Robin Miller's Mailbag for October 30

Robin Miller's Mailbag for October 30

IndyCar

Robin Miller's Mailbag for October 30

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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: You know, we talk about how often the IndyCar championship comes down to the last race but, given that, it’s amazing how the trophy always seems to go to the most deserving driver. Nothing against Helio, but his one win shouldn’t beat Dixon’s four. It was thanks to IndyCar’s great point structure that Dixie was able to out-drive his bad luck. If you can win, you’re never out of the hunt. I started thinking (then confirmed via Google), since unification in 2008, every champion won at least one race on BOTH an oval and road course. That is somewhat surprising given the lack of road courses in ’08, and the lack of ovals now. It shows how complete a driver you need to be to win the title. Given the depth of the overall field at each race, I think there are only a handful of guys I trust at all types of tracks. After this win (and watching him finish third at Milwaukee), I think Will Power is finally in this group. I like exciting championship finishes, but the No. 1 goal should always be to crown the most deserving team/driver. I love that IndyCar gets that right but still manages to have it come down to the wire.
John Zeirke

RM: I feel the same way; it seems like the driver who wins the most races should be the champion. I always liked the old Formula 1 point system (10-6-4-3-2-1 and only paid six places) because it rewarded performance, but IndyCar’s point system does have enough merit that winning races does seem to make a difference.

Q: Do you think the newly crowned champion of IndyCar, Scott Dixon, regrets his behavior that led to his probation through the remainder of the season? Did it really require IndyCar placing him on probation to get him to represent himself and IndyCar with class? After witnessing his car hit a Penske crewman, then listening to his remorseless comments after the race when he presents himself as innocent (his car hit a crewman…HELLO!) and then following it up with his aggressive driving at Baltimore with a heavy dose of disparaging comments towards anybody and everybody, especially IndyCar officials.

I find him to be just the type of driver you find at Ganassi Racing which is not exactly the person IndyCar needs representing the brand at this time or any time. His behavior and comments were not becoming of a champion and representative of a sport that deserves and needs attention, especially now. It just seems like the days when Ganassi Racing featured gentlemen racers like Juan Montoya, Jimmy Vasser and Alex Zanardi are gone, only to be replaced by spoiled brats like Dario Franchitti and Dixon. Hopefully Dixie can spend the next year repairing his reputation.
Concerned in Austin

RM: My immediate response is that Dixon is a class act 95 percent of the time, on and off the track, and every racer in the heat of battle is entitled to express rage. He got spun out and then speared at Baltimore and I sure didn’t blame him for being pissed off. Did he go too far in blasting Beaux Barfield? I think it’s part of sport, an angry reaction to the media, and he was fined and apologized and Barfield moved on. Zanardi did his share of ranting at Wally Dallenbach when he was CART chief steward and JPM was no angel.

Q: The dust has settled, the reviews are posted, but I’m left with one question. How is it that such talented drivers ” Seabass and Tag come immediately to mind ” wrecked at the end? Is Fontana that capricious, are the cars that unstable, or are the drivers laying it all on the line, driving on a knife edge for 250 laps?
On another note, it was a sad day when SPEED TV disappeared into the ether. (RIP the original SPEED Channel!) Very glad to see you, Marshall and Adam Cooper at RACER.com
. It has more racing coverage than your previous gig and has everything! They even post when qualifying is for IndyCar, something hard to find on the IndyCar site. Any chance to get a guest interview with Randy Bernard? I’m impressed with the announcing crew on NBC Sports. Hobbs, Matchett and Varsha are still the All-Stars, but Townsend, Wally and Leigh are right up there (although I still miss Paul Page.)

A prediction: it will take 10 years to get IndyCar relevant again with the mainstream media and American public. Frankly, in 10 years we’ll be talking about the great racing occurring now just like we refer to the heyday of CART/Champ Car.

Curt Larson, Southfield, Mich.

RM: The downforce levels at Fontana made it tricky, according to the drivers, and when you’re pushing for the lead like Seabass or Tag, sometimes you cross the limit. RACER has some great plans for 2014 and beyond. I talk to Randy a couple times a week and he’s preparing for the world’s biggest rodeo in Dallas this March but still watches every IndyCar race because he’s a fan. The NBC booth had immediate chemistry and it shows. I hope your prediction is correct.

Q: Mark Miles caught my ear on the NBCSN schedule show when he said the last three races represent the diversity of what IndyCar is all about. That immediately reminded me of the famous study that recommended the last three races be a “mini chase,” a la NASCAR. Is that still in consideration in spite of ANOTHER championship fight to the end? What happened to the oval and road/street trophies? I saw they were, “quietly retired.” On the international series idea, is there any thought of an oval/road course double at Motegi? For my interest, a Brazil/Surfers Paradise/Motegi doubleheader would be a slam dunk. What say you?
Gordon in Dallas

RM: I think the trophies need to have large sponsors (money) behind them to really get attention because you’re the first fan to mention it. I think the idea of Asia and Australia together is in play ” providing IndyCar can get the needed sanction and travel fees. But I’d go to Australia and New Zealand before heading to Japan.

Q: Associated Press reports IndyCar TV ratings (ABC and NBCSN) are down 22% from 2012. I’ve worked in television for the past 38 years. TV is a democracy, and the viewers vote with their remote controls. In this case, nearly a quarter of IndyCar’s customers from just last year have taken their business elsewhere. If this happened to me, my bosses would be asking some very pointed and uncomfortable questions. Say what you will, but the current model clearly isn’t working. So what’s the problem?

I don’t purport to have all the answers, but it seems to me at least one factor is the series is grossly out of balance. The flagship Indy 500 is more important than all the other races combined! Even the drivers (Helio the latest) openly admit they wouldn’t trade one Indy 500 win for multiple IndyCar series titles. If the drivers don’t value it, why should the fans? Mark Miles and company have a massive task before them, and a big part of it will be making the entire series and season important and relevant. I am certainly no Bernie fan, but his business model is that F1 is a television product first and foremost. Maybe there’s a lesson there.
Mark in Centerville, Ohio

RM: First off, winning Indy has ALWAYS been more prestigious than the championship whether it’s AAA, USAC, CART, IRL or IndyCar. But one of Dan Gurney’s most relevant points (and he made a lot of them) in his White Paper from 1978 is that the USAC Championship Trail was Indianapolis and a bunch of satellite races nobody cared about. Other than Long Beach, there’s not a lot of prestige at other tracks right now and part of the problem is the ever-changing schedule, tiny purses, apathy with the cars and engines and no series title sponsor. The racing is great and that’s obviously not enough to get people’s attention so it’s very frustrating.

Q: Watching CART on YouTube. Bigger, faster, better, like the $6 Million Dollar Man. I’ll admit I haven’t been to an IndyCar race but why should I go? Spending $80 to watch Indy Lights? The drivers are talented but has it become just a job? Certainly for Montoya, NASCAR was just a job. Will he wake up in an open-wheel? I have my doubts. There have been some good races but only good compared to what we’ve been inflicted with. While I’m ranting, IndyCar’s best ratings came with Paul Page. Get a clue.
Gene King

RM: I’ll admit the cars and engines don’t take my breath away anymore but the racing has been so damn competitive it doesn’t bother me that much. But you speak for a lot of people who write in or stop me in the pits. Montoya will be very interesting to watch in 2014. No offense to Paul, but I think Nigel Mansell, Emmo, Mario, P.T., Rahal, Mikey and Little Al had a lot to do with CART’s ratings in the ’90s.

Q: Why is there so much complaining from the drivers about standing starts, and why is it so hard to pull them off successfully? Every pit stop requires they take off from standing still; how is the start different?
LT in California

RM: I think the drivers’ concern was the dependability, or lack thereof, in launching and, obviously, some of their concerns were well founded. Champ Car used standing starts to perfection in 2007 but all the cars had the same engine and software.

Q: Marshall Pruett brought up some great points about IndyCar safety concerns in his recent article. It made me think about how much safer the DW12 could be. I know Derrick Walker also said earlier in the season that lift was an issue he was also going to address in the future to keep cars from going airborne. And there were several hand/wrist injuries from steering wheel whiplash this season. Will there be any significant safety updates on the way for 2014?
Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY

RM: There’s a change coming to try and alleviate the hand/wrist injuries but that’s all I’ve heard about so far. I guess my thinking is that the Dallara is more stout and safer than its predecessor but it can still be improved and likely will be ASAP.

Q: You seem to have a lot of rough dollar amounts rolling around in your head. Do you have any idea how much money it takes for a manufacturer to develop an engine for IndyCar? The reason I ask is that I noticed Magneti Marelli’s logo on several IndyCars. On their website, they have pictures bragging on their sponsorship of Simon Pagenaud’s car. They were a major sponsor of NHRA in 2013 for Matt Hagan and Allen Johnson.

Bear with me as I go a little ?Walter Mitty? here. Magneti Marelli is a division of Fiat. Fiat owns Chrysler and Dodge. Dodge pulled out of NASCAR not long after Fiat took over Dodge. SRT, the performance division of Dodge was a major sponsor of the Baltimore race this year. Fiat also owns Ferrari, and we all know how involved they are with Formula 1. How hard or likely would it be that Fiat could pull something out of its Prancing Pony skunk works, rebadge it as Dodge (no worse than Ilmor engines being badged as Chevy’s now) and become an IndyCar engine supplier?
John H, Arkansas

RM: I like your imagination and I know Randy Bernard met with Audi and Dodge but nothing materialized. But a start-up Indy engine program would be in the $30m neighborhood.

Q: It always amazes me when I hear people say that Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy didn’t achieve anything worthy of praise when they were dominating Champ Car. It’s always interesting to hear people say they won because the competition wasn’t good enough. Yet those same people will say that Junqueira, Wilson, Servia et al are great drivers who deserve a better ride. Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t those the guys that Bourdais and Tracy were dominating?
Doug Mayer

RM: The racing was good at the front, although Newman/Haas and Forsythe were clearly the class of the field, but it just wasn’t very deep past those 5-6 drivers you mentioned ” plus AJ Allmendinger and a rookie named Will Power. Certainly not like today or CART in the ’90s.

Q: Am I the only guy who thinks this is odd? Chip Ganassi, who assumedly knows Montoya best, was willing to release him from his entire organization. Whereas Penske wanted him so bad, he was willing to sign him before he even had sponsors lined up. Both Roger and Chip, one would think, know this game pretty well. Did Chip and JPM have a personal falling out?

It would seem that if Chip had a seat, and JPM is such a hot property, Montoya would have gotten the ride, not TK. Now, my favorite driver is TK so I am very happy to see him get the ride with Ganassi. But in a more logical world, one would think that the current reigning Indy 500 winner would have been more attractive to RP than a guy who has not been in an Indy car in a decade, and is not exactly setting NASCAR on fire. I am wondering if is simply that JPM wants way more money than TK does, and RP is the only guy willing to pay it? Or does RP have inroads into Colombian sponsorship, but not so much into Brazilian sponsorship (particularly since he already has one Brazilian driver)? Finally, do you think that Montoya will mesh well with WP and HCN? I can’t see how Will and Helio could be thrilled about this development.
Dean, Maine

RM: It’s puzzling on many fronts but you wonder if Ganassi even bothered to offer JPM a ride in IndyCar. I think The Captain must have a South American sponsor in the wings but maybe he did it to punk Chip. My question is why wouldn’t either team owner want Justin Wilson with two-thirds of the schedule road and street races?

As for getting along, Penske likes to breed harmony but Tracy and Little Al were an exception. And JPM was in F1 so his mind games are ready to come out of mothballs. Hope you caught our comprehensive review of Tony Kanaan’s season.

Q: I was just wondering if there’s something more to the story with E.J. Viso at the IndyCar finale. It seemed odd to me that he was suddenly “ill”, and it was mentioned only very briefly. The conspiracy theorist in me would think that EJ was kicked out by Michael Andretti to give his golden boy Munoz the drive. As there has been no mention of EJ at AA for next year, this would make some sense. What’s the real story?
Brad C., Lindenhurst, Ill.

RM: The word at Fontana was that Viso didn’t want to run Fontana following a bad test and that makes more sense than the other rumor (his check didn’t clear because of the government investigation into various sports stars). The plan all along for Andretti Autosport has been to bring in Munoz and most seem to think E.J. is headed for sports cars.

Q: Watched Fontana, Great win for Power, and congrats to Dixon, I’ve got my interest back in IndyCar for sure! Question?Testing is pretty much banned due to costs, but the same teams keep dominating. Is a testing ban really worth the risk for the rookie drivers? The way I see it, back in the good times of CART, there were big- and low-budget teams So what’s the point of it? Big teams just find another way to spend money. By the way, I say lower downforce and 1000hp engines!
Frank, Toronto

RM: Not being able to test like the old days certainly hurts rookies but it has helped even the playing field. There were 10 different winners in 19 races in 2013 ” including little guys like Coyne, Foyt and Schmidt. Sure, the title came down to Ganassi vs. Penske but they hardly dominated. And after talking to Will Power the other day, it sounds like horsepower could approach 800 very soon so that’s encouraging.

Q: Do you think Fontana’s seams need fixing? It seems weird to me that they even exist in the form they do. Changing grip levels on a high-speed oval with open-wheel cars? Right up there with speed bumps on a racetrack (Houston). When so many great drivers crash, get injured, and have championships decided by the track surface, and when the finishing field looks like the car count at the start of the Lights race, something needs to be addressed. Maybe if they heated those seams and rubbed some of that dust and crap into them, there’d be some grip. And did you see that big pile of oil dry they forgot to blow off? Though off-roading in parking lots help cost Helio the championship, the points battle was good for the show.
Brian Best, Orlando, Fla.

RM: I guess I’m too old school but adapting to track conditions, be it Terre Haute, Long Beach, Langhorne, Eldora, IMS or Fontana, would seem to be part of the talent required. I don’t know if those seams at Fontana are hazardous or fixable but they didn’t bite everyone.

Q: Flipped on the NASCAR race from Martinsville and was shocked at the lack of fans. The entire back stretch stand was covered and the rest of the crowd was sparse. Thought that used to be one of the toughest tickets to get. Would guess less than half of available seats were used. Maybe IndyCar’s attendance isn’t as bad as we think. What say you?
John T. Feeser

RM: I say that oval attendance is down across the board but it’s all relative. Sure, Charlotte was half empty and so was Bristol, but that’s still 65,000 and 80,000, respectively. Both are damn good crowds in today’s sporting worlds. Fontana was up for IndyCar’s finale and Pocono was encouraging, but 30,000 is considered a good oval crowd for IndyCar nowadays.

Q: I noticed the comment about New Hampshire not drawing when IndyCar was there a couple years ago. I was at the race and the weather was lousy that day. That aside though, NHMS seats 90,000. It was easily about 25,000 in the stands that day between the front stretch and Turns 1 and 2. Fontana just played to 30,000 and that’s considered rather successful. The racing was great at both tracks. So why is New Hampshire a non-starter and Fontana is a go? I don’t get it.

I realize Jerry Gappens says they need a title sponsor at New Hampshire or the numbers don’t work for them, but at least let’s be honest and call it that. I don’t think 25-30k people for a big time motor race is really that bad a crowd anywhere right now. Racing just isn’t drawing fans like it did in the NASCAR boom days. Also, too often, like New Hampshire, it’s one attempt and done. That doesn’t work either. You need to come back every year. I know exactly when the Outlaws will be in Central Pennsylvania every year. Fortunately, Pocono seems to understand that by keeping their date for 2014. IndyCar needs more date equity and long term planning.
Dave Long

RM: Yup, I thought the biggest mistake at Loudon was not giving it three or four years (like Fontana or Milwaukee or Pocono). When you’ve been away for 20-some years and then just show up, you can’t expect miracles and I think with the right date Loudon could have drawn as well as any oval on IndyCar’s schedule in time. But I don’t think they had 15,000 in 2011.

Q: What will it take, or how can IndyCar get its car count up to 28-30 cars? It seems for the last several years the count has stagnated at 24-26 regulars. More cars are needed at each race, especially the big tracks like Pocono and Fontana. Second, why doesn’t IndyCar follow the tradition of USAC and CART regarding car numbers? Back in the day, the top 10 drivers in the previous year’s standings carried numbers 1-10, at the very least the champion carried number ?1?, and was proud to do so. I don’t agree with this nonsense that fans and sponsors identify with the car numbers. The only occasion where this was even remotely true, was with Foyt and number 14. But even he did not use ?14? consistently until 1973, when he was already a legend and household name.
Peter in Dumfries, Va.

RM: Considering the TV ratings and sponsorship challenges, I’m thrilled there have been 24-26 regulars the past two years. The only time more cars are necessary would be Pocono and Fontana. But the only way to raise the car count would be lower costs and raise purses. I guess IndyCar sees the success NASCAR has with keeping the same number and I know Target likes Dixon 9 and Franchitti 10.

Q: I haven’t heard much lately on aero kits. Any idea what’s going on there? How about a third, competitive, engine supplier? I also heard rumors about some European formula teams that were interested in the series. Any news on that front?
Mike White, Evergreen Park, Ill.

RM: Aero kits are on schedule for 2015 with Honda and Chevrolet the only two participants so far. No new engine rumors and a couple of GP2 teams inquired about IndyCar but that was a long time ago and that’s all gone quiet.

Q: Robin, in the battle between Bronte Tagliani vs. Kirsten Dee, who is the winner and why?
David, Waxhaw, N..C

RM: Good Lord, David, that’s tougher than A.J. vs.Mario. It’s a dead heat. Two dazzlers from Australia who are as pretty on the inside as they are when we’re staring at them. Bronte keeps getting better looking and Kirsten has the prettiest eyes in the paddock. Tag and Hinch are the luckiest men in North America but hopelessly out of their league. Bastards.

Q: How are the networks chosen for broadcasting IndyCar races? I know ABC gets the Indy 500 but what about the rest? Does ABC get to choose first or do they alternate picking with NBC? Any idea on criteria…is it strictly fitting races into time slots or are certain races desired because of location in large markets?
Jim Overmeyer, Islip N.Y.

RM: I’m not privy to numbers but ABC has owned the Indy 500 since the 1980s and it pays a fee (although nothing like the old days) to air Indianapolis and five other races. NBC Sports Network signed a 10-year deal (when it was VERSUS) to show IndyCar for supposedly $5 million a season. Both networks try to work in harmony with the series and promoters but not sure market size is a determining factor.

Q: With IndyCar running more road/street courses and even adopting standing starts (both hallmarks of Champ Car), should the series consider making non-oval races timed events? I know that as it stands, there is already a two-hour window in place for these races to run. However, instead of trying to fit a distance race into a time window, why not simply make the race timed from the get go? That would certainly make the TV partners happy, as there would be little chance of the event running long (save for a red flag), and the fans would not be subjected to races that drag on (plus, they’d always know exactly how long an event is going to run; trying to gauge how long a race is going to last based on distance is maddeningly difficult for most fans).
Garrick, Mississippi

RM: Actually it’s more like three hours on NBC Sports Network so it might make more sense on ABC on a packed weekend.

Q: Do you see any teams coming to IndyCar as a result of the rules changes for Daytona Prototypes in the TUDOR USCC? I’m specifically thinking of the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings team. I would think that IndyCar, with its rules package, would be enticing if they could make the numbers work. Thoughts?
Rob Roten

RM: I think we were hoping that Greg Pickett or Wayne Taylor would jump to IndyCar but it’s not happening. I had lunch with Alex Gurney a couple weeks ago and it didn’t sound promising for GAINSCO to even be in sports cars, but just this week Stallings confirmed to Marshall that a solution had been found and they were sticking with the TUSCC.

Q: Go Daddy pulls sponsorship from an IndyCar front-runner because of lack of viewership. The rumor mill says that they may even pull some of the Danica NASCAR sponsorship because they are looking to market globally, although they also said that Danica is going to be with them for a long time. First question: How long before GoDaddy sends Danica to F1? Secondly, if IndyCar goes global during the winter of 2015, does GoDaddy come back to IndyCar? Does Go Daddy send Danica back to IndyCar? My apologies, in advance, for saying the D word too many times.
Austin, Columbus, Ohio

RM: First off, I think if Brazil stayed on the schedule, Go Daddy might have stuck around to at least be an associate sponsor for Hinch. It’s true, they want to conquer Europe and Formula 1 would be a natural. Would Bernie welcome Danica with open arms? That would be the key.

Q: Could IndyCar have bets like horse racing? I think they could increase ticket costs by $5 and use that as a bet, where you pick a winner and if he wins, that money will be split by everyone who’d picked him/her. That would increase attendance numbers for sure. Since you can buy a ticket, bet on a wild-card and go home with more money than you came.

Giu Canbera, Sao Paulo, Brazil

RM: There is no doubt that parimutuel wagering at the track would help attendance and Randy Bernard looked into it back in 2011 but didn’t get much support. He was told the threat of fixing a race would likely prevent it ever happening. But he kept telling those people he was in IndyCar ” not NASCAR.

Q: I was wondering what your take on Formula E is. When I first heard of it, I thought it was interesting but maybe a flash in the pan like some other series. It seems like a lot of big players are getting involved and a lot of press lately. (Yes, I see it is RACER‘s new cover story). Incidentally, how about Baltimore to host a Formula E race? There is an existing infrastructure (if you fix the chicane), Andretti is familiar with the city, the FE would address the eco-naysayers’ concerns, the schedule could be wide open, and maybe it would fit into the city’s plans as a next step to get more “international” coverage and keep the dreams of motorsports in the city alive.
Kyu-Tae Lee

RM: Originally I figured it would either be one of those series that lasts six months or it would never get started at all, but it sounds like it’s got some potential because of the manufacturers and groups who want to get involved. But I can’t see Baltimore hosting another race, too controversial and expensive.

Q: Since I watched CART from the beginning, I am constantly forced to compare the current series to CART in the ’90s. Obviously there are major differences in the two series that have been discussed and dissected over the past three years. But maybe the comparison isn’t fair if we realize we are not really watching the IndyCar series, but Indy Lights.

What we all know about CART is that the cars were beasts. By the late ’90s they had 900hp and a screaming engine sound that all race fans recognized. We also had four engine manufacturers, four chassis manufacturers, and two tire manufacturers going head to head each week. When I read the announcement of what the 2012 car was going to be, I couldn’t believe it. A spec Dallara with a turbo V6 engine. That is not IndyCar. That is Indy Lights.

Though I have enjoyed the racing this year and the new Dallara races well, it is and will continue to be a step down from the great Indy cars of the past. The speed is gone (except on ovals) and the innovation is gone, with the need for mechanics being replaced by a software engineer. I supposed I will continue to watch the series next year, hoping they can get beyond their track problems, funding and sponsor issues, and inconsistent officiating. But If I want to watch a true IndyCar series I will go to YouTube and type in, ?CART Road America 1993.?
Rick Schneider, Charlotte

RM: I had dinner with Will Power the other night and he was saying the engines are starting to get some muscle and may be near 800hp next year on road courses. He said for the first time it felt a little like a Champ Car, so that’s encouraging. But I’m not sure people are suddenly going to flock to the track or turn on television just because there are some different cars and engines. It might help Indy for practice and qualifying but not sure we can go back in this economy. Maybe blow up the rules and open things up to anything with four wheels and an engine.

Q: In the olden days we all went to sprint car races and watched A.J., Mario, Unser, Parnelli, et al. We would follow their careers coming up through the ranks racing on DIRT! Then they’d get the call to race at Indy and all the huge number of fans who followed these guys for years, would show up for ?The Month of May.? Nowadays, the dirt drivers all head to the South because there’s no money, no TV viewers and no attendance at the gate. Today, most (?) IndyCar drivers haven’t seen dirt tracks. How are those dirt car fans going to have any interest in people they’ve never heard of or seen race? They won’t and don’t.

How I’d grow IndyCar if I was in charge? I would make it mandatory for all IndyCar competitors to run sprint cars (5 or 6 races) on dirt tracks, to be eligible for the Championship. Because money is tight, they can form alliances with established sprint car teams and lease (no capital outlay, expanded shops, cars, haulers, parts and crew), the cars and crews for those mandatory races. Now, you will get these drivers in front of new fans and they (hopefully) will attend/watch on TV the road courses and oval races on pavement like the old days. This will also add to ?The most diversified drivers in the world? tagline. With such a thin schedule, it seems doable for the dates. Now, aren’t you glad I’m not running IndyCar?
Donald McElvain, Polson, Montana

RM: USAC cut the arms and legs off every midget and sprint driver in 1970 when it took the dirt races out of the national championship. End of story and it’s never coming back as much as many of us would love to see dirt races return. But at the risk of sounding blasphemous, IndyCar is still the most diverse series in the world because it has four disciplines.

Q: On Sept. 25, Michael from Nashville wrote to you concerning the 1989 Indianapolis 500 and the scoring had both Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser, Jr. wrecked. I got to thinking about that race and after watching the last 20 laps again, I came to a conclusion. Had both Fittipaldi and Al wrecked, Boesel would have eventually taken over the lead (once he made up the laps that he was behind of course). However, Boesel’s engine was starting to blow (ABC mentioned this), so there’s a very good chance he wouldn’t have finished the race. The race would have been decided between the fourth- and fifth-place cars ” Mario Andretti & A.J. Foyt (both were on the same lap). If this situation would have come up, who do you think would have won, giving consideration to where both were in terms of their respective careers?

P.S.: Is it true that there’s a chance Sato and Foyt may split, and if so, where does Sato go and who goes to Foyt? I would assume A.J. and Larry weren’t too happy with how the second half of the season went.
Scott Richards, Hughesville, Pa.

RM: My take is that Scott Brayton would have won because A.J. would have stuffed Mario into the wall as he tried to pass on the last lap. I think Honda wants Sato to stay with A.J.

Q: Now that the IndyCar season is over and before silly season starts dominating bench racing sessions, a quick question. Despite doing or seeing just about everything in racing, I’ve never been to the Indianapolis 500. Since I’m three years older even than you Robin, I’d better do this pretty soon! Where do I want to sit? I can handle the logistics, but where is the best place to place myself? As to silly season – please, please, please, can Justin and Simona get the kick-ass rides they deserve and can Newgarden get a seasoned teammate? Those things would fulfill my Christmas list.
Bob, Tucson, Ariz.

RM: You want to sit in one of the Vistas in the corners so you can see the action. Vista Deck is the primo ticket but I think they raised the price. But also get a bronze badge so you can hang in Gasoline Alley and take a ride on the IMS tour bus after you visit the museum. Go to the Little 500 or Night Before 500 midget race at IRP and get a breaded tenderloin at the Mug N Bun on West 10th Street?and charge it to Ganassi.

Q: After traveling around the country this year, I have to reluctantly agree with you that open-wheel racing is dying right in front of our eyes. Many track promoters whose bread and butter were the sprints and midgets are turning to demolition derbies to stay alive. However, earlier this month I had the opportunity to see some racing at the great Williams Grove Speedway. It was my first visit to that racetrack. The history, enthusiasm, great racing were all there. It was so good to see Pennsylvania’s favorite son, Fred Rahmer work that track. I know I cried in my beer about all the defunct midget and sprint tracks, but I felt like a discovered gold that night at Williams Grove. What are your thoughts about that racetrack? Any Fred Rahmer stories.
Gerry Courtney, San Francisco

RM: No Fast Freddie stories but I was lucky enough to race a midget at Williams Grove and Penn National and they were both great, tacky tracks with super fans.

Q: How good do you think Little Al could have been if he had been able to stay focused on racing? Also I have been a Tony Stewart fan for many years and have always wanted him to take another shot at Indy and then maybe further down the road go to Le Mans. Is there any chance of either happening and do you think Roger Penske might end up with a Porsche P1 at Le Mans in 2015?

Robert Stephens

RM: Well he’ll go down as one of the best of his era anyway, but I suppose he could have easily been a three- or four-time Indy winner. Doubt if we’ll see Stew run the Indy 500 again and who knows about The Captain? He’s full of surprises.

Q: Sad to hear Ben Spies is retiring. If I had the money, I’d see if he’d be interested in IndyCar. Spies is 29. Joe Leonard was 29 when he switched to four wheels and he won two championships. Eddie Lawson was 35 and he did well in Indy Lights and CART before Galles pulled him prematurely in my opinion. Hindsight being 20-20, Lawson should have stayed with Tasman. What say you?
Ray Hando

RM: I saw Lawson got a raw deal and was a helluva racer who I wish would have stayed with Steve Horne. And Pelican Joe is still one of my heroes.

Q: Do you think Andretti Autosport’s switch to Honda hurts Kurt Busch’s chances of running Indy next year, given that Busch has ties to Chevy at Stewart-Haas racing.
Ben in California

RM: I think Kurt has refocused on NASCAR, but AA’s switch probably didn’t help.

Q: Looking at racing in general in the U.S., and attendance and fan support falling in the “big” racing series here, I have to wonder if part of this all comes back to something I read a while ago regarding young people and car ownership in this country; how the “rite of passage” of owning a car now is for the most part, no longer an ideal. In days past, young people would buy a car, often a “clunker” to bring home to repair and make their own. Cars were cheaper then and didn’t have the technology we have today. When they built those cars, they saw they worked, they saw suspension, body, engine, transmission, and they learned how it worked. If they got good enough, they started building late models for racing at the local speedway. Maybe it was midgets, maybe it was an open wheeler formula car like Formula Ford or Vee. Maybe you got money/plans enough to try and run Daytona or Indy with a bunch of people?.

Now young people have stopped being interested in building cars and technology makes a “home project” a long gone idea, how much racing audience has the sport lost? There’s a reason why sprints/midgets/even lower level drag racing is still popular: it’s still inexpensive by comparison. Maybe this is a partial (and I stress partial) reason for the apparent dwindling interest? Would be interested to hear your thoughts.
Sonja R

RM: That’s the popular theory that kids don’t care about fast cars and engines anymore and it’s likely true since iPads and smart phones rule the day. I was at Dan Gurney’s shop recently with Parnelli Jones and we were looking at the pictures of kids from a bygone era street racing, throwing together jalopies, tinkering with cars and I’m not sure that happens anymore. Instead, they play racing games on computers, where the crashes don’t hurt and don’t cost a dime.

MX-5 Cup | Watkins Glen – Round 8

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