Robin Miller's Mailbag for November 13

Robin Miller's Mailbag for November 13

IndyCar

Robin Miller's Mailbag for November 13

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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: Do do you think the claim that the ball is in IndyCar’s court for a return to Phoenix is legitimate? And spend a million bucks to market it? Both sides have to give a little to make it work, and both have been guilty of lack of marketing open wheel in this market in the past. After ISC bought the track it seemed like they were on a mission to drive out all open-wheel, and the recent 50th anniversary promotion gave scant mention of the track’s true heritage. We were among the diehards that never missed a race during the CART years, but stayed away during The Split. I’m ready to get back to real racing. Tin-tops on that track are like watching paint dry, and the claim of a new track record of 139mph was ludicrous. Thanks for listening to me vent, hope to see you at the track (like Indy or Fontana since no PIR) some day.

KJ, Phoenix

RM: When Tony George was still in charge, I believe the IRL was offered a Thursday night date on a NASCAR weekend and then there were no conversations until Randy Bernard met with Bryan Sperber. I think Bernard wanted a race for the 50th anniversary and I’m not sure if Mark Miles has made any inroads since but I don’t think ISC cares one way or the other. Getting a workable date seems to be the challenge since NASCAR has races in the spring and fall and it’s too hot in between.

?Q: I am too young to know what went on between you and ABC/ESPN back in the day. My dad thought it could have been when the suits at Disney decided to close the ABC Sports Division and transfer all the sports properties to ESPN that caused reporters such as yourself, Al Michaels, and many others to leave ABC and that this was the start of the rift. So what happened?

I would also like to see the entire series reunite under one network umbrella. Unfortunately, I don’t see ESPN giving up the ultimate prize that is the Indy 500. Your thoughts? Another thing. I know you cover IndyCar for NBCSN but I want to ask one question of you regarding NASCAR: In 2015, NBC gets the NASCAR property. Do you think all of current ESPN NASCAR announcers, reporters, and analysts will go over to NBCSN?

John M, San Diego CA

RM: Nothing really happened. I started giving ABC grief over its coverage 20 years ago but always supported Jim McKay, Jackie Stewart and Uncle Bobby. I worked for ESPN on RPM2Nite from 1999-2003 until ESPN lost NASCAR and shut down the show. As I stated, I want ABC to be successful with IndyCar but my idea of talent/entertainment and theirs is quite different. ABC isn’t interested in televising every race ” at least, it hasn’t been up to now ” but network television is obviously preferable since it gives so much more exposure. I imagine some of the ABC/ESPN people could end up at NBCSN but it’s too early to say which ones.  

Q: I read your open letter to ABC and couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of getting the right team in place. I have always felt that the television announcers are the single most underrated component of a successful racing series product. I don’t understand, though, why Paul Page did not make your list. Do you feel he’s too old? In my opinion, Page doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his role in helping to grow the sport. He could make the most boring race sound like the race of the century with his play-by-play radio-style; how could you walk away from your TV when someone with that much passion is calling nearly every pass? Whoever sits in that seat needs to have that same up-tempo passion that Page has, otherwise we might as well be watching golf.?

Jeff Anderson

RM: I guess knowing that his role with ABC has been greatly reduced the past few years it didn’t seem like he would be considered. But, as I said in that story, he did bring a commanding presence to the telecast.   

Q: Can you expand on the hiring of Jay Frye and C.J. O’Donnell by IndyCar? What is your opinion about this move, and will we see a new path forward from IndyCar?

Also, since Mark Webber is eyeing Le Mans victory next year, could we see either Penske or Ganassi offering him a ride for the Indy 500??

Sean Jurjevic

RM: I don’t know much about either of the new hires, other than Jay has worked in NASCAR for a number of years and seems to be respected. I don’t think it matters who tries to market IndyCar right now, it’s a tough sell despite featuring so much great competition. Can’t imagine Mark Webber wanting to run Indy, unless it was for millions?and on the road course.

Q: NASCAR has two all-star races a year; one to begin the year and one before the Charlotte 600. So why can’t IndyCar have an all-star race to kick off the racing season? I have an idea that is a little unconventional and just might work. The Super Bowl is held very early in February, so I have an idea to incorporate the IndyCar drivers along with current and former NFL players.

Let’s say the Super Bowl is held inside Lucas Oil Stadium; well, IndyCar can configure an amazing go-kart track inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Granted, the Pacers would have to go on an extended road trip, but they would have to with the Super Bowl in town anyway. Then pair each IndyCar driver with a current or former NFL great. Oh, and make the tickets very reasonably priced, I bet it sells out.

Make this a two-hour live event on ABC or NBC prime time on the Thursday night before the big game. Have heat races, then those lead into semi-final races, then that leads into a main event where the top 14 or so advance. The IndyCar drivers and the NFL players would race in separate races and the IndyCar drivers would act as tutors to the NFL players. Like I said, this is unconventional, might be crazy enough to work and it would be really fun to see an 300lb. player in a go kart. Just thinking outside the box to get IndyCar into more homes.

Denny Z., Seattle

RM: I like the idea of pairing with NFL players since football is the king of all sports television and it would get IndyCar drivers national exposure during Super Bowl week. If you could take it another step and get Tom Brady or Peyton Manning taking a ride in the two-seater at IMS and splice in some footage of the IndyCar season with driver interviews, it might make a decent 60-minute promo for IndyCar.   

Q: When is Josef Newgarden going to be picked up by a major team? The guy would be great as the new face of IndyCar as the camera loves him!

Brent Arlington, Va

RM: He supposedly had a meeting with Roger Penske a couple years ago but nothing materialized. You are right, the kid is great with fans and media alike and I’d love to see him in a red car with a veteran teammate. He SHOULD be the future of IndyCar.

Q: Sergio Perez is out at McLaren and I was wondering if the folks in charge in IndyCar realize how much this guy could move the needle in the area of bringing in more fans? Mexican fans are extremely loyal to their sports stars and I’m thinking this guy could have a huge impact at racetracks in the South and Southwest. Hell, Perez alone could make it worth PIR giving IndyCar a date for 2015!

What are your thoughts on this? Open the season at PIR then Mexico City in January the week before the Super Bowl? Houston, TMS, COTA would benefit greatly by having a solid Mexican in the field. Hopefully the new regime has this guy on their radar.

Joe the Teacher

RM: Good suggestion and observation. Adrian Fernandez used to draw lots of fans to Houston, Phoenix and Fontana and Mexico City was packed for him, Michel Jourdain and Mario Dominguez back in 2002. Perez would be a major draw as well, I imagine, and Mexico City is a great road course after Gerry Forsythe made all the upgrades. An IndyCar owner might be wise to call Carlos Slim and ask about sponsoring Mr. Perez. 

Q: With Dragon Racing going to Formula E, will they field a one-car team or just Indy? That would leave Sebastian Saavedra out while Bourdais goes to KVSH. Any word on HVM or Conquest. What is the status of the National Guard sponsor? Are they going to RLL or is Panther making a strong push to have them back? Andretti Autosport, will they be a four-car team and finally, will E.J. Viso go to United SportsCar with maybe an affiliation with Andretti Autosport?

John B. from Chardon, Ohio

RM: The word is that Jay Penske wants to run both IMS races next May, but I’m sure Saavedra wants something full time. Keith Wiggins was at the last couple IndyCar races and still wants to come back if he can secure the proper funding. No more word on the Guard drama. Carlos Munoz will replace Viso in the Andretti lineup. Haven’t heard about E.J.’s sports car preference.

Q: Just read Marshall Pruett’s excellent article on the state of North American road racing in the fall issue of RACER magazine. His comments on the aging of the race fan demographic and racing’s inability to attract the younger generation are spot on. It is obvious that something must change to keep racing interesting and relevant to the 20-somethings and younger but, as an older traditionalist like yourself, I don’t have a clue what it is and probably wouldn’t like it anyway. What would you suggest? Is Mark Miles or anyone at IndyCar considering making drastic, non-traditional changes to attract a new younger fan base?

Larry Moore

RM: Yup, it was a good story and speaks to the problems IndyCar is facing in attracting young fans. It remains the supreme challenge and I have no idea how to get a Lady Gaga fan to cheer for Marco Andretti. And, yes, Miles is trying to change the culture of the month of May but it’s not aimed at any age group.

Q: Does anyone honestly believe this “International series” will happen? I sure as heck don’t. It’s painfully obvious that Mark Miles is trying to force a tennis model on a racing series. This is a completely different ballgame. I’ll tell you what’s going to happen for 2015. Nothing. Not one single new thing than what is there for 2014. No new races, no new marketing ideas, and yet another year of mediocrity and empty promises that “next year will be better.”

And now we have the prospect of NOTHING IndyCar-related from September until the last weekend of March the next year! I was skeptical of Miles when he came on as CEO and I’m really not a fan of him these days. He seems to be only concerned with following a consulting report instead of following the voices of the fans (what little there are left) on what to do with the series. By following the Boston Consulting Group almost to the letter, he is sending a clear message that he has no plan, no vision for the future, and no idea how to run a racing series. And, mark my words, the next “original” idea that he will implement is a NASCAR-style Chase. If that happens, I am done. I’ve been an avid fan of IndyCars for over 20 years, and I am mortified at the way this series is being run into the ground.

Kevin Kerner

RM: Going out of the country to get a big payday worked for CART (most of the time) and a place like Surfers Paradise would pony up $5 million-plus pay team expenses and travel. But I imagine it’s going to be tough to get that kind of money nowadays unless a China event steps up. Miles is just trying to make things financially better for his teams and the series with foreign races, altering May and shortening the season. I don’t like a road race at IMS or stopping on Labor Day, but what we’ve got right now isn’t drawing enough interest or eyeballs so he’s trying something different. He may fail but he’s not stupid and, like Randy Bernard said, keeping status quo isn’t working.

Q: Longtime IndyCar fan but getting into F1 lately, mostly because of the race in Austin. After watching the last few F1 races on NBCSN, I wish IndyCar could race on some of those tracks. Any chance of that in the future? Also how does F1 do those 3-second pit stops? Lastly, just from looking at the F1 cars, there is no way they can be as safe as Indy cars. Please share your knowledge.

David, Texas

RM: I think there’s a good shot IndyCar runs in Austin in 2015 and I suppose Montreal could be back in play some day. No refueling and three crew members on each tire explains F1’s fast pit stops. They’re probably not as sturdy, but then they don’t have to be because they don’t race on ovals.

Q: What another great year of racing for IndyCar in 2013. The competitiveness and excitement these past couple of years rivals just about any racing series that I have seen in my 50 years of going to and watching races. Too bad that it’s a bit of a secret for the other sports fans, but for now I relish not having huge lineups for concession, beer, tickets, beer, washrooms, beer, driver autographs, beer, midway events, oh and did I mention the beer tent?

As for the controversies surrounding the series right now, nothing wrong with ending the series in September, as long as it starts early, say the end of January, maybe at Daytona and/or Sebring? Having a 3- or 4-race series in Asia/Europe during the off-season would also be a great idea, as it would allow the teams to recoup some of the expenses of buying the cars and equipment, and hiring the staff needed to run the teams. The increased international exposure could result in newer teams, sponsors and drivers as well.

Paul Sturmey, Ottawa

RM: I believe that’s Miles’ intention: start as early as possible and then have those non-point money races overseas. But it’s contingent on getting enough sanction money to make it worthwhile for the teams.

Q: We all know that low ratings/attendance drive smaller sponsorships, and smaller sponsorships drive lower activation which contributes to lower ratings. The proverbial death spiral. It seems to me that IndyCar needs to target the mega-rich sportsman who extracts value from their investment in the competition and thrill of victory vs. the bottom-line financial results. Examples are Larry Ellison and the Americas Cup, Vijay Mallya in F1, any number of Arab sheikhs. Question, are you aware of any targeted strategies IndyCar uses to introduce the sport to this elite class of sportsman? It seems to me IndyCar targets millionaire celebrities and business people, not billionaire sportsmen.

Chris Cortez

RM: Not sure there’s any plan in place but maybe the recent hires to market and promote IndyCar have contacts in this world. I said a long time ago I’d get the Forbes Top 50 and cold call each one and invite them to the Indy 500 and hope a couple of them would accept and get hooked.

Q: I recently saw a list of the top winning drivers in IndyCar history. All the names on the list are familiar to fans like, Foyt, the Andrettis, the Unsers, Dixon, Franchitti, Rutherford, etc. I was wondering if you know some drivers who might have made the Top 20 list, but their careers were cut short through death, injury or just never got the chance to drive with the elite teams.

Gerry Courtney, San Francisco, Calif.

RM: Greg Moore already had five wins and had just signed with Roger Penske when he lost his life in 1999, so he would have definitely been right up there with Dario and Dixie. And Bobby Marshman only visited victory lane once before being killed in 1964. They were both destined for greatness. And guys like Mike Nazaruk and Jim Packard looked like future badasses before being cut down.

Q: My wife and I have visited the grounds of IMS at least every other month since we fell in love with the ?500? in 2010. We can’t help but think the museum is a huge missed opportunity. I love visiting and looking at the cars from all of the eras, but can’t get past the hodge podge of stuff in the wall displays with construction paper labels. There are so many other stories about the hallowed grounds of IMS that could be presented. Do you know if there are plans to update/redesign the museum with the capital improvements from the state???

Christopher and Kelsey Logan?, Muncie, Ind.

RM: Not sure but it certainly needs an upgrade and expansion. You should see some of the treasure in the basement that the fans haven’t been able to see. I like the old Gasoline Alley exhibit but think how cool it would be to have 10 great cars per decade in the same area with newspaper reports and pictures?

Q: Now you’ve got all of us bored fans weighing in on IndyCar announcers [Robin Miller on IndyCar broadcasting]: The best one I ever heard was Ed ?Twenty Grand? Steinbock calling the events at the Milwaukee Mile. He never stopped! His commentary flowed endlessly over the roar of the Offys. I think he did the Indy 500 in 1946 and 1947 until he got crosswise with Hulman and Shaw. Did you ever hear him? Next time you see A.J. ask him about ?Twenty Grand.? If we had a guy like Steinbock in the booth, the ratings would go through the roof.

Jim Scott, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

RM: I’ve heard great stories about Twenty Grand and guys like him, Chris Economaki and Tom Carnegie really helped engage the fans and get them excited with their announcing.

Q: At least three times this last racing year I have DVR’ed IndyCar races only to have them truncated by the DVR. I know that this is not specifically an IndyCar problem, but it is quite frustrating! Is there any way the TV stations can more accurately allot time for the races so this doesn’t happen in the future? Missing the last 30 laps at Fontana truly ruined the end of the season for me!

Rob Borchert

RM: I know NBCSN tries to give IndyCar three hours for most races so we can get post-race interviews and have a buffer in case of red flags, rain, long yellows, etc. Fontana started later than planned because the sun was so bad in the driver’s eyes in Turn 3 and, combined with all the crashes, caused a lot of fans like yourself to miss the last 25-30 laps. So if you still haven’t seen it, here’s a link to the whole MAVTV 500 telecast from Auto Club Speedway plus interviews.

Q: You’re right about Paul Tracy having slipped by the wayside without getting proper recognition at the end of his career. It’s not too late for him to be recognized. Here’s a list of his accomplishments: 282 starts, 31 victories, 44 other podiums, 25 poles and 4,258 laps led. Pretty impressive. One of the things that I really liked about him was that he was frequently the only guy that would try to make a pass during one of those boring fuel economy runs. Sometimes that turned into a wreck, but I don’t care because it’s supposed to be a RACE, damn it! Oh and let’s not forget that he probably won the Indy 500 in 2002.

I think he could still show up a lot of the guys running in IndyCar today. If you consider that Villeneuve’s dominance was only for four years, you can make a case that Paul was the greatest driver ever to come out of Canada. We’ve had other good ones, but no other Canadian has come close to his accomplishments in North American open-wheel. More than once he was written off as past his prime only to come back and prove his critics wrong. Sometimes he was reckless but he was never boring.

Some people will say that his Champ Car title was won against weak competition. It’s true, open-wheel was watered down at that time thanks to you know who. However, if you look at some of the titles won in the past by the greats like Mario and A.J., you could argue that their competition was weak also, because they had the perfect chassis-engine-tire package compared to their competitors. It’s my opinion that spec racing like we have now is a truer test of a drivers’ skills because it levels the playing field. Paul Tracy was one of the all-time greats, and it is a shame he hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves.

Doug Mayer

RM: That’s a great tag line: reckless but never boring. I’d add thrilling as well because P.T. was ALWAYS worth the price of admission. Sure, he threw away several races and a couple of championships but his aggressive attitude is why he had so many fans and wins. And when you consider how CART rules at the time didn’t take into account driver weight, he was probably giving away up to half a second a lap to the lightweights ” making his stats even more impressive.

Q: I was wandering around YouTube watching old CART races and stumbled on the IRL Phoenix race where Jim Guthrie won. Got me thinking about other shock/Cinderella story wins in open-wheel racing. Thoughts?

John Langeler

RM: Guthrie beating Tony Stewart was the IRL’s finest hour and George Follmer also winning at Phoenix in a stock-block Chevy ranks right alongside. And Mike Conway kicking everybody’s butt this year at Detroit while driving for Dale Coyne ain’t bad either.

Q: I obviously know that the issue of growing IndyCar interest has been a hot topic for a while. I am an old guy that remembers the “good old days.? All I know is that spec racing is not what I want to see. From what I can tell, nobody else wants it either, based on viewership. I fail to see why the idea of innovative racecars is so bad and apparently not possible.

I was suddenly reminded of how fun and interesting IndyCar racing used to be by Robby Gordon. I saw a YouTube video where he talked about his new car for the Dakar Rally this January. It is all-new, he has kept it secret, and I cannot WAIT to see it run. It brought back all the excitement I used to have prior to the IndyCar season, just waiting to see what people had designed and built.

The feeling I had with Robby was a revelation; it forcibly reminded me why I loved IndyCar for 30 years. I would rather see a dozen cool/different/interesting cars than 33 spec racers. Given the empty grandstands and turned-off televisions, I can’t see what there is to lose by trying this. Except maybe the established owners would lose their guaranteed starting spots = money?

Mark Hamilton

RM: The real problem is that none of the manufacturers that bid on the new Indy car wanted any competition ” they all wanted exclusivity. All of us old goats want to return to the turbine, Eagle, twin-engined Porsche, Smokey’s sidecar and the Novi but there’s no market for that kind of competition the way things stand at the moment. Would an open rulebook bring NASCAR, sports car and F1 teams running to Indianapolis? Maybe if the purse paid $30 million total?

Q: I know your stance on adding open rules for certain areas of the car, including letting the engine companies make more horsepower, but for me I have always watched Indy cars because of what they were on the track. I agree the racing is the best it’s been in years. But thinking about the 1990s, and getting to see a car that was comparable if not better than an F1 car on track which was also an American product, THAT was the biggest hook for me. Yes, I did have a favorite driver or two (Al Unser Jr. my all-time favorite), but THE CAR was the draw for me. My vote would be for letting the engine manufacturers have at it, and let Firestone build the tire to accommodate the power. If you and IndyCar want to get people’s attention, especially the American fan, then go to COTA in 2015 and destroy the F1 track records!

Bob Fay, Seymour, CT

RM: I think we all had our favorite Indy car from those days and innovation was a BIG part of Indy’s overall attraction. But, like I said in the response above yours, it’s going to take paying $10 million to win Indy to get manufacturers jazzed about building an Indy car. Or even considering it. 

Q: As a Chevy driver in NASCAR, does Andretti Autosport’s switch from Chevy to Honda power end Kurt Busch’s possible plans to run with AA at Indy in 2014? Or might he now be calling Chip Ganassi?

John B, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

RM: I think when Kurt signed with Stewart, his Indy 500 plan got mothballed.

Q: Reading the letter from Colin Byrne in the Nov. 6 Mailbag regarding why fans are watching F1 and not IndyCar and then reading your response had me wondering if we’re living on the same planet! The answer is obvious! Has anybody been paying attention to what has happened since the late ’80s in F1 compared to IndyCar? The tracks and cars have gone in opposite directions.

I’m not a big Bernie fan but you really have to hand it to him for bringing the eye candy and professionalism of the F1 presentation to a whole new level. Compare the Yas Marina circuit to a Houston parking lot. Compare the current F1 spec to the current IndyCar spec. The days when F1 drivers like Senna and Mansell would come over and sample an IndyCar beast and be wowed are lonnnng gone.

I have a group of friends who are F1 fans that used to be huge CART fans back in the day. We went to Long Beach and Laguna Seca every year. We watched all of the CART races and F1 races on TV. After a long absence following IndyCars since The Split, I got them to go to a couple of races in the first season of the DW12 when we had three engines and the promise of innovation with aero kits the next year. Well, where are we now? I can’t get them interested in even watching IndyCars on TV. Here we are again with the same, underpowered, ugly cars year after year, and rinky-dink tracks compared to F1. Cars getting airborne over parking lot bumps, cars crashing out because of asphalt chunks ripping up, cars dodging “seams” at Fontana, yada-yada.

Yes the racing is good but the “presentation” is terrible! My group of five potential IndyCar fans is just down to one ” me. Think of that repeated on a much larger scale and one of the answers as to why IndyCar is struggling is obvious! I’m afraid that too much momentum has been lost and the differential between F1 and IndyCar now is too huge. F1 now makes IndyCar look bad and that was not the case in CART’s heyday. IndyCar NEEDS as many F1 fans as they can get! The only way to turn it around would be a massive capital investment from IndyCar in all areas of the presentation. Derrick Walker gets it and my fingers are crossed that 2015 brings hope of a new beginning.

Martin Fay, Calif.

RM: That’s interesting and also kinda puzzling to me because there’s no comparison between F1 and IndyCar in terms of racing, drama and uncertainty. Who wants to watch Vettel win every race that’s decided in Turn 1 for the most part? Not me. I loved F1 in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s because there was so much variety and creativity but today’s F1 cars all look alike to me. Are they technically superior to the DW12? Of course, but for my money, I’d much rather watch a race where I didn’t know who was going to win. 

Q: Wanted to follow up on Colin Byrne’s letter from Nov. 6 where he ?can’t put a finger on? why the friends he’s tried to hook into IndyCar kind of dismiss it with no real reason. He cited a lot of different reasons but one he missed was name identity. It used to be USAC, Champ Car then CART PPG Indycar Series. I think more fans focused on CART as the acronym than on Indy car in that name. Then came the split and we had CART and Indy Racing League [IRL]. CART went away and Champ Car World Series took its place. Now we end up with IZOD IndyCar Series. You go to many sports pages that still list IndyCar news under IRL. And I guess the all caps INDYCAR that Randy insisted on didn’t last either. Could it be that the series name is too closely identified with the Indy 500? But the hub of the series and teams is Indianapolis. Would a name like Champ Car diffuse many skeptics who hated IRL and now anything with ?Indy? in it? Did Boston Consulting Group look at this?

Paul, Carmel, Calif.

RM: Not sure what the Boston Group looked at, besides that big check Jeff Belskus wrote them, but Randy Bernard knew it couldn’t stay IRL because that carried too many negative connotations (even though Roger Penske still calls it IRL). You want the name to be associated with the Indy 500 in my mind but I don’t think the moniker is the reason IndyCar struggles for viewers.

Q: I grew up when the thing to do was spend money on your car and go cruising on the weekends. Our local officials have put an end to this with all of their anti-cruising laws, so kids nowadays have less interest in fast cars, except drifting! I say take the V6 turbos out of the IndyCars, put in Hillborn-injected Chevy V8s (a la Sprint Cars ), take off the mufflers and shake the grandstands like NASCAR. This will piss off the local residents 10 miles away whose house is now shaking like an earthquake, but the publicity will be awesome!

Then bring Katherine Legge and Ana Beatriz back doing some glamour shots and commercials. Just look on their websites to see how hot they can look given the same makeup that Danica got! Then have the Duck Dynasty folks have a celebrity race before the IndyCar race. Pass out duck calls to all of the fans for additional noise makers! People will show up just to see what all the hoopla is about. What do you think?

Don H., Seattle

RM: I think eight million people watch Duck Dynasty and 300,000 watch an IndyCar race so hell yes, let’s make them grand marshals, put ’em in the parade and release ducks instead of balloons before the command is given.

Q: You keep saying innovation and speed won’t bring back the fans. But I couldn’t disagree more. Indianapolis was built and born on speed and innovation. We can see motorsport globally is shrinking and has been for a long time, and at the same time all these series become more and more spec ” especially IndyCar and NASCAR. I know I don’t care for that at all. ?

We have got to stop kidding ourselves that people come to see the drivers only. The car is a huge part of the on-TV product and right now there isn’t a car that bores me more than the IndyCar. They just look and sound slow. I have been watching loads of old Indy car races from the ’90s on YouTube and the cars are breathtaking. I see drivers manhandling these beasts and I can’t help but be impressed. Now the DW12 and the series is on par with GP2 or World Series by Renault ” development series. It’s embarrassing.

Motor racing is a battle between man and machine. Right now the machine is nothing. When did auto racing become about how many people cross the finish line in the same shot?

Jed, South Australia

RM: I think innovation and speed could help a little bit in May but not so much around the IndyCar schedule. If Will Power had won the pole at Fontana at 240mph instead of 220, would that have brought in another 10,000 people? Possibly but the hook is getting the younger generation to put down their XBox or iPhone or iPad and go attend a race. Is innovation going to do that? Would Ford and Audi jump into IndyCar if horsepower was unlimited like in the early 1970s? Not if they’re going to have to spend countless millions of dollars locked in a power struggle to conquer a series that nobody watches. That’s why there are engine freezes and so the power increases are gradual.

Q: You confuse the heck outta me sometimes. It seems like almost every week a fan writes in to the Mailbag asking for more innovation, speed, new aero kits, and new engine manufacturers. Yet, you keep saying ?I don’t think these changes would make a difference in TV audience figures.? Well, I completely disagree. IndyCar needs to be listening and embracing what the fans are wanting to see in their sport.

I know, I know ” listen to the fans and you’ll end up being one, right? Sorry, but in this case, I think it’s time the IMS board listens to the fans instead of a marketing firm who suggest a road course at the beginning of May! We desperately need innovation. I love when the Chipster got Ben Bowlby to design the Delta Wing. And kudos to Ben ” he was innovative, but he forgot the car needed to be open-wheeled car in an open-wheel racing series?Whoops!

As for speed. I saw Sneva hit 200mph and it was a BIG deal. That was 36 years ago. As a kid, I thought for sure I’d see the 250mph mark by the time I was an old man. Well, I’m 48, and the best we can do is a 237 in 1996? Why are we going backwards? Pitiful!

Here’s the deal…we need a game changer…quickly. Speed, innovation and technology are COOL! It’s what IndyCar should be about 365 days a year! Heck, I’m more excited about the FIA Formula E developments going on, and that makes me mad! I want IndyCar to be at the forefront in racing! Why aren’t we the premier series? I’ve watched more F1 races this year…and I don’t like road/street courses. But those cars are badass, and they’re fun to watch.

So…what do you REALLY think will move the needle?? The only thing I’ve seen you write about is to open up the rulebook. Can you and Marshall Pruett put your heads together and give us your top 5 ideas to improve Indy car?

Mike Mammoser

RM: People can’t tell the difference between 200 and 220 at the track, let alone on television, and I’m just trying to look at this as a non-fan. What would make me drive to a track? The speed might, followed by different cars, but I want to watch passing and hard driving and IndyCar has tha,t but it doesn’t make any difference.

People keep assuming track records and six different kinds of cars will suddenly have people flocking to races or their TV sets and I’m saying the only people who seem to care about these things are already watching IndyCar. Sure, if the rules opened up and you had Ford, Audi and Dodge coming to town, it would generate more marketing and more interest. And if the Indy 500 purse paid $1 million to start and $10 million to win, maybe McLaren or Red Bull would build a car. I loved the old days and I stooged for the last roadster to make the show with my hero Herk, but those days are gone. Nobody wants to build a car unless they’re guaranteed there won’t be any competition. It’s sad and it sucks but I’m afraid that’s the reality. At least for now.

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