might have a shot with a second car at Herta if he can raise some sponsorship.
Q: Regarding Panther: where did the money go? Since Marlboro and the Danica Go-Daddy eras left the scene, the Target sponsorship is the only funding (at least rumored in the press) that comes close to the per car sponsorship that Panther had with National Guard. Where did they spend the money to have 0 results since the Tomas and Sam era in the albeit watered-down IRL days?
Also with National Guard, I am concerned they (once again) have hitched their wagon to the wrong horse. Young Rahal has not demonstrated that he is more than a legacy whiner?. I know you are his publicist but his only win was a rain impacted/strategy race. He didn’t get the love he felt he deserved on Chip’s B-team, but Charlie wins this year; he bitches about the SFHR setups and equipment, only to have Ed Carpenter win the next year; Jakes is outdriving him this year; without equipment related DNFs, Jakes would be ahead in the points; and Rahal’s DNFs are always due to other drivers, not his bonehead moves or his overdriving the car.
If National Guard wanted an American young gun, Josef, RHR, Marco, Charlie or even Ed C (if I wanted to pick a 500 winner from this crew with proper funding, it would be EC). Rahal is great in the social media/sponsor activation, but I hear more excuses and blame from him than I see results? RLLR should slot the best driver into that seat (see Justin Wilson) and not wrap themselves in the flag to perpetuate nepotism. Remember the U.S. armed forces has, going back to the Revolutionary War, embraced non-U.S. nationals into the military, including my grandfather, a citizen of Great Britain in World War II and my stepfather (Mexican) in Vietnam ” Purple Heart recipient. If the U.S. military allows foreign nationals to risk their lives to protect our freedoms, no one should give a rat’s ass on the nationality of who drives a U.S. military-sponsored car! Sorry a comment, question and rant wrapped together?
Chris, Colorado Springs
RM: In this year’s mid-season report card I wrote that the only two constants at Panther have been engineer David Cripps and owner John Barnes. Wheldon won everywhere but there in his career, so you have to draw some conclusions. They changed drivers before engineers and I think J.R. was in a tough spot. As for the money, it was also used to entertain Guardsmen and women at the races but it was more than enough to field a competitive team.
As for Rahal, more and more people label him a whiner and excuse-maker, but I’m telling you he’s got the chops to be a winner. I realize he regressed this season but the kid has shown he can qualify and race under pressure. I know he needs to start showing it again but I think he will. The Guard liked Vitor Meira, Ryan Briscoe, Oriol Servia and Wheldon so I don’t think it matters to them whether it’s an American or not. But Graham and David Letterman would be good ambassadors for them as well.
Q: While watching the finale, my wife asked me a question I couldn’t answer, so how about it? Why do the pit reporters wear firesuits? Is there some chance they might catch on fire? (I did point out that there is an old guy in a golf shirt that runs around on the grid, but she just said, ?fanny pack ” not a good look.?)
On a more serious note, is Simona staying at KVSH, and will Bourdais be willing to help her the way TK did? Cheers and thanks for all the written/video reports during the season!
Lee Robie, Loveland, Ohio
RM: Of course there is always a possibility of fire and NBC management wants to make sure its people are protected. It’s more hazardous at places like Long Beach or Baltimore where there is so little room in and around the pits. I don’t think Simona will be back at KV. Thanks for reading and watching RACER.com.
Q: Since Michael Andretti is now going to Honda, I need you to explain what it means that Michael Andretti won’t play third fiddle to Chevy? What will Chevy give Penske and Ganassi that Michael wouldn’t get? And what will Honda give Andretti (since he will be number 1) over the other Honda teams? Do the manufacturers give certain teams more information than the others? Would they get the better engines? Would they get more factory attention? Please elaborate.
Rob, South East Michigan
RM: Good questions Rob. The perception is that Andretti would be behind Penske and Ganassi in the pecking order but the reality is that nobody knows if that’s true or not. The Captain brought General Motors back into IndyCar and it’s assumed he’s first in line for everything. But did Helio have a better engine than Kanaan at Indy? Nah. Just like Honda. Would it give a special engine to RHR or Marco or Hinch and not to Pagenaud? I don’t think so. Nowadays it’s pretty much equal footing with leases and there don’t seem to be many secrets among teams on the same side, although teams are still suspicious that GM and Honda give money to the chosen ones. If there was blatant favoritism it would show up but 10 different winners in 19 races (and Chevy beating Honda 10-9) tells me things are more even than ever before.
Q: First, I’m a diehard Red Sox fan but there was no way I was missing any of the IndyCar final at Fontana. Sure, during some the yellows I would flip over to see what the good guys were doing but I didn’t linger long as I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything and I’ll tell ya what, I was so glad I stuck with my decision because that was an incredible race and an incredible finish! Tons of drama, attrition, and great flat-out racing. On TV, it seemed like those cars could get real nervous at any moment; then, couple that with insane speeds these drivers hit, they all must have balls (or ovaries) the size of church bells! Congrats to Dixie! Congrats to Will! Bummer to watch Helio walk down pit lane as Dixie is accepting the title but hey, not everyone can win and he can’t be too upset for the way he drove this year.
Tags and JR looked pretty damn good, hope both can find full-time rides next year or at the very least some more chances to prove they can still handle it. Helluva season all around and sad to see it end but can’t wait for the start of next year! Oh, got an F1 friend on board and I think he’s starting to dig how much action IndyCar offers. Great to see the grid run back, but I think the drivers know when it’s gonna happen and duck out on ya on purpose!
RM: I spoke with Helio about an hour after the race and he was a little melancholy until I asked if he’d trade an Indy 500 win for a title: ?No way,? he replied, breaking into a grin. ?I want to win a championship and we gave it our best tonight but nothing compares to Indy.? Fans remember Indy 500 winners. Champions? Not so much.
I think Tag is going full-time sports car racing (maybe for Chip, according to Marshall Pruett) but maybe with an option to run Indy as well. J.R. did a nice job at Fontana but there aren’t a lot of opportunities left for 2014. I was told many of the drivers were using the bathroom when I began my grid run so you make that analogy.
Q: Yet another great championship-deciding race and great season in IndyCar. I still can’t figure out why some people would rather watch an F1 parade or a NASCAR snooze-fest than an actual exciting race, but whatever: their loss. I can’t remember the last time there was that much attrition in an Indy car race. It reminded me of an old school CART race ” engines blowing up, cars balanced on a knife edge, blinding fast speed…well 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. I feel bad for Helio and I’m happy for Dixon but I was most impressed by Will Power. That was a helluva drive ” a championship drive. Next year, watch out for WP. I think he will be back with a vengeance.
I like that there are no month long breaks in the 2014 schedule, but hate that it’s so short. What became of those off-season non-championship races? Will they be run between the 2014 and ’15 seasons or not until after 2015? And I still don’t understand why those races can’t be added to the beginning or end of the official schedule.
Blake in Texas
RM: The plan is to run some early and late races overseas in 2015 but I imagine if something came up for next fall it would be considered. A big NASCAR fan e-mailed me Sunday night and admitted there was no comparison to the IndyCar finale and Talladega. He said he even went back and watched Fontana a second time but would deny it publicly if I used his name. No chance. Your secret is safe with me, Brian.
Q: I think that everyone agrees that merely adding ovals is not enough, that IndyCar needs viable oval-track venues. With Baltimore going away, IndyCar needs a race in the Mid-Atlantic states. Has anyone given any thought to Dover for 2015? The track length is right, the location is right, there is an existing race audience which merely needs to be lured away from the stock cars for a weekend. The combination of banking and abrasive surface might cause some tire wear vs. downforce issues but that’s hardly insurmountable. If IndyCar could manage to add Road America and Watkins Glen as well (and lose some street races in the process), 2015 could be a very good year.
RM: Dover didn’t work for Indy cars in the late ’60s or when the IRL tried it in ’99. New Hampshire actually drew a nice crowd for CART but that evaporated in The Split and nobody showed up a couple years ago so it was abandoned. I think Providence will be the new eastern destination in 2015.
Q: With all the concern about IndyCar going dark for seven months, I overlooked a very positive about next year’s schedule: no more week-long gaps between races. Your article states there are six ovals?so why all the complaining about the lack of ovals? IndyCar has plenty of challenges, but next year’s schedule looks like a step in the right direction. As for the road course at Indy, I think I’ve come around. It’s 2013 and the taxi cabs have been racing on that hallowed ground for 20 years and F1 had their time as well. What tradition are we trying to hold onto?
Bill, St Pete.
RM: I think many fans my age (64) favor more ovals because it’s what they fell for and the most exciting racing. But six isn’t bad considering how tough it is for promoters to draw a crowd for IndyCar on ovals nowadays. Just love to see Phoenix return.
Q: Three races in Texas and all in the same month? And that month happens to be JUNE?! The powers-that-be in IndyCar have been eating the wrong kind of mushrooms! May I make a suggestion? Put those warm weather races, or at least one of them, at the very beginning of the schedule. Could this be a deliberate attempt to kill one of those races as an excuse for going to Austin? Stranger things have happened.
RM: You are assuming Texas Motor Speedway remains on the schedule: Eddie Gossage has threatened that if Austin is added in 2015, he’s gone. But what if Houston or Austin opened the schedule in February? Would Eddie stay? Stick around.
Q: I don’t like the calendar for 2014 at all. Ending the season in August is a joke. The break will be way too long. How can they do this? Are they really trying hard to kill IndyCar? Not going to Brazil sucks. If they can have two races at Indy, why not Mosport, outside Toronto? It was always said if IndyCar wanted to come, changes could be made.?? ?
Michael?, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada??
RM: IndyCar’s TV partners like the idea of stopping before football season and the plan to add races in the fall overseas could be OK for the teams if the money is right. But, if there aren’t races in January and February or October and November, I worry about all the mechanics being laid off by EVERY team. As for Canada, I’d race up there five times.
Q: You mentioned that Portland needs a lot of work to be capable of holding an IndyCar race. I am not sure you have been to the track in the last few years but the track has been totally repaved, along with some improvements to the last turn that moved the wall back to stop from having the scary accidents that we have seen over the years. They also created a passing zone going into the turn before the back straight. Pit road has not been changed and the paddock could be bigger. But I still believe they have better facilities then they have at most raceways. As a longtime IndyCar fan, the issue is not in the track and IndyCar should be looking to get a promoter and thinking about tapping into the large NW market.
RM: That’s good to hear (I confess I haven’t been to Portland in a decade) and I know Portland expressed some interest to Randy Bernard but that kinda died down after he got the chop. It was a big deal with the Rose Festival and G.I. Joe’s as the sponsor, but attendance plummeted the last few years.
Q: So Robin, what is the real story? Now that GoDaddy has a driver that wins, they leave IndyCar? Are they content to just have ?a top 30 car today? all the time or are they leaving racing altogether?
Chuck, Stow, Ohio
RM: Not going to Brazil hurt because GoDaddy has already conquered North America and it wants to branch out. The rumor is that it will also cut back on Danica’s NASCAR funding in 2014.
Q: What’s the latest news, if any, concerning Dreyer & Reinbold Racing coming back in 2014? I know they called an early end to their season this year to focus efforts on 2014. If I recall correctly they have something in place to run the 2014 Indianapolis 500. Do they have any news that can be seen as good news for them back on the grid in 2014 full time. They’ve been with the series for many years now and it would be a shame to see a small IndyCar team fall by the wayside.
Jeremy from Louisville
RM: Ironically, I spoke to Dennis Reinbold today about the rumor he was going to join forces with Sarah Fisher for 2014 (he said there’s nothing to it). But Robbie Buhl said they’ve got a good sponsor for Indy so at least we should see them in May ” maybe both races if they can get Mike Conway for the road course.
Q: I started thinking about Chip Ganassi’s switch to Chevy on the IndyCar side. This, of course, was not that surprising given the Chipster’s long-standing relationship with the Bowtie brigade on the NASCAR side. But, not long before this announcement came the announcement that Kyle Larson would be driving the No. 42 car next year in Cup. Could it be that Chip Ganassi is trying to line up all of the stars so that Kyle Larson can run “The Double” on Memorial Day weekend? Or, is this all just a big coincidence? And, if this is the plan, has there been any discussion about changing the start times for either or both races?
Jay Matheny, Mayfield, KY
RM: I know Kyle would do it in a heartbeat but I believe Chip has already gunned down that idea.
Q: It is now seven years since Champ Car last raced in Montreal. I wonder what it will take for IndyCar to get a race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve?? And another question: Formula 1 teams have test drivers. For up and coming drivers, what kind of training would they get once they get on board with an IndyCar team? And when will the day come when they test an IndyCar at an event??
RM: Not sure it’s on IndyCar’s radar but I think Quebec City and Calgary might have a chance some day. There are no IndyCar test drivers anymore because basically there is so little testing. A rookie learns on the fly.
Q: Robin, if you stood up at the next drivers meeting and asked how many people were in favor of getting rid of the hand clutch, how many hands would go up in the air?
Tom in Nashville
RM: I think 90 percent of them. I was talking to Justin Wilson about that very subject earlier this season and he agreed that manual gearchanging was a part of a driver’s art and he missed it.
Q: There is always a lot of talk about Formula 1 and how it could work with IndyCar or how it works against IndyCar. Bernie is way into his 80s and, depending on the outcome of his recent indictment for bribery, he is likely to be out of the picture sooner rather than later. When Mr. E is no longer the head honcho at F1, is there likely to be any change in F1’s attitude toward IndyCar? If so, any positive outcomes or just interesting side stories?
RM: Since F1 draws massive crowds everywhere, why would it need to partner with IndyCar? I don’t think that attitude will ever change.
Q: It is a shock to me how reading about Dan Wheldon still is painful. I never met him, I never saw him in person yet I felt I knew him. I certainly was aware of his career ups and downs, his winning the 500 for the second time, signing the deal with Andretti and Go Daddy, the promise of a great year in the cockpit. Perhaps more than anything, when he filled in as a TV announcer, his intelligence about racing and his spirit and enthusiasm spilled over and I became a big fan of his. I thought to myself, ?This guy has a brilliant career ahead of him as a driver and then beyond.?
Then he signs with Andretti and one couldn’t help but cheer. I was out and about and missed the first part of the Vegas race on TV. When I tuned in the wreck had already happened and I was shocked beyond belief. The cruel twist of fate chilled me then and chills me today. I find it hard to read about Dan, it brings back those dreadful days. I’ve seen the Dan Wheldon street sign at St. Pete on a number of occasions and I prefer to think of him that way, the race winner touching Dan’s sign in tribute to a fallen hero, a fallen comrade, a true racer. This may not be the type of email you post in your mailbag, but I wanted to tell someone whose heart pumps racing fuel what it means to me. He must have been quite a guy in person to affect a typical race fan this way.
RM: Dan was excellent as a TV expert, yes. He connected with the fans like few other drivers in the past 25 years and I observed his interaction with them on many occasions. He made them feel appreciated and it showed. That’s why you cared.
Q: I was in the stands at Spa in August 2011 watching Conor Daly in GP3 and flew back with him and saw him dominate the Baltimore Lights race before the car broke. I saw him lead every lap in his Pro Mazda win at IRP. He’s won in every series and I’d love to see him in GP2 next year. But, after talking with him at Mid-Ohio this year, I’m concerned about 2014 for him. Do you think he could end up in A.J.’s Indy car full time in 2014?
RM: I know A.J. likes Conor a lot and so does Larry Foyt, but Honda likes Sato a lot so Daly might have to find a sponsor so he could run the second car. But the kid needs to be in IndyCar next season and not just in May. However, I think if he could find the funding for GP2 ” or rather, find an already funded GP2 ride ” his priority is still Europe, and that would be good, too. America has waited a long time for an open-wheel star on the other side of the Atlantic, and he seems to have the chops.
Q: As an IndyCar ?lifer,? I get very sensitive whenever NASCAR claims to be the greatest, most-skilled, best, fastest, etc. In light of that, I need someone to explain to me (like I’m a five year-old) how Talladega is the ?world’s fastest racetrack,? as we were reminded yesterday with unabashed fervor after every commercial break. I understand that the track’s size and high banking lends to higher speeds for NASCAR and that the restrictor plate controls speed, but I’m not finding the statistics that back up the claim of being the ?world’s fastest track.? Is it a mentality of “if it didn’t happen in NASCAR, then it didn’t happen”? My brother, who has drunk the NASCAR Kool-aid, looked at me like I was an idiot and, dripping with contempt, told me, ?It’s the fastest track in NASCAR, and if the IndyCars ran on it, the drivers would pass out, so it’s the fastest racetrack,? to which I responded, ?But that hasn’t been proven.? Uncomfortable silence for several minutes. In all sincerity, please help me understand where I’m ?off track.?
RM: First of all, smack your brother because he’s wrong. Gil de Ferran set the all-time, one-lap oval-track record of 241mph at Fontana in 2001 in an INDY CAR!!! Last time I checked, the speeds at the Indy 500 were 20mph quicker than Cup cars at ‘Dega (and IndyCars lap IMS 40mph quicker than Cup cars do). So smack him again.
Q: I watched and listened to you and your two road dogs at RACER.com discuss the Auto Club Speedway race and the 2013 season, and you waxed eloquent on both the race and the year. I agree ” to a point. Since the racing was very good at least, WHY, pray tell, has attendance fallen, (oval attendance is abysmal) and TV viewership continued its decline? Logic and business sense says the product being offered is not what the public wants! Obviously the drivers can’t carry the series; I know everyone loves Hinch, RHR, Sato, Dixie, Will, etc. but nobody but the most ardent fan even knows who they are. If there were differences in how the cars looked and sounded, would it make a difference?
Since the IRL has a contract with Chevy and Honda through I believe 2015 and Dallara through 2018, unless the IRL goes bankrupt we may never know. If you owned this mess…..what would you do??
RM: You are correct. The past two years has featured some of the best racing ever in Indy car racing but it hasn’t resonated with the general public. Would 240mph bring in more people? Some. What about different cars with louder engines? Maybe at IMS in May it would help attendance. But I don’t think either of those are game changers. I guess I would poll the major engine and chassis manufacturers to ask if they’d be interested in competing at Indianapolis if the rulebook was opened up. That might entice enough big dogs to make a difference and start covering television with commercials and promotions. It’s going to take something like that to ever make a difference. Oh, and I’d probably buy NBC and put all the races on network.
Q: What is your overall opinion of the 2013 season? If Robin Miller was in charge of creating the 2014 IndyCar schedule, what would it look like? What engine manufactures would you bring in over the next three years to have a massive rivalry for pole position at Indy, and cause a big heartache on Bump Day?