Robin Miller's Mailbag for November 20

Robin Miller's Mailbag for November 20


Robin Miller's Mailbag for November 20


If you have a question about open-wheel racing, send it to We can’t guarantee your letter will be published, but Robin will always reply.

Q: I had many opportunities to speak with Dario Franchitti, probably like many fans. Dario and I talked about what it was like to drive Jim Clark’s Indy 500 Lotus and most recently the great racing at Baltimore. Every time we talked, he treated me as if I were his neighbor in Scotland. But more than that, I loved how he took time with the kids who wanted a photo or autograph. Dario will retire as one of the all time best Indy car drivers. And winning the Indy 500 three times makes him immortal. So I know first hand how engaging he is and I had the good fortune to see all his 500 victories, but I’m aware that you are closer to him and know much more about what went into his success as a driver. What will you remember about Dario?
Gerry Courtney, San Francisco

RM: How quickly he adapted to 900 horsepower and the CART tracks but mostly how instantly competitive he was against a great field of drivers. He wasn’t intimidated or awed by his new surroundings, he walked in like he belonged because he did. And I loved to argue with him about cars, tracks, TGBB and all things racing. But his personality, sense of humor, intelligence and sense of history made him as good off the track as he was on it. Be sure to catch my appreciation of him in the next issue of RACER, the (appropriate) Champions Issue.

Q: I remember watching Dario burst onto the CART scene with Hogan, and then lighting things up with Team KOOL Green, and being a match for Montoya in that driver’s heyday. Nothing beat watching Dario hustle a 900hp beast around the streets of Vancouver in person, and his battles with Paul Tracy were great fun to watch as well. He even got me to watch a NASCAR race or two. His race craft is unparalleled, but his role as an ambassador for the sport will also be missed (although I’m sure we’ll see him around). A tough competitor, nice guy, student of racing history, and someone who never misses the opportunity to give props to his old buddy Greg Moore.

As for that No. 10 Ganassi seat, well I think they should move it further back in the cockpit. If Justin Wilson doesn’t get that drive, something is wrong. I imagine Dale Coyne is hedging his bets contract-wise again, and hopefully that is the Chipster’s gain!

Trevor Bohay, Kamloops, B.C., Canada

RM: The competition between Dario and P.T. was as intense as anything in the paddock and the amazing thing is that they stayed friends. My best memory of his rookie season is the drive he was putting on, in the rain, at Road America. You knew then he was the real deal.

Yes, Justin would be great in that No. 10 car but I don’t hold out much hope.

Q: I have been a fan of Dario Franchitti ever since he entered CART back in ’97 so  I was gutted by the news of his retirement. It will leave a tremendous void in the sport, but I was thinking this could turn out to be a great thing for IndyCar. Dario is a great personality, someone who truly loves the sport, and he is a true historian of the sport as well. I think that he would be a great addition to the broadcast team. I read your open letter to ABC, and I could not agree more. The ABC broadcasts are pathetic. Goodyear and Cheever are a bore, and they have no chemistry. I think ABC should get Dario in the booth for Indy, and NBC should add him to their team. What do you think? Do you think we could make this happen?
Lance Campbell, California

RM: It’s a slam dunk if that’s what Dario wants to do, because he would add so much insight and enthusiasm. But ABC needs him most and he wouldn’t be allowed to do NBCSN if he worked for ABC. I think it’s a great idea but I don’t have any clout with ABC.  

Q: Obviously you know Dario better than I do, but I believe that ?IF? he wanted to, Dario could eventually fill the void the charismatic Jackie Stewart filled in the ’70s when he became the International Mr. Cool of Broadcast Racing, especially to North Americans who were resisting any sport without a ball. Dario has the looks, the personality, the charm and charisma and he has the international credibility, even though he hasn’t raced in Formula 1. Perhaps those glory days can never be repeated, but the formula of a meaningful race having either Stirling Moss or Jackie Stewart on site, in sight and part of the color broadcast, worked like a charm. The fans ate it up. What do you think?
Pete McMurtrie

RM: I worked for Jackie when he did the Indy 500 in the 1980s (he paid me out of his own pocket for information, scoops, rumors, etc.) and I thought his presence added a lot of the telecast. I think ABC putting Dario in its booth is a no-brainer and a perfect choice that the fans would love. 

Q: Saddened I am to see Dario retiring. Not so much that I am a huge Dario fan, but the timing of this is what has me down. Now that he and Ashley Judd are no longer together, Dario in Victory Lane from here on out would have meant she wouldn’t be there. The opportunity of seeing him in Victory Lane and not seeing her carrying on is no longer a possibility. Oh yeah my vote for the No. 10 car is Sebastien Bourdais ” unless he marries one of the Judds.
Mike Desmet, Stevensville, Mich.

RM: But Mike, who is going to explain the suspension changes on ABC?

Q: Takes a lot of courage to drive on the edge. Takes more to give it up. Congrats to Dario.
Kent Smith

RM: Being one of the smartest racers to come along in the past 25 years, Dario understood the consequences when they were explained to him by Dr. Steve Olvey. Of course he’ll miss it and he wanted to drive sports cars with his little brother but he had a fabulous career and there’s no sense tempting fate.   

Q: Like everyone, I was so shocked and saddened by Dario’s sudden forced retirement from the sport. But so happy and thankful he’s still with us and OK. Know it’s going to be a tough deal for him, he loves IndyCar racing so much! Yes, I immediately thought of the same thing, hope he gets hired to be in the TV booth, he’s so personable, knowledgeable, and such a fan fave, it’s a no brainer, really.

The other thing I think would be a perfect fit for him, and Mario Andretti mentioned it during one of his interviews over the USGP weekend at COTA: Mario wants to draft Dario into his two-seater IndyCar team! What a brilliant idea Mario! How ideal, it would keep Dario behind the wheel of an Indy Car, he’d still be at the same tracks, he’d be able to keep involved, be surrounded by all his friends, and still be loved and supported by his fans.  Another no brainer and I hope this comes off!
Tony Mezzacca

RM: It’s possible he could work with Chip’s team as driver coach or some other capacity and I hope ABC is in his gunsights. But I can’t imagine him driving the two-seater except for a special occasion. Don’t think that would appeal to him.

Q: Franchitti’s fate is very sad; after all he’s been through he deserved to end his career on his own terms. The racing world can be harsh. So, do you think that Chip is regretting putting Kyle Larson into a stock car career now that he’s got one IndyCar seat vacant?
Jacob, Sweden

RM: It is but on the other hand he’s 40 with lots of living ahead of him and he’s going to have a full recovery. I think he’ll be around IndyCar in some capacity. Larson wants to run the Indy 500 some day and would probably drive full time in IndyCar if Ganassi wanted, but he’s always wanted to be either a NASCAR or WOO regular. 

Q: ?There is a reason?  that Simona is leaving KV, I inferred from your IndyCar team season Report Card. I was driving home from grabbing a burger, and thought ?Simona and Target would be perfect.? I’ve always thought Danica was nuts for not going to Target Ganassi. Women love Target. Seems like a smart move to me. So, what’s the scoop?
Keith Younce

RM: I think it would make sense but not sure Simona is a big enough name for Chip. But if Target thought it made sense and pushed, it could happen.

Q: I‘m sure Chip’s phone has been ringing non-stop since Dario’s announcement, but I get the impression most IndyCar drivers don’t impress him. Sergio Perez has said that if he doesn’t get a top F1 ride he’s willing to go elsewhere. Telmex is a Ganassi sponsor. Chip likes F1 guys. The Mexico City track is ripe for the taking. What do you think????
Steve, Aurora, Colo.?

RM: I think you are correct and Perez or Paul Di Resta would fit that high-profile that Ganassi likes. And maybe Gerry Forsythe would help with Perez’s salary, because going back to Mexico City with him would be huge and it’s a great, warm-weather venue that IndyCar could use.

Q: I understand Tags, Wilson and Briscoe have all been mentioned as (very worthy) replacements for Dario. However, I can’t understand why Simona has gotten so little press. She’s proven, takes care of the equipment, has fan appeal and brings her own sponsor. Plus, imagine how much she would learn with that caliber of team. Sounds like a slam dunk to me. If she doesn’t land there, where would you think she’ll wind up?
Joel Staskiewicz

RM: I think we’d all love to see her in a top-shelf ride but, as I said above, not sure she’s a big enough name for Chip. Have no idea where she might land at this moment.

Q: With Dario’s retirement, I started thinking about leadership for the series. Pretty soon the series will have zero true stars that are household (I use that term loosely) names. Dario is now gone, Montoya and HCN will be retiring rather soon, and I imagine Dixie has five years or fewer left. Who will become the face of the series? I see a real void in this area. Your leading candidates are Hinch, RHR, Andretti, and Rahal. Rahal and Andretti don’t seem to have that star factor with the mainstream and I don’t know that RHR does either. Hinch is certainly hard to ignore but I can’t imagine him ever being in celebrity papers or on a show like Dancing With The Stars. Newgarden is highly talented and media savvy but as much as I respect his team, I can’t imagine a superstar from corporate/social America getting behind such an underdog team. Hopefully tomorrow’s superstars show up soon.
Andy Brumbaugh

RM: I wrote a commentary last season that said Hinch was the new face of IndyCar and I think Newgarden would be a big hit if he ever gets to a top-tier team. Rahal has the polish, he just needs to start winning races and Marco is getting better and better with the media and fans but may be too introverted to ever be the face.

Q: Many may see Franchitti’s retirement as a blow to IndyCar, but I see it as an opportunity. He’s part of a group that makes up the pre-spilt Old Guard; Franchitti, Dixon, Kanaan and Castroneves. These guys win all the races and score the seats with the top teams. And they are slowly killing the sport. These drivers who I call the CART Traitors, because they scurried to the IRL, aren’t the racing stars that they’re advertised to be. Real stars don’t garner 0.1 television ratings. All they do is to take up space that new up-and-coming divers should have. And the owners play a role too. Roger Penske gets an opportunity to hire a third driver and signs Juan Montoya. Not a CART Traitor but not a new face. Ganassi gets an open seat and signs Kanaan.

Paul Tracy, who was more popular than any of the CART Traitors, got the hint and had the class to bow out. Jimmy Vasser became an owner and serves as a great role model. If they want to stay in IndyCar they should follow Ed Carpenter’s example and become an owner/driver. I’m not saying they’re not fast enough anymore, but they take up the opportunities that should be afforded to the younger drivers. The beginning of the 2013 IndyCar season was the best of all international racing series precisely because the CART Traitors were nowhere near the podium. You always said that IndyCar was dying on Versus (now NBCSN). But everytime a CART Traitor wins a race, they kill the sport too.

Don Davis, Chardon Ohio

RM: I understand it’s healthy if Newgarden gets a shot with a top team but I disagree those veterans’ success is killing the series or not making people watch. I think TK and Helio sell tickets and you need established stars in any sport. And none of those guys were traitors ” they just went where their teams did. Trust me, Dario and Dixie didn’t want to leave CART and road racing for all ovals but they had no choice. Ditto for T.K. and HCN.

Q: With Formula 1 seats being very tight these days, will we see GP2 stars looking at IndyCar? People like Felipe Nasr, David Valsecchi, Luiz Razia, etc.? Or people who look like they’re going to lose their F1 seats like Perez, Maldonado, and maybe Di Resta? I don’t think that they would be satisfied being third drivers that may get the occasional run in FP1. It could be a big boost for IndyCar to gain some international drivers and to bring in the support that all of these drivers have.
Colin Byrne, British Columbia, Canada

RM: I’m sure F1 vets will look at IndyCar as an option, providing it came with a decent paycheck, and the good GP2 and GP3 drivers who have backing but no F1 team ties will naturally look to the USA. But would any of those guys sell tickets or make people tune in?  

Q: I recall reading Chip Ganassi was involved with improving football helmets in an effort to reduce concussions. What is the status of this? Or is my memory faulty due to too many blows to the head? How involved is IndyCar reviewing the medical records of drivers after serious accidents like Dario Franchitti’s?

RM: Safety pioneer Bill Simpson and Ganassi are partners and their helmet is being well received in high schools and colleges. I know a few NFL players really liked them as well but the politics were too much, so Simpson said screw it and concentrated on high school and college football. IndyCar stays on top of all its drivers and their conditions and rehabilitation (thanks to Dr. Terry Trammell and Dr. Steve Olvey).

Q: Please tell me that a couple of good things will come from Dario’s forced retirement. 1) He will still be actively involved in IndyCar (broadcast booth, team owner, maybe a role like Rick Mears), and 2) Justin Wilson will FINALLY get his shot with a top-flight team!
, Littleton, CO

RM: I think there’s a good shot of Dario in the booth or a Mears role but don’t hold out much hope for JWil.

Q: I went to the past two Indy 500s, but did not start following IndyCar racing closely until this past July and have since followed it closer than any other sport. As a new fan, I look forward to reading your Mailbag each week to learn more about the sport and why others love IndyCar. However, after reading the Mailbag for a few weeks, I noticed all IndyCar fans do is complain; they complain about the tracks, racing, coverage, drivers?everything! Since I’m new to IndyCar, maybe the sport isn’t what it once was, but goodness people, enjoy the sport and stop complaining!
Mark McDaniel

RM: First off, glad you’ve become a fan. As for the disgruntled masses, I think if you’ve been a fan of Indy car racing and lived through USAC/CART/IRL/Champ Car wars then your frustration is understandable. And sometimes passion and anger overlap because I think most of the people who write in to the Mailbag are diehards who want to see IndyCar succeed. Plus, race fans everywhere love to bitch: it’s part of our culture.

Q: Something that I haven’t seen mentioned a whole lot is the new Forza Motorsport 5 game that is coming out for the Xbox One. The game will feature the cars of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, Scott Dixon and Will Power along with IMS. This is a great opportunity to get the “video game generation” hooked on IndyCar. Have IndyCar sponsor a tournament starting at the beginning of next season. Run rounds until only a few players are left and have the final race just before the 500. If done right, this could really boost the series with the younger crowd. Go one step further and have drivers host Q&A sessions over the system utilizing the included camera. The possibilities are endless if this technology is utilized correctly and in new ways.
Ryan, Greenwood, IN

P.S. – In a few of the review videos they show the DW12 at IMS and refer to the “great action with these F1 cars.”

RM: That’s good to know and thanks for sharing that information, which I will forward to IndyCar’s Jay Frye and C.J. O’Connell. Also a good suggestion to get the drivers involved.

Q: As I sit and listen to all the discussion of concussions in football and youth participation dwindling which inevitably will lead to football’s fall from the top of the ladder, I ask ” When in the world is IndyCar going to market to the younger generations? I am an early 40s male who became interested in the series right after The Split. People of our generation are the last ones they have to watch their racing: after us, they will have to turn Indy into a drifting track. They drove away older generations with The Split and turned them all into NASCAR fans.

My second question is. Do you think it’s time to put a small roof on these cars and bring back the horsepower and speeds from before the split? In my opinion IndyCar is the second best racing series bar nothing except dirt sprint cars. So please build a sustainable fan base.
Tony, Goodyear, Ariz.

RM: Well, I’m hopeful the new marketing men for IndyCar/IMS will go after a younger fan base and the Xbox idea mentioned above would be a good start. I’d hate to see Indy cars with roofs because, let’s face it, half of the attraction is watching the drivers steer (OK it’s limited nowadays compared to roadsters) and it’s simply edgier to watch cars run wheel-to-wheel. I think the horsepower is coming up to 800 by next year ” at least on road courses.

Q: I am a diehard fan who has been attending every Speedway event since 1987. I was not in total favor of the road course race and I have yet to consider buying tickets for that race. I am interested enough in qualifying to be in my seat on Pole Day at 8 a.m. I do not like the idea of the qualifying change. I am not sure where these ideas are coming from, but they seem to be getting worse.
Jim, Indy

P.S.  Since attendance will probably be down for these events, when does the free ticket giveaway by the Speedway take place? I may reconsider attending once the free tickets start flooding the market.

RM: You represent the majority of fans I’ve heard from and my stock answer is that Mark Miles is trying to do some different things to create some interest because status quo isn’t working. Not sure we’ll see freebies for that road race but just go out on Georgetown Road and buy any ticket for $20 on race day. That’s my guess.

Q: It appears the proposed changes to Indy qualifying are not only going to fail to attract new fans, but they are already angering the few loyalists who still attend. If IMS really wants “more butts in seats” for qualifying, how’s this for an idea? After the 33-car field is set, take the Fast 8 on the final afternoon and run a series of 2-car, 4-lap eliminations (standing or flying starts, doesn’t matter) till one guy is standing and he gets the pole. We would see a total of at least seven two-car races, the majority of which would be decided on the final lap. Think Al Jr./Goodyear, Marco/Hornish, Franchitti/Sato, etc. They could line up the rest of the Fast 8 into their exact positions depending on their finishing times.

Sure, there might be some occasional carnage but perhaps the drivers will keep it in perspective and not treat it exactly like they would the last lap of the 500. Can you even imagine the highlights all the sports shows could show one week before the 500 from a deal like that? Seven last lap, drafting, dodging 220 mph battles to the finish?! They would of course have to include a rule that would allow any of the Fast 8 to completely replace their car if there’s an incident in the eliminations that wipes out their primary. It certainly would be the most unique qualifying procedure in all of motorsports and could be a new tradition that lasts for decades. (keep in mind, the milk, ?Gentlemen Start…?, and Gomer were all made into traditions well past 1911.)

Before we hear the usual chorus of “that’ll kill somebody,” IndyCar drivers take those same risks every time they get behind the wheel and hope to be in a last-lap battle for the lead. Also, the car owners probably won’t be too thrilled about the idea, but it is a way to actually make qualifying exciting and important again. It’s pretty clear at this point that auto racing has to perform some drastic measures like this if it is going to survive in the coming decades. Please send my share of the consulting $s to Eden Prairie….
Steve, Eden Prairie, MN

RM: I have no problem with a qualifying race or heats but they would have to pay some substantial money or else it’s not worth it. Who cares if you start sixth or 16th if there are only 33 cars? The reward has to equal the risk. The last few Pole Days have produced some damn good drama so I don’t see any reason to change it, other than for TV.

Q: I understand why IndyCar wants to end earlier in the year and the need to streamline the schedule. But the amount of races and off-season length is unacceptable, plus the series needs to stand out and get rolling from the get go. Solution, JANUARY! Spotlight is all IndyCar and you quench the fan’s racing bug. Here’s my ideal early season schedule. Races each weekend in the two weeks leading up to the Rolex 24 at Daytona: start at Phoenix (like the old days), then Laguna Seca the week after. Get a bunch of Indy drivers rides for the Rolex 24 Hours. Take a week off, then an international race in the weekend between the Super Bowl and the start of Speedweeks. Another international race the week after the Daytona 500. After that, have drivers race Sebring. Next, begin the rest of the season a week early at COTA, before going into the rest of schedule as is, hopefully with Road America and Providence added along the way. This would help eliminate conflicts these tracks have while getting them dates they deserve. Just hope IndyCar would see it the same way!
Connor, the Modified Guy

RM: Interesting proposal and I do think Mark Miles wants to try and open the season much earlier, if possible, in the USA. Not sure about the weather in Laguna in January but Phoenix should be perfect. But if IndyCar had a couple of weeks of racing before NASCAR turned a wheel it might help draw some attention.

Q: I think Travis from Noblesville (Nov. 6 Mailbag) was nearly onto a great idea. Formula E has seemingly come out of nowhere because there is a boatload of money out there for electric car technology. Imagine if Indy could simultaneously tap that money pipe, and increase interest in the 500? The idea is simple: allow cars to have an electric motor that has more power than the gas engine, but only allow them one battery pack. Whichever team can milk the most life out of their electric power will have a significant advantage. This would instantly generate the kind of innovation and competition fans want. There would also be two interesting technical areas of development on the same car, the electric AND the gas power.

It would be great for fans, too ” you could hear who has run out of electricity and switched to E85. Lets face it, 500 miles is hardly an endurance race in this day and age, but this idea would bring that aspect back! I don’t think it would cost teams that much either, imagine the publicity electric car or motor manufacturers would get for their technology winning the Indy 500! I think they’d foot the bill. Of course finding a place to put the motor might be an issue, but nothing a little creativity can’t solve. Of course this is all probably a pipe dream, but I got excited just thinking about sitting in the Turn 3 bleachers watching it. I think it’s a good idea.
John, Dayton OH

RM: Formula E has generated a lot of interest and when a guy like Jay Penske can find backing for that but not IndyCar, it makes you think. But I can’t see it as more than some kind of Saturday prelim right now. I still think people go to Indy for speed and the roar of the engines (OK, it’s been muted a bit) but maybe this is the Indy 500 of the future.

Q: Why doesn’t Tony Stewart, who has an open-wheel shop outside of Indianapolis, start an Indy program? He has great young open-wheel drivers and hey, his heritage is as a past champion of the IRL. He loves Indy and I bet the 500 is on his list to run and win someday just like his idol A. J. Larry Curry once told me outside at the old Brickyard Motel that once Tony wins the Daytona 500 he’d be back in IndyCar.
Steve Lawson, CTC

RM: I’m kinda surprised he hasn’t at least had a one-off entry for Indy with Danica or Bryan Clauson but I think some day he’ll field a car full time.

Q: As always, thank you for being the voice of the fan! I am sure you have seen it, but Mario made some very profound comments this past weekend about the 2014 schedule. This quote stood out with regards to the 2014 schedule and speaks volumes: ?It’s not plausible. I’ll fight Mark Miles on this the whole way. It’s diminishing the series,? Andretti said to
James Balch

RM: I saw it and I know Mario, along with a lot of former Indy 500 winners and drivers, has been very outspoken about ending the season on Labor Day.

Q: Sorry if you’ve already addressed this subject, but any chance Indy Car will remove the gross ?bumpers? from the back of the top-tier cars? It’s been proven that they don’t work as advertised (Marco over Graham, Hildebrand over Power, Dario over Sato, etc.). The conspiracy theorist in me thinks they’re just there to allow for NASCAR style bump & runs on street course slow corners. My main complain is the appearance?it seems to me that current F1 cars look more like my generation’s Indy cars than the what IndyCar has on track now.
Jay Kotlinski, Denver, NC

RM: To be fair, Dario ran over Sato’s tire, that’s what launched him. But, according to Will Phillips of IndyCar, the guards are likely to stay.

Q: I’ve never watched Duck Dynasty, but I’m all for anything that brings eyeballs to IndyCar. And I’m guessing a massive duck poop-related accident in Turn 1 would probably do that! Seriously, when I’m an actual “old guy” ranting about how it was “back in my day” on certain message boards, I’ll be telling those young whippersnappers about some pretty darned good old days. Close championship battles, thrilling finishes (and/or outcomes) at Indy, a genuinely personable bunch of racers, and the sense that, quite literally, almost anyone could win on any given weekend. I loved the CART days, too, but that was stuff I read about in magazines. I’ve been lucky enough to see today’s IndyCar up close and personal several times over the last few years, and while it’s not the biggest deal in sports right now, it might be the best value for the spectator dollar. IndyCar racing is far from perfect right now, but hell, it never was perfect. It’s good now, it’s getting better, and it’s a lot of fun to watch. In the words of the great Webb Wilder, “Have a snowcone and enjoy the show.”
Jon Paulette, Ruckersville, Va.

RM: I think that’s the most maddening part. IndyCar has produced EXCELLENT and EXCITING racing the past two years and fewer people are watching it. Some think it’s the lack of technology or innovation, but I don’t. It’s a general malaise and getting people to care remains the biggest challenge.

Q: As a 14-year-old know-it-all about racing, I have always wished that I was born in the60s and ’70s. I was thinking what about a nostalgia Indy car racing series? All the cars are built to modern safety specs but look like the classic Indy roadsters and early rear-engined Lolas and Lotuses from days gone by. Run exhibition races during the month of May at Indy and get some of the retired stars such as Lone Star JR Johnny Rutherford, Mario, Tom Sneva and others to race replicas of their famous cars. Also, race at Milwaukee and the oval at IRP. How about getting the current IndyCar drivers in Silver Crown cars as well. If only it were to happen!
Cole from BC, Canada

RM: None of the old guys are physically up to that challenge ” even if they think they are ” but they’re as competitive with each other as they always were, so that would get ugly and expensive. What IndyCar has to create is ?new heroes.? I love the past and all those old gunfighters but they can’t sell tickets anymore and kids don’t care about them (except you and a select few who have the bug).

Q: I just read that the TURBO movie made over $250 million, which was nearly double the production cost. I don’t suppose IndyCar will see any of that money. If not, they failed to capitalize on yet another opportunity.
Mark Suska, Lexington, OH

RM: Well no, IndyCar reaped the publicity and exposure and while it wasn’t a blockbuster like we hoped, it got its fair share of media. And hopefully it made IndyCar some new young fans.

Q: IndyCar can barely draw a 0.2 for TV viewers when races are televised at decent times during the season. How does IndyCar expect to draw an audience on TV if a race from Australia/Asia doesn’t start until 9/10 p.m. on the West Coast and midnight/1 a.m. on the East Coast?

Also, how many days a week do you eat lunch/dinner with old racers/mechanics? Do you even own a refrigerator? Based on the pics I see of you on John Oreovicz and Steve Shunck’s Facebook pages, I would say every day of the week you eat out.
Brandon Stevens, Stockton, Calif.

RM: Those foreign races would be for the financial benefit of the teams and series, not so much for television ratings because nobody expects any from Asia or Australia.

I do own a fridge but my oven hasn’t been used since 2005 (last time, a young lady turned it on). I eat every meal out and I’m lucky enough to break bread with Gary and Merle Bettenhausen, Lee Kunzman, Bubby Jones, Pancho Carter, Gary Gray, Steve Long, Willie Davis, Sonny Meyer and Tim Coffeen on most Fridays. 

Q: The NHL has been struggling to be really mainstream in North America since they went on strike about a decade ago. To help get teams out of the red and into the black the league is going to compact the season into a shorter time period and then ship the entire league off to Europe. People overseas will pay to see these guys play and while the players might earn an extra dollar or two, the teams will still end up spending more money than what they are being paid so it will be a net loss (break even at best). Not many businesses want to do 30-40 percent more work only to break even. Sure it is nice if they can keep the trainers and the marketing staff employed year round but if the bottom line isn’t better then why do the extra work? However, while the NHL teams are in Europe nobody is going to pay them a lick of attention in North America. The Stanley Cup won’t be decided over there, and really it doesn’t count for anything so why am I going to watch them play at 10am EST if it doesn’t count?

How is the NHL any different than IndyCar? Similar broadcast partners, similar ratings, similar struggle for mainstream relevance since their strike (our split) and a lot of teams are underwater and struggling. This whole off-season global racing events is a bad idea. If there were a few international races that counted for the regular season then that is fine. Teams might get a nice payday when they went to a FEW places in the past (ie Australia) but I still doubt that the extra money they got from that event offset the entire cost of doing the event.

Have you noticed how in the last few years IndyCar teams are similar to American economics?  The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. In the last few years Ganassi has doubled in size, Andretti has continued to be a huge team, Penske runs three cars in the last three years more often than not. In the meantime we have lost Conquest, HVM, Dragon, Dreyer & Reinbold, and probably some others that I haven’t thought about. This pattern is not going to change any time soon.
Andy Brumbaugh

RM: As I’ve been saying, Andy, the only reason to have any kind of non-point, exhibition season is to make a lot of money for teams and IndyCar. Whether that can be pulled off is probably 50-50 at best and, if it can’t, then we’ll hope IndyCar has the good sense to run here from January to October.